Microsoft is upgrading right-click context menus in Windows 11

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WindowsLatest 19 July, 2021 - 05:55pm 20 views

Is Windows 11 released?

Microsoft has said that the Windows 11 will come to computers in fall. A wider release is possible in early 2022. Currently, Microsoft's next operating system update is available as an early build for Windows Insiders. LivemintWindows 11 coming to your PC in this month, leaked Intel document confirms

Hands On In its publicity for Windows 11, Microsoft has focused on the "simplified design and user experience" of the operating system along with a few headline features: a centered Start menu that looks more like a dock from other OSes, Android apps in the Microsoft Store, Teams Chat in the taskbar, Widgets, and more.

Android software support aside, these are relatively superficial features, and Microsoft will not dare to introduce changes that might break application compatibility with Windows 10. The IT titan already sparked a backlash by stating that 7th-generation Intel Core processors will not be sufficient to run the new Windows, though there are signs the company is open to "adjustments we should make to our minimum system requirements," subject to feedback from its Insider's preview scheme.

El Reg living on the Edge in a Windows 11 desktop ... Click to enlarge

We have been running the latest insider preview of Windows 11 (21H2 Pro, OS build 22000.71) together with the refreshed Office insider build, and while it is generally not unpleasant, there are small changes which we think could prove annoying – though note that everything here is subject to change as this is just a preview build. A full official release is due to land by the end of this year.

For example, it is second nature for some to right-click the taskbar to summon the Task Manager, perhaps in the hope of discovering why a supposedly fast PC is acting like it's wading through glue. But the equivalent pop-up menu in Windows 11 has just two entries, Adjust date and time, and Notification Settings. Task Manager? We may need to get used to typing Windows + X, which brings up what is sometimes called the Power Menu, with quick access to a bunch of apps and settings including Task Manager.

Right-click the taskbar and this puny menu is all you get

We have not yet discovered though how to access one of our favorite settings, which is "Always show all icons in the notification area." The notification area is the bottom right corner of the screen, where background applications often show an icon with a right-click menu.

Showing these icons gives insight into what is running; but the default is to hide them behind a pop-up menu. In Windows 11, this area seems to be renamed the "taskbar corner," and the pop-up menu the "taskbar corner overflow," and while you can still select which icons appear, there is no option we can see to show them all by default.

Options for the 'taskbar corner overflow'

If the centered Start menu and taskbar icons aren't to your liking, you can shove them to the left, as on Windows 10, in Windows 11's personalization settings.

The curious can find the official list of removed and deprecated features here. Removed features include Quick Status on the lockscreen, S Mode (except in Home edition), Tablet Mode, and the ability to align the taskbar other than to the bottom of the screen.

Tablet Mode is a sad story. Although Windows 8 failed to convince users for all sorts of reasons, it was cleverly designed for touch users, more so than any version of Windows before or since (excepting perhaps Windows Phone). Tablet Mode was meant to restore a touch-friendly experience in Windows 10, but never worked right and caused confusion.

That said, Redmond appears to have a replacement in the form of "new functionality and capability for keyboard attach and detach," as this Microsoft representative notes. These include spaced-out icons and new gestures, and possibly a new touch keyboard. Microsoft will have optimizing this in mind for its new and recent Surface devices.

The Windows 11 Start menu is not necessarily an improvement. The Start menu was brilliant in Windows 95, brutally transformed in Windows 8, and reinvented in Windows 10 as an application menu with an optional resizable and customizable panel on one side, to retain some compatibility with Windows 8 Live Tiles.

Out of the box, the Windows 10 Start panel is an annoyance, but with a bit of effort can be made into a useful application launcher, with named groups and icons that in some cases come in four sizes: small, medium, wide or large. The Photo app is an example, which can not only be set large but will also cycle through recently added photos and images.

In Windows 11, Live Tiles, named groups, and resizable panels have been swept away. The new Start menu has little to customize, though users can still pin apps to a fixed space in its top half, which scrolls when full (a grid of 6 x 3 icons on our system). Plenty of room is given to a "Recommended" panel of doubtful value. There is also a small "All apps" button, which is similar to the classic pop-up Start menu of yore, and "Type here to search," which searches across applications, documents, web, settings and more, giving the user a perplexity of results.

One thing at least is better in Windows 11. The design is much cleaner, for those parts of the software that use the modern user interface, such as the system's Settings application; it makes Windows 10 look homemade by comparison.

The Settings applet looks much better in Windows 11 than on Windows 10

This Settings applet is supposed to be more friendly than the classic Control Panel, which on Windows 11 looks almost identical to the Windows 10 Control Panel, save for a few icon changes that are neither better nor worse. For some network settings, it is still necessary to go to the Control Panel's "Network connections," though the Windows 11 modern Settings applet provides some network configuration options not found in the Windows 10 Settings, including adapter options like DHCP, DNS, interface enable and disable, and more.

