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The people behind Windows 11: Listening, solving problems and designing with purpose

As a kid, Charles Taylor was always interested in tech – though he didn’t know exactly what that meant, beyond translating to a job related to computer science. Growing up in Littleton, North Carolina – an actual little town with less than 700 people – he went to school with the same group of about…

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As a kid, Charles Taylor was always interested in tech – though he didn’t know exactly what that meant, beyond translating to a job related to computer science.

Growing up in Littleton, North Carolina – an actual little town with less than 700 people – he went to school with the same group of about 60 kids through high school graduation. He would be one of the first in his family to attend college. Taylor went to Duke University.

He took classes in computer science, visual and media studies and information science, trying to get a feel for a future career. He questioned whether it was the right fit. Then a work-study program at a Duke University medical center connected him with a mentor, an IT chief who took him under his wing and opened him up to new possibilities, in product management. He introduced Taylor to new design prototyping tools and encouraged him to talk to people and come up with solutions to their problems using those tools – a mindset he’s adopted into his daily workflow.

“As all the pieces started to come together, I realized he was starting to show me what it could look like to be in the tech industry through a different lens, exposing me to other paths,” Taylor says. “He was the first one to put it in my head that I didn’t need to be a software developer or a technical expert to be successful in the industry.”

It would take a few more years exploring strategy, design and engineering in corporate settings, before he found his way to Microsoft, where he’s now a taskbar product manager working on Windows 11.

“I wanted to pursue product management at a company that had a really great connection with customers; a great mission, in terms of impact; and I wanted to work on experiences that were bigger than just internal facing,” Taylor says. “It’s important for me to work on something I’m passionate about, something I can be a great advocate for the people who actually use the product. As a product manager, it’s really important you can empathize with your customers and design for a broader, wider and more diverse group, folks you don’t usually get to hear from. Windows just seemed like a really great place for me to work on something that I use, both in my personal and professional life.”

Taylor has become a steward for customers through his work on Windows 11, driven by the realization that the PC plays such an important role for people in so many ways, whether it’s empowering other businesses to deliver their products to their own customers, inspiring creativity, keeping families connected, or even bringing people together for entertainment purposes.

“The PC is such a central aspect across so many lenses of lives,” he says. In improving upon a much-used part of the desktop, he put a big emphasis in taking the best of Windows and making it accessible to everyone. “My goal, with Windows 11 and all the releases thereafter, is to get at the root of what the problems are and determine how we can elegantly solve those problems in a way that’s not only meeting their needs, but also delightful.”

The biggest change in Windows 11 for the taskbar is where it lives: still at the bottom of the screen, but now in the center. “As devices continue to evolve, wider screens have become the norm for TV, monitors and other screens. So we’ve put the taskbar at the forefront of device.”

The taskbar represents the hub from which people switch and launch apps, he says, so it has to work harmoniously. Here, the intersection with Start makes it of upmost importance and daily use for most people.

Christian Valencia, whose team helped reimagine the Start experience for Windows 11, also places a premium on listening to feedback.

Research showed people wanted a cleaner and simpler Start, and that since so many people have smartphones, design paradigms from those devices could successfully carry over into a new Start – being able to pan different pages with touch, for instance.

As shown in the video above, Valencia’s team saw how people arranged what they envisioned for Start in modular pieces, and they found that Search, Apps and Files came up most often as what people used at Start.

Valencia, who has been at Microsoft for nearly eight years, says that it seems like he was meant to work on Windows.

Christian Valencia (Photo by Christian Valencia)

His first job after graduating from college – where he started as a business major before an advertising class converted him to the more creative field of design – was at a small-to-medium-sized company, creating Windows apps. While he was there, he entered a workout fitness app in a design contest and won, catching the eye of a contest judge. She asked to see his portfolio, which led to a job offer at Microsoft. In a stroke of serendipity, she would be one of his first managers there.

