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Windows 8 logoDit is de RSS Newsfeed van de blog van de groep Microsoft ontwikkelaars die momenteel bezig zijn met de ontwikkelingen van Windows 8 en Windows Server 8 bij Microsoft. Deze Engelstalige blog bevat zéér interessante details en beschrijvingen met goede uitleg over vele vernieuwingen/verbeteringen in Windows 8.

Building Windows 8

An inside look from the Windows engineering team

  • — Updating Windows 8 for General Availability

       (dinsdag 09 oktober 2012 18:30)

    We are pleased to be releasing a set of improvements to Windows 8 in broad areas of performance, power management and battery efficiency, media playback, and compatibility. These improvements are available starting today via Windows Update. We wanted to briefly talk about our improvements to the engineering system and in particular the speed at which we were able to deliver these updates to you.

    With every release of Windows we have had approximately 8-12 weeks from when we released the code to OEMs and manufacturing and when the product was available on new PCs and for retail customers. This time has historically been used to match newly developed PCs, which can include a variety of new or enhanced components, drivers, and companion software, with the final code for Windows. Because these hardware and software components are brand new, it could be the case that they uncover the need for changes and improvements to Windows in the areas of fundamentals.

    We would often create dozens of changes for each OEM for these new PCs. Those changes would be deployed during manufacturing of those PCs and thus would be invisible to customers. While those changes could potentially apply to a broader range of PCs, we did not have in place the testing and certification to broadly distribute these updates. As a result, customers would have to wait until the first service pack to see these enhancements. We know many folks would spend time working to uncover these OEM enhancements in a desire to have the most up to date Windows.

    During the final months of Windows 8 we challenged ourselves to create the tools and processes to be able to deliver these “post-RTM” updates sooner than a service pack. By developing better test automation and test coverage tools we are happy to say that Windows 8 will be totally up to date for all customers starting at General Availability. If you are an MSDN or enterprise customer, these updates will be available for your Windows 8 PCs via Windows Update as of today (October 9), following our standard cadence for Windows Updates on the second Tuesday of each month at about 10:00am.

    As we have always done, any updates will have a knowledge base (KB) article and documentation. Documentation for these updates are documented here, and the text is reproduced below. We will of course continue to issue and publish changes and enhancements from this point forward, just as we have done with Windows 7.

    We think this new pace of delivering high quality updates to Windows will be a welcome enhancement for all of our customers.

    --Steven


    KB article title:

    Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 General Availability Cumulative Update

    Description:

    Windows 8 Client and Windows Server 2012 General Availability Cumulative Update is available. This cumulative update package provides a collection of performance and reliability improvements that are designed to improve the Windows 8 experience. We recommend that you apply this cumulative update as part of your regular maintenance routines.

    Improvements:

    • Increased power efficiency to extend battery life
    • Performance improvements in Windows 8 applications and Start screen
    • Improved audio and video playback in many scenarios
    • Improved application and driver compatibility with Windows 8

    Known issues:

    • When you turn a Windows feature on or off, the computer may require a restart. For example, this action may be necessary when you turn Remote Access on or off.

  • — Updating our built-in apps for Windows 8

       (vrijdag 05 oktober 2012 00:30)

    We’re super excited to be approaching general availability (GA) of Windows 8 and Windows RT. With thousands of new apps in the Store, there are a lot to choose from and tens of thousands of developers have been very busy around the world creating new apps. Across Microsoft we’ve been busy since August adding new features and improving the apps that come with Windows and will be updating these apps before GA. We’ll introduce new features, improve performance, and increase reliability. This post is authored by Gabriel Aul on our program management team and details some of the updates you will see starting in the next day or so as the updates enter the Store.
    --Steven


    As we get close to the general availability (GA) of Windows 8, there are many things that the Windows team and other teams at Microsoft have been doing to get ready. Of course, the most important thing has been working with PC makers to help them ready the wave of amazing Windows 8 PCs that will soon be available. Some of these have been announced already and more announcements are to come. With Windows 8, we also introduced a new Store for Windows 8 apps, as well as a number of new apps that are included with Windows. We already have thousands of apps in the Windows Store, even before GA, and we’re working with developers from around the world to bring more in every day. The Windows Store represents an unprecedented opportunity for developers to reach hundreds of millions of customers, and we’re very pleased to see the exciting things that are showing up every day.

    Of course, we are also taking advantage of the integrated way that we can deliver updates to apps through the Windows Store. Leading up to GA for Windows 8, we will be releasing updates for many of the apps that were included with the release to manufacturing (RTM) build of Windows 8 that was delivered to PC makers and to MSDN and TechNet subscribers in August. Naturally, these app updates will also be available to PC makers to include by default with their PCs shipping in the future, but for those of you who have already installed Windows 8 RTM, it is super easy to get the updates from the Store app. The Store tile will notify you when updates are available, and you can open it and click the updates link in the top right corner to see the list and install the ones you want.