This is the kind of anomaly that keeps Microsoft partners in business. Note also that although this type of full backup is deprecated, users who install the presumably hot and current Azure Backup software will find that it looks remarkably similar, though it targets Azure storage instead of a local drive.

Another thing to mention is the Snap navigator. Hover the mouse over a window's maximize button, and a Snap window appears, which lets users resize and reposition the window in one of several positions. Useful? Some may love it though we did not find much value in this. For those who work with a huge display, it could be handy.

Hover over a maximize button and this Snap navigator appears

Windows File Explorer has been redesigned in Windows 11. This is where some users spend a lot of time while others hardly know what it is. It packs in a lot of functions: file management (copy, paste and move), file security, document preview, document search, and more.

This horrible cascading menu is a feature of the new File Explorer

The new design no longer has a ribbon menu, and at first glance seems less functional: there are just a few icons across the top. That said, several of the buttons have drop down menus, such as for sorting and grouping, layout, and selection.

It seems that everything is still there; the ribbon is no longer in fashion, and rather than go back to old-style drop-down menus, Microsofties have chosen a hybrid in which the menus drop down from buttons. Improvement? One can see that the designers are aiming for a simple, clean appearance; but what is lost is discoverability, something the ribbon design was good at surfacing. The new File Explorer is not altogether a success.

Will Windows 11 always be a free upgrade from Windows 10? According to an official document available from some OEMs, and declaring itself "CELA [Corporate External and Legal Affairs] approved," the "free upgrade offer does not have a specific end date for eligible systems. However, Microsoft reserves the right to eventually end support for the free offer. This end date will be no sooner than one year from general availability."

The document also states that: "You do not have to upgrade to Windows 11. We will continue to support Windows 10 until October 14, 2025." To grab a copy of a preview build, follow these instructions. ®

Australia's dominant telco, Telstra, has revealed the nation's government has asked it to consider a partnership to acquire Digicel Pacific – the largest mobile carrier in the Pacific Islands – in a move seemingly designed to contain China's influence in the region.

In a stock market announcement [PDF] posted on Monday, Telstra stated it has "been in discussions regarding a potential transaction to acquire telecommunications company, Digicel Pacific in the South Pacific in partnership with the Australian Government".

The statement added that Telstra was first asked to provide "technical advice", but talks have advanced to the point at which a purchase appears to be under consideration.

IBM on Monday reported better than anticipated revenue for Q2 2021, sending its shares up in after-hours trading.

Big Blue, evidently unfazed by a multi-week email disruption that's still not entirely resolved, delivered sales totaling $18.7bn for the quarter, an increase of three per cent year over year. It's the strongest revenue growth for the biz in three years. Net income, however, fell by three per cent to $1.3bn for the quarter.

That translates to non-GAAP adjusted earnings of $2.33 per share, seven per cent more than the $2.18 reported during the same period in 2020. Analysts on average expected something more like $18.3bn and diluted EPS of $2.29.

Google Cloud's veep of developer relations abruptly left the web giant late last week after sharing a lengthy essay on how he no longer hated "all the Jewish people."

Egyptian-American Amr Awadallah, who joined Google in 2019, had a month earlier posted on LinkedIn a 10,000-word missive, with an accompanying two-hour YouTube video, declaring: "I hated the Jewish people, all the Jewish people, and emphasis here is on the past tense.

"Yes, I was anti-Semitic, even though I am a Semite, as this term broadly refers to the peoples who speak Semitic languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew, among others."

GlobalFoundries will build a second chip fabrication plant by its Fab 8 facility in Malta, New York, where it is now headquartered, and pledged to invest $1bn to increase that latter factory's output.

CEO Tom Caulfield announced the construction plan with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo on Monday. The goal is to crank out another 150,000 wafers every year from Fab 8, its most advanced facility, and employ thousands of employees at the new plant at the site. This is all amid a semiconductor shortage, in which suppliers can't keep up with global demand.

“Our industry is expected to grow more in the next decade than it did in the past 50 years and GF is stepping up to do its part as we work together to address the growing demand for technology innovation for the betterment of humanity,” Caulfield said in a canned statement.

In Brief Cloud-based IT provider Cloudstar has been hit by ransomware, taking down its systems. It said it is currently negotiating with the crooks that infected its computers.

"On Friday, July 16, Cloudstar discovered it was the victim of a highly sophisticated ransomware attack," the Florida-based biz warned its customers over the weekend.

"Due to the nature of this attack, at this time our systems are currently inaccessible, and although we are working around the clock, we do not have a definitive restoration timeline. Our Office 365 mail services, email encryption offering and some support services are still fully operational.

