OneDrive Set to Get a Face Lift

As part of its Ignite 2017 conference in Orlando today, Microsoft revealed several updates it is bringing to OneDrive for consumers. Most notable are some tweaks coming to OneDrive’s web user interface (UI), as well as an improved sharing experience across platforms.

First up is the web experience, which Microsoft says it is updating to be “cleaner and more intuitive.” That’s in addition to some tweaks meant to make it easier to find content that has been shared and by whom in a new people card.

Quickly see what files and folders are new, what content has been shared with others as well as being able to see who has accessed the content and who has not with click of a single button via our new People Card and Info Pane.

The sharing experience is also being tweaked to be more consistent across platforms. Microsoft says it has standardized sharing across Windows, Mac and the web. The new sharing pane allows users to choose to share documents to specific people, anyone, or people within an organization.

All of this is in addition to a number of other, smaller tweaks for standard users as well as IT administrators. Here’s a look at what’s coming:

  • Support for synchronization of libraries encrypted with Information Rights Management (IRM) or Digital Rights Management (DRM)- We will now fully support the synching or DRM/IRM libraries in OneDrive.
  • Simple and secure external sharing without a Microsoft account- As demoed this week, we will soon be supporting support external sharing with out the need for a Microsoft Service Account (MSA) by allowing you to use Azure to create a one time use passcode to grant external users access to content.
  • Support for On-Prem customers with Windows and Android App- We are happy to announce we fully support our OneDrive On-Premise customers on both the Windows and Android platforms.
  • Sharing desktop notifications- New mobile and desktop notifications allow you to quickly see when files that have been shared have been opened or changed by the team.
  • Zip File Support- Now open zip files in the web view to see what’s inside and, pick and choose the files you would like to extract.
  • Integration of sync client into Mac Office- The OneDrive client will now be installed as part of the Office for Mac installation process.
  • Support for NGSC (next generation sync client) in SharePoint 2019
  • Open to modern web experience- When you click a file in OneDrive web or choose to open a file via the browser, you will now be put right into an edit mode allowing you to jump into working more quickly.
  • Files Restore- will enable self-service recovery from disastrous events such as mass deletes, ransomware, corruption, and other data loss scenarios.
  • Self Service Migration Toolkit- We are releasing a migration toolkit for self-service users looking to migrate from share drives or other cloud based services to OneDrive on their own.
  • Updates to our mobile client- To make our mobile client even easier to use, we are bringing over some of the great new functionality from our webpage to mobile. You will be able to quickly see what content has been shared with others as well as being able to see who has accessed the content and who has not.
  • Multi-Geo- We will now support the country specific location of user’s data to specific Azure region, helping our customers to better support country specific security and standard’s needs.
  • Service Level Encryption with Customer Key- This allows customers to hold their own private key to their cloud storage
  • Updates to OD Admin Center- Now you can see active accounts, file activity and view all OneDrive Message Center messages right from the OneDrive admin console. We have also added a slider to make moving from most to least permissive sharing permissions easier.

Microsoft also (finally) reconfirmed that Files On-Demand will be launching into general availability on October 17 alongside the Windows 10Fall Creators Update.

Patch Tuesday Brings Several Windows 10 Updates

Starting today Microsoft is rolling out a brand new cumulative update for Windows 10 that brings several new security updates and under the hood improvements and fixes. These updates are rolling out today as part of “Patch Tuesday”.

Patch Tuesday Updates for Windows 10 (Build 15063.540)

The updates include:

  • Addressed issue where the policies provisioned using Mobile Device Management (MDM) should take precedence over policies set by provisioning packages.
  • Addressed issue where the Site to Zone Assignment List group policy (GPO) was not set on machines when it was enabled.
  • Addressed issue where the AppLocker rules wizard crashes when selecting accounts.
  • Addressed issue where the primary computer relationship is not determined when you have a disjoint NetBIOS domain name for your DNS Name. This prevents folder redirection and roaming profiles from successfully blocking your profile or redirects folders to a non-primary computer.
  • Addressed issue where an access violation in the Mobile Device Manager Enterprise feature causes stop errors.
  • Security updates to Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Windows Search Component, Microsoft Scripting Engine, Microsoft Windows PDF Library, Windows Hyper-V, Windows Server, Windows kernel-mode drivers, Windows Subsystem for Linux, Windows shell, Common Log File System Driver, Internet Explorer, and the Microsoft JET Database Engine.

Microsoft provides one known issue for the cumulative update rolling out today: Installing this KB (4034674) may change Czech and Arabic languages to English for Microsoft Edge and other applications.

