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Organizations: Speed your Windows 10 development with new FastTrack guidance

Upgrading and updating complex technology environments is no small task. To support you through every step of your Windows 10 deployment, we made investments to help you assess compatibility, make informed decisions, and reduce cost and complexity. While most of you are well on your way to upgrading to Windows 10, we know there can be unforeseen challenges. We created FastTrack for Windows 10 deployment guidance to help.

Investments to help with your Windows 10 deployment journey

With Windows 7 end of support coming on January 14, 2020, we made investments to help you through every step of your journey to get and stay current with Windows 10.

To start, we built Windows 10 and Office 365 with compatibility as a core design principle, making investments across applications, add-ins, and macros in Windows 10 and Office 365 to ensure your environment continues to work as expected following an upgrade.

Tools like Windows Autopilot can help eliminate the cost and complexity associated with creating, maintaining, and loading custom images. Desktop Analytics (currently in public preview) provides intelligence to help you make informed decisions about the update readiness of your Windows clients. The Office Readiness Toolkit helps you assess compatibility as you make the move to Office 365 ProPlus. The Desktop App Assure program from Microsoft FastTrack provides dedicated engineering resources to help remediate any application compatibility issues you might have across Windows 10 and Office 365.

New FastTrack deployment guidance for Windows 10

Sometimes you have a complex scenario and aren’t even sure where to start, or you’ve encountered a problem that has your migration stalled. There are times when you need to talk to an expert to get guidance on where to go next. Today I’m happy to announce new FastTrack for Windows 10 deployment guidance to do just that.

With FastTrack, we help you to envision a technical plan, determine how to onboard and deploy new services and/or users, and work with you as you deploy to get the most value out of your technology investments. This assistance is available at no additional cost for those with 150 or more licenses of an eligible service or plan.

Learn more and get started

Microsoft 365—which includes Windows 10 and Office 365—provides the most secure productivity experience. We’re committed to working with you every step of the way. To learn more, watch our Microsoft Mechanics video and then sign in to to request assistance and get started.

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New Xbox Game Bar available on machines running Windows 10 May 2019 Update

At Xbox, we put gamers at the center of our vision – enabling them to play the games they want, with the people they want, and on the devices they want. As part of our efforts and commitment to improve the gaming experience on Windows 10, we want to bring PC players highly requested features based on their feedback. The first step in that is understanding how gamers engage on Windows and making the features and experiences they want easier to access, including social, music, performance and more. Today, we are excited to release a host of new features for PC gamers to the new Xbox Game Bar on machines running the updated versions of Windows 10.

Xbox Game Bar is the customizable gaming overlay built into Windows 10. Xbox Game Bar works with nearly all PC games, giving you instant access to widgets for screen capture and sharing, controlling your music, finding new teammates with Looking for Group (LFG), and chatting with Xbox friends across Xbox console, mobile, and PC—all without leaving your game. You can access these new features by pressing the Windows key and the “G” key at the same time – “Win+G” – to bring up the Xbox Game Bar when playing nearly all PC games or choose your own custom keyboard shortcut.

Here’s a detailed rundown of all the features in Xbox Game Bar:

Like many of you, we believe music is a very important part of the gaming experience. Now you can easily control music and podcasts on Spotify from the Spotify widget in the Xbox Game Bar, including favoriting, shuffling and selecting playlists recommended for you by Spotify. You’ll need the Spotify app for Windows installed to take advantage of this new feature, so be sure to get it from the Microsoft Store or

You can get started in three simple steps:

  1. Press Win+G to bring up Xbox Game Bar
  2. Click on Spotify in the widgets menu
  3. Sign into your Spotify account

Want to tweak the volume of that song you just started listening to? Pull up the audio widget in Xbox Game Bar to change volume settings across apps quickly and easily without having to alt-tab out of your game.