A British Airways Boeing 787's landing gear collapsed during a botched test after a short mechanic asked a taller co-worker to insert a lock-out pin into a hole he couldn't reach – only for the second mechanic to put it in the wrong place.

The Laurel and Hardy-style failure was detailed in a bulletin from Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), explaining why the 787's nose landing gear (NLG) was accidentally retracted during maintenance at Heathrow Airport in June.

"To prevent the landing gear from retracting, the procedure required pins to be inserted in the nose and main landing gear downlocks. However, the NLG downlock pin was installed in the NLG downlock apex pin bore which was adjacent to the correct location to install the downlock pin," said the AAIB in its report.

Visual Studio 2022 has a new designer for Web Forms, the original web application framework that goes back to the first release of .NET.

The IDE, currently available as Preview 2.0, embeds a feature called Web Live Preview into the designer for ASP.NET Web Forms. The name Live Preview, however, does not do it justice as it is also possible to edit the text in the visual designer.

The previous visual designer for web forms offered only a rough idea of what the final page would look like, whereas the new one is actually rendered by a web browser.

Hungary-based game developer Gaijin Entertainment found themselves in a tactically difficult position last week when a user of their combat simulator War Thunder tried to win an online argument by sharing classified documents in the company's game forums.

The unfortunate security breach came during an online debate over the game's representation of the British Challenger 2 main battle tank, with different factions of users debating the various merits of the version in the game compared with its real-life equipment and record.

A user named _Fear_Naught_ then decided to end the debate around the War Thunder Challenger 2's armour and its relative vulnerability to being hit around the turret ring, or the point where a tank's turret is mounted to its hull.

SAP is going to new heights to raise its profile in UK business. A year and a half after Britain’s formal departure from the EU, Europe’s biggest software biz is unleashing €250m of investment in the next five years, including a new London office in The Scalpel, a 38-storey skyscraper at 52 Lime Street in the City of London.

While dishing out for office space in the heart of London’s financial district may be against the prevailing wind of the pandemic-hit economy, the German software giant said the flashy new skyscraper was necessary to “provide state-of-the-art facilities for customers and partners to identify and pursue co-innovation opportunities with SAP.”

Presumably, a soul-destroying business park in Maidenhead, where SAP maintains its current UK HQ, wasn’t going to impress prospects in quite the same way.

Lloyds Banking Group – which includes Halifax and Bank of Scotland among its stable of financial operators – is back up and running after online and mobile banking services took a tumble earlier today.

Customers started reporting problems at around 9am UTC on Monday after being unable to log into their accounts via website or phone app.

A notice on the Lloyds Bank website said: "We know some customers are having issues with Internet and/or Mobile Banking. We're sorry for this. We're working to get it back to normal soon."

The Microsoft Exchange Server attacks earlier this year were "systemic cyber sabotage" carried out by Chinese state hacking crews including private contractors working for a spy agency, the British government has said.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said this morning in a statement: "The cyber attack on Microsoft Exchange Server by Chinese state-backed groups was a reckless but familiar pattern of behaviour. The Chinese Government must end this systematic cyber sabotage and can expect to be held to account if it does not."

Through using four zero-day vulns in Exchange Server, the attackers were able to conduct an espionage campaign against western governments, defence and aerospace firms, education institutions and more. Immediate patches were issued within a week, with long-term fixes deployed as part of April's Patch Tuesday run.

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Windows 11's best gaming feature now being enabled in Windows 10

PC Gamer 20 July, 2021 - 05:01am

Microsoft confirms DirectStorage is compatible with Windows 10 so developers "can reach as many gamers as possible."

In Sarah Bond's article about the new operating system being the 'best Windows ever for gaming,' Microsoft's gaming corporate VP explicitly states that DirectStorage "will only be available with Windows 11." But a new DirectX Developer Blog post has announced the availability of a developer preview of the DirectStorage API, and in that Hassan Uraizee explains that the SDK will be compatible with Windows 10 from version 1909 and up.

"Microsoft is committed to ensuring that when game developers adopt a new API, they can reach as many gamers as possible," writes Uraizee. "As such, games built against the DirectStorage SDK will be compatible with Windows 10, version 1909 and up; the same as the DirectX 12 Agility SDK."

The promise of DirectStorage is that it streamlines the way game data gets processed, taking advantage of the modern storage hardware in our gaming PCs. Using NVMe SSDs, the DirectStorage API aims to reduce game load times and support the huge open world games of our dreams, ensuring texture data et al gets streamed into the world way beyond your vision rather than popping up in front of your face.

It plans to do this by largely circumventing the processor and quickly loading assets into your graphics card, lowering CPU usage and hopefully improving system performance along the way.

