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Windows 3.0 Is 30 Years Old: Here’s What Made It Special

Thirty years ago this month, Microsoft released Windows 3.0, a graphical environment that represented a dramatic leap over its predecessors in terms of capability and popularity. Here’s what made Windows 3.0 special.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Benj Edwards

Windows 10 is adding a slew of accessibility upgrades in May

e907b410-9b95-11ea-9edf-a9c19890bf50Microsoft has shared the latest accessibility enhancements it’s working on for Windows 10. To start, the company is adding additional customization options that will allow you to adjust the width of the operating system’s cursor. Similarly, you’ll be…

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The original Xbox source code just leaked – and it doesn’t stop there

It’s an exciting day for classic console and operating system enthusiasts, as it appears that the source code for the original Xbox and Windows NT 3.5 have leaked online. The original Xbox was released way back in 2001 and marked Microsoft’s entry into the video game console business. Windows NT 3.5, on the other hand, was released in 1994 and … Continue reading

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Eric Abent

What’s coming in Windows 10 accessibility

I hope this blog finds you, your family and friends and your colleagues all healthy and safe during these changing times. I’m excited to share some of the updates we are incorporating within Windows 10 to make it easier to see and use for people with low or no vision.  These improvements, coming to Windows 10 users in the May 2020 Update, represent the next steps in our journey to empower every person on the planet to achieve more.

Thank you for all the feedback to date. Please keep it coming! Our users, especially Windows Insiders, are continuing to shape Windows 10 accessibility by helping us understand what improvements matter most. Information about how best to reach us is included at the end of this post.

Making Windows 10 easier to see and use

Text cursor improvements

We recently made text and pointers easier to personalize in Windows 10. Millions of people prefer larger text, and larger and brighter pointers to make Windows 10 easier to see and use. Perhaps not surprisingly, many low vision users asked us to continue to make it easier to work with text cursors. More specifically, they told us that text cursors are difficult to find when they are too thin and don’t contrast enough with text. Now users can easily make cursors wider and add a text cursor indicator; we’ve even included the ability to choose custom colors, making it even easier to find their text cursor on the screen.

New Ease of Access settings that make text cursors easier to see and use
Figure 1 – New Ease of Access Settings make text cursors easier to see and use.

We made some related changes in Magnifier. We recently added a Magnifier option to follow the mouse pointer, so that users did not have to scan their display to find the pointer. Instead, they could rely on the mouse pointer to be in an expected location in the center of their display. Again, not surprisingly, users asked us to make it easier to work with text cursors with Magnifier. Now Magnifier will follow the text cursor in the center of the display by default, so that users can find the text cursor in an expected location.

Magnifier reading reduces strain and fatigue

We’ve heard from many Magnifier users that it can be difficult to read and work with text throughout their day; they often strain to read text and end their day with severe fatigue or headaches. We added a new feature that makes it easy to have text read aloud to reduce the strain of reading. Magnifier now includes Play, Pause, Next sentence, Previous sentence and Read from here controls to make it easy to read text in popular browsers including Edge, Chrome and Firefox and other Windows applications like Microsoft Word, Outlook and PowerPoint. Magnifier will highlight each word that is spoken and will scroll content into view if it is not currently displayed.

Finally, we’ve improved the Magnifier user interface. Magnifier will now respond to larger text and Dark mode settings, so that it is easier to see and use.

Magnifier user interface
Figure 2 – New Magnifier features include reading and support for larger text and dark mode.

Making Windows easier to use without sight, with a screen reader

We’ve made a few sets of improvements to Narrator, which is the free, built in screen reader in Windows 10.

Narrator easier to use

We made reading more natural by reducing unnatural pauses and processing complete sentences to aid with proper pronunciation. We also redesigned Narrator sounds to enable Narrator users to be more efficient. We added sounds for the most common actions while reducing the total number of sounds to make them easier to learn and use. For example, rather than having to hear “scan on” or “scan off” when switching between scan mode and other modes, now you can choose to hear tones instead of the words. By default, both the words and sounds are turned on, to learn the new sounds. You can then change the level of detail that Narrator speaks about text and controls to hear fewer words for common actions. Finally, we improved support for announcing capital words and letters, e.g., when proofing a message or document. Narrator will handle initial, mixed and all cap words.