The update is rolling out to everyone on the stable version of the Windows 10 Creators Update (including Insider Release Preview) right now under the name KB4034674. Users on the Anniversary Update, November Update and original Windows 10 release are also receiving cumulative updates today too.

Microsoft Kill’s It’s Windows Keyboard for iOS

Microsoft is removing Word Flow from the App Store. This means that the critically acclaimed keyboard app will no longer be available to iOS users who haven’t already downloaded it. And those that have face the prospect of Word Flow never being updated again. Because that’s how Microsoft rolls.

Having failed with their “Windows Phone” Microsoft began releasing several apps including Word Flow for iOS. Word Flow being a keyboard app designed to replicate the Windows Phone typing experience on your iPhone. Microsoft released Word Flow in April 2016, and gave it a major update adding GIF search and other features in August 2016. You can check out my April 25, 2016 review of Word Flow here.

Now, Microsoft is delisting Word Flow on the App Store. This means that while existing users will be able to carry on using Word Flow (without any future updates or support) new users are being denied the opportunity to try Word Flow out for themselves.

On the Microsoft Garage website, Microsoft describes the Windows Phone keyboard app as “an iOS app with a blazing fast keyboard that comes with search (GIFs, restaurants, and more), free customization options and includes Arc mode for comfortable one-handed typing.”

That one-handed typing is what separated Word Flow from the crowd. Once you got the hang of it Word Flow could speed up your typing, and all while leaving one hand free for other things.

Microsoft is advising Word Flow users to download SwiftKey instead because the former acquired the latter in early 2016. And this acquisition is probably why Microsoft is killing Word Flow in the first place. Let’s just hope the one-handed typing feature now makes it into SwiftKey.

Reading Aloud with Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word has a new trick up its sleeve, and it should help anyone who struggles with the written word. The new feature is called Read Aloud, and it’s a significant improvement on the previous text-to-speech offerings in Word.

Image result for microsoft word read aloud

Most of us can look at a word and immediately tell whether it’s spelt wrong. Or look at a sentence and tell whether it’s structured correctly. However, some people struggle with these things. Which is the main reason why Microsoft has upped its text-to-speech game with Read Aloud.

Microsoft Word Can Now Read Your Documents Aloud

 

Read Aloud is a new feature which has arrived as part of the latest Office 365 updates. Read Aloud does exactly what you’d expect it to do, with Word reading your document back to you. However, Word can now highlight each word as it’s read aloud right from within your workflow.

In its blog post detailing all of the new Office 365 updates Microsoft states that Read Aloud “makes it easier to recognize and correct errors as you write, improving reading and editing accuracy for everyone, especially users with learning disabilities such as dyslexia.”

Read Aloud, which is listed under the Review tab, is currently only available to Office Insiders. However, Microsoft promises it will become widely available to the general population “later this year”. Which, in Microsoft parlance, means anytime between now and December 31st.

Let’s Make Typos a Thing of the Past

Not everyone will need to make use of the new Read Aloud feature in Word. However, for those who struggle with spelling for whatever reason, this is sure to be useful. And if Read Aloud makes typos a thing of the past then people like myself will be able to sleep more soundly.

Outlook Just Got Even Better on iOS

My favorite Calendar /Email app on the iPhone is Microsoft’s “Outlook”. This one app handles my email, my calendar and my cloud storage. This awesome app just got even better.

outlook-ios-scheduling-assistant

Microsoft today announced a new scheduling assistant on Outlook for iOS. This new feature works similar to the scheduling assistant which is already available in Outlook on the desktop. Before scheduling a meeting, you can now easily see your coworkers’ availability and find a time that works for everyone. Also, Outlook team has made this process so simple to use on Outlook Mobile.

introducing-our-new-scheduling-experience-for-outlook-for-ios-2

After you create an event from your calendar, add your coworkers to the People field, tap the date picker. Times that work for everyone show in white, yellow indicates availability for one or more people in the group, and red indicates times with no availability. Next, tap the time picker and just drag and drop until it turns green—indicating everyone is available at that time. Once the time and date are finalized, you can complete the other fields and tap the checkmark at the top to save and send your event.

The feature is currently available on Outlook for iOS when connected to Office 365 or the latest versions of Exchange. This feature will be coming soon to Android and Windows 10 mobile as well.

Windows 10 Shines with These 11 New Features

K – I admit it. I am a Windows 10 apologist. I believe Windows 10 is the future of the modern operating system. Although there is still much to improve Windows 10 is well on it’s way to being the first truly modern operating system. I can prove this by talking a little bit about 11 great new featured brought to us bu Windows 10.

