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Microsoft Weekly: Game collection, app selection, preview section

During the seven day period that’s just coming to a close, we’ve seen plenty of news about games, some apps on Windows 10, and the now expected Insider builds. All that plus a few more niceties can be found below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of August 4-10.

Game collection

Collections come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from stamps to cars and everything in-between. If the whole point of your own collection is to assemble a pile of various games, you’re in luck.

To tug on the nostalgia strings, a trio of games has made its way to the Backward Compatibility list on Xbox. Players can choose whichever one they like between Earth Defense Force 2025, Prince of Persia, or Sine Mora. On the newer side of the spectrum there’s also Xbox Game Pass, which this week added DOOM (2016) and Rage to its lineup.

If you wish to expand your pile of games in other ways, there’s always the Mass Transit expansion for Cities: Skylines, which went live this week. Additionally, you can take advantage of a number of Bethesda game bundles for the Xbox One including DOOM + Wolfenstein II priced at $26.40 (a 67% discount) or Prey + Dishonored 2 for $26 (a 60% discount).

Last but not least, Sea of Thieves owners got to enjoy the 1.41GB 1.2.1 update for the game, which brought a number of community-requested features, plus new skeleton crews to battle during the Cursed Sails event.

And if you’re wondering where your Xbox avatar can be seen – if you want to see it, that is -, it’s in the same place it’s always been, with an asterisk. In order to actually see it on your profile page, activity feed, leaderboards, GameHub, or club header, you must choose to represent yourself with the avatar, not the gamerpic. If the latter option is selected, you will, naturally, only see your picture in the aforementioned sections.

App selection

Despite the title of this section, it’s not a dig at the app gap in Windows Phone, but in fact an umbrella term for all the Microsoft application updates across operating systems.

Windows 10 users who prefer to use Google’s browser will now be chuffed to bits to learn that Chrome version 68 brings support for native notifications, a feature which has been rumored since March. And not to stray too much from the subject of integration, the new inking feature in the Mail app is finally available to everyone, allowing you to scribble things to your heart’s content – whether you have a pen or not.

In further good news, Microsoft is not going to force you to use Skype v8 just yet, instead extending support for the “legacy” version after customer feedback. Before you ask, no, the company didn’t provide a particular cutoff date to point to. If you have actually made the move to the latest version and are in the Skype Insider program, you’ll be able to try out the new Spotify integration. Keep in mind that it’s U.S.-only at the moment.

As far as productivity is concerned, Microsoft’s To-Do app on Android has gotten an experimental dark theme, so you can add tasks in the dead of night sans a bright white background. Furthermore, users of Teams for Education can now try out a slew of improvements including rubric grading, better mobile support, archival of older threads, new Class and Staff Notebook settings, plus much, much more.

Rounding off the section is a bit of a quality-of-life improvement in the Microsoft Store, specifically concerning movies. As you may be aware, the Movies & TV service from Microsoft recently rejoined Movies Anywhere from Disney. The result of this is, among others, the presence of a new badge on a movie’s Microsoft Store listing. If the title is compatible with Disney’s offering, a Movies Anywhere logo will be displayed under its cover art. This means that you can buy the movie once and watch it on any of the supported devices.

Preview section

Unless you really don’t want to bother with all the fuss about the Insider Program, you’re probably well aware of the weekly influx of builds. This time, both the Redstone 5 and 19H1 branches got some attention.

Ending the process that started way back in build 17666 from the beginning of May, Microsoft has at long last delivered its vision for a dark themed File Explorer. This is the center point of build 17733, which might seem a little odd given that a UWP File Explorer is in the works. Regardless, it’s nice to have as an alternative to the solid white rectangle from the default theme. This newest build brings a number of fixes to Narrator, High Contrast settings, and the touch keyboard, but introduces a couple Windows Mixed Reality and Ease of Access bugs, as well as the possibility of a bugcheck (Green Screen of Death) if you delete a local folder that’s synced to OneDrive.

A mere two days after the build above, Redstone 5 Insiders were treated to build 17735 which fixed a few issues and added no new features. A similar set of known issues to build 17733 is also present here.

On the flip side, Insiders testing the 19H1 feature update saw build 18214 pop up, complete with the Your Phone app and support for HTTP/2, as well as CUBIC for enhanced security on the web. As far as bugs are concerned, things like Calendar / Clock flyouts not working, Timeline’s scrollbar refusing to function with touch, DPI scaling issues, or folder names in Start committing as soon as you hit the spacebar, were all fixed. Nevertheless, other issues still persist, like certain flyouts not having the acrylic background, Office in the Store for Windows 10 S failing to launch, or a host of Narrator problems. In case it hasn’t been said enough before, this is a test build, so it’s not completely unheard of to encounter issues during use.

The Fast ring

Hot corner

Hot corner is a section of The Fast Ring dedicated to highlighting five Microsoft-related stories that haven’t been covered over here, but might be of interest.

  • Microsoft Teams data residency locations have been expanded with the addition of Canada; Australia and Japan coming soon.
  • Teams and Adobe XD integration is now live.
  • Microsoft has provided brief explanations concerning Office 365 services and the way they handle data.
  • Class Cleanup and Expired Class management features are now available in Office 365.
  • The combined Azure AD MFA(Multi-factor authentication) and SSPR (Self Service Password Reset) experience is now in public preview.

Logging off

The last bit of this week’s column is focused more on security, both in terms of available frameworks in general, and Windows 10 in particular.

First off is the Cybersecurity Policy Framework, a 44-page document that Microsoft has put together in order to help national policymakers in the process of creating efficient cybersecurity policies. The company views it as an “umbrella document” meant to give pertinent hints for laying a strong policy foundation to defend against “new challenges” in the cybersecurity arena. But the Redmond giant isn’t quite resting on its laurels after releasing this document.

Thanks to a Feedback Hub quest, we know Microsoft is planning to add a feature called InPrivate Desktop. Despite its name, this isn’t quite the same as your InPrivate mode in Edge, IE, Firefox, Chrome, and the like. Whereas the latter implementation simply means there’s no trace of your browsing activity in the browser’s history, InPrivate Desktop looks to be operating more like a sandbox than anything else. This means basically that untrusted third-party apps can be run in isolation from the rest of the system, thus increasing security and lowering the possibility of a device being compromised.

Though it’s possible we’ll see the feature in the 19H1 update for Windows 10, don’t think you’ll be able to test it on Windows 10 Pro. InPrivate Desktop seems to only be limited to Windows 10 Enterprise at the moment.

Want to check any of the previous columns? Be sure to click here.

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