New builds, new Edge and some old friends: Everything that wasn't Azure from Microsoft's week that was
Yep, PowerToys is back ... well, the open-sourcey reboot is, anyway
Roundup Bored of Build? Suffering from cloud cramping? It wasn't all Azure, Azure, Azure from Microsoft last week.
Can we fix it? Windows Insider team deborks Your Phone as a new SDK arrives
Microsoft followed up its File Explorer-tweaking update during Build – the one that broke Android integration in Your Phone – with an update to fix the latter in the form of Windows 10 preview build 18895.
File Explorer tweaked and Your Phone borked. A fresh Windows 10 Insider build arrivesREAD MORE
While there is no mention of the small changes to File Explorer this time around, the usual range of issues remain present and correct, including that pesky anti-cheat software causing crashes in the OS. Some editions of the Fast Ring build for Windows 10 20H1 have also been held back this time around, including Windows 10 Professional x64 in ES-MX and Windows 10 Home x64 in CS-CZ.
The Windows Developer Team also joined the Build party with a fresh SDK to go with the Insider builds of Windows 10 currently tumbling from Redmond's preview orifice.
The SDK, which is obviously preview code, is happiest running with Visual Studio 2017 or 2019. It will also only install on a Windows 10 Insider Preview build, but will work with previously released SDKs. Good news for the vanishingly small cadre of developers aiming to submit an app targeting build 1903 of Windows 10 to the Microsoft Store – you can continue to do so.
You too can trace just like the Windows team with TraceProcessor Preview 0.1.0
There was a further treat from Microsoft last week in the form of tools to pick through the output of the Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) system.
The tentacles of ETW go deep into Windows, and generate data on events such as memory allocation, process create and exit and so on. It's a handy resource for answering system-wide questions and, unlike basic text logging, produces structured event data for processing.
The Windows gang itself uses the data to check the performance of Microsoft's legacy operating system and uses C# and .NET to perform automated analysis via a .NET API. The technology has now been parcelled up in a handy NuGet package allowing eager devs to analyse their own systems just like Microsoft does it.
Or maybe a little bit better.
It's Quantum, baby
Microsoft announced the imminent open-sourcing of its Quantum Development Kit last week with the lofty goal to "solve some of the world's most pressing challenges".
Like, er, how to actually make the things?
Vapourous hardware aside, the gang intends to tip the contents of its quantum bucket into GitHub, including Microsoft's Q# compiler and its quantum simulators. It had already added some libraries and samples in 2018.
In order to get developers a bit more engaged with the wonders of quantum coding, Microsoft has also added Kata notebooks. The self-paced tutorials don't require the full-fat Quantum Development Kit to be installed.
Microsoft reckons the approach makes the tech accessible "for people with any level of experience". We might take issue with that, having got as far as a qubit state flip and seeing
"|𝜓⟩=𝛼|0⟩+𝛽|1⟩" as an input.
After that, we needed a little lie-down and a biscuit.
A refreshed Dev channel from the leaky Edge team
Microsoft's Chromium-based Edge browser continued to make impressive progress last week, even with build leaks that would make a colander look watertight. A Mac version found its way out into the wild while the first emission from the dormant Beta channel was spotted in public before someone in Redmond stuck a finger in the offending fissure.
While Canary users have continued to enjoy daily builds of the browser, it has been some time since Microsoft released a new version into the Dev channel. The Dev channel is supposedly a little more stable than the Catherine wheel of code that is flung from its Canary sibling.
I'll, er, get the tab? It's Internet Edgeplorer as browser pulls up chair to the Chromium tableREAD MORE
Builds are expected weekly, although this one includes two weeks' worth of goodness as part of the first 76.x build to hit the Dev Channel. The most important tweak in the release is the arrival of spell-checking as a default for all users. Other highlights include support for Dolby AC3/E-AC3 audio decoding and a fix that stopped the browser updating after a fresh Windows 10 upgrade.
The update brings the Dev channel to version 188.8.131.52, while the brave Canary crew are, at the time of writing, enjoying build 184.108.40.206.
Of the copious delights showcased at Build, there remains no sign.
PowerToys to make a comeback as open source
For Windows users of a certain age, the word "PowerToys" will generate a certain nostalgic thrill for the 95 era. Less so for administrators and those tasked with managing the Helldesk, fielding calls from users facing comprehensively broken desktops after some ill-advised fiddling with TweakUI.
For those new to the party, PowerToys was a suite of tools aimed ostensibly at power users and contained extensions to quickly change screen resolution, fire up a command prompt from a Windows Explorer folder and so on. The notorious TweakUI wrapped a GUI around options available in the Windows Registry and allowed users to customise the Windows interface.
The suite continued in various forms until Windows XP appeared, and companies such as Parallels have carried on the tradition of helpful little apps in the shape of its Toolbox product line.
Sadly, the original suite has not actually been open-sourced (several of the original functions are now OS features anyway). However, Microsoft has kicked off an update to the project in GitHub.
Due in the summer, the first two utilities bearing the PowerToys moniker will consist of one to remind users that Windows 10 can have multiple desktops when maximising a window, and another to show a list of shortcuts.
For the latter, we'd recommend a follow of Microsoft engineer Jen Gentleman, who has made it a personal mission to share as many Windows 10 hotkeys with the world as possible. Also lots of cats.
The team has a number of other tools in mind, including something to manage those keyboard shortcuts, a way of handling window layouts on docked and undocked laptops, and a better Alt+Tab integration with browsers. ®