And at Microsoft, he feels like he’s come full circle, having worked on many features related to Windows. The last 18 months have made the PC more relevant and vital in our lives than ever before, bolstered by Chief Product Officer Panos Panay focusing the team on rejuvenating Windows with what would become Windows 11.

“It was all hands on deck – and everything is still that way,” Valencia says. “We were on overdrive during the beginning of Windows 11. We embraced a fail-fast approach, super into prototyping, making on the fly, garnering feedback from the team. With Start, there were so many iterations, and it will get progressively better.”

Like many other people when lockdowns were imposed, he created a PC set-up at home, with constant communication with teammates on Microsoft Teams. They continuously gathered feedback and kept revising and improving.

To further spur his creativity, he takes inspiration from illustrations unrelated to operating systems or mobile devices: abstract/fun art, such as those that include French bulldogs (he has one).

“I’m always making stuff on my own,” Valencia says. “Our design director is always telling us to be making something, be ready to share something. So I live that.”

Christina Koehn grew up drawing and sketching in Bellingham, Washington. But she was also drawn to math, science and problem solving. The creative director for Windows 11 went to the University of Washington thinking she’d be an engineer. Though several people in her life also didn’t think creating art for self-expression would be a viable career, her mother did encourage her to take art class when she had an opening in her schedule.

That’s where she learned about the discipline of design and how she could use her creativity and problem-solving to improve the lives of others.

“To solve real human problems, this is for me,” says Koehn, who then switched her courses from engineering to visual communication design. Right after graduating, she worked at a print graphic design firm, working on branding and logos. She then moved onto a digital agency where she designed websites and apps and got more experience on digital design elements.

Christina Koehn (Photo by Ulysses Curry)

After that, she landed a contract role at Microsoft that turned into a full-time position. This fall, she will celebrate her 12th anniversary with the company.

She’s worked on Bing, Bing apps for Windows 8 (her introduction to the Windows ecosystem), Windows 10, MSN, the Edge browser and the Microsoft Store. And over the years, she saw how the company’s growth mindset propelled teams to work together, culminating in Windows 11.

“We are all working for our customers, trying to solve problems, to do what’s right for people using our products,” Koehn says. “Marketing, developers, PMs – all these different disciplines came together to make this product. We took advantage of the brain trust in the diversity of people throughout the company and focused on the needs of customers. As designers, we have empathy for the people we’re designing for. Not that we haven’t done it in the past, but we really pointed the focus on human needs first.”

Koehn built upon the Fluent design style Windows 10 introduced (after the Metro design style of Windows 8), signatures of which include added depth, light and color in icons, rounded corners, fewer pixels – overall a softer, more simplified feeling. At the same time, she considers it a visual rejuvenation. Her team focused on fonts, typography and iconography.

“We want people to feel more comfortable,” Koehn says. “What people need is their computing to adapt to them. An operating system like Windows, it’s got over a billion people using it. Computing really can empower people and must adapt to scale for all different needs.”

Find out more about Windows 11 and stay tuned for more stories about the people bringing Windows 11 to you.

Top Photo: Charles Taylor (Photo by Ulysses Curry)

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Microsoft

Announcing Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 25151

Hello Windows Insiders, today we are releasing Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 25151 to the Dev Channel. TL;DR This build includes a small set of fixes that improve the overall experience for Insiders on their PCs. Fixes [File Explorer] Fixed a scaling issue which could result in the tabs being unexpectedly large. Right clicking a…

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Hello Windows Insiders, today we are releasing Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 25151 to the Dev Channel.

TL;DR

  • This build includes a small set of fixes that improve the overall experience for Insiders on their PCs.

Fixes

[File Explorer]

  • Fixed a scaling issue which could result in the tabs being unexpectedly large.
  • Right clicking a tab and then clicking somewhere else in File Explorer should dismiss the context menu more reliably now.