    The Bing app will be the first one out, available tomorrow, and more updates will roll out up until Oct 26th. You will be notified of Windows Store updates just as you have come to expect, with a count of available updates on the Store tile. You can easily choose to install the updates at a convenient time:

    Start screen with Store tile showing 3 updates

    Across the board, you’ll see performance and reliability improvements in the apps, but there are some great new capabilities as well. Here are some highlights of the changes you’ll see:

    ...

  • — Collaborating to deliver Windows RT PCs

       (maandag 13 augustus 2012 18:00)

    Since RTM on August 1, PC manufacturers have been using the released software to ready new PCs designed for Windows 8. Collectively, we are all very excited by the innovation and creativity that will arrive in market this October. Our engineering collaboration has been better than ever as we work to bring better performance, reliability, and battery life to new PCs designed for Windows 8. We also know many are interested in how we extended this process to a new generation of PCs built on the ARM platform. This post details how we have collaborated on the development of Windows RT and new PCs designed for the operating system. Mike Angiulo, the vice president of our Ecosystem and Planning team, authored this post.
    –Steven


    Windows 8 and Windows RT each reached the RTM milestone, and we are hard at work in collaboration with ecosystem partners, including PC manufacturers, Silicon partners, and other component suppliers, to complete high quality Windows RT and Windows 8 PCs that we think you’ll love. We’re very excited about the designs PC manufacturing partners have built on the foundation of Windows 8 and Windows RT.

    The breadth of Windows 8 Intel- and AMD-based designs from our PC manufacturing partners will continue to push the envelope with powerful computing and innovative design. You can expect to see everything from ultra-thin sleek designs with stunning high-resolution displays, to beautifully designed All-In-One PCs with large immersive displays complete with touch, to high-power towers rocking multiple graphics cards and high-performance storage arrays. In addition, this broad range of PCs will provide price and feature combinations that allow every customer to find a PC that fits their needs and lifestyle perfectly.

    We are particularly excited about the new low power x86 Windows 8 PCs that will take advantage of Intel’s SoC platform innovations to provide an always on and always connected experience (known as connected standby). Just recently, Lenovo announced the ThinkPad Tablet 2, which offers an outstanding combination of new features built on the latest Intel ATOM® processor. We’ll cover the benefits of this scenario later in the post.

    Microsoft has worked very hard with this release to provide the tools and support to contribute to new PCs that are more reliable, faster, use fewer system resources, and have improved software loads than comparable Windows 7 PCs. From the newest Ultrabook™ to the most powerful and extensible workstations, Windows 8 PCs are on the way.

    Windows RT begins a new era of ARM-based PCs, where we are working with our Silicon and PC manufacturing partners to bring a whole new set of innovations to market. In an earlier post, Building Windows for the ARM processor architecture, we focused on the detailed engineering work required to create Windows RT. In the remainder of this blog I would like to provide an update on our efforts to collaborate across the ecosystem in bringing new Windows RT PCs to market. But first, let’s briefly recap the key points from the previous post: 

    • Windows RT shares significant code with Windows 8 and has been developed for and will be sold and supported as a part of the largest computing ecosystem in the world.
    • We have achieved our goal of one Windows binary for all Windows RT SoC platforms from NVIDIA, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments, each of which has developed innovative ARM CPUs that form the basis of a complete system.
    • Delivering Windows RT PCs has been about building out a new system for the first time—a completely new ecosystem of PCs providing opportunities for PC makers to bring to life a new generation of PCs with new capabilities, starting with ARM-based processors.
    • Windows RT PCs are thin and light in industrial design, and have long battery life and integrated quality. These PCs have all been designed and manufactured expressly for Windows RT.
    • PC makers will provide Windows RT PCs as integrated, end-to-end products that include hardware, firmware, and Windows RT software. Windows RT software will not be sold or distributed independent of a new Windows RT PC, just as you would expect from a consumer electronics device that relies on unique and integrated pairings of hardware and software. Over the useful lifetime of the PC, the provided software will be serviced and improved.

    If you are following Windows RT, perhaps you have taken note of the Asus Tablet 600 (Windows RT) announcement or Microsoft’s own Surface RT™ news. Along with Asus, we are excited to share that there will be ARM-based PC designs from Dell, Lenovo, and Samsung running Windows RT.

    You will need to stay tuned for more details; PC manufacturers will be unveiling their products as we approach the Windows 8 and Windows RT launch. What I can say is the spectrum of form factors and peripherals being developed to meet each unique customer’s computing needs is unique in the industry.

    “Dell’s tablet for Windows RT is going to take advantage of the capabilities the new ecosystem offers to help customers do more at work and home. We’re excited to be Microsoft’s strategic partner, and look forward to sharing more soon.”

    - Sam Burd, Vice President, Dell PC Product Group

    The uniqueness of our approach starts with a new way of working across partners to engineer a PC—a collaboration that brings the best of all parties together to deliver end-to-end experiences that are integrated and optimized from the chipset to the experience.

    It’s also worth taking a moment to describe how our collaboration on these PC efforts has been different than in any other Windows release. Our engineering collaboration on these Windows RT PCs has been strong, collaborating with the PC manufacturers, Silicon partners, and Operators to focus on hardware, software and services integration. Each respective partner was committed to sharing early iterations of their products, whether it was a SoC bring-up board, early builds of Windows RT, firmware and drivers, or hundreds of pre-release PC hardware samples (such as the ones featured in earlier demonstrations and videos). Product designs were informed and revised by our collective...