Smarter browsing

We made multiple improvements to the Narrator browsing experience.

First, Narrator will automatically start reading web pages from the top of the page. Automatic reading is intended to improve efficiency and give users confidence that the intended page loaded. Second, we implemented a page summary on demand. In addition to better understanding the complexity of a page, e.g., the number of landmarks, links and headings, you can also get a list of the most popular links generated by Bing to make it easier to get to where you want to go. Press Narrator key + S to hear the landmarks, links and headings on the page and press Narrator key + S twice quickly to bring up the page summary that includes a list of popular links. Third, we addressed one of the top accessibility issues with poorly crafted web pages. We made it possible to disambiguate links with titles like “Click here” without having to press the link to see where it goes. Press Narrator key + Ctrl + D, the same command to generate an image description, to hear the title of the linked page before pressing the link.

Finally, we made multiple improvements to Narrator with popular browsers. In addition to Microsoft Edge and Chrome, Narrator now supports Firefox. We improved several Narrator experiences, including faster “Find” and more reliable table reading. We also added support for rich text in Chrome and Firefox, which makes it easier to consume content on sites like Wikipedia.

More efficient Outlook mail

In addition to general Narrator and Narrator browsing improvements, we improved Narrator’s Outlook experience. We optimized Narrator for the Outlook inbox to make it faster and easier to triage mail; we read a smaller set of data in the expected order. We also improved the message reading experience. Like when web pages load, we now automatically start reading content when you open a message. We also automatically enable scan mode and recognize and ignore layout tables to make it easier to navigate and read message content. We improved Outlook responsiveness, e.g., reducing lags when arrowing through messages in the inbox or through text in a message.

Please keep the feedback coming

While we are excited to share our progress, we recognize that we have more work to do to create delightful experiences for people with disabilities. Thank you to the many people who have provided feedback — both positive and constructive — to help make Windows great. If you’re interested in providing help or suggestions, we welcome your feedback via the Windows Insider Program. All the features referenced in this blog were shared with and shaped by Windows Insiders. Whether you’re using an Insider build, or a generally available version of Windows, Windows 10 makes it easy to share your thoughts and suggestions — just press Windows logo key + F to launch the Feedback hub and share what’s top of mind.

Finally, if you are a customer with a disability and need technical assistance, the Disability Answer Desk is there to assist via phone (800-936-5900) and chat. In addition, we also have an ASL option available for our customers who are deaf or hard of hearing in the U.S. (+1 503-427-1234). Please contact us, we are always happy to help.

The post What’s coming in Windows 10 accessibility appeared first on Windows Blog.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Jeff Petty

Windows 10 Is Getting Graphical Linux Apps With GPU Support

Windows 10’s Windows Subsystem for Linux is already extremely powerful, even including a built-in Linux kernel with WSL 2.0. Now, Microsoft is making it even more powerful, enabling graphical Linux desktop applications and GPU hardware acceleration support.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Chris Hoffman

The Best Free Microsoft Excel Alternatives

Microsoft Excel Alternatives

Spreadsheets are ubiquitous: people use them every day for tracking inventory, budgeting, data tracking, and a million other things. And, while Microsoft Excel has been the go-to spreadsheet for years, there are other (free) alternatives you might like more.

Whatever your reason is for using a spreadsheet, odds are you’ve used Microsoft Excel at some point. And, while the software is more than capable of handling anything you throw at it (even Grandma’s knitting patterns and your little brother’s Minecraft building plans), Excel is expensive and even lacks a few features that would make it more usable. Thankfully, there are plenty of free alternatives available, many of which are just as powerful and easy to use.

