Tech Tip – Customise Action Centre Quick Actions

The Action Centre in Windows 10/11 provides quick access to common settings and notifications. You can customise the quick actions to include the settings you use most frequently. Here’s how:

To open Action Centre:

– Click on the Action Centre icon in the taskbar (or press Win + A).

To customise Quick Actions:

– Click on Expand to see all quick actions.

– Right-click on any quick action and select Edit quick actions.

– Drag and drop icons to rearrange them or click on Add to include new actions.

To save changes:

– Click ‘Done’ to save your customised quick actions.

Tech Insight : Windows 11 Updates & VBScript Kill-Off?

In this insight, we look at the implications of Microsoft’s announcement that the Windows 11 24H2 update is being tested in a pre-release stage and the deprecation of VBScript is being initiated by making it an optional feature.

What Did Microsoft Say? 

Microsoft has announced that it is making this year’s annual feature update Windows 11, version 24H2 (Build 26100.712) available in the Release Preview Channel for customers to preview ahead of general availability later this year.

Microsoft says that Windows 11, version 24H2 includes a range of new features like “the HDR background support, energy saver, Sudo for Windows, Rust in the Windows kernel, support for Wi-Fi 7, voice clarity” and more.

Improvements Across Windows 

The update also includes many improvements across Windows, such as:

– A scrollable view of the quick settings flyout from the taskbar.

– The ability to create 7-zip and TAR archives in File Explorer (in addition to ZIP). 7-Zip is a free, open-source file archiver that compresses files into various archive formats, notably its own 7z format, and TAR (Tape Archive) – a widely used format for combining multiple files into a single archive file (typically without compression).

– Improvements for connecting Bluetooth® Low Energy Audio devices, i.e. to enhance audio quality, reduce latency, and improve power efficiency for supported devices.

Copilot Pinned To The Taskbar 

Microsoft has also said that in response to feedback from users, the update will also mean that Copilot on Windows as an app will be pinned to the taskbar. This means users can get the benefits of a traditional app experience (e.g. it can be resized, moved, and snapped to the window).

More Details To Come 

Microsoft says although Windows Insiders in the Release Preview Channel can install Windows 11, version 24H2 via its “seeker” experience, the rest of us will have to wait for more details in the coming months of the new features and improvements included as part of Windows 11, version 24H2 leading up to general availability.

The Deprecation of VBScript 

One other significant announcement from Microsoft was the sharing of a timeline for the deprecation (phasing out) of Visual Basic Scripting Edition, commonly referred to as VBScript. Last October, Microsoft announced that VBScript, first introduced in 1996, would be gradually deprecated.

The latest timeline news is that beginning with the new OS release later this year, VBScript will be available as features on demand (FODs). Microsoft says the feature will finally be completely retired from future Windows OS releases “as we transition to the more efficient PowerShell experiences.”  A diagram of the timeline states that VBScript FODs will be completely disabled by default in 2027.

Why Is VBScript Going? 

Microsoft says VBScript (VBS) is finally going because there are more versatile scripting languages (e.g. JavaScript and PowerShell) that offer “broader capabilities and are better suited for modern web development and automation tasks.” 

However, it should also be noted that VBS was a popular tool for cyber-criminals and the fact that VBScript was integrated into the Windows environment meant that it could be exploited to create VBS malware. For example, the highly destructive “ILOVEYOU” worm (2000) was VBS malware. Increased security by closing another door for cyber-criminals is apparently therefore another reason why Microsoft’s getting rid of VBS.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

The forthcoming Windows 11 24H2 update looks like it will bring several key benefits for UK businesses, promising to enhance productivity, security, and overall user experience. Key improvements, such as support for HDR backgrounds, energy-saving features, and the integration of Sudo for Windows and Rust in the Windows kernel, will provide businesses with more robust and efficient systems. The introduction of support for Wi-Fi 7 and improved voice clarity may also enhance connectivity and communication within the workplace, which would be helpful for maintaining seamless operations in today’s ‘digital-first’ business environment.

Also, the update’s enhancements for Bluetooth Low Energy Audio devices could be particularly advantageous for businesses relying on audio devices for communication and collaboration.

The news of the inclusion of a scrollable quick settings flyout and the ability to create 7-Zip and TAR archives directly in File Explorer may simplify business file management and streamline workflows. Such improvements could help make everyday tasks more intuitive and less time-consuming, allowing employees to focus on more critical business activities.

However, it’s worth noting for balance that, as with other updates, some businesses may face compatibility issues with legacy systems or software that has not yet been optimised for the new features. There may also be a learning curve associated with the new functionalities, i.e. perhaps requiring additional training time to fully utilise the update’s benefits.

