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By Steven P.
Microsoft PowerToys 0.49.0 adds new Find My Mouse tool and VCM is back
by Steven Parker
PowerToys is Microsoft's open-source project that offers a collection of nifty tools that people can use to customize the Windows 10 or 11 UI and experience to their liking. As we know, depending upon feedback and general stability, some of the utilities also make their way to the OS. A prominent example of this is Snap Layouts and Span Groups in Windows 11 which borrow heavily from the FanzyZones tool in PowerToys.
A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft released PowerToys version 0.47.1 to address some bugs and provide stability updates. Today, the company has rolled out version 0.49.0 which primarily centers around modernizing PowerRename's UI, adding a brand new mouse utility. Perhaps notably, the Video Conference Mute is also merged back into the stable releases.
If you are using PowerToys in Windows 11, you can grab it in the Microsoft Store. For others in Windows 10, you can open the app and click on "Check for updates" under the updates section on the General tab. Those who would like to try PowerToys for the first time can grab the version 0.49.0 installer from the app's GitHub page.
By Usama Jawad96
Closer Look: Touch keyboard in Windows 11
by Usama Jawad
It's almost been a month since Windows 11 became generally available, but since it is being rolled out in a staggered manner, it's not available for everyone. Although there are ways to jump the queue and immediately install the OS on your machine, it's wiser to know what you're getting into before you decide to pull the trigger. This is why we have been discussing Windows 11's features and capabilities in more detail in our ongoing Closer Look series.
So far, we have taken a look at Search, Widgets, the Start menu, Snap Layouts and Snap Groups, the Taskbar, quick settings and notifications, Virtual Desktops, power and battery settings, default apps configurations, File Explorer, context menus, Teams integration, the updated Clock app in Windows 11, the Microsoft Store, the Snipping Tool, the Paint app refresh, the lock screen, the revamped Photos app, the voice typing experience, and the storage settings. Today, we'll be the touch keyboard in Windows 11.
For the purpose of this hands-on, we'll be taking a look at the generally available Windows 11 build versus a publicly available and up-to-date Windows 10 (version 21H1 build 19043.1288).
Touch keyboard in Windows 10 Before we dive into Windows 11, let's start with what we have in Windows 10 first. Touch keyboard in the OS is supported both on touchscreen displays and non-touchscreen display, which makes sense, because you could be in a scenario where your on-device keyboard and trackpad is not working so you can still connect and external mouse and troubleshoot to your heart's content with the touch keyboard. You can also have a dedicated button for it in the taskbar by right-clicking the taskbar and clicking "Show touch keyboard button".
Windows 10 has a fairly bare-bones implementation of touch keyboard, in terms of customization and personalization. You get a docked keyboard at the bottom of your screen which covers roughly 40% of the height of the display by default, but you can choose between five layouts including Default, Small, Split, Traditional, and Handwriting. The Small layout floats by default but you can choose between docked and float for all other layouts. A major accessibility problem with the UI here is that Microsoft does not offer textual hints as to what each icon means. You basically have to guess what each icon means until you become familiar with the UI.
Below the layouts, you see dedicated buttons for language preferences and typing settings, which take you to the respective configuration in the Windows Settings app. There is a microphone button on the top of the keyboard through which you can use dictation capabilities, provided that you have enabled online speech recognition. There is also a dedicated clipboard history button which becomes functional after you enable the capability. That's pretty much all there is to it with regards to the touch keyboard implementation in Windows 10.
Enabling the touch keyboard button via the Taskbar in Windows 11 is a pain Meanwhile, the touch keyboard in Windows 11 has gone through a major UI redesign. While it mostly the same in terms of functionalities, Microsoft has made it more accessible and offered tons of new customization options. But since we're talking about accessibility, I feel like it is important to highlight it (or lack thereof) in terms of configuration. While Windows 10 offers you a way to quickly add a dedicated button for the touch keyboard directly via the taskbar, we know that Windows 11's taskbar is so crippled that you actually have to follow this flow to do the same: right-click on Taskbar > click on Taskbar settings > expand Taskbar corner icons > toggle Touch keyboard. It's infuriating, but thankfully, it's just a one-time activity.
