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Windows 11 preview 22557 Start menu

This could be very good news if you love the Recommended section of the Start menu as much as I do:

via @Teroalhonen on Twitter

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Let’s talk about Slack

Slack made real-time messaging, file sharing, and working collaboratively cool. Sure, before Slack we had Skype and of course email but when Slack arrived, working collaboratively became easy, and cool!

Now, let’s just pause here. Yes, I know this is a Microsoft blog but I think it’s important to consider different options. Microsoft’s answer to Slack is of course Teams. Teams and Slack are similar in many ways but where Slack and Teams differ may be one of Slack’s advantages – it’s for group messaging, direct messages, sharing files, and speaking with people either by video or audio. Teams, on the other hand, is becoming (if it isn’t already), the digital hub of Microsoft 365. Heck, there’s even talk of Teams being integrated into Windows itself.

In other words, access everything and do everything, all in Teams.

This doesn’t mean that Slack is just messaging and file sharing. Slack integrates with many third-party apps (including Microsoft 365) and over the next few posts, I’ll be examining Slack in more detail, from setting it up to getting the most from it.

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Facebook and Instagram are down

Amateur food photographers, cat posers and the over 30s let out a collective scream.

FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM ARE DOWN!

Downdetector is showing Facebook and Instagram have been down since approximately 10.20pm (U.K. time).

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Apps Microsoft 365 Microsoft Teams Uncategorized

Microsoft working on all new Teams app (Updated)

Microsoft appear to be working on a brand-new Teams app, and is a Progressive Web App (PWA).

The new desktop app is based on Microsoft Edge so runs in the browser without all the Edge noise around it, such as the menus, address bar, etc.

At the moment, the app doesn’t work as it isn’t enabled yet however hopefully we’ll see this change quite soon.

The new Teams app is marked as Alpha so when and if it starts working, there may be bugs, crashes and other inconsistiences.

Download the Teams Alpha app here.

[UPDATE – 5th March 2021 17:46]
Microsoft seem to have taken the download offline.

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Microsoft announce preview of Office 2021

Whilst the focus of improving Office apps is focussed on the cloud, some Microsoft customers don’t want to invest in the subscription model of Microsoft 365.

For these customers, Microsoft have today announced an upcoming preview of Office 2021, or Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC).

Office LTSC is the next perpetual release of the Office apps which will include some new features but do not release the full potential of the Office apps through Microsoft 365.

Microsoft state Office LTSC has been built “for a limited set of specific situations: regulated devices that cannot accept feature updates for years at a time, process control devices on the manufacturing floor that are not connected to the internet, and specialty systems that must stay locked in time and require a long-term servicing channel.

“We expect that most customers who use Office LTSC won’t do it across their entire organization, but only in specific scenarios. The good news is that you can deploy both Office LTSC and the Microsoft 365 version of Office with the same deployment tools.”

Read the announcement here.

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Microsoft announce extended offline access for Microsoft 365

Microsoft have announced that devices running Microsoft 365 apps in areas such as in gas, government and energy can be configured so they only need to access the internet every 180 days. Currently, devices have to contact Microsoft every 30 days.

In a blog post, Matt Philipenko announced that devices can be configured for extended offline use, up to 180 days, through Group Policy.

Additionally, Microsoft have also announced device based subscriptions. Today, licences are assigned to users. Where an organisation’s user base includes information workers, such as manufacturing, retail or hospitality. Licences can be assigned to devices, rather than users, where a shared device is used.

Read the full announcement here.

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Surface Duo UK pricing announced

You might want to sit down for this one.

Pocket-lint are reporting that Microsoft have announced the UK pricing for Surface Duo – the Android phone-come-tablet device with two screens that was released in America last year.

Be among the first to know when more information is available
Source: Microsoft

Surface Duo will be available from the 18th February from Microsoft themselves or Currys PC World.

The price? £1349! (I told you to sit down!).

