Microsoft’s annual Build event is currently ongoing, and news about several different software products is pouring out left and right. While we haven’t heard any major hardware announcements yet, the software side has been quite active.
Windows is finally getting third-party widget support later this year. Microsoft is bringing Windows 365 to a more developer-centric space by launching Dev Box, a cloud workstation service. Another new announcement is the company’s Power platform consisting of Power Pages and Power Apps Express Design.
OneNote sees a design overhaul to blend in well with Windows 11 and be more seamless on a touchscreen and stylus-based devices. The Windows Store is getting restore app support that’ll let users quickly restore apps to a new Windows PC.
Windows to support third-party widgets
Microsoft has finally opened access to Windows 11 widgets to developers to act as companions to their Win32 or PWA apps. The feature will launch later this year, and Microsoft hasn’t provided full details yet.
The company also plans to make widgets readily available on the desktop. Widgets on Windows 11 have been limited to native ones made by Microsoft so far (which aren’t exactly great) and have been tucked away in a dedicated widgets panel.
Microsoft’s Power platform aims to simplify web and app development
Microsoft is debuting a couple of new components to its Power Platform. The platform will now include Power Pages, a low-code website building, and Power Apps Express Design, which converts design inputs into app pages with working controls and data storage.
Power Pages lets users add elements for their web pages, including text, videos, images, forms and so on and convert them into fully functioning, secure websites without writing as much code. Power Pages will also have several templates to help users get started quickly. The tool can also integrate with other development applications like Azure DevOps, Visual Studio Code and GitHub for advanced functionality.
The Power Apps Express Design platform, on the other hand, takes design inputs from things like a PDF file, Figma design or even a hand-drawn design and converts it into a functioning app with working controls and data storage. More screens can be added by simply adding more designs.
Other changes to the Power Platform include Power Virtual Agents 2.0, the next version of Microsoft’s bot creation tool. Power Bi now supports Datamart, letting users quickly build datasets from different sources. Last but not least, independent software vendors can now easily integrate Power Automate capabilities in their apps thanks to the updated Power Automate Embed SDK.
A cloud-powered developer workstation
Another new service announced at Wednesday’s keynote was Dev Box. It’s a cloud-based service that includes apps and services designed for developers providing them quick access to a wholly configured developer workstation right in their web browsers.
The service is built upon Windows 365, announced last year that made Windows computers accessible on the cloud using web browsers. Dev Box will work with just about any modern web browser and will support any IDEs, SDKs and tools that run on Windows.
Dev Box also supports the Windows Subsystem for Linux, meaning developing cross-platform apps will also be easier. These Dev Boxes can be deployed in Azure regions worldwide and come with the ability to start and stop schedules to automatically hibernate the machines depending on the developer’s work hours.
Using Windows 365 as a base means IT admins can manage them with Intune and Microsoft’s Endpoint Manager. Starting Wednesday, a price preview mode is available, and a new public preview is coming in a few months. Interested devs can sign up on Microsoft’s developer site.
OneNote gets a design overhaul
OneNote’s new design refresh has started testing, with the update being teased last year. The OneNote and OneNote for Windows 10 apps will now be unified in a single app, and beta testers can get access to some of these changes as part of the desktop version.
Most of the design revolves around making OneNote blend in better with Windows 11’s general aesthetic. The company uses the Mica effect, used in Windows 11 theme and desktop wallpaper for the general app window. The latest version also includes an updated draw tab and tools similar to the Microsoft Office suite.
The Surface Slim Pen 2 is also supported in the updated version, complete with its tactile vibrations. Other features include ink replay, a new pen focus view and page sorting.
Restoring apps to a new PC just got easier
The Microsoft Store on Windows 11 is getting a restore app feature allowing users to restore their apps from an old PC to a new one. So far, users switching PCs have had to install their apps manually, but this feature makes life slightly easier.
Of course, the success and impact of the feature rely on the Microsoft Store hosting more apps. Microsoft is working around that by removing the waitlist for win32 developers on the store and opening it to all developers starting Wednesday.
The company also demonstrated several other projects and released software improvements to its services.
- Microsoft Teams now gets a Live Share mode that lets users co-edit and co-create straight inside meetings. The feature will be available via apps that integrate into Teams.
- The company is also working on a native ARM64 version of Visual Studio 2022. A preview will be available in the next few weeks and will ship fully later this year, alongwith ARM64 .NET support.
- A partnership with Qualcomm is also in the works to create a mini ARM-powered developer PC codenamed Project Volterra. The PC will use a Snapdragon processor and neural processing unit to let developers build cloud-native AI apps.
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