As for the deprecation of VBScript, considering how long it’s been around, the timeline for its demise marks a significant shift for businesses still relying on this scripting language. While moving to more modern and secure scripting languages like PowerShell and JavaScript offers improved capabilities and security, the transition may necessitate some adjustments. Businesses may need to update or replace legacy systems and scripts that depend on VBScript, which could involve some time and resource investments.

On the positive side, phasing out VBScript should reduce some Windows security risks, as VBS has historically been exploited for malware attacks. The phasing out of VBS, therefore, should enhance the overall security posture of Windows environments, thereby helping businesses protect their data and operations from cyber threats.

In summary, while the Windows 11 24H2 update promises enhancements that can drive efficiency and security, businesses must prepare for potential compatibility issues and the need to transition away from VBScript. Armed with this knowledge, proactive planning for the changes can help UK businesses to maximise the benefits of the new update and maintain a secure, modern, and efficient IT environment.

Tech Tip – Record Steps in Windows to Explain a Problem to Others

If you need an easy way to explain to others the nature of a technical issue or the steps to take to solve that issue, Windows has an often overlooked, built-in ‘Steps Recorder’ to help you. As the name suggests, it records the series of steps you take on your computer, including screenshots and detailed descriptions, which you can then share for troubleshooting. Here’s how it works:

– In the Windows search bar, type ‘Steps Recorder’ and open the app.

– Click “Start Record” to begin capturing your on-screen actions. You can add comments at specific steps by clicking “Add Comment” and selecting the part of the screen you’re referring to.

– Once done, click “Stop Record.” Save the file and share (as a .zip) with your colleagues, your IT department/IT support company, support forums and more. It could also be used to help visually explain any other kind of on-screen issue or navigation route. Try it!

Tech News : Copilot Gets Plugins And Skills Upgrade

Microsoft has announced that its Windows 11 Copilot AI companion (that’s been embedded into 365’s popular apps) has received an upgrade in the form of new plugins and skills.

Builds On The AI Key 

Microsoft says that the new features build upon the introduction of the Copilot AI Key on new Windows 11 PC keyboards, updates to the Copilot icon on the taskbar, and the ability to dock, undock and resize the Copilot pane.

Adding an AI key to Microsoft Windows 11 PC keyboards, from which Copilot could be directly launched, was the first significant change to Microsoft keyboards in 30 years and represents another way for Microsoft’s own AI to be seamlessly woven into Windows from the system.

New Popular App Plugins

The plugins from “favourite apps” that are being added to Copilot now include OpenTable, Shopify, Klarna, and Kayak. Microsoft gives examples of how this will help users, such as:

– Asking Copilot to make a dinner reservation with friends and Copilot using OpenTable to do so.

– For staying in, asking Copilot to create a “healthy dinner party menu for 8” and Copilot using the Instacart app plugin to buy the food, “all within Copilot in Windows”.

New Skills Too 

Microsoft has announced a list of skills that it will be adding to Copilot, beginning in late March, in the categories of settings, accessibility and live information. Examples include turn on/off battery saver, open storage page, launch live captions, launch voice input, show available Wi-Fi network, and empty recycle bin. Essentially, asking Copilot to do things instead of the user having to themselves is a convenient time-saver that Microsoft hopes will improve user experience and productivity.

New Creativity App Updates 

The rollout of two “creativity app updates” has also been announced by Microsoft. These are:

– Generative Erase for removing unwanted objects or imperfections in images when using the Photos app.

– Clipchamp silence removal preview, which provides an easy way to remove silent gaps in audio tracks for videos.

Other Announcements 

Microsoft has also taken the opportunity to announce other new features and upgrades including the ability to use an Android phone as a webcam on all video conferencing apps, a combined Windows Update for Business deployment service and Autopatch update for enterprise customers, and Windows Ink to enable natural writing on pen-capable PCs.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

With Google recently announcing its new Gemini models being combined with Bard to create a new Gemini Advanced subscription service that ties the Google suite together with AI, Microsoft (helped by its OpenAI partnership) has come back with its own AI upgrade. Competition is hotting up and with the integration of Copilot in its popular 365 apps, a significant keyboard change (the addition of the AI key) and now the addition of new plugins and skills, Microsoft is working to create a single seamless environment, managed by AI.

This will mean users can get everything they want within this environment just by asking, thereby offering ultimate ease and convenience with productivity benefits that will appeal to businesses. It seems that using the same idea as WeChat-style super apps, where users can do everything from one app, major tech players with their own product platforms are now using AI and plugins to achieve a similar thing, gain share and retain customers. It’s also a way to add value and raise existing barriers-to-exit by giving users an easy way to achieve everything within one familiar environment.