Friends, Chat, Mixer, and Looking for Group (LFG)
The social features in Xbox Game Bar allow you to have conversations with friends who play on PC, Xbox One, and mobile, as well as watch their Mixer streams and send them your creations instantly. Players can use the Looking for Group (LFG) feature on Xbox Game Bar to find new teammates or a raid party with a common play style, all without using a third-party site. Gamers can chat with their friends, using voice or text, in Xbox Game Bar across Xbox One, mobile apps, and PC. Conversations are synced on all Xbox apps, so keep chatting after the game to share memes and coordinate your next session.

Press Win+G at any time to bring up Xbox Game Bar, send a quick message, and get back into the action without taking your eyes off the game.

Broadcast & Capture
Back in December, we promised to make it simple to capture your epic gaming moments. Currently, you can easily capture and view your gameplay screenshots, then share directly to Twitter without leaving your game.

With today’s update, you can take this a step further by turning your captured screenshots into memes. During your game, hit Win+G to call up Xbox Game Bar, open the Broadcast & capture widget in the widgets menu, and take a screenshot. Use the Captures widget to add overlay text to your screenshot and make a meme, which you can share with your friends via a message or with the world via Twitter.

Customizable UI
We recognize that customization is central to a rich gaming experience on PC. You can customize Xbox Game Bar to make the overlay your own. You can choose which widgets to show/hide, where you want them located, and pin specific widgets to be always visible. Build your own favorite Xbox Game Bar layout based on the way you prefer to play to enhance your gaming experience.

Here at Xbox, we are a passionate team of gamers who are inspired to continue improving the gaming experience on Windows 10. We’re in the early stages of our journey and the updated Xbox Game Bar experience is just the beginning. As always, your feedback is important to us and our partners as we continue to evolve Xbox Game Bar. So please share your ideas at the Xbox Idea Hub.

And last, but not the least, a huge thank you to all our Insiders for helping us improve the Windows 10 gaming experience!

P.S.: There are a small set of games that Xbox Game Bar may not work over (e.g. games built using the Vulkan API). For these games, you may need to run the game in windowed mode in order for Xbox Game Bar to display.

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Simple tool in Windows 10 helps you create quick surveys and quizzes

Your family has a weekend free and you’re trying to figure out what to do during that precious time together. But instead of asking each person individually or using social media, it might be easier – and more efficient – to gauge the group’s preferences through a survey or a quiz.

Now you can easily create either or both with Microsoft Forms, a simple, lightweight tool.

Since Forms was released for education and commercial organizations, millions have used it. And now consumers can use Forms Public Preview to create, run and analyze results from surveys and quizzes.

Simply share a link or QR code, and your friends and family can access your form from virtually anywhere, on any device and at any time. With real-time responses and automatically generated charts, Forms makes it easy for creators to quickly understand the results and take the right next step.

Check it out in action:

Gif shows how to plan a Weekend Adventure using Microsoft Forms, using prompts for questions

To get started, sign in using a free Microsoft Account.

If you like this, check out more Windows 10 Tips and the Windows 10 October 2018 Update.

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Empowering a new era of personal productivity with new Surface devices

Latest Surface devices

Today we shared our vision for a new era of personal productivity; unveiled Surface Pro 6, Surface Laptop 2, Surface Studio 2 and Surface Headphones, and announced availability of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update and new Office 365 experiences.

As we work to deliver on our company mission of empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more, we have increased our focus on helping people across their work and personal lives. Offering tools for whole life experiences has never been more important as many of us are living a digital lifestyle that presents more opportunities, yet more demands on our time, than ever before.

Whether you are juggling a career and family; running a family as head of household; or growing your career or education, you tell us your greatest need is simply more time and the tools to do what matters most to you.

