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By Abhay V
Microsoft Weekly: New Surface hardware, Windows 11 in Release Preview, and gaming
by Abhay V
It’s been an eventful week in the world of Microsoft. There is a new Windows 11 build for the Dev channel with a bunch of bug fixes, Release Preview Insiders received their first taste of Windows 11 in the way of an optional update to the new OS, the Redmond company announced a bunch of new Surface hardware bringing much-needed upgrades to most of the product line, and much more. Check all this out and more in our weekly Microsoft digest for the week of September 19 – September 25.
Windows 11 in Release Preview, new Dev channel build, more
As is now the case every week, there was a new Dev channel build. Build 22463 brought a bunch of bug fixes, including a fix for the issue that caused the taskbar icons to align incorrectly. While the branch from which new Dev channel builds are being served is not tied to a specific Windows 11 version, the firm has said that many fixes being made will also be brought to the Windows 11 version releasing next month. It does note that newer features for the Dev channel are a while away.
As the OS begins to near its October 5 rollout date, Release Preview Insiders finally got their first taste of Windows 11, thanks to the rollout of build 22000.194. The rollout, just like how recent feature updates have been, is currently optional for eligible users. It will not be surprising to see mainstream users begin receiving the same build when the OS launches on October 5, with there being a few day-one updates bringing bug fixes. Considering that the rollout is staggered, not many eligible users will see the update on day one, which gives the firm time to polish the offering further before expanding the rollout. For those who want to perform a fresh install, the firm also released ISO images for this build.
However, for those trying to install the new OS on unsupported hardware, the company is supposedly planning to get those users to sign an acknowledgment, agreeing that they are installing the OS with the knowledge that they might not receive critical security updates or support. There has been an ongoing discussion about whether the firm will serve updates to users running its latest OS on unsupported hardware. Talking about hardware compatibility, the firm also released the updated PC Health Check app for Insiders, bringing much-needed improvements to the Windows 11 compatibility checking tool.
Continuing the topic of updates, Edge Dev users received their final Edge 95 build which brought the new Windows 11-style visual updates by default. As expected, some elements such as the Mica material are exclusive to those running the offering on Windows 11. Another significant addition was the ability to pick up PDF documents where users last left them.
The Microsoft Teams desktop client is also slated to receive a new capability that will allow adding anonymous users to Teams meetings. This brings another way for users to conduct meetings with vendors or users from different organizations. The rollout of the feature is slated for October, as spotted on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap.
Brand new Surface hardware
Source: Microsoft Microsoft held its much-awaited hardware event this week, announcing a bunch of new hardware. The Surface Pro 8 brought the first major redesign for the 2-in-1 in over five years. The display is now a 13-inch unit that sports a 120Hz high refresh rate. The device sports two Thunderbolt 4 ports, making it the first Surface PC to support a Thunderbolt port. There is also a new Slim Pen 2 that brings haptic feedback and a new design. The stylus can is housed in the new carbon-fiber sporting Signature keyboard.
As for internals, the device sports Intel’s 11th-gen Tiger Lake chips and can be configured with 32GB of RAM and 1TB of removable SSD storage. The Surface Laptop Studio is available in "select markets" for an asking price starting at $1599.99.
The Android-powered Surface Duo 2 also brings welcome improvements. These include slightly larger 5.8-inch displays that now curve into the hinge area, making for a glanceable notifications panel when the device is closed. There is now a new triple-camera array at the back, bringing ultra-wide, wide, and telephoto lenses, improving greatly on its predecessor. The phone also features support for the Surface Slim pen that can be magnetically attached to the back.
Internals have also seen a significant upgrade, with the top-tier Snapdragon 888 SoC bringing 5G support. NFC is also being added. The Surface Duo 2 is priced at $1499.99 and is available for pre-order in select markets.
The star of the show, however, was the Surface Laptop Studio, a new device in the Surface lineup that replaces the Surface Book brand. Unlike the Book’s detachable top section, the Laptop Studio features a swiveling display that can be placed in Laptop or Studio modes, mimicking devices like the Acer ConceptD Ezel laptops.