Uraizee breaks down the features of DirectStorage into these bullet points:

It's a genuinely exciting bit of tech, one that's been baked into the new Xbox Series X/S consoles, and one we could see no reason should be ring fenced only for those who upgrade to Windows 11. After all, the new OS started out life as a big feature update for Windows 10, so any barriers would seem to be purely arbitrary if enforced.

But the wider compatibility should mean more gamers have access to the feature, but the broader user base should also encourage developers and publishers to ensure that DirectStorage is considered for new and existing projects.

"This means that any game built on DirectStorage will benefit from the new programming model and GPU decompression technology on Windows 10, version 1909 and up," he reiterates. "Additionally, because Windows 11 was built with DirectStorage in mind, games running on Windows 11 benefit further from new storage stack optimizations."

But developers will only need to implement the new feature once into the game, with the SDK itself controlling which aspects of DirectStorage are available to your system without either you or the developer having to do anything to have it running correctly for their setup.

Having DirectStorage enabled in a game will also not preclude those still tied to hard drives from accessing any given title. "DirectStorage enabled games will still run as well as they always have even on PCs that have older storage hardware (e.g. HDDs)," concludes Uraizee. 

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Windows 11 will enable dark mode by default for many PCs

Windows Central 20 July, 2021 - 05:01am

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Windows 11's dark mode will be enabled by default for all commercials SKUs of the operating system. People will be able to swtich to light mode easily, but the default setting will be to show dark mode throughout the OS. Microsoft's Melissa Grant mentioned the switch during Microsoft Inspire last week.

"Since we're spending so much more time staring at bright screens, not just for endless email, but also countless meetings plus keeping up with our personal lives, to give your eyes a rest, we're going to ship all of the Windows 11 commercial SKUs in that IT favorite, beautiful dark mode, by default," said Grant.

The comment is brief, but if you'd like to see Grant discuss it, you can jump to the 4:32 mark of Microsoft's video.

The full session focuses on hybrid work and how Windows 11 is built for collaboration.

You can already check out the operating system's dark mode by running a Windows 11 Insider preview build. Much like the dark mode of Windows 10, several elements are swapped from bright white to black or grey. The darker colors are easier on the eyes, which can help if you're staring at a screen all day.

Dark mode is quite popular, and Microsoft has rolled it out to several apps and pieces of software, including Windows 10, Windows 11, Microsoft Edge, Office, and most of its mobile apps.

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With a new 16:10 16-inch display with QHD+ resolution, insane performance, and modest design, the Legion 5 Pro is easy to recommend. However, there is a caveat with AMD performance when the laptop is on battery power.

NVIDIA ray tracing and DLSS support for ARM processors are finally here. The company demonstrated the tech running on two demo PCs at GDC.

Psychonauts 2 could become Double Fine's magnum opus. This meticulously crafted world impresses from every angle, coalescing in a masterful action-puzzle-platformer that left a lasting impression.

If your PC somehow does not have trusted platform module (TPM) support through firmware and your UEFI BIOS, we'd recommend checking your motherboard manual for a TPM header. If you have one present, you can try to see if one of these will be compatible to get you ready for Windows 11.

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Windows 10 gaming PCs will get the NVMe SSD-enhancing DirectStorage API after all

PCGamesN 20 July, 2021 - 05:01am

Microsoft’s Windows 11 announcement was laced with gaming features that were initially said to be exclusive to the new operating system, but in an unusual 180-degree turn, that no longer looks to be the case. DirectX developers have since revealed that the DirectStorage API will, in fact, be coming to Windows 10 builds newer than version 1909 so the feature “can reach as many gamers as possible.”

Working in a similar way to the Velocity Architecture seen on the Xbox Series X and S consoles, the API lets your SSD communicate directly with your graphics card, bypassing the CPU and helping to reduce load times in DirectX 12-based games.

As Auto HDR is already included in Windows 10 insider builds, it means the new OS no longer has any exclusive gaming features that we know of. You’ve still got other things to look forward to, however, such as a large UI overhaul, a new Microsoft Store, native Android apps, and a centralised start menu. Still, as Microsoft might not push a free Windows 11 update to your current gaming PC until 2022, it’s great Microsoft is ensuring its older OS still offers an equal experience when it comes to playing the best PC games.

If you decide to stick with Windows 10 on your current rig, you’ve still got over four years of support from security vulnerabilities and bugs. After that point, you might finally have to make the switch if you want a fully secure operating system.

Theo Binns Hardware writer

When he's not browsing Amazon seething about graphics cards stock for his haggard rig - not a good look for a hardware writer - you might find him mountain biking, or playing his current favourites: Forza Horizon 4, CS:GO, and Microsoft Flight Simulator.

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