Our Digital Lifestyle

The explosion of innovation over the last decade has fundamentally changed the way we live our lives. More than ever before we move fluidly between our work and personal lives as technology is always with us. This shift in lifestyle is centered around three key dynamics:

  • There is a blurring of work and life leading to a feeling of being “always on.” Technology has enabled us to be constantly performing work or personal tasks anytime, anywhere, and with all of the benefits that brings, many of us are unable to find the right balance.
  • The constant battle for our attention is making it hard to focus and is challenging our ability to be productive. Many of us check our phones between 150-1,000 times – each day, spending 3-6 hours daily on screens. And some of the apps and services we use are designed to capture our attention and mine our personal data – ultimately taking our time, versus giving us time back.
  • Finally, there is an increasing desire for meaning and purpose in our work and lives. All around us we are seeing a redefinition of success. Many of us are viewing our careers less as a ladder and more as a lattice, where we can grow from new experiences, and pursue multiple passions. We see these today in the rise of the side hustle, the gig economy, and the success of companies that focus on giving back.

Empowering a New Era of Personal Productivity

We believe Microsoft can uniquely help you manage this digital lifestyle by delivering technology that empowers you rather than overwhelms. We are centering on our area of strength and passion to empower a new era of personal productivity in every aspect of your lives. Not just at work, but also in how you live, learn, and play. We will help you make the most of your time, with experiences that help you across your whole life and across all of your devices. This journey begins today with announcements across five areas.

  1. Surface is the purest expression of our entire Microsoft experience and is designed to work across your whole life, keeping you in the flow so you can be productive. Today we announced new Surface devices that continue to push the boundaries on technology that fades into the background, enabling you to focus on what’s important. New additions to the Surface portfolio include: Surface Pro 6, Surface Laptop 2, Surface Studio 2, Surface Headphones, and a new way to purchase Surface devices with Surface All Access.
  2. In today’s multi-device world, you should be able to pick the phone you want, the laptop you want and have best of breed. With features like the Your Phone App and Windows Timeline, we will help you move seamlessly across all your devices and bridge the gap between your iOS and Android devices and your PC. No matter where you are, what device you are using, or where your content lives, you should always be ready to be productive.
  3. Because nothing is more valuable than your time, we will help you organize your whole life using our unique strength with Outlook and calendar, and our understanding of your time spent at work. For example, today, we are integrating To-Do’s with Skype and to help you manage your time better than ever before.
  1. Peace of mind can be as simple as the security of your data and identity, to being fully present at the dinner table with your family, free of distraction. We will leverage our enterprise-class Intelligent Security Graph and machine learning to help ensure the security of your identity, your data, and the people that matter most with features like Family Safety in Microsoft Launcher.
  1. Finally, we will enable you to unlock your creativity. Life is not a solo act, and our best moments are when we create and collaborate with others. In a world dominated by consumption, we will utilize the power of everyday AI, the innovations in our devices such as the Surface Pen and Dial, and Office 365 features like Inking in PowerPoint and Word, Embedded 3D Animations, as well as our collaboration tools to unlock your creativity in completely new ways.

These experiences are enabled by new innovations in Office 365 and the Windows 10 October 2018 Update which is available today.

With the new Surface devices, Windows 10 and Office 365, we are beginning our journey to empower you in this new era of personal productivity. We recognize our incredible opportunity and responsibility as a technology company to help you make the most of your digital lifestyle. We’re just getting started, but you can expect to see more as we focus on meeting your needs across your whole life and engaging in responsible product making that has inclusivity and empowerment at the core.

For more information on the story behind how we make great products, please read this blog from the Chief Product Officer, Panos Panay.


Surface Product Announcements:
Surface Pro 6
The iconic form factor that established the 2 in 1 category, is now 67 percent faster with Intel 8th Gen Quad Core processors and available in an elegant Black color option. Offering the ultimate in portable mobility for today’s digital lifestyle, Surface Pro 6 offers hassle-free connectivity, uncompromising mobility, and exceptional power and performance. Surface Pro 6 offers all-day battery for up to 13.5 hours [1] of work, fun or both. The full friction hinge enables seamless transitions between Laptop Mode, Studio Mode, and Tablet Mode for the versatility you need to create and be productive from anywhere. The 12.3” PixelSense Display and multi-screen docking present content beautifully and Surface Pro 6 now includes a 8.0 MP auto-focus camera. You can pre-order your Surface Pro 6 beginning on Oct. 2, starting at $899[2].