Touch keyboard customization in Windows 11 Coming over to the actual changes to the touch keyboard in Windows 11, you'll find out that Microsoft has a dedicated section for the capability in Windows 11 Settings app. This offers the bulk of customization options including keyboard size, theme, background, and key text size. None of these configurations were available in Windows 10 so all of these changes are very welcome. If you do not like the themes included by Microsoft, you can also design your own custom theme by clicking on the option in the Keyboard theme section. It's very easy to do and allows you to personalize your touch keyboard to your heart's content. You also have a handy "View your changes" button to preview your changes right then and there.
Touch keyboard in Windows 11 The touch keyboard's default UI has gone through some changes too. Remember I mentioned the names of all the keyboard layouts when talking about Windows 10? Well, the only way I found out their official names is via the touch keyboard in Windows 11, because that offers labels as to what each icon means. It's an extremely welcome change as I no longer have to guess what each icon means. The handwriting keyboard has been split off to a different menu, while more buttons have been added for Theme and resize and Give feedback. The language and typing preferences buttons are still there but are now nested in More settings. The docked/floating icon has been decoupled and moved to the top-right of the keyboard so it's always immediately accessible. I really like this reorganization of the UI overall.
The microphone icon has been moved to the keyboard itself while the emoji button has been moved to the bar on the top. That is the icon you see next settings icons in the screenshot above depicts that. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn't seem to have assigned a label to it yet so I will just refer it to the Emoji button. That said, it now includes a lot of other options aside from emoji too, such as Kaomoji, GIFs, symbols, and clipboard history. When you open the keyboard in floating mode, you'll also notice other minor design elements like the rounded corners, and more.
Overall, I really like the touch keyboard redesign. Even though I don't use it outside of some troubleshooting scenarios (because I don't have a touchscreen display), I feel like the customization options and UI reorganization will be welcomed by those who utilize it on a daily basis. That said, I think that Microsoft has the potential to go all-in now when it comes to customization. Maybe offer customers the ability to swap around keys, maybe someone wants to have the emoji keyboard on the keyboard rather than it being hidden on the menu, maybe someone wants to remove the microphone key altogether, and so much more. I have found no way to do any of these things yet, so either they are hidden inside menus or they do not exist altogether. Microsoft seems to be going in the right direction when it comes to accessibility and the UI of the touch keyboard but it has the potential to do so much more, and I'd be interested to see if the company has any plans for it moving forward.
Take a look at the section here or select from the links below to continue exploring Windows 11 in our ongoing "Closer Look" series:
Closer Look: Search in Windows 11 Closer Look: Widgets in Windows 11 Closer Look: Start menu in Windows 11 Closer Look: Snap Layouts and Snap Groups in Windows 11 Closer Look: Taskbar in Windows 11 Closer Look: Quick settings and notifications in Windows 11 Closer Look: Virtual Desktops in Windows 11 Closer Look: Power and battery settings in Windows 11 Closer Look: Default apps settings in Windows 11 Closer Look: File Explorer in Windows 11 Closer Look: Context menus in Windows 11 Closer Look: Microsoft Teams integration in Windows 11 Closer Look: Clock app in Windows 11 Closer Look: Microsoft Store in Windows 11 Closer Look: Snipping Tool in Windows 11 Closer Look: Paint in Windows 11 Closer Look: Lock screen in Windows 11 Closer Look: Photos app in Windows 11 Closer Look: Voice typing in Windows 11 Closer Look: Storage settings in Windows 11
Charlie Demerjian: Intel used unoptimized Windows 11 build to downplay AMD performance
by Sayan Sen
At its Innovation event yesterday (or earlier today depending on where you live), Intel launched its 12th gen desktop CPU lineup dubbed Alder Lake-S based on the Alder Lake performance hybrid architecture. A total of six SKUs, all unlocked, were unveiled at the event with more of the lineup launching later. The processors and their features are given below:
The company also launched the accompanying 600-series chipset for LGA 1700 socket motherboards. For now, only the flagship Z690 chipset was unveiled. The 600-series chipset and Alder Lake will support both DDR5 and DDR4 memory. An overview of Z690 features is given below:
Some performance claims were also made by Intel for Alder Lake-S and one of the slides, which had already leaked earlier, shows the flagship Core i9-12900K SKU beating the Ryzen 9 5950X by up to 30% at gaming.