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Groove Music Player

It looks like Microsoft will compete with Apple’s Garageband home music creation software with a new Groove Music Maker app. The sizzle reel showed an app for mixing instrumental and vocal tracks, plus apply basic effects like reverb.

A Better Windows Defender

Microsoft has been focused heavily on improving the security of Windows 10, and it looks like that’s getting a further upgrade with a redesigned Windows Defender coming in the Creators Update.

In addition to virus protection, the app also includes firewall and network protection, computer performance and health, and family safety features.

Rich Tab Previews with Edge

Microsoft Edge will get a feature designed to make it easier to flip through a bunch of browser tabs. The video shows a user able to scroll through a horizontal carousel of rich tab previews that show the contents of pages before they’re opened.

Tabs in Edge

In a similar tab management vein, Edge will also get a feature that looks like a way for users to save their browser tabs to access later. It’s reminiscent of features like Apple’s Reading List in Safari, which also lets users keep a list of articles and sites they want to hold on to for later.

Collections of Maps

Microsoft’s Maps app is getting a new section called Collections, which appear to be exactly what they sound like — groupings of places. It also seems like there will be some mechanism in the app for sharing those collections between friends, but it’s not immediately clear how that will work.

New Live Tiles

The new Start menu shows a new Cortana live tile, along with an icon for a Battery Level Live tile.

The former seems like a good way for people to get contextual information from Microsoft’s virtual assistant, and the latter seems like a useful tool for people with laptops and tablets.

Customizing Accent Colors

People who want to further customize the way Windows looks will be able to pick from a full palette of accent colors, rather than the handful of swatches that Microsoft allows today. It also looks like Windows will tell users when the color they picked might be unreadable.

Windows Store

It looks like the Windows Store will get support for selling in-app purchases directly from its home screen. Microsoft is showing both Minecraft IAPs and digital items from League of Legends in this screenshot, which could mean that there’s a partnership afoot between the two firms.

That would make sense, considering that Windows and Devices Group chief Terry Myerson name-checked the League of Legends World Championship on stage at the event on Wednesday.

Gaming Limits – Yes Gaming Limits

It looks like the Windows Store will get support for selling in-app purchases directly from its home screen. Microsoft is showing both Minecraft IAPs and digital items from League of Legends in this screenshot, which could mean that there’s a partnership afoot between the two firms.

That would make sense, considering that Windows and Devices Group chief Terry Myerson name-checked the League of Legends World Championship on stage at the event on Wednesday.

Better Quick Actions

 It looks like the Action Center, which houses notifications and quick access to settings, will also start giving users the chance to get access to files they have been working with on other devices.

It seems like an attempt to better compete with Apple’s Continuity features in MacOS and iOS, which also let people pick up where they left off on their iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and Macs.

Microsoft Surface Woes in New England

Microsoft has a problem in New England.

New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick has spent his career destroying the hopes and dreams of the competition. If that was not enough he is now angry with Microsoft and their Surface tablets.

Microsoft entered into a $400 million deal with the NFL back in mid-2013, beating out Apple and other tablet makers. The goal was simple: To bring the NFL into the 21st century and provide coaches and players with the most up-to-date information possible, in real time, on the field field during games.

The deal has been a mixed bag. The NFL started using Surface Pro 2 tablets during the month in which Microsoft launched a much improved Surface Pro 3, and on-air commentators, players and coaches continued to refer to the devices as iPads for years, giving Apple free publicity and rightly upsetting the big wigs at Microsoft.

Things have only gotten worse.

That is because this week, Coach Belichick went on an extended rant about his bad experiences with Surface, and declared that he would no longer use the devices.

The most heated issue prior to this latest problem occurred back in January, when the Patriots lost the AFC Championship by two points to my Denver Broncos who of course went on to win Super Bowl 50. The morning after the loss, Belichick complained about the many ways and times in which the Surface tablets the Patriots were using kept failing, most notably during a Broncos touchdown drive.

You can read my article that I posted after that great AFC championship where I wrote about the Surface problems on the Patriot’s sideline that day.

he malfunctions were so bad that the NFL required the Patriots to shut down all of their Surfaces during that drive, while the suddenly surging Broncos were not required to do so. So they were blind, so to speak, while technicians tried to solve the problem.

Belichick didn’t actually blame the Surface tablets for the loss but he repeatedly noted that these kinds of issues were “common”.

“I’m done with the tablets,” Belichick said this week, and about 10 days after he had an infamous on-field hissy fit in which he tried to destroy one of the failing devices. “They’re just too undependable.”