[Other]

  • We believe an underlying fix in Build 25145 addressed the recent issue where shutting down via the Start menu wasn’t working for some Insiders (unexpectedly rebooting instead), and as such are removing this from the known issues list. If you are continuing to encounter this issue with the latest updates, please report it in the Feedback Hub.
  • Fixed a high hitting Windows Security app crash.
  • Updated the Exclusions page in the Windows Security app so that file paths now make better use of the available space rather than truncating when space is still available.
  • Fixed an underlying issue which was causing a crash when trying to delete ports in printui /s.
  • Fixed an issue causing printing to not work from UWP apps for some Insiders in the last 2 flights.

NOTE: Some fixes noted here in Insider Preview builds from the Dev Channel may make their way into the servicing updates for the released version of Windows 11.

Known issues

[General]

  • We are working on a fix to address reports that the Mica material and Acrylic blur effect is not rendering correct in OS surfaces like the Start menu, Notification Center and other areas.
  • Some games that use Easy Anti-Cheat may crash or cause your PC to bugcheck.
  • [NEW] We’re investigating reports that some Insiders are experiencing bugchecks with error message KMODE_EXCEPTION_NOT_HANDLED in NetAdapterCx.sys starting with Build 25145.

[File Explorer]

  • The up arrow is misaligned in File Explorer tabs. This will be fixed in a future update.
  • We’re investigating reports that launching File Explorer in certain ways when using dark mode (for example, from the command line) is showing the body of File Explorer unexpectedly in light mode.

[Widgets]

  • We’re working on the fix for an issue causing Widgets preferences (temperature units and pinned widgets) to unexpectedly get reset to default.

[Live captions]

  • Certain apps in full screen (e.g., video players) prevent live captions from being visible.
  • Certain apps positioned near the top of the screen and closed before live captions is run will re-launch behind the live captions window positioned at top. Use the system menu (ALT + Spacebar) while the app has focus to move the app’s window further down.

For developers

You can download the latest Windows Insider SDK at aka.ms/windowsinsidersdk.

SDK NuGet packages are now also flighting at NuGet Gallery | WindowsSDK which include:

These NuGet packages provide more granular access to the SDK and better integrate in CI/CD pipelines.

About the Dev Channel

The Dev Channel receives builds that represent long lead work from our engineers with features and experiences that may never get released as we try out different concepts and get feedback. It is important to remember that the builds we release to the Dev Channel should not be seen as matched to any specific release of Windows and the features included may change over time, be removed, or replaced in Insider builds or may never be released beyond Windows Insiders to general customers. For more information, please read this blog post about how we plan to use the Dev Channel to incubate new ideas, work on long lead items, and control the states of individual features.

These aren’t always stable builds, and sometimes you will see issues that block key activities or require workarounds. It is important to make sure you read the known issues listed in our blog posts as we document many of these issues with each flight.

Build numbers are higher in the Dev Channel than the Windows 11 preview builds in the Beta and Release Preview Channels. You will not be able to switch from the Dev Channel to the Beta or Release Preview Channels without doing a clean install back to the released version of Windows 11 currently.

ALSO: Because the Dev and Beta Channels represent parallel development paths from our engineers, there may be cases where features and experiences show up in the Beta Channel first.

The desktop watermark you see at the lower right corner of your desktop is normal for these pre-release builds.

Important Insider Links

Thanks,
Amanda & Brandon

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Minecraft Marketplace 5 Year Celebration Sale now underway

Take advantage of the Minecraft Marketplace 5 Year Celebration Sale going on now through July 12. You’ll find more than 200 discounted packs and special doorbuster deals with 75% off selected content. Plus, you can claim 14 free Character Creator Items and a new adventure from Gamemode One: Spellcraft. Head over to Minecraft.net to find…

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Take advantage of the Minecraft Marketplace 5 Year Celebration Sale going on now through July 12. You’ll find more than 200 discounted packs and special doorbuster deals with 75% off selected content. Plus, you can claim 14 free Character Creator Items and a new adventure from Gamemode One: Spellcraft.