  • — Releasing Windows 8 - August 1, 2012

       (woensdag 01 augustus 2012 18:00)

    Today marks an important milestone in the Windows 8 project. The Windows 8 team is proud to share with you that a short while ago we started releasing Windows 8 to PC OEM and manufacturing partners. This means our next milestone will be the availability of exciting new models of PCs loaded with Windows 8 and online availability of Windows 8 on October 26, 2012.

    Back when we first demonstrated Windows 8 in May 2011, we described it as “reimagining Windows, from the chipset to the experience,” and that is what Windows 8 (and Windows RT) represents for both Microsoft and partners. The collective work: from the silicon, to the user experience, to new apps, has been an incredibly collaborative effort. Together we are bringing to customers a new PC experience that readies Windows PCs for a new world of scenarios and experiences, while also preserving an industry-wide 25-year investment in Windows software.

    We continue to be sincerely humbled by the breadth of participation in our pre-release testing. The previews of Windows 8 (Developer, Consumer, Release) have been the most widely and deeply used test releases of any product we have ever done. Over 16 million PCs actively participated in these programs, including approximately 7 million on the Release Preview that started 8 weeks ago. The depth and breadth of testing validate the readiness of Windows 8 for the market.

    The openness of the previews presents a unique perspective on product development, and we’re deeply committed to the transparency of the preview process. No product used by so many people in so many different ways is developed “out in the open” like Windows 8 has been. This blog, the forums, and the preview releases form an important part of the development process. Major changes have been made at each milestone and as we promised, the final release (build 9200, for those tracking) contains many promised refinements. We are humbled by the responsibility of meeting the needs of such a diverse set of customers and enthused by the deep level of participation in the pre-release process.

    While we have reached our RTM milestone, no software project is ever really “done.” We will continue to monitor and act on your real world experiences with Windows 8—we’ve used the preview process to test out our servicing and we have every intent of doing a great job on this next important phase of the product. Hardware partners will continue to provide new devices and improve support for existing devices. PC makers no doubt have quite a bit in store for all of us as they begin to show off PCs specifically designed for Windows 8.

    With improvements in fundamentals, enhanced storage and connectivity, newly architected subsystems, the “fast and fluid” user experience, and the WinRT platform (to name a few), Windows 8 has literally thousands of new features. We did a record number of blogs posts (and videos) and did not even come close to covering the full breadth of Windows 8. There’s much left to learn about and discover in the product.

    Some of the most exciting innovations with Windows 8 are yet to come—the innovations from developers building apps on the new WinRT platform. Today, the Store is open for business and we’ll rapidly expand to over 200 markets around the world. The opportunity for developers around the world to deliver innovative (and profitable) apps is unique with Windows 8. We’re excited to see the work developers will be bringing to Windows 8. We’ll also have a chance to talk more about the Windows 8 platform at the next BUILD conference recently announced.

    We know there are lots of questions about how to get Windows 8 and when, and of course more questions to come about exploring and using the full set of thousands of Windows 8 features. Our Windows Team Blog today has posted a lot of new information and gathered up some important details that we hope will answer your questions. Please check our blog and stay in touch on the in-market developments of Windows 8 there.

    On behalf of the Windows 8 engineering team, we want to thank you very much for your contributions throughout development and your contributions yet to come to Windows 8. THANK YOU!

    Next stop, October 26, 2012 and General Availability!

    --The Windows 8 team

  • — Simplifying printing in Windows 8

       (woensdag 25 juli 2012 19:30)

    Printing is one of the most common things we do with our PCs even as we read and work with more online resources.  We set out to simplify and improve this common operation--working with partners across the ecosystem to deliver these improvements in Windows 8.  This blog post was authored by Adrian Lannin, a lead program manager on the Printing team. 

    --Steven


    Of all the peripheral devices that you can connect to your Windows PC, printers are one of the most popular, and have been supported for the longest time. In fact, Windows 1.0 (shipped in 1985) supported “a number of printers and plotters” and included a “Print Spooler [which] allows the user to work on one file while printing on another” according to the Windows 1.0 Press Kit. The screenshot of Windows 1.0 below shows the files included with that version of Windows – Epson.drv, lots of font files, and the print spooler process. Some parts of the print system are older than the people who work on it. :-)

    Windows 1.0 MS-DOS Executive with list of files.

    Over the years, the print system has evolved into a complex architecture that supports printing to a huge variety of printers, and can scale from a simple $50 inkjet at home to a high-availability print server hosting thousands of print queues for hundreds of thousands of users, driving printers that cost tens of thousands of dollars each.

    An advance print system from Xerox and a simpler home printer from EpsonThe print system touches many layers and facets of Windows. It shows UI, and it hosts drivers that also show UI. It performs intensive graphics operations, since printing is essentially re-drawing your on-screen content onto paper. It encompasses lower-level communications, mainly USB or network (the majority of printers bought in the US today are network-capable, but our telemetry data tells us that over 75% of the printers installed with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview are plugged into a USB port). The print system needs to scale to very large, mission-critical deployments in large businesses but also run efficiently on small systems.

