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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.
By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft Weekly: Windows builds, Halo from the other side, and living on the Edge
by Usama Jawad
We are at the end of yet another week, which has been an extremely busy one in the world of Microsoft due to tons of announcements and the release of several Windows builds. Find out more about this and more in our weekly digest for November 14 - November 19.
It's raining Windows builds!
The highlight of this week is the start of the rollout of the Windows 10 November 2021 Update, more simply known as version 21H2. It's quite a minor update as it's essentially just an enablement package that lights up a couple of Windows features that have been dormant by default previously. These include support for WPA3 H2E standards for increased Wi-Fi security and GPU compute support in Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) and Azure IoT Edge for Linux on Windows (EFLOW) deployments. You can find out more about both of these capabilities in our detailed piece here.
Changes are being made to the overall rollout strategy as well. Due to "positive" feedback, Microsoft is increasing the pace of Windows 11's rollout, so if you're on a supported machine, expect a notification in Windows Update soon. Furthermore, Windows 10 will now also follow an annual release cadence similar to Windows 11. This means that feature updates will be released once a year rather than twice. The Windows 10 on ARM variant of the OS won't be getting x64 emulation support either, and Microsoft recommends upgrading to Windows 11 on ARM if you want to take advantage of this capability.
On the Windows Insider Preview front, Microsoft released Windows 10 Build 19044.1379 (21H2) / Build 19044.1379 (21H1) (KB5007253) to the Release Preview ring. There is a long list of fixes and improvements that you can see here, but it does not bring any new features, as expected. Shortly after, Microsoft also released Windows 10 Insider build 19044.1381 / 19043.1381 to the same channel, fixing an issue related to devices joined to Azure Active Directory (AAD) and using Windows Hello for Business.
Windows 11 received some love too. The Dev Channel received a brand-new Media Player app intended to replace Groove Music eventually. Microsoft touts that it features design elements associated with Windows 11 as well as "rich artist imagery" when you're listening to music. The Dev Channel was also treated to build 22504 which contains a bundle of new features including a redesigned Your Phone app, an enhanced Touch Keyboard, and fixes for lots of items including a crashing File Explorer. It was also confirmed that the build 22000.346 that was rolled out to the Beta and Release Preview rings has reverted the color of the BSOD to blue instead of the previous black.
Later, Microsoft also rolled out build 22000.348 (KB5007262) to the Beta and Release Preview rings to patch a Kaspersky compatibility bug, followed by build 22504.1010 (KB5008697) to the Dev Channel to test the servicing pipeline. The company has also promised to improve Windows 11's performance in 2022.
Halo from the other side
Microsoft celebrated the 20th anniversary of the original Xbox with some major announcements. The Xbox Backward Compatibility program has returned one last time with 76 games being added. These include Max Payne, F.E.A.R games, and some old Star Wars titles along with tons of other games.
That said, the highlight of the event was undoubtedly the surprise release of Halo Infinite Multiplayer with a beta tag. This is weeks ahead of the launch of the Halo Infinite Campaign which just went gold in time for its December 8 release. We did learn some more things about the Campaign though. It will feature an Easter Egg for our favorite character Craig the Brute, but the co-op campaign experience is still six months away, at the very least.
For those who would rather play games other than Halo, the developers behind Age of Empires IV revealed a roadmap detailing balance updates, modding support, and more. Meanwhile, those who would rather explore a blocky sandbox world have the Minecraft Caves & Cliffs Part II update to look forward to on November 30.
Forza Horizon 5 has been an immensely successful launch for Microsoft with over 10 million players in its launch week. Meanwhile, those who prefer the aerial route will be happy to know that the Reno Air Race: Expansion Pack and Reno Air Race: Full Collection have become available for purchase on the Microsoft Flight Simulator Marketplace today for $19.99 and $59.99 respectively. Microsoft Flight Simulator: Game of the Year Edition has become available too. Fans of Xbox Cloud Gaming will also be pleased to know that the feature has launched on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One.
Living on the Edge
We had lots of news regarding Microsoft Edge this week. Starting off with the most controversial one, Microsoft essentially admitted that it is purposely making it difficult to change the default browser in Windows, especially in the Search experience. The company indicated highlighted that:
This does not bode well for people who want to avoid Edge at all costs. It also means that the Redmond tech giant will be blocking further workarounds from third-party developers designed to circumvent its restrictions.
