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By Steven P.
Microsoft PowerToys 0.51.0 adds presentation mode to highlight the mouse, and more
by Steven Parker
No, you are not dreaming, you did not miss out on the news of PowerToys 0.50.0 release, Microsoft has skipped over that number entirely (even numbers are reserved for Experimental releases) and released 0.51.0. Release 0.49.1 really was the last release that happened just over a month ago.
Back to this release, Microsoft has added in a presentation mode helper to highlight the mouse when you click. The Find my mouse toy also gained some additional settings to enable more customization. The PowerToys dev team further states that they've been focusing work on the "Always on Top" system to help make any window to be the top most. A lot of thought is currently going into interaction models to make sure it 'feels' right for toggling as well as visualizing.
This release does not include any new PowerToys, so there's no 'What's new' section this time around, however, existing PowerToys did get some new features, fixes and improvements. You can view the full changelog below.
There's also some development considerations that have been noted for this release which you can view below.
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 eventually. A prominent example of this is Snap Layouts and Span Groups in Windows 11 which borrow heavily from the FanzyZones tool in PowerToys.
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 0.51.0 installer from the app's GitHub page.
By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft should include more information about patches in Windows Update
by Usama Jawad
Microsoft frequently updates multiple versions of Windows, be it through its regular Patch Tuesday updates that happen at the second Tuesday of every month, or optional updates, or even out-of-band fixes. While many people are annoyed by continual updates as they sometimes interrupt their workflow, they are arguably necessary in most cases due to the security holes they plug and the software issues they fix.
Although I personally have no complaints about the frequency of the updates themselves, I do have some concerns about the lack of information and context that Microsoft provides through its built-in Windows Update setting. Case in point is above where I have a bunch of updates pending on my Windows 11 machine but I can't directly find out what exactly they update or fix. You'll have a similar user experience in Windows 10 as well.
You can see in the screenshot that I have two KB updates that I can install, but Microsoft provides me no context about what they fix or update. And that's not due to lack of documentation, you can actually head over to dedicated pages where Microsoft provides more information about each patch.
In fact, Microsoft also provides a "Learn more" hyperlink to each dedicated webpage in its Update history setting (screenshot above). The problem is that this page gets populated with information after you install an update, not prior. This means that until you install an update, Windows doesn't directly provide you more details about what a patch contains unless you copy-paste some identification to a web browser and manually search for it yourself.
I fully understand that this is probably not a highly requested feature by the average user, but given its importance, I feel like Microsoft needs to integrate information about patches into Windows Update in a better way. This is also important because not every update is bug-free, quite a few bring along with them issues of their own, so Microsoft should offer these details to consumers directly in Windows before they go on with installing the updates. This will also enable customers to consider workarounds for any issues and weigh their options before they blindly install an update.
I'm not asking for this additional context to be displayed at all times, that would be an information overload and not a good user experience for your average consumer, but Microsoft should consider nesting these details below a drop-down for each update, or at the very least, provide a "Learn more" hyperlink before you install an update.
Right now, most consumers are dependent on media outlets like Neowin to report on all the changes present in each update and while Microsoft does provide dedicated webpages with more context, offering this information directly to its customers should ideally be the Redmond tech firm's responsibility first. I have talked in detail about how Microsoft has been improving the Windows Update process with Windows 11, and I would really appreciate it if the company could enhance this further for tech-savvy users with the aforementioned changes.
What are your thoughts on Microsoft enhancing Windows Update with more information about each update, that can be optionally viewed before installing a patch? Let us know in the comments section below!
By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft Weekly: Defender for the win, trouble with Nextcloud, and ARM exclusivity
by Usama Jawad
As we approach the end of the week, now is the time to catch up on all the Microsoft news you may missed in the past few days. Although it's been a relatively slow week due to the holidays in the United States, there are still significant news stories you might want to read up on. Let's dive into our weekly digest for the week of November 21 - November 26.
Microsoft Defender for the win
German IT Security research institute AV-TEST released its ratings for the best anti-virus software for Windows 10 Home users, ranking them based on metrics like performance, usability, and protection. Microsoft Defender secured all 18 of the available points to join the ranks of other solutions such as Avira, AVAST, AVG, Bitdefender, ESET, and received the "AV-TEST TOP PRODUCT" certification. You can check out more details about the results here.