    In this blog post I’m going to talk about the work that we've done in Windows 8 to re-imagine how the print system can best provide good device support to our customers. I'll show you how it works on ARM-based PCs and in Metro style apps. And I'll talk about what we've done to ensure that the maximum number of existing printers "just work"—whether you're accessing them from the desktop, from a Metro style app, or on a device running Windows RT.

    Reimagining the print system for Windows 8

    In Windows 8 we've introduced a new printer driver architecture, which we call version 4, or v4. The v4 architecture produces smaller, faster printer drivers, and it supports the idea of a print class driver framework--a system that allows people to install their printers without having to locate a driver for that device, in many cases.

    As you've probably guessed, V4 is the fourth iteration of the printer driver architecture in Windows. V3 was the architecture used from Windows 2000 to Windows 7, and it’s actually still fully supported in Windows 8 for device compatibility reasons. So if you only have an existing driver available for your current printer, then it should still work in Windows 8. Versions 1 and 2 were the driver architectures for Windows 1.0 through Windows ME.

    Before I explain how the print system works, I’d like to talk about some of the requirements that we worked to address with the Windows 8 print system.

    Printing from Metro style apps

    One of the things that we needed to figure out was how to give Metro app developers the ability to print. Printing from win32 applications requires knowledge of graphics programming, either GDI (Graphics Device Interface) or XPS (XML Paper Specification). When we looked at how we could make printing possible from Windows 8 apps, we completely reinvented how we enable printing from the Windows Runtime, and we made printing very easy to use from HTML5/JavaScript and XAML/C# apps.

    Integrating printing into Metro style apps

    Printing from a Metro style app should naturally be a Metro style experience. I’m sure that when most of you have printed something, you've seen a little applet pop up to tell you that the printer is out of paper, or to offer you the opportunity to purchase ink.

    Epson print dialog stating paper type and size, buttons to check ink levels, buy Epson Ink, or go to Online Support.

    These pop-ups are very common with inkjet printers. Some pop up only when relevant (you have low ink), while others pop up every time you print. These pop-ups come from the printer driver software itself, and they are all desktop UI, of course. But when printing from the Metro style Photos app, for example, we don’t want you to have to switch over to the desktop just to see UI that tells you that printing is in progress.

    Printing in Windows RT

    Printer drivers have evolved over time to include a lot of functionality— some install services, some install numerous little applications, and many are now quite large. The v3 printer driver model in use since Windows 2000 evolved into a highly complex and highly extensible model, which allowed printer manufacturers a lot of freedom in what is installed with their driver software. When we thought about how this would work on some of the devices that are going to run Windows RT, we knew that we had to make some significant architectural changes. We really wanted to ensure that we didn’t negatively impact ARM systems by running unnecessary services, and we wanted...

  • — Hardware accelerating everything: Windows 8 graphics

       (maandag 23 juli 2012 18:00)

    With Windows 8 we set out to enable all applications to have the beautiful and high-performance graphics enabled by modern graphics hardware.  This work builds on the well-established foundations of DirectX graphics, which have been providing an increasing breadth of APIs and capabilities. In Windows 7, we expanded the capabilities of DirectX to provide a common hardware-accelerated graphics platform for a broader range of applications. Whereas previously, DirectX mainly provided 3-D graphics, we added functionality for what we call “mainstream” graphics. Mainstream uses center on the typical desktop applications most people find themselves using every day, including web browsers, email, calendars, and productivity applications.  Windows 7 added two new components to DirectX: Direct2D for two-dimensional graphics (shapes, bitmaps, etc.) and DirectWrite for handling text. Both of these additions not only focused on performance but also on delivering high-quality 2-D rendering. With these additions, DirectX became a hardware-accelerated graphics platform for all types of applications. Indeed, we showed what a typical application could achieve by using DirectX when Internet Explorer 9 brought hardware-accelerated graphics to the web.  WinRT bring these capabilities to the full range of new Windows 8 applications.  In this post, authored by Rob Copeland the group program manager on our Graphics team, we look at the details behind the scenes in enabling this new class of graphical application.  --Steven

     


    In computer graphics, high performance is a guiding principle. In the early days of personal computing, discrete, add-on graphics cards were mostly focused on specialized applications such as CAD/CAM and gaming. Even early on, there was a view that all of this graphics horsepower could be used for more: notably a better user interface and experience. One of the first graphics cards for a PC was called a “Windows Accelerator” from S3 Graphics, which focused on the user experience by moving windows around the screen faster. As graphics hardware evolved, so, too, did the methods that developers use to interact with that hardware.

    DirectX is the part of Windows that provides a common application programming interface, or API, that allows developers to use the graphics hardware in the PC to draw text, shapes, and three-dimensional scenes, and display them on the screen. DirectX has also evolved over time in both capabilities and performance characteristics. In the early years, DirectX was focused mainly on games. As applications evolved to provide richer and more graphically-intense user experiences, many of them started to use DirectX as a way to get better performance and richer visuals.