In some slightly more positive news, we learned that Microsoft is experimenting with an enhanced CTRL+F toggle and a Citations tool in Edge. The former can now find related words for you while the latter enables you to grab information from a website and assign it a citation format like APA or MLA.
The browser is also getting a bunch of shopping-related features in the coming days, including information on ethically sourced products, price drops, an "efficiency mode" to conserve system resources, and an "easy update" capability to quickly change your compromised passwords. The Android variant of the browser will also give you the ability to authenticate before autofilling fields.
Microsoft has restored WSATools to the Microsoft Store - the app allows you to easily sideload APKs on Windows 11 Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) Preview version 0.50.2 is now live with a logo featuring an familiar mascot and an updated Linux kernel Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice has received ray tracing, DLSS, FSR, and more on PC
Microsoft has noted that Intel's Smart Sound Technology (SST) is causing BSODs on some Windows 11 PCs, a compatibility hold will be applied until you update your drivers
Following backlash from the community, the new Whiteboard app will be replaced by the older UWP one
Microsoft will launch Teams Phone with Calling Plan for businesses in 2022
Under the spotlight
We have effectively wrapped up our Closer Look series for Windows 11 until Microsoft releases some new features worth covering in more detail. While the OS isn't a home run, there is still a lot to love about it. You can read more about the top five features of Windows 11 that I really like. And be on the look out for five features I hate tomorrow!
This week, Asher had a look at the Xbox Series X version of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy, and as you probably know by now, the game's not a home run either, quite the opposite actually. There are a bunch of issues plaguing this release but on the brighter side, Rockstar Games has issued an apology, pledged to fix its latest release with updates, and promised to restore the classic versions of all three games.
Finally, if you have updated to Chrome 96 and want to enjoy Windows 11-style menus with rounded corners in the browser on Windows 10 or 11, check out Neowin's handy and brief guide here.
This week's most interesting item deals with Xbox chief Phil Spencer sharing his thoughts on the use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in gaming. Simply stated, he's not a fan and thinks that their use seems to be exploitative rather than something that can boost entertainment value. That said, the executive has not completely closed the door on incorporating NFTs in gaming, he just doesn't like it in its current state of infancy.
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 Usama Jawad96
Guide: How to enable Windows 11-style menus in Google Chrome
by Usama Jawad
A couple of months ago, we learned that Google is experimenting with Windows 11-style menus in Chrome. This essentially means rounded corners instead of the existing sharp corners for menus. With the release of Chrome 96 to the Stable channel a few days ago, this feature is now available for everyone to try out, but is still hidden behind Chrome flags.
If you're on Windows 11 and want rounded corners in Chrome for a consistent UX, you might want to enable this capability. In fact, if you like the UI element, you can also do the same in Windows 10. Before we start, do note that this feature is hidden behind Chrome flags for now so is an experimental feature. It may roll out as a general setting later, but is experimental for now. Google's official warning for experimental features states:
Since we're only making a minor UI change, this should be a relatively low-risk activity but proceed at your own risk. With that out of the way, here's how to enable Windows 11-style menus in Chrome 96 on Windows.
Make sure that you're on Chrome 96. You can manually trigger the update using the three-dots menu on the top-right corner, and then click Help > About Google Chrome, as can be seen below: Navigate to chrome://flags Search for Windows 11 Style Menus in the dedicated search bar The drop-down for the setting will be set to default. If you are on Windows 10, change this to Enabled - All Windows versions. If you are on Windows 11, both Enabled and Enabled - All Windows Versions will work fine. A screenshot of this can be seen below: You will be prompted to relaunch Chrome once you change this setting, proceed to do so Voila! You now have rounded corners in context menus and the ellipsis menu We have tested this only on Windows 10 and Windows 11 for now and it works if you follow the steps highlighted above. That said, it should theoretically work on any supported version of Windows running Chrome 96.
Did you enable Windows 11 Style Menus in Chrome? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments section below!
Windows 10 Insider build 19044.1381 / 19043.1381 out, small update with big fix
by Sayan Sen
Microsoft has today released a new Windows 10 build 19044.1381 (21H2) / 19043.1381 (21H1) to insiders on the release preview channel. 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 a couple of days ago under the same KB5007253. Hence, the long list of fixes Microsoft brought can be viewed here with Build 19044.1379 (21H2) / Build 19044.1379 (21H1). The update fixed remote printer issues, resolved a 32-bit Excel bug, and more.
Now, moving over to what today's build brings in addition to those earlier fixes, Microsoft says that it 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.
The changelog reads:
You may find more details in the original press release linked here.