What to Look for in a Microsoft Excel Alternative

Free spreadsheet software should be just as powerful as paid options and come stocked with all the tools you need to spreadsheet your heart out. Here are the most important features good spreadsheet software should offer, and why they’re important:

  • An Intuitive Interface: Spreadsheets are designed to handle complex tasks, but that doesn’t mean that the software itself should be clunky or difficult to use. The best Excel alternatives have a clean modern look and smart tool organization, and are stocked with a ready artillery of built-in formulas, functions, and templates. The software should also have cross-platform support, so you can access them anywhere.
  • Live Collaboration Support: If your team needs to work together through a spreadsheet, it’s imperative that the software supports simultaneous collaboration. Likewise, the program should also be able to track who makes what change when, and to allow you to lock down individual cells (or the whole document) so no unwanted changes can be made. It should also let you set the spreadsheet as read-only and enable other permissions for users.
  • Powerful Functions and Formulas: Whether you’re tracking warehouse inventory, handling accounting for your department, or creating charts from data for an upcoming presentation, your spreadsheet software has to have a wide variety of formulas at the ready. Basic options for simple math are a given, but if you need something more advanced like statistical or logical functions, or the ability to create a custom function, the software should be able to handle those as well.
  • Dynamic Visuals: Not that looking at thousands of cells of text and numbers isn’t a ton of fun, but charts and graphs are a little easier on the eyes. Visuals let you see data at a glance and are a must-have item for presentations. Good Microsoft Excel alternatives support dynamic charts and graphs that update in real time as your data does, and should allow for extensive customization so you can make your visuals look and work exactly how you need them to.
  • Advanced Features: Most people probably won’t ever bother with the advanced features found in most spreadsheet software like custom macros, filters, pivot tables, conditional formatting, or the ability to compute and analyze large data sets. However, it’s nice to know that those features are there when and if you need them.

Best Cloud-Based Excel Alternative: Google Sheets

Google Sheets websiteGoogle

Google Sheets (Free) has become as well-known as Microsoft Excel. Google users already have access to this app, plus its ability to integrate with other Google products (like Google Forms and Google Data Studio) makes it easier for you to stay on track while working on your projects. Sheets also saves everything you create to the Cloud, so you’ll have access to your spreadsheets from any desktop, iOS, or Android device.

The software is easy to navigate and use with its clean and minimal appearance. Support for simultaneous collaboration is great for teams, and it even has a built-in group chat area wherein everyone on your team can talk about the document as they work. You can comment on cells and set specific user permissions for individual cells or the entire document. A robust Sheets Help section is also ready to help in case you have questions.

Sheets has tons of built-in formulas, as well as plenty of pivot tables, conditional formatting options, and templates that can save you time and effort. It contains robust customizable charts and graphs for visualizing your data, which update dynamically as your data does. Google Sheets also stores granular documentation of changes and supports versioning.

Best for Apple Users: Apple iWork Numbers

Apple iWork Numbers websiteApple

Apple’s version of Excel, iWork Numbers (Free), is available to anyone with an iCloud account (which includes PC users), but the mobile app is only available for iOS users (sorry, Android). Numbers, of course, supports the Apple pencil, so if you’re working from your iPad, you can make notes and draw diagrams manually. The app also supports real-time collaboration, showing you real-time edits, and lets you save and export documents as Excel files if you need to work with anyone using Excel. If you need to keep an important document secure in Numbers, you can lock it down with a password, Touch ID, or Face ID.

In Apple’s true minimalistic form, Numbers’ default is a blank sheet instead of a grid (like Excel and its alternatives provide), and its features are sparse and minimally represented. You can easily add charts, tables, and other content as needed, or choose a template with which to get started. Numbers has over 700 customizable shapes you can fashion for data visualization, as well as plenty of options for adjusting the way fonts, tables, and cell borders look. The app’s tools can handle complex functions and formulas, and its Smart Categories feature provides table organization and summaries for deeper insight into your data.

Best Open-Source Excel Alternative: LibreOffice Calc

LibreOffice Calc spreadsheetLibreOffice

Calc (Free), part of LibreOffice, is a robust spreadsheet program for Windows, macOS, and Linux users. Though the software doesn’t have the beauty and flash of the other alternatives, it’s open-sourced, meaning you have access to much more functionality and the freedom to customize pretty much anything. If you don’t want to start with a blank document, choose a free template to work off of.

LibreOffice Calc has native support for Excel files. You can also customize its appearance so it only shows you the tools and features you want to work with, and its handy keyboard shortcuts make it easy to quickly navigate its interface. The software’s built-in wizard helps you create visualizations from your data and use other advanced features, making it easy to use for new and veteran users alike.