     

    Enter Windows 8

    When we started to plan the work we’d undertake for graphics in Windows 8, we knew that we would be creating a new, visually rich way for users to interact with apps and with Windows itself. We also knew that we’d be building a new platform for creating Metro style apps, and that we’d be targeting a more diverse set of hardware than ever before. While we had a great graphics platform to start with, there was more work to do in order to support those efforts. We came up with four main goals:

    1. Ensure that all Metro style experiences are rendered smoothly and quickly.
    2. Provide a hardware-accelerated platform for all Metro style apps.
    3. Add new capabilities to DirectX to enable stunning visual experiences.
    4. Support the widest diversity of graphics hardware ever.

    While each of these focus on different aspects of building Windows 8, they all depend on great performance and capabilities from the graphics platform.

    Planning for performance

    Graphics performance on Windows depends on both the operating system and the hardware system, comprised of the CPU, the GPU (graphics processing unit), and the associated display driver. To ensure that we could deliver a great experience for new Metro style apps, we needed to make sure that both the software platform and the hardware system would deliver great performance.

    In the past we’ve used many different benchmarks and apps to measure the performance of DirectX. These have been largely focused on 3D games. While games are still very important, we knew that many of these existing ways to measure graphics performance did not tell us everything we needed to know for graphics-intensive, 2D, mainstream apps.

    So we created new scenario-focused tests and metrics to track our progress. The metrics we use are as follows:

    1.  Frame rate

    We express frame rate in frames per second (FPS). This metric is widely reported for gaming benchmarks, and is equally important for video content and other apps. When something is animating on the screen, a rate of 60 FPS makes the animation appear smooth. We target that rate because most computer screens refresh at 60 hertz. With that frame rate, Windows can provide very smooth animations with “stick to your finger” touch interactions.

    2.  Glitch count

    While frame rate is an important metric, it doesn't tell the whole story. For example, running a benchmark for 10 minutes and getting 60 FPS on average sounds perfect. But, it doesn’t tell us how low the frame rate might have dropped during the test. For example, if the frame rate dips down to 10 FPS momentarily during demanding parts, the animations will stutter. The glitch count metric looks for the total number of times that rendering took more than 1/60 of a second, thus resulting in a reduced frame rate. It also looks at the number of concurrent frames missed. The goal here is to have no missed frames during animations.

    3.   Time to first frame

    Most people expect their apps to launch quickly, so initializing DirectX needs to be fast. “Time to first frame” tells us how much time it takes from the moment you tap or click to launch an app until you see the first frame of the app on the screen. To measure this, we created simple apps to help analyze and optimize the graphics system for the time it takes to initialize a graphics device, allocate the required memory, and so on. This helps us ensure that the work...

  • — Using your feedback to make Narrator work better with touch

       (woensdag 18 juli 2012 15:00)

    Shortly before we released the Windows 8 Consumer Preview in February, we blogged about our work to make Windows 8 more accessible to people with disabilities. This included our work on Narrator to enable customers who are blind to use Windows 8 on touch screens. This work has continued to evolve in the Release Preview, and will also improve as we move toward the final release of Windows 8. This post details some of the work we have done to improve Narrator when using a touch-enabled PC. This post was authored by Doug Kirschner on our Accessibility team.  –Steven


    First off, we would like to thank all the people who have given us feedback; there has been a lot of positive reaction—people are excited that Windows 8 touch screens will include basic screen reading support by default. We've gotten a tremendous amount of constructive feedback on things we could do to make Narrator work better on touch screens and easier to use on the web. We’ve listened. Your suggestions, combined with suggestions from usability testing on visually impaired users here at Microsoft, have resulted in some important changes that we think you'll really like.

    Listening to the accessibility community

    When the Developer Preview build was released, we took the opportunity to reach out and gather feedback on Narrator from as many people who require visual assistance tools as we could. To start with, we worked with the community of folks inside Microsoft (we are fortunate to have a significant and organized community that is engaged in the accessibility of all Microsoft products) to install Windows 8 and send us their impressions, and we held internal accessibility events where people could come and try it out in person. We also held usability studies where we invited people to Microsoft’s campus to experience Narrator on a touch screen and walk through common tasks to see where we could improve. Millions of you downloaded the Developer and Consumer Previews, and many of you tried out Narrator and sent us some great feedback. We followed up with a number of people who contacted us via @BuildWindows8. Lastly, we attended the CSUN conference for Technology and Persons with Disabilities, where we were lucky to have the chance to sit down with people one-on-one as they tried out the Windows 8 Consumer Preview for the first time on touch screens.

    There were a couple of key scenarios we wanted to validate. In particular, we wanted to make sure touch users could get up and running using Narrator on a new PC, right out of the box. That includes finding and installing accessible apps from the Store, and accomplishing basic everyday tasks like sending email, reading webpages, and listening to music. The excitement around the work we'd done so far was overwhelming and gratifying, but it was clear that we still had more work to do to make touch Narrator even better.