At the bottom of the image, Intel states that the performance comparisons were made in Windows 11 Pro but the particular build of the OS used hasn't been mentioned.
Charlie Demerjian, from the fellow publication SemiAccurate, alleges here that Intel used an earlier Windows 11 build which had issues on AMD's Zen-based CPUs related to L3 cache latency. The problem started with the Windows 11 GA version and was apparently made worse with the Patch Tuesday update. The bug has since been fixed with a later build 22000.282 and the patch has been confirmed to work flawlessly by AIDA64.
Currently, there is no way to validate or invalidate the accusation as Intel's Performance Index page does not list its 12th gen Alder Lake-S CPUs yet, even though the firm has linked to the page in the slide's footnotes.
For those unaware, on the Performance Index page, Intel provides detailed descriptions of the internal performance claims it makes with hardware specifications and this information also contains the Windows Build number. At the moment only the last-gen Rocket Lake information is listed:
CapFrameX, however, claims that the performance hindrance Demerjian brings up is actually not the fault of Intel at all. Apparently, the latest AMD chipset driver version 3.10.08.506 is what is causing this loss in framerates when compared to an older driver. Interestingly, the new chipset driver is supposedly a fix for another Windows 11 issue that was causing problems related to proper core prioritization (CPPC2).
Well, whatever be the truth, the jury is still out on this one. Hopefully, though, things will begin to clear up once Intel updates its Performance Index page with Alder Lake-S data and third-party reviewers begin posting reviews of the platform.
By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft is forcibly installing the PC Health Check app on Windows 10 PCs
by Usama Jawad
Windows 11 started rolling out almost a month ago, but since it is being distributed in a staggered manner, not everyone has it yet. Microsoft also offers a PC Health Check app that users can download to find out whether their machine is eligible for the new OS, which is important given the strict system requirements.
While the PC Health Check app was initially released in tandem with Windows 11's system requirements, it also offers diagnostics data across other areas such as battery, storage, and startup time. Now, it appears that Microsoft is forcibly installing the software on Windows 10 machines.
Bleeping Computer reports that KB5005463, which became available a few days ago, installs this application during an OS update. Microsoft has confirmed this via its dedicated page for the update too and noted that people who install the app will have important app updates installed automatically when they open PC Health Check, and that there is no way to disable this.
Obviously, no one likes to have software force-installed on their machine, so there has been public outcry on social media platforms too. The good thing is that users can uninstall PC Health Check via Windows Settings, but the bad thing is that it reportedly reinstalls in subsequent OS updates. Bleeping Computer has highlighted a couple of workarounds to prevent the reinstall of the app, but since it involves making edits to the Registry, proceed at your own risk.
All in all, PC Health Check is a fairly lightweight app (11.5MB on our machine) that does not consume resources when it's closed, so it's not hugely problematic to have the app installed on your PC. That said, the forced installation does remind of the debate surrounding the Get Windows 10 app.
AdDuplex data suggests Windows 11 is already on 5% of PCs
by Paul Hill
AdDuplex has released its Windows data for the month of October and it reveals that Windows 11 has already been installed on 5.1% of computers running Windows 10 or Windows 11. It also said that 90% of Windows 10/11 PCs are now on versions of Windows released in either 2020 or 2021 which means users are likely up-to-date on security patches and are experiencing the latest features Windows has to offer.
This insightful data is collected from around 5,000 apps in the Windows Store which use the AdDuplex SDK v.2 or higher. This month's data was based on information from around 60,000 computers which, hopefully, means it’s representative of the wider Windows 10/11 install base.
Last month, AdDuplex revealed that Windows 11 had already been installed on 1.3% of computers that had the Microsoft Store which was interesting considering it hadn’t even been officially released at the time. Microsoft has been phasing the rollout of Windows 11 too so if you think 5% is a low figure, you need to factor in the staggered approach too. By slowly rolling out Windows 11, Microsoft can nip any issues in the bud so more people are pleased with their experience of Windows 11.
According to BleepingComputer, Microsoft is now issuing an update to Windows 10 users that installs the PC Health Check utility. This will make it easier for the firm to help users ensure their machine is compatible with Windows 11 and if it’s not, it will let them know if they can do anything to address the problem making it Windows 11 compatible.