Surface Laptop 2
Surface Laptop offers style and speed in a slim, elegant, ultra-light, fast-charging laptop that fits easily in your bag. Beautifully designed and crafted, Surface Laptop offers the blend of texture, subtle details, and clean, elegant lines—plus the luxurious touch of our Signature Alcantara material-covered keyboard. Announced today, Black joins the rich tone-on-tone color combinations of Platinum, Burgundy and Cobalt Blue. And Surface Laptop 2 gets supercharged with Intel 8th Gen Quad Core Processor, while offering up to 14.5 hours of battery life [3] and faster and quieter typing. The 13.5” PixelSense Display screen offers an immersive touchscreen for faster, more natural navigation, with an edge-to-edge display and ultra-thin bezels. Surface Laptop 2 includes OmniSonic speakers for premium sound.

Surface Laptop 2 will be available to pre-order beginning on Oct. 2, starting at $999[4].

Surface Studio 2
Surface Studio was widely regarded as an innovator and category creating device. Designed for creativity, Surface Studio lets you turn your desk into the ultimate creative studio. With 50% more graphics performance, Surface Studio 2 is the fastest Surface ever made offering professional grade power and performance. The 28” Brilliant PixelSense Display is stunning and adjustable offering a brilliant screen, or huge canvas, for your ideas. Now offering USB-C support and Xbox Wireless built in gaming-class performance, Surface Studio 2 includes the latest Surface Pen with tilt sensibility and 4096 levels of pressure. Of course, Surface Studio 2 offers Surface Dial [5]  integration and rich Ink experiences with a wide variety of software, including Office[6]. Surface Studio 2 will be available to pre-order beginning on Oct. 2nd, starting at $3,499[7].

Surface Headphones
Microsoft’s first premium and smart headphone experience offer the attributes you have come to expect from Surface: premium design, expert craftmanship, and integration with the services and experiences you love. Surface Headphones offer a smarter way to listen, with spectacular rich audio and hands-free calling. Surface Headphones make it easy to block out the world to get more done with adjustable noise cancellation, so you can focus on your task or just relax with your favorite music. With automatic pause and play, they will even pause the movie or video you are watching when you remove them from your ears. Cortana, a hands-free digital assistant, is built in to offer you proactive guidance, read you emails, or kick off your conference call. Surface Headphones are $349[8] and will be available later this year.

Surface All Access
One way we can support the digital lifestyle is by making it easier to purchase and use the best of Microsoft across work and life. Surface All Access offers the option of paying monthly for the Surface product of your choice, starting at just $24.99 per month for 24 months^, complete with an Office 365 subscription, access to in-store training and top-tier support. Surface All Access is available at Microsoft retail stores in the U.S.

Windows 10 & Office 365 Announcements:
Your Phone App
Pausing a task on your PC to respond to a text or notification on your phone can instantly break focus and take you out of your flow. The Your Phone App brings instant access to your texts and photos from your Android phone right on your PC, enabling you to stay productive and maintain your focus.
Windows Timeline on Phone
As we move fluidly throughout our day switching between work and personal tasks on our PCs and phones, it has become more challenging to find files and documents or web pages across our devices. Windows Timeline has been available on your Windows 10 PC since April, and we have now brought it to your iPhone or Android phone, enabling you to scroll back in time and find the files and websites you were using across your devices.

To-Do Integration with & Skype
It’s simple to make a long list of To-Do’s, but much more challenging to actually make time to complete each task. With To-Do integrated with, you can easily drag a task into an open slot on your calendar and block time to complete it. If you receive an email that has a task associated with it, you can even drag that into To-Do to automatically create a new task, keeping you organized and in flow.