In related news, a bunch of anti-virus solutions including Microsoft Defender have started flagging UserBenchmark, a freeware benchmarking tool as malware. It's not exactly clear yet whether this is a false positive or something else, but do keep an eye out in case you utilize it.
While we are on this topic, Microsoft is receiving backlash from the security community for apparently lowering its bug bounty rewards, even for high criticality issues. In some cases, this has led to security researchers publicly exposing zero-days out of sheer frustration. This is definitely something that the Redmond tech giant will want to keep an eye out considering public exposure without coordination with the software vendor can cause problems for potentially millions of users.
Trouble with Nextcloud in the EU
Microsoft seems to have found itself in a bit of bother at the European Union (EU). This is due to a Nextcloud-led coalition that has filed a complaint against the Redmond tech firm for anti-competitive behavior. Other notable members of the coalition include Tutanota, OnlyOffice, Free Software Foundation Europe, The Document Foundation, and European Digital SME Alliance.
Together, these parties claim that Microsoft is bundling its 365 services such as OneDrive and Teams natively into Windows and is shipping the OS with them installed by default. According to the group, this pushes users to Microsoft's bundled software rather than third-party alternatives. As of now, the challenging party's demands include Microsoft unbundling its software from Windows and adopting open standards that makes it easier for users to switch software. The issue is still evolving so do keep an eye out on our coverage.
In related news, the German state of Schleswig-Holstein has announced that it is shifting 25,000 government machines running Windows to open-source alternatives like Linux by the end of 2026. This will be a multi-step process initially involving migrating to LibreOffice from Microsoft Office, and then switching to Linux entirely. One of the reasons being cited for this massive transition is licensing costs. It is important to note that Munich city attempted the same a few years ago but the experiment eventually failed, with the government going back to Windows in 2015.
ARM exclusivity and Windows updates
If you were wondering why Qualcomm is the only company making chipsets for Windows on ARM PCs, wonder no further. It appears that Microsoft has an exclusivity deal in place regarding Windows on ARM with Qualcomm, which is why we have not seen hardware from other competing firms yet. That said, it has been reported that this deal is set to expire soon and MediaTek has already shown interest in developing processors for the Windows SKU.
In other news, it's been a relatively quiet week in the world of Windows updates too, mostly due to the aforementioned holidays in the U.S. Windows 10 did receive an optional KB5007253 update that fixes a bunch of issues related to remote printers, a 32-bit Excel bug, and more. Meanwhile, Windows 11 also received an optional 22000.348 November Update release. The most notable front-facing change here is the inclusion of new Fluent 2D emoji and a bunch of other behind-the-scenes updates that you can check out here.
We also heard back from the creator of APK sideloading app WSATools, who shared that his app was removed from the Microsoft Store for Windows 11 because it did not clearly note the requirements and it also contains the name "WSA" which is seemingly an official branding that Microsoft is using for Windows Subsystem on Android. You can check out more details on this topic here.
Microsoft Flight Simulator players can now buy the PMDG DC-6 Microsoft has announced plans to create a new datacenter region in Belgium A virtual machine running an evaluation copy of Windows 11 Enterprise can now be downloaded by developers, courtesy of Microsoft Some Halo Infinite cutscenes have leaked online (spoilers alert), so do browse safely Under the spotlight
After talking about the top five features I love about Windows 11 the week before, this time I went in the opposite direction and discussed the five features I absolutely hate. That said, it is important to note that both the lists are based completely on personal preferences and user experience. So if there's nothing that you hate about Windows 11 or nothing that you love about it, that's fine too!
I also wrote a brief guide about how to enable Super Duper Secure Mode (SDSM) in Microsoft Edge that will offer you enhanced security at the cost of potentially and slightly degraded performance. If that sounds fine to you, do give it a read here.
Image via Mr. Tempter | Shutterstock This week's most interesting news item isn't related to Microsoft but it's still worth noting in our weekly catchup. Russia has demanded 13 foreign tech companies - mostly belonging to the U.S. - to open offices on its soil by the end of this year. Right now, these demands are being enforced upon social media and tech firms that average more than half a million daily users and includes Google, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Apple, Zoom, Spotify, Viber, and others. The Kremlin has warned that companies that do not comply with its legislation may face data collection, money transfer limitations, and bans within Russia.
If you’d like to get a daily digest of news from Neowin, we have a Newsletter you can sign up to either via the ‘Get our newsletter’ widget in the sidebar, or through this link.