The offering features Intel 11th-gen H35 chips and RTX graphics, making it the most powerful Surface device to date. Just like the Surface Pro 8, the Laptop Studio comes with a high refresh rate display and Thunderbolt 4 ports. The stepped design also allows for the Slim Pen 2 to be attached – and charged – magnetically under the keyboard deck. The laptop can be maxed out with 32GB of RAM and 2TB of SSD storage. The Surface Laptop Studio is available for “select markets" for an asking price starting at $1599.99.
There were a few minor upgrades to some devices as well. The Surface Go 3 was updated with new Intel chips, with the tablet now available with a 10th-gen Core i3 processor. The ARM-powered Surface Pro X, on the other hand, can now be had in Wifi-only flavor for a lower asking price. There were also new peripherals like the Ocean Plastic Mouse made from 20% recycled ocean plastic.
Halo Infinite preview, Sea of Thieves Season Four, and more
Starting off this week’s gaming news is – unsurprisingly – Halo Infinite. As announced earlier this week, 343 Industries opened the next round of technical tests for its upcoming title. The first weekend of the double Technical Preview drop this week brings access to player versus player Arena from the get-go, including Bot Arena from the previous flights. However, Social Arena playlist opens matchmaking only at pre-set times to stress test the servers. You can find the schedule in the news article here.
The first preview closes on Tuesday, the 27th of September, and opens back up on Friday, October 1. The second drop will contain the overhauled 12 versus 12 Big Team Battle (BTB) mode. It must be noted that Bot Arena, Training Mode, Weapon Drills, and Battle Pass elements are accessible through both weekends.
Moving on, Rare announced this week the next major content update for Sea of Thieves, Season Four, which began rolling out on September 23. The update takes players under the waves this time around, bringing new undersea adventures such as new Siren Shrine and Siren Treasury destinations. The studio is also introducing a treasure storage method to transport entire loot stacks from the bottom of the sea to save players from taking multiple trips to transport their loot. The new season also brings 100-level battle pass levels to climb for free and a refreshed premium Plunder Pas.
Those waiting for Alan Wake Remastered were also treated to a comparison trailer showing off the visual upgrades made to the title against the original Xbox 360 version. Unsurprisingly, there is higher resolution rendering, accompanied by better textures, lighting, and more. The title launches on October 5, 2021, and features the base game and The Signal and The Writer story expansions.
Rounding off gaming news this week are the Deals with Gold discounts. Titles from the Assassin’s Creed, Halo, Forza, and Star Wars franchises are receiving major discounts. However, some discounts noted in the piece are exclusive to Xbox Live Gold members.
Lastly, Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One September update was announced this week. The release notes mention the recently announced support for Remote Play and cloud gaming on PC via the updated Xbox app. The update also brings an update to the new Chromium-based Edge browser to improve performance and more.
Chrome 94 launches on Windows with controversial idle detection API Xbox 360 Gamerpics available for select Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S users VaxApp is a new Microsoft Teams app to help organizations manage vaccination attestation Microsoft and SSE form a partnership to make energy more sustainable Latest Chrome and Edge updates fix critical memory UAF security vulnerability Logging off
We continue with the Closer Look series where we provide a detailed view of the various new components in Windows 11, a comparison of the equivalent feature in Windows 11 – where applicable, and a run-down of the good and the bad. This week, we looked at not one but two areas of the OS – the new File Explorer and the updated Context menus. Check out our complete comparison and let us know your thoughts.
Missed any of the previous columns? Check them all out at this link.
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By Abhay V
Windows 11 build 22000.194 now available to Insiders in the Release Preview channel
by Abhay V
Microsoft today announced that Windows 11 build 22000.194 is now heading to eligible Release Preview channel users, bringing the OS one step closer to its October 5 release. As expected, not all users running Release Preview builds will receive the update, as the OS is being served only to those running builds on supported hardware. Just like major feature updates, the release will be offered as an optional update, before becoming available to all eligible users.
Build 22000.194 is the same one that was released last week to Beta channel Insiders. These builds have mostly been receiving bug fixes, with there possibly being at least a couple more expected for Release Preview insiders as well. It is possible that this will be the build that will also ship with new Windows 11 devices starting October 5, with there being day-one cumulative updates.
The firm has been fixing more bugs in the Dev channel builds and has promised to bring those fixes as well to the OS post-release. It is odd, though, that the focus hasn’t been on getting out a chunk of the fixes to the Beta channel and Release Preview before release. The Windows 11 rollout will be a staggered and measured one, so those running Windows 10 might have to hop onto the Release Preview channel if they do not want to wait.