    Thanks to all of your constructive feedback, we identified key areas that we've improved for the Release Preview:

    • Responsiveness: We heard that Narrator on touch screens didn’t feel responsive enough.
    • Gestures: Some people had difficulty with Narrator gestures, particularly some of the more complicated multi-finger gestures.
    • App exploration: Finding particular elements on the screen (e.g. finding tiles on the Start screen) could be hard for people not already familiar with the particular app or UI.
    • Web navigation: The commands available in the Consumer Preview were not extensive enough for some webpages.

    We worked heavily on each of these areas for the Release Preview, and we're still working in some areas for the final release of Windows 8. We wanted to share with you some of the improvements you can already experience in the Release Preview today.


    Download this video to view it in your favorite media player:
    High quality MP4 | Lower quality MP4

    Making Narrator feel more responsive to touch

    Some people we heard from felt that Narrator touch was not very responsive. We heard various versions of this feedback–that Narrator was slow, that Narrator sometimes didn’t respond, or that people just felt disconnected or disoriented—but the root cause of the issue was the same. When you touch the screen, you expect a timely response. We found two common scenarios where this problem occurred:

    • Single-finger exploration: When people had to find an item on the screen by dragging a finger around, we observed that they would often skip right over the item they were searching for, as they moved their fingers too quickly, generally before Narrator had a chance to start reading the item.
    • Gesture response: Some people were confused as to whether their gesture had succeeded, and would attempt to repeat the gesture several times, even though the first attempt was already successful. The problem was that there was a delay between the time Narrator recognized the gesture, and when it provided the speech response. Sometimes it was also unclear from the response whether Narrator had done what the user wanted, or was just reading something similar but unrelated.

    In each case, the blue, visual highlight rectangle that moves to whatever Narrator is currently reading was quick to jump to the appropriate item, indicating that Narrator had registered the user’s movement and was responding appropriately. However, the problem was in the actual speech process. The text-to-speech (TTS) synthesis is fast, but even at high speeds, it takes a while for the system to read the response back; moreover it took additional cognitive time to process the language and to understand what they were hearing. To complicate matters, the speech response time varied widely, depending on context, which made it hard for the user to discern whether the intended gesture was the one that Narrator had recognized. Each of these minor delays added up; people would skip over items altogether or repeat successful gestures, thinking that their first attempt was not successful.

    Audio cues

    For users with full vision, even if an action takes a few more...

  • — Designing the Windows 8 touch keyboard

       (dinsdag 17 juli 2012 17:00)

    Starting with the earliest TabletPC enhancements to Windows, we have been working on “on-screen keyboards.” With Windows 8, we started fresh and took a "first principles" approach to developing the touch keyboard. Given the amount of experience many of us have with touch keyboards for phones, and the myriad of touch devices we interact with these days, we set a very high bar for the quality of the experience and effectiveness of input with the new Windows 8 touch keyboard. In this post, Kip Knox, a member of the Windows User Experience program management team, details this work. --Steven


    When we began planning how touch and new types of PCs might work on Windows 8, we recognized the need to provide an effective method for text entry on tablets and other touch screen PCs. Since Windows XP SP1, which had Tablet PC features built in, Windows has included a touchable on-screen keyboard. But those features were designed as extensions to the desktop experience. For Windows 8, we set out to improve on that model and introduce text input support that meets people’s needs, matches our design principles, and works well with the form factors we see today and expect to see in the future.

    I’m writing this blog post on our Windows 8 touch keyboard using the standard QWERTY layout in English. As I look at it, the keyboard seems very simple and sort of obvious. This comes partly from having worked on it for a while, but also because keyboards are familiar to us. But there is more here than meets the eye (or, fingertips).

    We started planning this feature area with no preconceived notions. As we do with all our features, we began the text input design project with a set of principles or goals. On a Windows 8 PC using touch, we want people to be able to:

    • Enter text quickly, reasonably close to the speed with which they type on a physical keyboard
    • Avoid errors, and be able to easily correct mistakes
    • Enter text comfortably, in terms of posture, interaction with the device, and social setting

    You might note that none of those goals explicitly assumes a keyboard. And when we started the project, we cast a broad net across possible approaches to text input. We found that of all the methods of text input we considered, none met the goals above as well as a keyboard. The majority of people are simply faster, more accurate, and more comfortable typing than they are writing any other way. Windows has highly accurate handwriting recognition in several languages, as well as advanced speech recognition, for example. But without a great touch keyboard, we were not going to be able to fulfill people’s needs and expectations for touch-screen devices running Windows. So we set out to create the best touch keyboard on any device.

    Optimizing for comfort and posture

    There are many ways to imagine touch keyboards on a tablet, and we sketched a lot of them—large keyboards, tiny keyboards, floating keyboards, circular keyboards, swipe keyboards. But our initial design process was grounded in research we did into the ways that people interact with tablets. Our researchers conducted an in-depth study in which they observed people “living with” tablets over a period of time. Through these observations and interviews, we saw a set of three postures that are most common among people using tablets:

    1. One hand holding the device, with one hand interacting with the user interface
    2. Two hands holding the device, with thumbs interacting
    3. Resting the device on table, lap, or stand, and interacting with both hands

    3 images of 3 common ways to hold a tablet and type

    Research into people “living with” tablets revealed three common postures.