“I just can’t take it anymore,” he noted, adding that he would “stick with [paper] pictures,” which “several other [NFL] coaches do as well,” presumably for the same reason.

Is the Surface a Victim of Circumstances? 

Bill Belichick is 64 years old, and while many will believe that age and perhaps technology phobia plays into his worldview, don’t be fooled. Say what you will about the man, but he is among the winnigest of NFL coaches in history and his team has been the most feared adversary in the league for the past decade and a half.

To be fair, the Surface failures often involve communications equipment, which Belichick has explained is complex, with numerous on-field systems often interfering with each other. There are days when the game starts and the equipment is still not working, he says, despite hours of testing.

Not Ready for “NFL” Prime Time?

The thing that resonates with me is that the complexity and unreliability of using a Surface outweighs its benefits when considering the fast paced – high stakes of NFL games. High end technology, like Microsoft’s Surface tablets are complex and can become unreliable which will drive coaching staffs crazy as the game moves on – even if their tablets are locked up or rebooting.

“It’s basically a problem every week,” Belichick said. “For me, it’s a personal decision. I’m done with the tablets. I’ll use the paper pictures from here on, because I have given it my best shot. I’ve tried to work through the process. But it just doesn’t work for me, and that’s because there’s no consistency to it.”

Unfortunately Microsoft’s Surface may be “trusted by the pros,” as Microsoft’s Surface NFL web site claims. It’s just not trusted by the best head coach in the NFL.

The State of Windows 10 – Post Microsoft’s Free Upgrade Offer

Yesterday the free upgrade offer for Windows 7 and 8.1 users ended. The infamous Get Windows 10 app will be removed from Windows 7 and 8.1 systems and the steady stream of reminders will fade into our collective history.

The next phase of this process will probably be the uproar from users who will state that they never heard about the free upgrade offer. They will express their dismay about missing the upgrade opportunity and share their frustration at Microsoft for ending the unprecedented offer in the first place.

There is no doubt that this will happen because that is exactly what occurred when Microsoft ended the special $15 and $40 upgrades to Windows 8 a few years ago.

If history repeats itself, those users who were flabbergasted to find out they missed out on a free upgrade will likely stay put with their current operating system and postpone the move to Windows 10 until they buy their next desktop, laptop or tablet.

A few might even choose to invest in a retail license and pay $119 for a Windows Home upgrade or $199 for an upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. However, I do wonder about those who knew about the free upgrade and did not take it. I know I recommended this countless time right here – on this fine technology blog. Who says no to free money and a modern, secure operating system at the same time?

Windows_Insider_Anniversary-Ninjacat-1366x768

Moving forward to next week, on August 2, 2016, the second major update to Windows 10 gets released – the Anniversary Update.

Let’s take a look at the future of Windows 10.

The first thing to know is that you can fully expect Windows 10 to continue to be supported by Microsoft under the Windows as a Service approach which means a regular flow of monthly updates to address security, performance and bugs in this latest version of the operating system.

In fact, based on a couple of cumulative updates that have been released for Windows 10 Build 14393, we already know there will be an update available right alongside of the Anniversary Update when it is first delivered to users on August 2nd.

Also be aware that the Windows 10 Anniversary Update will not be an instantaneous roll out. There are over 350 million devices running Windows 10 according to Microsoft, so that means the roll out will be staggered over time.

For the impatient and advanced users among you, there is an alternative to waiting. Microsoft has confirmed that the Media Creation Tool will be available on August 2, 2016, along with the Anniversary Update release build so users will be able to use that to get an ISO, perform an in-place upgrade or create installation media for a clean install for their systems. I will write more about this feature and how to accomplish it soon.

Windows Insiders – Our Mission Continues

Once everyone is settled into the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the next step that will be on the minds of Windows Insiders is the next stage of the program. That means testing development builds for Redstone 2 – the next major update for Windows 10 which is expected sometime in the Spring of 2017.

So when will that first Fast Ring build for Redstone 2 arrive?

After the initial release of Windows 10 and its first major update last November, it took three and four weeks for Microsoft to prepare and issue the first testing build of the next update. I believe that we will see that first Redstone 2 build in the month of August.

Windows 10 is the last version of Microsoft’s operating system and that means that Windows will be continually developed and built. Think of it as a upgrade constantly in motion. Very exciting. 