I was excited by this phone and was seriously tempted but at this price – it’s a strong no from me. Considering the 128 GB version is $999 at the moment from Microsoft (plus shipping tax), then that’s a hefty markup. Some reports have stated that the UK version will have slightly upgraded specs with 6 GB RAM and either 128 GB or 256 GB of storage.

Reviews haven’t been kind for the Duo, mainly around old hardware but using the device has seemingly gone down well.

Will you be getting a Surface Duo next Thursday? Let us know in the comments.

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Sneak peek: Windows 10X boot animation

MSPoweruser have shared the boot animation for Windows 10X:

Despite Windows 10X RTM has reportedly been delayed, these little tidbits of screenshots and videos must be whetting your appetites.

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Hardware Mobile phones Uncategorized

Surface Duo is coming to the UK in early 2021

Microsoft have announced today in a blog post that in early 2021 Surface Duo is heading to the UK and a number of other countries.

Surface Duo is Microsoft’s re-entry to the smartphone market with a new type of device which has dual screens – similar but different to the current trend of large screen devices that uses flexible screens.

And, shockingly for some, runs Android as its operating system.

Reviews have been mixed about the Duo, especially on its release as the software was buggy and there aren’t many apps available today support the ability to use both screens. Part of the announcement includes an announcement that TikTok’s new app will support a dual screen layout.

Despite the lack of app support, Surface Duo allows you to use two apps at the same time, one on each screen and other features.

Naturally Microsoft 365 apps support the full screen/dual screen experience.

Will you be getting Surface Duo when it’s available in the UK? Let us know in the comments.

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Teams Meeting breakout rooms

After a little misfire in November, Teams Breakout Rooms are now available in a Teams meeting.

What are breakout rooms?

I’m sure you’ve been in face-to-face meetings or training courses where the attendees ‘break out’ to work on ideas, a project or brainstorm together, returning back together to the main meeting or training course to bring your ideas to the whole group. In schools, colleges and universities, students often work together in groups and again, come back together with the rest of the class to share their work.

Whilst this was possible in Teams, it was clunky with the organiser or teacher having to set up separate meetings in their calendar and inviting the groups in to these secondary meeting rooms to work collaboratively.

Now with breakout rooms in a Teams meeting, these can be created as needed and either let Teams split meeting attendees between the rooms or let the meeting organiser or teacher choose who goes in the breakout rooms.

How do I create a breakout room for a meeting or class I’m organising

You’ll find the new breakout rooms icon in the Teams meeting toolbar:

Clicking on this opens the breakout room panel:

A really simple screen allows you to select the number of breakout rooms you need (You can have up to 50 rooms!) and whether participants should be automatically assigned to a room or let you add the people in your meeting or class into the breakout rooms.

Once you’ve created your rooms, the breakout rooms panel appears:

When it’s time to use your breakout rooms you can assign the meeting participants in to the room you want them to be in:

By default, breakout rooms are closed and you can open individual rooms by clicking on More options (…) and clicking on Open room, or click on Start rooms to open all of your breakout rooms at the same time:

Participants will receive a notification letting them know they are moving to the breakout room:

A breakout room behaves in the same way as a Teams meeting room and has all the same functionality except in the Teams meeting toolbar you have a Return button:

As the meeting organiser you can easily join the participants in a breakout room by clicking on More options (…) and click on Join room:

This makes it easy for you to join the breakout room to support the participants or check how their collaboration effort is going. To move to a different breakout room, click on Return and then repeat the above step.

To bring a breakout room back to the main meeting click on Close room and to bring all your participants back to the main Teams meeting, simply click on Close rooms:

Conclusion

Breakout rooms are great for collaborative spaces for groups of people to work together in a separate virtual room to a Teams meeting. In education, a teacher can easily set up breakout rooms to allow groups of students to work together and can pick which participants go into the rooms or let Teams decide for you.

Breakout rooms are now generally available to everyone who has access to Teams in Microsoft 365.