Calc has a neat tool called DataPilot that lets you import raw data from external databases and manipulate it in your own spreadsheet. You can also create dynamic charts and graphs that display updated data in real time. The software offers flexible cell formatting and robust customization options for text, cells, and charts. In addition, multiuser collaboration in Calc is also possible, but this feature isn’t as robust as it is in pretty much any other alternative.

Closest to Microsoft Excel: WPS Office Spreadsheets

WPS Office Spreadsheets websiteWPS Office

If you’re looking for an Excel alternative that still looks and functions largely like Excel, WPS Office Spreadsheets (Free) is the one to choose. In addition to having a similar layout to Excel, WPS is also compatible with XLS, XLSX, and CSV files, so you can import files from (or export to) Microsoft Excel without issue. WPS Office is available on Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and on the web as well (but only as the entire suite); if you want access to just Spreadsheets, you’re still stuck with the entire suite, including the word processor.

WPS has a beautiful modern interface that’s easy to use. It supports track changes and comments, as well as multiuser collaboration with WPS and Microsoft Office users, and it has over 50 keyboard shortcuts for easier navigation. The software supports advanced pivot tables, contains over 100 formulas you can use with your data, and has a what-if analysis feature you can use for finding solutions for data-heavy complex problems. Paying to upgrade to the Premium plan ($29.99/year) eliminates ads, gets you cloud storage, and lets you access the program on up to nine devices (instead of three on the free plan).

Best for Serious Data Analysis: Zoho Office Sheet

Zoho Office Sheet spreadsheetZoho

Zoho Office Sheet (Free) is great spreadsheet software for many reasons, the first of which is its AI-powered data analysis tool, Zia, which analyzes your data and provides insights to help you better understand it. Zia gets rid of inconsistencies and duplicate values, and automates pivot tables and charts that you can then add to your spreadsheet. You can also “ask” the tool questions about your data, or to analyze said data with certain filters in place, and it will help you find an answer.

Zoho doesn’t lack for other features, either, like real-time collaboration for up to 25 users or a chat panel where users can discuss a documents. The audit trail tool lets you see who made a particular change to the document, and Zoho backs up every document with default version backups so you won’t have to worry about data loss. You can lock down the entire document, or just certain cells, with a password, set read and edit permissions, and publish part or all of your spreadsheet on the web.

The app supports over 350 functions, in addition to advanced functions like pivot tables and conditional formatting. It can automate certain tasks, create validations for data entry, collect data with forms, and import data from external sources like a web page, an RSS feed, or an external file. The app also lets you create custom functions and record macros. Zoho is cloud based and can be accessed anywhere.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Suzanne Humphries

Microsoft stops offering 32-bit Windows 10 to computer manufacturers

bbe2d760-96c9-11ea-bdf7-1d680cdec56bWindows 10 comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit varieties. While they look and feel nearly identical, the latter takes advantage of faster and better hardware specs. With the era of 32-bit processors winding down, Microsoft is putting the lesser version o…

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Can You (and Should You) Continue to Use Windows 7 in 2020?

Featured-Image-Windows-7-Should-Use-in-2 Over the years, Windows 7 has built its reputation as a stable and highly reliable Windows version. Despite Microsoft ending its extended support on January 14, 2020, Windows 7 remains quite popular with a sizable chunk of desktop and laptop users. Can you continue to use Windows 7 in the future? To answer this question, we will deep-dive into different aspects of Windows 7 usage past the end of support date. Our topics of interest include whether Microsoft has announced any new updates on this matter, and whether the outdated Windows 7 is still technically secure. If not, what are… Read more13538950.gif

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Sayak Boral

How to Create a Virtual Machine from Your Existing Windows 10 PC

create-virtual-machine-existing-windows- It can be handy for any number of reasons to create a virtual machine from your existing Windows 10 setup. A virtual machine allows you to quickly set up a replication of your current Windows 10 installation. It also allows you to test software that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to install on your PC. You will be able to safely test out tweaks or registry edits you want to make to the OS. You can do this using various software (including Microsoft Hyper-V, which is integrated into Windows 10 Pro). But we found VMWare’s vCenter Converter to be simple and… Read more13529098.gif

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Robert Zak