Hands on with News and Interests; it needs refinement to be useful

Windows 10 News and Interests widget

With Microsoft’s latest update many people will notice a new addition on their taskbar: News and Interests. With a small overview of the current weather, highlighting this area displays further information such as the news of the day and stock market changes. I decided to poke around and see what it had to offer.

The Default View

News and Interests on the Taskbar

The default view seems to base its information on your location setting. As I am located in the United Kingdom, it showed me that the sky in Rugby is mostly cloudy, with a lovely summer temperature of 20C. Looking outside my window I didn't agree – it seems quite blue out – but at the same time I’ve come to trust the accuracy of any weather report the same way I trust a sighting of UFOs – with a huge grain of salt.

When I looked at my taskbar, I also noted that I appear to be experiencing the same issue that many have reported: the text for the temperature and weather conditions is blurrier than anything else on the taskbar. A quick search online has shown that this feedback has been provided to Microsoft, so we can hope that this will be fixed at a later date.

The Expanded View

Looking at the expanded view, a lot of the defaults are what I would expect to find: Top stories from around the UK, a more detailed view of the weather right now, some information on the Stock market and some traffic updates. There’s not a lot to talk about here. I don’t need to know about stocks, or rather Lloyds and Aviva, and I have no interest in OK! Magazine. But I wouldn’t expect the app to know this yet, I need to customise it to my liking.

Customising the View

At the top of the News and Interests section is the ability to manage your interests. This presented me with my first annoyance, which is that Microsoft Edge opened up to make changes. I know that Edge is Microsoft’s browser and so the company may feel inclined to push people towards using it, but it annoys me that I have already told Windows that my default browser is Firefox and yet this app disregards that setting. There is a way to stop this from happening using an app called EdgeDeflector, but this shouldn’t be necessary.

The options seem to be categorised simply enough. I have an option for news, entertainment, sports and so on. There is also a search bar that allows me to search through all the categories, so I don't need to know which section Technology would normally appear in and can instead just search and add it.

news and interests

Having made my selections, I closed Edge, went back to the News and Interests app and selected the refresh button ...and nothing changed. I was still seeing the article from OK! magazine about some farming TV series, Salma Hayek's latest beach photos (actually, I might want to keep that), an actor's split from a co-star ...these items don't fall under my interests and I didn't see any articles relating to technology. When I went back to manage my interests, I noticed that my changes haven't been saved. But where is the save option?

news and interest screenshots

Nothing has changed on the Finance card either. But then I saw another button in the top-right corner of this card. Clicking on this presents me with an option to add a symbol, and there I am able to select the companies that I want to see. Why is this in its own setting rather than being in the overall settings?

After trying various things, I gave up trying to save my interests. Switching the tabs within Edge and then going back showed that the options I had selected were still selected, but closing Edge and reopening the settings provided me with a blank canvas again.

For the Traveller

This part is a bit of a niche find. I travel between countries several times a year. I noted above that the News and Interests app bases its information on your location settings, so how does it handle travelling abroad or changing your IP address to a different country?

My experience is limited, due to the fact that my interests cannot be saved and I can't physically switch my country just for an editorial. This means that my view is limited to the default settings and a "location" of wherever my VPN provider gives me. As I normally travel between the UK and Switzerland I switched over to a Swiss IP address.

The first thing I noticed was the language changed. Switzerland has four official languages, with Swiss-French and Swiss-German being the most widely spoken. The IP placed me in Zurich, and so the language switched to Swiss-German. This is unfortunate for me since I speak Swiss-French but not Swiss-German, but at least I understand why it changed.

What I wonder though is how it affects people that are traveling on holiday, or on a business trip? You see, it makes sense that the articles would update to the local newspapers, and that language would be the local language. But when you go to the settings you'll find that the language there has also changed. There is an option to force the language settings to something that you can understand, but why does the language change here rather than taking the language settings from Windows?

news and interest screenshots

Further clicking around revealed one more thing about this. If you force the language to change – say from Swiss-German to English – it seems that the app will remember this change for the future. So if I switch the language to English and then reconnect to a Zurich IP, the settings will continue to display in English. So at least the app remembers that setting.

Overall Thoughts

There's not too much to say about the app at the moment. It is a minor addition to your taskbar that can be disabled for those that don't want to see it. Having poked around a bit this morning, I've also found that due to the issue of being unable to specify interests related to me, its secondary function of displaying news that I would like to see is broken, which means a majority of the screen and a majority of what the app is supposed to do, doesn't work.

If you still do not have News and Interests and can't wait until Patch Tuesday, you can apply the KB5003214 update that enables it by manually installing it.

This is a new feature for Windows 10, so I expect there to be bugs like with any new feature Microsoft rolls out – a gripe that many people have with Windows 10 is that the standard user has now become a guinea pig more than ever. I just hope that the issues I've come across are resolved soon so that I can make more use of the addition. In the meantime, I think I'll just keep it hidden in the background.

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