Additionally, Microsoft is also making build 22000.194 ISO images available for Insiders that want to perform a fresh install of the OS or re-load their VMs with the build heading to the Release Preview channel. You can download the latest ISOs from here.
Windows 11 brings a bunch of new features, a major visual refresh, and much more. The biggest – and probably the first visual change – is the centered Start menu and taskbar icons, along with rounded corners and a lot more. We have been looking at the various new components in detail in our Closer Look series, which you can find here.
Are you running Release Preview channel builds and are you going to install Windows 11 right away? Let us know in the comments below!
By Usama Jawad96
Closer Look: Context menus in Windows 11
by Usama Jawad
Windows 11's general availability date is a little over two weeks away. Starting from October 5, the OS will begin to roll out to supported PCs in a staggered manner. Given its nearing release date, we have been taking a look at some of its 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, and File Explorer in Windows 11. Today, we'll be taking a look at a relatively smaller feature, namely the Windows 11 context menus (or "right-click menus", depending upon what you call it).
For the purpose of this hands-on, we'll be taking a look at Windows 11 build 22000.194 that was released to the Beta Channel a week ago versus a publicly available and up-to-date Windows 10 (version 21H1 build 19043.1237). As usual, it is important to note that the OS is still under active development so it's possible that some of the features we talk about may change by the time of Windows 11's general availability.
Context menu for desktop in Windows 10 Starting off with Windows 10, you can essentially open the context menu by right-clicking on items. That essentially displays a menu containing some quick settings and configurations options. For example, in my case (screenshot above), when I right-click on the desktop, I get some basic settings related to desktop customization, some configurations related to display, and another "Open with Code" option because that was an association created when I installed Visual Studio Code on my laptop. Options that are not available are grayed-out, such as "Paste" and "Paste shortcut" in the screenshot above because I have no items on my clipboard to paste.
Sample context menu for a Microsoft Word file in Windows 10 Depending upon the item you right-click on, the context menu will expand to show all the available options to you. For example, when I open the context menu on a Microsoft Word file on my desktop, I get new options and third-party associations with Notepad++ and WinRAR, along with native associations like Microsoft Defender. Some items also have hierarchical or nested menus that you can explore by hovering over the relevant option, as can be seen in the screenshot above. The same behavior is mimicked in File Explorer. Essentially, the context menu offers quick access to some configurations that may be useful for the item that you are interacting with.
Context menu for taskbar in Windows 10 While you would like to think that the design language of the context menus is same across the OS, this is unfortunately not the case. A prominent example of this is the taskbar context menu (screenshot above), which seems to have a completely different UI compared to the ones for desktop and file items.
Context menu for desktop in Windows 11 Coming over to Windows 11, you'll notice that Microsoft has significantly revamped the design. You get brand-new iconography along with the rounded corners that is a staple design pattern in the OS. When you right-click on the desktop, you'll see a somewhat familiar context menu that contains all of the settings from Windows 10. It also adds a "Open in Windows Terminal" option by default.
Legacy context menu for desktop in Windows 11 However, if you'd rather use the legacy context menu, you can press Shift + F10 or just click the "Show more options" item in the context menu to open it. Microsoft has emphasized that it has not removed any Windows 10 context menu functionality completely from the new OS as of yet.
Sample context menu for image file in Windows 11 The difference between the context menus present in Windows 10 versus Windows 11 is a bit more evident when you right-click on a specific item like a file. In the screenshot above, I simply pasted an image file to my desktop and right-clicked on it. The first thing you'll likely notice is that certain Shell verbs or common commands such as Cut, Copy, Rename, Share, and Delete have been moved to a simplified ribbon on top of the context menu, similar to the design of the File Explorer. If you have an item on your clipboard, this ribbon will automatically adapt to show you the Paste icon where relevant. The rest of the options are present in a list along with a default "Copy as path" utility which I think will be quite useful especially when you're writing code and quickly want to copy the path of the file to utilize in your code. The capability is present in Windows 10 too but is accessed in an indirect way.