Missed any of the previous columns? Check them all out at this link.
By Steven P.
Windows 10 KB5007253 optional update now available in Windows Update
by Steven Parker
Microsoft has released a new Windows 10 optional update that bumps up the corresponding versions to build 19041.1382 (2004) 19042.1382 (20H2) 19043.1382 (21H1) and 19044.1382 (21H2). This is a tiny update in the sense that it only contains a single fix, albeit a notable one, and adds to the previous builds released last week under the same KB5007253. Hence, the long list of fixes Microsoft brought can be viewed here. The update fixed remote printer issues, resolved a 32-bit Excel bug, and more.
As a reminder, this update fixed a problem plaguing Windows 10 PCs that use Windows Hello for Business service on Azure Active Directory (AD) servers when accessing on-premises resources, such as file shares, among other things, and was likely causing user authentication problems and perhaps other inconveniences.
Here are some other highlights from the KB5007253 update:
Microsoft also notes that Windows 10, version 2004 will reach end of servicing on December 14, 2021. In order to continue to receive updates, users will have to update to a newer version of Windows 10.
In addition, next month there will be no preview release (known as a “C” release) thanks to the holiday season, this will resume as normal again in January. If you don't install this today you'll get it come next Patch Tuesday in December anyway, but to get this update right now, head to Windows Update settings (Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update) and select Check for updates. Upon installing, the update will require a reboot.
If you prefer to download the offline installer for this update, you can find KB5007253 here on the Microsoft Catalog. You may find more details in the original press release linked here.
By Usama Jawad96
Five things I hate about Windows 11
by Usama Jawad
Windows 11 has been out for over a month, but due to its staggered rollout, it's not available to everyone just yet. While Microsoft recently stated that it's speeding up the pace of availability due to "positive" feedback regarding the OS, that doesn't mean that Windows 11 is perfect. Far from it, in fact. If you've read my review on the OS, you know that I find it to be a mixed bag overall.
Last week, I talked about the top five things I love about Windows 11, but today, I'm going on the opposite extreme and will be talking about five things I hate about Microsoft's latest operating system. As usual, this is a purely personal perspective so feel free to disagree with it. Another few things I'd like to emphasize are that this list is in no particular order and the OS possibly has other problems apart from the ones I mention too, I just don't feel that strongly about them. With that out of the way, let's begin!
1 - Taskbar
I know that this list is in no particular order, but let's start with the most glaring feature first. The Taskbar in Windows 11 is extremely stripped down, so much so that it actually ditches some very useful functionalities that were present in Windows 10 for no apparent reason other than simplification. And that's because it borrows from the now-defunct Windows 10X, a simplified OS that was being designed for dual-screen devices. This results in a Taskbar that is arguably aesthetic but crippled for a lot of use-cases.
You can't drag and drop apps to pin them to the Taskbar, which means that you have to rely on context menus. The context menu for the Taskbar is essentially gone too, but you can still use its capabilities by right-clicking on the Windows/Start icon. Then there's the Taskbar clock, which has seemingly lost the ability to display time to the accuracy of settings based on Microsoft's whims. In the same vein, the Taskbar is locked to the bottom for some weird reason as well. You can't adjust its height, show labels and never combine apps, or even change the size of app icons. Even the Agenda view for the Calendar in the system tray is absent.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I'm sure that there are lots of other capabilities that I don't actively use but are likely missing as well. There's hope that Microsoft will eventually listen to all the negative feedback with thousands of upvotes in its beloved Feedback Hub and restore at least some functionality, but the fact that it thought that the launch version is good enough is just unacceptable. You can read more of my thoughts in the dedicated Closer Look piece here.
2 - Default apps settings
Oh boy, if you thought this list was going to go easier on Microsoft, you couldn't have been more wrong. Default apps settings is yet another change in Windows 11 that I highly despise. In Windows 10, Microsoft allowed you to set default apps for categories like Email, Maps, Music player, Photo viewer, Video player, and Web browser. This is no longer the case in Windows 11.
Microsoft actually wants you go through a painful process where you set the default app for each extension protocol. You don't have a category called "Web browser" where you can just set Chrome as the default browser and be done with it, you have to manually set it for each extension. Check the screenshot above to get an idea of what I'm talking about if you haven't gotten around to using Windows 11 yourself.