    In these postures, people felt most natural and most likely to use the tablet for longer periods of time. We’ve made many design decisions in Windows 8 to optimize for these postures, and that includes how people intuitively input text. When typing on a tablet, most people either set it on their lap or a table and multi-finger type, or hold it in their hands and type with their thumbs, or hold it with one hand and “hunt and peck.”

    Our standard touch keyboard layout is optimized for laying the tablet down and multi-finger typing, and also works well for typing with one hand. We also introduced a new layout we call the thumb keyboard (which we showed for the first time at our very first preview of Windows 8 about a year ago), which is designed for holding the tablet with two hands and typing with your thumbs. This keyboard is adjustable in size, to accommodate different hand sizes. An interesting observation from our posture research is that people frequently switch postures, and that posture switch is often seen as a positive thing, as we move about to remain comfortable. So in our keyboard layouts we also considered what it would be like to type for a period of time—say, an email to your mom—and switch postures while you do it. You might start by typing with the tablet lying on the coffee table, for example, but then you might tire of that posture and pick up the tablet, lie back on the couch, and interact with two thumbs.

    Further research into posture and comfort helped us to understand how people hold tablets, and how far our thumbs typically reach. In a follow-up study, we had a wide selection of people with different hand sizes use a tablet with sensors that would indicate where their thumbs could reach most comfortably, where they could extend to, and where reach was just uncomfortable. These results helped us optimize the use of the system with thumbs, and helped shape the thumb keyboard layout.

    thumb keyboard at left and right edges...</p>
					
									</li>
								<li  class=

    — Protecting user files with File History

       (dinsdag 10 juli 2012 18:00)

    Backing up your critical files is something we all know we should do. Even with everything in SkyDrive, it is still something we need to do. With Windows 8, we took a new look at the way backup can work and set out to solve the perennial problem of not just restoring all your files but restoring a previous version of a critical file you have been editing through the course of a day. To achieve this, we're introducing a new feature in Windows 8, File History. Bohdan Raciborski, a program manager on the Storage team authored this post. --Steven

    Note: Comments have been off topic.  Please maintain community standards and focus on the topic at hand.

    What is File History?

    File History is a backup application that continuously protects your personal files stored in Libraries, Desktop, Favorites, and Contacts folders. It periodically (by default every hour) scans the file system for changes and copies changed files to another location. Every time any of your personal files has changed, its copy will be stored on a dedicated, external storage device selected by you. Over time, File History builds a complete history of changes made to any personal file.

    It’s a feature introduced in Windows 8 that offers a new way to protect files for consumers. It supersedes the existing Windows Backup and Restore features of Windows 7.

    What is unique about this approach compared to a more traditional backup and restore?

    Regretfully, backup is not a very popular application. Our telemetry shows that less than 5% of consumer PCs use Windows Backup and even adding up all the third party tools in use, it is clear nowhere near half of consumer PCs are backed up. This leaves user’s personal data and digital memories quite vulnerable as any accident can lead to data loss. In Windows 8 Microsoft is actively trying to accomplish the following:

    1. Make data protection so easy that any Windows user can turn it on and feel confident that their personal files are protected.
    2. Eliminate the complexity of setting up and using backup.
    3. Turn backup into an automatic, silent service that does the hard work of protecting user files in the background without any user interaction.
    4. Offer a very simple, engaging restore experience that makes finding, previewing and restoring versions of personal files much easier.

    While designing File History we used learnings from the past and added requirements to address the changing needs of PC users.

    • PC users are more mobile than ever. To address that, we optimized File History to better support laptops that constantly transition through power states or are being connected and disconnected from networks and devices.
    • PC users create more data and are more dependent on it than ever before. So we do not only protect what’s currently on the system drive but also any work they have done and data they have created in the past.

    When a specific point in time (PiT) version of a file or even an entire folder is needed, you can quickly find it and restore it. The restore application was designed to offer engaging experience optimized for browsing, searching, previewing and restoring files.

    Setting it up

    Before you start using File History to back up your files, you'll need to set up a drive to save files to. We recommend that you use an external drive or network location to help protect your files against a crash or other PC problem.

    File History only saves copies of files that are in your libraries, contacts, favorites, and on your desktop. If you have folders elsewhere that you want backed up, you can add them to one of your existing libraries or create a new library.

    To set up File History

    1. Open File History control panel applet.
    2. Connect an external drive, refresh the page, and then tap or click Turn on.

    Screenshot of the File History Control Panel applet showing an external hard drive

    You can also set up a drive in AutoPlay by connecting the drive to your PC, tapping or clicking the notification that appears…

    Screenshot of desktop with AutoPlay notification for an external hard drive

    … and then tapping or clicking Configure this drive for backup.

    Screenshot of AutoPlay options, including speed up my system, configure for backup, open folder and take no action

    That’s it. From that moment, every hour, File History will check your libraries, desktop, favorites and contacts for any changes. If it finds changed files, it will automatically copy them to the File History drive.


