Roundup As Microsoft finally named the date for the next version of its flagship operating system, the person in charge of its Windows Insider programme took a peep above the parapet in this week's roundup of the Microsoft stories you might have missed.
Windows Insider boss commits to lurking as this one weird trick promises greater OS reliability
Newly anointed Windows Insider boss Amanda Langowski got in touch with Microsoft's loyal army of unpaid testers to assure the gang that she would be "working tirelessly" on fixing the notoriously horrible communication "enhancing our listening systems" while also taking a slightly different approach to previous programme figureheads.
Former leader Gabe Aul would famously wield a big red button at Insider emission time (before eventually trotting off to Facebook), while his successor Dona 'chief NinjaCat' Sarkar was more keen on outreach efforts and urging those around her to "do the thing".
Presumably the "thing" in question wasn't releasing one of the most disastrous releases in Windows history in the form of the October 2018 Update.
Langowski plans to lurk a little more behind the scenes, possibly recognising that the "Ninja" in "Ninjacat" usually refers to an individual that moves and acts unseen. The "cat", on the other hand, is a creature that wishes you'd go back to the office and stop taking up so much space in its house.
Langowski's note came as the Windows Insider team patched the latest Fast Ring release (build 19608) with an update that contained a single fix "to improve overall reliability of the OS".
We fear it might take more than a solitary tweak to topple that particular elephant.
Come git your Visual Studio previews
A third preview of Microsoft's flagship development platform, Visual Studio 2019, dropped last week as the team added more toys to the upcoming 16.6 release.
It is the expansion of Git functionality that catches the eye this time with improvements around cloning, committing and branch management as well as new commands in the top-level Git menu for easier keyboard access.
The Visual Studio team has also added the long-overdue ability to change the font face and size in the platform's terminal and improved the handy XAML Hot Reload functionality to retain more page states when a change is made. The team claims it also runs faster.
Finally, and perhaps most useful for .NET Core developers, is support for the open source platform in the Microsoft Fakes mocking framework. Fakes is a handy tool which "mocks" part of code with stubs to ensure testing focuses on what is relevant. Its arrival will make migration to .NET Core a tad less painful.
Spotlight on PowerToys?
PowerToys boss Clint Rutkas took to Twitter last week to urge the community to come up with a name for its "Launcher" – something that works a bit better than the old Win + R run dialog known and loved by those that can't be bothered with those pesky icons.
Help us name our Win+R project (we call launcher internally) for Power Toys. It can do more than just launch apps so trying to be sure we have a great, straight forward name that works for everyone— Clint Rutkas (@ClintRutkas) April 15, 2020
It'll be a handy utility when launched (although several alternatives already exist today), showing suggestions as the user types and going quite some way beyond ye olde Windows Run Dialog or the existing Search functionality. A glimpse at the specification in GitHub also shows inspiration drawn from a variety of sources, including macOS's Spotlight.
As for the name, it looks like "PowerToys Run" might have won the day. A shame, "Launchy McLauncherFace" would obviously be this hack's preference, while others harked back to simpler (and more crashy) Windows days with "Program Manager</a"' (making Rutkas the PM for the PM).
Having emitted an update to deal with seven high priority bugs, 0.17 is due in the next few weeks, hopefully with that launcher and the start of auto-updating code (rather than the current bleating that there is an update available).
0.18 is, according to Rutkas, the first build that will be able to auto-update.
Microsoft retail staff get used to home working as Newcastle med students graduate via Flipgrid
Described by Microsoft president Brad Smith as "one to remember", 239 medical students at Newcastle University have taken part in a virtual graduation ceremony via Microsoft-owned Flipgrid. The students recorded and uploaded their Hippocratic Oaths to a custom Flipgrid created by the university.
Graduation from the five-year course happened a month early to allow the students to get cracking in hospitals and GP practices across the country.
While there are hopes for a more traditional ceremony in the future, the current UK-wide lockdown meant that normal gathering of friends and family to witness the event in person wasn't possible. Hence Flipgrid.
Microsoft purchased the teaching aid, described as "Snapchat for the classroom", back in June 2018.
Microsoft has also put its army of retail employees (usually found forlornly wandering the aisles of its stores in search of customers) to work in handing out training to users. With many companies having sent their workers home, there is quite the demand for guidance in the company's tools.
Five areas are covered by the programme, which is aimed at everything from small and medium-sized businesses and education customers up to enterprises and deals with Surface, Cloud and Microsoft 365. The software giant lays claim to having trained 65,000 people on using Microsoft Teams in the last month.
It's a drop in the ocean when one considers the sudden strategy change endured by many an IT department, but a welcome one nonetheless. ®