Windows 10 Free Offer Set to Expire

My friends there are only 4 days left to accept Microsoft’s free Windows 10 offer. After that upgrading will cost you, although I am not yet sure how much Microsoft will charge.
One thing is for certain, upgrading after July 29 will be much more than “free”.
There has been much bad press with Windows 10. In fact the bad press, much of it deserved began with the release of Windows 8 in the fall of 2012. However looking back is unwise. Windows 10 has actually developed into a very good operating system, especially if your PC is relatively new. My recommendation is that if your PC is less then 2 years old I would upgrade to Windows 10 for free, unless you have something unique running on your computer. Gamers should also be a little cautious in respect to moving to Windows 10.
Here are some reasons I believe upgrading to Windows 10 would be a wise choice.
1. Free upgrade. This is pretty simple.  Windows 10 is the best version of Windows thus far and has the highest customer satisfaction to date. This is also the final version of Windows.  And the best part is that all future updates will be free for the life of the computer.
2. Free Windows 10 Anniversary Update.  Update before the July 29th and you will be eligible for the Anniversary update on August 2 as well.  This update will vastly improve the current Windows 10.
3. Free Inspiron. Microsoft will give you a free Inspiron 15 laptop from Dell if they can’t update your laptop to Windows 10 with same-day service.
4. Cortana. Now you can have a personal assistant on your computer that is ready to inform you of the latest news, remind you of events and even tell if rain is on the way. You can simply speak of type your command and Cortana will come to respond in kind.
5. Continuum. This nifty feature allows Windows 10 users (who use tablet based system) to easily switch between a tablet and desktop view by simply disconnecting the keyboard from the tablet.  This allows for a more intuitive operating experience.
6. Superior Protection. Windows 10 is much more secure than Windows 7 or 8 thanks to Windows Defender, Windows Passport, and Windows Hello.  All of which are included free when you upgrade.
7. Enhanced Productivity.  Users can use Microsoft Edge (replacement for Internet Explorer) and Cortana to experience voice control, search, and garner personalized information. Users can use Edge to annotate web pages.  Annotations can then be stored on OneDrive and be used with other users.
8. DirectX 12. DirectX 12 will only be available with the Windows 10 upgrade. This is a must for hardcore PC gamers as it reduces power consumption and provides support for powerful graphics cards.
9. Xbox Compatibility.  Windows 10 will come with the Xbox app that allows for messaging across the systems, streaming Xbox games to your computer, and even playing certain games straight from your computer.
10. Powerful Utility Tools. Windows 10 bundled with extra tools that support activities such as easy version history recovery, quick and easy storage management, and natural language search. Windows power users will love such bonuses as Linux’s Bash shell, enhanced aero snap/ snap assist, virtual desktops and OneDrive Fetch.
So far, recent estimates show that more than 350 million people have upgraded to Windows 10.  However, this number falls considerably short of Microsoft’s goal to have 1 billion.  The countdown is on and there are still a few more days left.

Windows 10 Anniversary Edition Gets a Date

Today Microsoft announced that the Windows 10 Anniversary Update will be available to the general public on August 2.

The blog post didn’t provide any new details other than the headline with the date, so it was likely posted earlier than intended. However it is well known that update was due to be released by the end of the summer, so the August 2nd date makes sense.

 

Originally announced at this year’s Build conference, the Anniversary Update includes a large suite of new tools for Windows 10 users. Most exciting perhaps is a revamped set of stylus features with Windows Ink and the new Ink Workspace, which includes improved Sticky Notes with Cortana support, and a whiteboard & screen capture tool that you can get to from any app.

There are also a new set of API’s (application programming interface) allowing apps to better take advantage of inking tools, including a awesome new ruler than can be programmed into any UWP (universal windows platform) app.

This is also an important update for developers thanks to a native implementation of Ubuntu Bash, allowing Linux code to run natively right on top of Windows. For the first time, Windows has a real Unix terminal.

win10start

There are too many changes to list, but here are some notable ones:

  • The start menu has gotten a cleaner, more sensible redesign. (pictured above)
  • There’s a dark mode for all deppresives
  • Skype has a UWP app
  • Biometric authentication (Windows Hello) can be used to sign into apps and websites
  • Cortana can be augmented through apps and bots
  • Cortana can send notifications from your phone (even Android ones) to your PC, Apple Continuity style. Windows {hone users can answer phone calls on their PCs
  • Cortana works even when you’re logged out
  • You can finally switch between virtual desktops with a single gesture (a four-finger swipe)
  • Some UI refreshments and new icons
  • Notifications can now include images and more detail
  • Taskbar icons for UWP apps can show notification counts and other badges
  • Microsoft Edge finally has support for extensions, as well as gestures for navigating back and forward

Those of us who are Windows Insiders have been beta-testing the Anniversary Update since its announcement. The last couple of builds have been particularly stable so it seems Microsoft just has to just put some polish on it before August 2.

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