Granted that it's a one-time activity, but it's so much extra effort just to change your default browser or any other app, really. Microsoft's sheer audacity to implement such an anti-competitive tactic in an OS that is used by millions is just infuriating. While third-party developers and firms are attempting workarounds to bypass Microsoft's restrictions, it does seem like that they'll face a difficult time. You can read more of my rant on this topic in the dedicated piece here.
3 - Context menus
This is a bit of an odd duckling, and that's because "hate" is a bit of a strong word for this. The new context menu (or the right-click menu depending on what you call it) is an interesting experiment into making a UI element more accessible and simplified while still retaining all functionalities via workarounds.
Essentially, as you can see in the screenshot above, Microsoft has grouped some common items such as cut, copy, rename, share, and delete to the toolbar at the top of the context menu while some other functionalities are at the bottom. But you'll notice that many third-party apps that gave you an "open with" option or other similar to that are not visible by default. You actually have to click on the "Show more options" at the bottom of the context menu to get the Windows 10 version back which will have all the verbs.
In an effort to organize the context menu a bit better, Microsoft now expects developers to update their apps according to a new integration mechanism through which their app's verbs will be grouped neatly in the taskbar. I don't see a fault in the approach itself, but the issue is that this puts way too much responsibility on an app developer to update all their old apps to integrate with Windows 11. So if a developer has moved on to newer projects or abandoned their software completely, you as a user will be out of luck unless you implement some workarounds to integrate verbs to the native context menu.
You could use the "Show more options" button to just utilize the old context menu, but it obviously requires an extra click that is not good for a streamlined user experience, and there's actually no knowing if Microsoft eventually decides to do away with it completely and leave old apps and their consumers out in the cold. There's just too much uncertainty at this point for it to be enforced upon developers, and more importantly, consumers in this way.
I actually like the look of the updated context menu, but given that Microsoft seems to have sacrificed functionality for aesthetics in so many elements of the UI already, I fear that the old context menu will get the ax soon as well, which makes the updated context menu a very difficult sell for me. Check out more of my thoughts on this topic here.
4 - Start menu
Ah, yet another core part of the OS that did not get the treatment it deserved. When I initially talked about the Start menu in my Closer Look piece several weeks ago, I mentioned that since I don't use it much, its deficiencies don't bother me a lot. However, I don't know why, but I have been using the Start menu considerably more in Windows 11 compared to Windows 10. I don't know if it's something to do with the centered position of the Taskbar which encourages me to click on the Start menu more than usual, or if it's something else, but that's just how it is.
The other downer is that "Recommended" section that takes up the bottom section of the Start menu to show you files that you recently used. While you can disable it if you have privacy concerns, especially when sharing your screen online, the problem is that all that space is wasted. Microsoft doesn't extend the Start menu's app list to utilize all the whitespace, it's just left unutilized, which seems like a major design and engineering oversight.
But perhaps the worst culprit is the search bar that has been integrated into the Start menu. You would expect that if you click on it, you'll be able to quickly fire in some search queries, but it actually has a massive jitter as it stutters and opens up Windows Search, which is actually a separate interface. The integration is so jarring that you can only gaze in wonder about how Microsoft thought that it was good enough to ship.
5 - Widgets
Let's get one thing out of the way: I don't hate the idea of Widgets, I just hate how Microsoft has implemented them in Windows 11. I do use Widgets occasionally, but I find it extremely annoying that rather than opening up in a pop-up window at some corner of your screen, it takes up almost the full height and 40% of the width of my 15.6-inch display with a resolution of 1920x1080.
What this means is that if you're on a single display, you can either view your Widgets or use your primary window, there's absolutely no concept of multitasking. If you click on the primary window, the Widgets flyout closes, it's super-annoying.
While you can customize it to your liking, to show you topics that interest you, I do have to talk about the integration between Calendar and Widgets. You can only sync your calendar agenda to Widgets if you use an Outlook.com account. If you're using any other email provider, you're out of luck. Given the lack of integration of the Agenda view with the Calendar flyout in the system tray, what this means is that if you want to view your daily agenda with a third-party email provider, you necessarily have to open the dedicated Calendar app because Microsoft has decided that it's not going to help you out. Long live simplification!
Have you started using Windows 11 yet? What are some features that you dislike about the OS? Let us know in the comments section below!
Also check out five features I love about Windows 11 here.