    Download this video to view it in your favorite media player:
    High quality MP4 | Lower quality MP4

    Restoring files

    When something bad happens and one or more personal files are lost, the restore application makes it very easy to:

    • Browse personal libraries, folders and files in a way very similar to Windows Explorer.
    • Search for specific versions using keywords, file names and date ranges.
    • Preview versions of a selected file.
    • Restore a file or a selection of files with one tap or a click of a mouse.

    We designed the restore application for wide screen displays and to offer a unique, engaging and convenient way of finding a specific version of a file by looking at its preview.

    With other backup applications you would have to select a backup set that was created on a specific date. Then you would have to browse to find a specific folder, and then find the one file you need. However at this point it is impossible to open the file or preview its content in order to determine if it is the right one. You would have to restore the file. If it is not the right...

  • — Readying Metro style apps for launch

       (dinsdag 03 juli 2012 19:30)

    We know many folks are looking forward to RTM. Developers currently working on apps in the Store are especially excited. We have hundreds of apps in the Windows Store now and many more on the way. There’s a broad set of developers around the world that we have been working closely with since the first Developer Preview. The WinRT platform is evolving rapidly during development based on feedback, and we have the dual task of keeping the Store up and running so we can supply apps to the millions of Preview users, while also getting ready for the next build. It means that if we change or add APIs or improve the tools, the apps will change and require an updated OS to test and verify the app. That’s why we have been providing updated builds to developers who have or are committed to having apps in the Store through strong partnerships. 

    This post explains the work we’ve been doing since September to keep developers updated with APIs and tools so that apps can stay up to date. We’re doing this even after the Release Preview, just to make sure new apps are ready to go once we get to broad availability. This post was authored by Dennis Flanagan, who leads our ecosystem outreach team.  --Steven


    As we approach the release of Windows 8, the catalog of Metro style apps continues to grow. To date, people have experienced apps that Microsoft has included with the downloaded build, and those that are offered in the Store in both the Consumer Preview and Release Preview timeframe. Many of those apps are great examples of immersive, touch-first Metro style experiences. However, like the Windows releases they run on, these apps are preview versions of the apps to come. The final versions of all Metro style apps will be available when Windows 8 becomes generally available.

    Last year, we began working closely with the developer community by releasing early versions of the Windows 8 platform and tools. We decided to engage developers earlier in the engineering process so we could help them build skills in Metro style app development and give them the opportunity to influence the platform through feedback. Since September of 2011 we have released 8 developer preview versions. Some of these versions have been available to a limited developer audience. Some have been distributed broadly. All of these releases had similar goals:

    • Deliver new capabilities and APIs
    • Update tools to simplify Metro style app development
    • Enhance performance and reliability
    • Respond to developer feedback

    We released our first Developer Preview version at the //build conference in Anaheim. This version introduced developers to the Windows 8 platform, tools and programming models. The WinRT platform included new APIs, and we used the conference to present literally hundreds of technical sessions and samples to give developers a basic understanding of the platform. . Many developers got right to work building Metro style apps, produced some impressive early results, and provided us with useful feedback and recommendations about how to improve the platform and tools.

    We made it clear that the first Developer Preview ("DP1") was an early version of the code, and we had a lot of work to complete Windows 8. DP4 and DP5, released in January and February of this year, were targeted at developers who wanted to be the first to publish applications in the Windows Store. By the time we released the Consumer Preview in February of 2012, we had added almost a thousand new WinRT APIs, and had modified hundreds of other APIs based on developer feedback.

    For a detailed description of the changes that happened between //build and Consumer Preview, check out these posts on our App Developer blog:

    In April and May of this year, we released DP6 and DP7, which allowed developers to prepare their apps for the Release Preview. However, in close collaboration with the development community, we've continued to evolve the platform in response to their feedback. By the time we delivered the Release Preview, we had added 334 more APIs and continued to change existing APIs to address feedback.

    One example of a change we made in Release Preview (RP) based on developer feedback is the HTML ListView control (in WinJS). This was an area where lots of developers had difficulties, so we overhauled it to make it easier to work with and to allow a much more extensive degree of performance tuning.

    We also made lots of improvements to developer resources, such as templates in Visual Studio. We even added a new template that makes it easier for developers to start a new project and get a great app up and running in very little time.

    Design tools were another focus area for improvements. Metro is a design-forward experience, which means the app’s user interface is one of the key ways developers get their apps noticed and differentiate them. We did a lot of work to make it as easy as possible for developers to integrate all the new Metro style design concepts into their apps.

    For a complete overview of the changes between CP and RP, see What's changed for app developers since the Consumer Preview.

    Our next major milestone is the release to manufacturing (RTM). When the code reaches this milestone, the platform is complete for general availability (GA), and so we won’t have interim updates for developers.

    When Developers get the RTM version, they will continue enhancing the features, capabilities and performance of their apps. Some of the apps you’ve already seen will look and perform differently when you download the final released version. There are also many more apps in development that haven’t been released to the Store yet. Many of those developers are waiting for RTM to put the finishing touches on their apps.

    The release of Windows 8 will be a great milestone for app developers, but it is really just the beginning. A...

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    Mail, Calendar, People, and Messaging

    • Conversation view of your inbox
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