Sample legacy context menu for image file in Windows 11 However, you'll also notice that other associations such as those for Visual Studio Code (yes, it can open images), WinRAR, and Notepad++ are noticeably absent. While you can still access them by using Shift + F10 or "Show more options" via the legacy context menu (screenshot above), this is very much an intentional design change.
Microsoft argued back in July that the reasons for this UI revamp are that the Windows 10 context menu is overly long, common commands are not grouped together, and it also contains options that are barely used. I'm somewhat inclined to agree. The context menu present in Windows 10 is indeed too cluttered and unless you have developed muscle memory for what option you want to actually use, sifting through the entire list is fairly overwhelming, depending upon all the associations you have linked with first- and third-party apps.
However, this design change also begs the question: Will people always have to click on "Show more options" to utilize the legacy context menu if they don't find the relevant item in the list? The short answer is "no". That's because Microsoft has stated that third-party developers can use app identity and IExplorerCommand to extend the context menu and have their app listed as well. Third-party items will be grouped separately below Shell verbs.
That said, this also means that the onus to have apps properly linked to the context menu for a quick action is solely the responsibility of the developer. As you may be able to discern, not many developers have made effort on this front yet, which can also be attributed to the fact that Windows 11 is not generally available yet. In fact, Microsoft's own "Scan with Defender" option is hidden behind the legacy context menu. Until developers update their software to work natively with Windows 11, the only way to access their verbs will be via the legacy context menu.
The taskbar context menu in Windows 11 And oh, if you were wondering about whether the taskbar context menu is consistent with the other context menus, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that it is consistent, but the bad news is that it's so severely crippled that it contains none of the immediate functionalities that Windows 10 offered. I have discussed this in detail in my dedicated Closer Look piece about the taskbar in Windows 11.
All in all, I like the simplified context menus (except the one associated with the taskbar) as it's aesthetically pleasing to look at, and it's easier to find basic commands. However, I understand that power users will not be happy with some of the changes such as certain verbs behind hidden behind another context menu. That said, I hope the situation will improve once Windows 11 becomes generally available and developers start to update their apps to adapt to the OS.
What are your thoughts on the revamped context menu in Windows 11? Let us know in the comments section below!
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
I just did an upgrade from Windows 10 to 11. One thing I like to do is organize my Start Menu with folders so that I can organize my programs. This used to be quite easy in Win 10. I'd right click on a program and click on More and then click on Open File Location. From here you can make all the edits you want. You can create folders, delete them and move stuff around as you see fit. This doesn't seem to be the case in Win 11 unless I am missing something. Those options are there, but when I go to look for my newly created folders under All Apps on the Win 11 Start Menu, it's not there. Yet, when I navigate to it, it is. Does anyone else have this issue? I know this is beta software, but is this a bug? Has anyone else run into something like this before? If so, were you able to fix it? I am pulling out what little hair I have left trying to fix this.
By Abhay V
Windows 11 build 22463 for the Dev channel fixes misaligned Taskbar icons and more
by Abhay V
Though Microsoft held a packed event that brought a bunch of device announcements, the firm isn't missing its Wednesday build release schedule. Dev channel Windows 11 users are being treated to build 22463 that brings a ton of bug fixes and a few small improvements to UI elements. The company admits that there is still time for bigger features and changes to show up. Nevertheless, bug fixes are always welcome.
The firm also reiterates that changes and improvements made as part of these Dev channel releases are not tied to any specific Windows releases. They are in-development improvements and will show up in "future Windows releases when they’re ready". However, the company has said that some bug fixes made in the Dev channel builds will roll out in the form of servicing updates to the Windows 11 version that releases next month.
As for today's build, the highlights include a fix for the bug that causes the Taskbar icons to be misaligned. The build, however, will not go to PCs that are managed through MDM due to a blocking bug. The issue is expected to be rectified in the next build that releases to the Dev channel.
Here is the complete list of changes and improvements:
And here are all the fixes made as part of the build:
As usual, there are a few known issues plaguing build 22463 that users must be aware of. Here is the complete list:
In addition to the build announcement, the Redmond company has also noted that PowerToys is now available in the Microsoft Store. The listing was spotted last week and brings an alternative way to install the suite of tools. However, the Microsoft Store version is not a conventional app as it pulls in an installer for the tools instead of installing the tools themselves. You can check out the app in the store on Windows 11 here.