Head over to Minecraft.net to find out more and watch the trailer.

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Upgrades coming to Collections in Microsoft Edge

Summertime has arrived, and with that a chance to hopefully slow down a bit, get outdoors and make memories with our loved ones. During this time of year, some of us are also planning travels or perhaps are tackling projects around the house that we didn’t have time for during the busy school year. This…

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Summertime has arrived, and with that a chance to hopefully slow down a bit, get outdoors and make memories with our loved ones. During this time of year, some of us are also planning travels or perhaps are tackling projects around the house that we didn’t have time for during the busy school year.

This month, we’re introducing upgrades to Collections, with new ways to help you organize your ideas and find inspiration – all with the goal of helping you make the most of your time online so you can focus on what matters most to you.

Remember, if you’re running a Windows PC, you already have Microsoft Edge installed, so launch it and check it out and see why Microsoft Edge is the browser that puts you first and helps you do more of what you love. For those who want to try Microsoft Edge and are on a macOS, mobile or Linux device, download it and let us know what you think![1]

Here’s what’s new in web experiences this month:

We’re upgrading Collections in Microsoft Edge

There are so many reasons to love Collections in Microsoft Edge and we hear it all the time through feedback. It’s a handy tool that helps you collect and organize content you find across the web while keeping all your ideas organized neatly into folders. We’re always looking for ways to make great things even better, so we want to share some new enhancements to Collections designed to help you find and do more of what you love. Here is what’s new in Collections:

Collect all the things you love around the web

As the web has become increasingly visual, we want to make it even easier for you to save and organize more than links to websites. Now, you can save images and videos to your Collections as you browse the web – just hover over or right-click the item on a webpage and click the add button to save it to a Collection. Coming soon, you will also be able to share your collections with others so you can collaborate and brainstorm together, whether it be planning that next vacation or remodeling your home office.

Find inspiration at a glance

With Collections, we want to help you collect, organize and share information you find across the web. We also know that a huge part of our journey on the web is discovery and inspiration. That’s why I am excited to announce that we’re starting to roll out the inspiration feed coming soon to your Collections flow. Let’s say you just finished filling your Collections with must-see places for the trip you’re planning to Paris this summer. While in your Collections window, you will not only see your folders, but you will see a feed with content related to your research, helping you get inspired and discover additional places. Cool, right?

That’s not all we’re bringing this month to help you discover new content. Visual Search from Microsoft Bing is also now available when you hover over an image. Visual Search uses advanced computer vision technology to search with images instead of text. The on-hover update allows you to easily search for similar items by hovering over an image you find online, then clicking on the Visual Search icon. For example, when you’re browsing a renovation blog, and come across a light fixture you love, hover over Visual Search to find one just like it online. This is just another way Microsoft Edge can help you stay organized, but also help you find inspiration so you can do more of what you love.

Follow and get updates about the content you love

So far, I’ve covered how you can collect, organize, share and get inspired – but that’s not all. On top of all the cool features we’ve told you about, starting this month we’re also rolling out the ability to follow your favorite content creators on websites like YouTube, Bilibili and TikTok. This will be limited to a few websites to start, and more sites will be added in the future. To start, first be sure you’re signed in with your Microsoft account and then go to the address bar and click follow. To see the sites you’ve followed, simply navigate to your Collections window on the right-hand side of your browser and click on the Follow tab to see the latest updates.


All of these upgrades to Collections will be available on the desktop version of Microsoft Edge. If you haven’t used Collections before, you can start using and enjoying the upgraded Collections now. If you have existing Collections, these updates will be rolling out to you over the next few months, so look out for an update prompt within your Collections pane. Once you click update, you’ll immediately be able to enjoy all of these great upgrades.

Thank you, as always, for reading. Please continue to send us your feedback as we work to create web experiences and tools that help you save time and get things done online, so you can do more of what you love.

[1] You can share your feedback from the browser window by going to … menu > Help and feedback > Send feedback.

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