Roundup Welcome to another rundown of the news you might have missed from the Windows mines deep beneath Microsoft's Redmond campus.
Skype joins Zoom and Teams in the background-bothering game
Skype users, rejoice! You lucky people get to take part in the custom backgrounds thing enjoyed by Zoom customers, and then Team users.
An update to the veteran chat platform rolled out over the course of last week and added the ability to pretend a user was somewhere other than their bedroom during a call. The function can be found alongside the existing Blur setting and is set either during a given call or configured as a default for all calls.
In our experience it worked about as well as Zoom's attempt at differentiating a user's head from whatever had been artfully arranged in the background and, like its rival, the novelty soon wears off.
Skype also added the ability to share files directly from a Mac with Skype contacts in the release, as well as bug fixing and tweaking call controls in the chat menu for faster access.
The backgrounds feature is rolling out to Windows desktop, Mac and Linux versions. It isn't however, available in the Windows 10 app version.
.NET 5 gets some minor tweaks in Preview 3
Microsoft's open-source framework, .NET 5, received another preview last week while the team insisted it was "continuing to work on the bigger features that will define the 5.0 release."
Hopefully these will come down the pipe soon because Preview 3 is a little lacking in the whizz-bang department, with under-the-hood improvements in the code generated by the JIT (such as enabling Arm64 hardware to speed up the BitArray class) and enhancements in
System.Text.Json including null value handling.
Microsoft recommends trying out Preview 3 in a container or a VM, although it slightly confusingly insists that Visual Studio 16.5 is needed for .NET 5 while the release notes advise the use of a preview of Visual Studio 16.6. We've dropped the team a note to check which is which and will update if we receive a response. Visual Studio Mac users are, alas, not able to join the party just yet.
Along with .NET 5, ASP.NET Core also received an update, upping the performance of HTTP/2. Microsoft's Entity Framework Core 5.0 (which does not currently require .NET 5) was also given Preview 3.0 status. The updates included added filtering to the Include method and a return of the
EnableDetailedErrors setting to add null checking for a "small performance overhead."
Microsoft's Rich Lander told The Register that those wanting a bit of .NET 5 Preview 3 fun would need a preview of Visual Studio 16.6.
Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscriptions arrive while small businesses get a discount
Announced a few weeks ago, Microsoft's rebranding tanks rolled over the remains of its consumer lawns as Office 365 had the "O" word excised and replaced by "Microsoft" – because that won't confuse users in the slightest.
In a blog post about, er, pretty much all the stuff subscribers could do regardless of whether the thing was prefixed with "Office" rather than "Microsoft", corporate VP of "Modern Life" Yusuf Mehdi hung back on specifics when it came to new toys, such as the US-only "Money in Excel", the Family Safety app, or the promised tweaks to Teams.
The new stuff remains "on the horizon", according to Mehdi.
The rebrand came ahead of Microsoft making the generous offer of six months free Microsoft 365 Business Basic to small businesses. The package gives access to a custom email domain, the Office web apps, some cloud storage and the ability to host meetings with up to 250 people via Teams.
The largesse is, however, offset a little by the fact that businesses must sign up for a one-year subscription in order to score those free six months.
One space good, two spaces bad?
Finally, Microsoft found time to weigh in on the age-old debate of just how many spaces belong after a full stop (or "period"). Thanks to an update, Word will apparently treat two spaces as a typo and festoon a double-spaced document with red, squiggly lines unless told to ignore the rule.
A debate for the ages finally settled. Where do you stand? ⚔️ https://t.co/A3xvC4OEMV— Microsoft 365 (@Microsoft365) April 24, 2020
Not everyone is impressed with change; this hack, for example, has fond memories of bashing away on the keys of a typewriter back in the day and slapping the spacebar twice between sentences [the future is now, old man –ed.]. It has proven a hard habit to break. Others, such as Jason Howard, senior project manager on the Windows Insider Team, called for a poll on the matter.
And here's our own reader poll:
Alas, at the time of writing, it seems the single-space brigade has it very much in the bag. ®