In Skype, just select the message and tap “Create a task” to open the tasks pane. From here, you can add, edit, and check off tasks. Tasks will be saved and available in Skype, or in the To-Do app.
Family Safety for Microsoft Launcher
With Microsoft Launcher installed on your family’s Android devices and a Microsoft family group of accounts set up, parents can stay up to date on their kids’ location and rest easier knowing they are safely where they should be. Parents can also check in on kids’ app activity on their Android device, including which apps are accessed and time spent on each app. With Xbox One or a Windows 10 PC set up in your family portal, you can also view their activities on those devices through Microsoft Launcher.
Inking in PowerPoint
We’ve been infusing Microsoft Office[9] with AI with two goals in mind: to make everyday tasks easier and your content more beautiful. With today’s updates we’re making it easy to create and ideate using just your digital pen and your touch enabled device:

  • An inked bulleted list will transform into perfectly formatted text.
  • If you’re inking a flow chart or diagram, you can draw both words and shapes, and PowerPoint will convert them into text and snapped shapes in one fell swoop.
  • Or, you can let our intelligent design engine do the work for you. Simply start with a blank canvas, design your slide using ink, and Designer will use AI to recommend slides for you to choose from.

Inking in Word

With new intelligent functionality in Ink Editor, you can add a word, split words or add new lines to your document without touching a keyboard. Now, you can edit a Word document from start to finish using your digital pen and your touch enabled device.
Embedded 3D Animations
In PowerPoint and Word, dynamically animated movements are now built into 3D objects, making it effortless to use 3D and animation to bring your projects to life.

[1] Up to 13.5 hours of video playback. Battery life varies significantly with settings, usage and other factors.

[2] Estimated retail price; actual retail prices may vary.

[3] Up to 14.5 hours of video playback. Battery life varies significantly with settings, usage and other factors.

[4] Estimated retail price; actual retail prices may vary.

[5] Sold separately.

[6] Sold separately.

[7] Estimated retail price; actual retail prices may vary.

[8] Estimated retail price; actual retail prices may vary.

[9] Sold separately.

Updated October 2, 2018 3:08 pm

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Windows 10 Tip: Set up Windows Hello from your lock screen

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Why creative director Matthew Bennett designs sound “with silence in mind”

Dan Richmanwritten by

Dan Richman

How Microsoft is cutting through the noise to create a more useful, beautiful ‘sound world’

You might never have thought about the sounds your computer emits when an email arrives, your battery runs low or a meeting reminder pops up on your screen. Matthew Bennett has. A lot.

Bennett personally composed, performed and digitally manipulated more than 400 versions of the Windows 10 calendar alert sound before choosing the perfect one.

“That’s just how long it took to get it right,” Bennett said with a shrug during a recent visit to his Redmond, Washington sound studio. The ambiently lit, sound-damped room features a mixer, multiple high-end studio monitors and large LCD screens, and, front and center, a multi-octave synthesizer keyboard.

As audio creative director for a large portfolio of Microsoft software and devices, Bennett has played a key role in the company’s sound design for 15 years. He has strong opinions and well-developed philosophies about sound, as well as a highly specialized vocabulary to discuss it.


Video: How I composed the Windows 10 calendar alert

Summarizing his role, he reflected, “Our responsibility to customers is, first, do no harm – no annoying audio! Second, make it functional, and third, make it beautiful. Beauty and function go hand in hand. The more beautiful the design, the better it will support the experiences we’re creating.”

The Windows 10 family of sounds took many months to perfect, as he collaborated closely with key members of his team, including visual designers, researchers, project managers and engineers. “We iterate a lot to be sure every sound is just right,” he said.

A composer of classical and improvised music who has done extensive research on non-Western music cultures, Bennett carried out Ph.D. work in ethnomusicology (the anthropology of music) at the University of Washington, before leaving the program to accept his first full-time position at Microsoft. After a five-year stint, he struck out to form his own agency, and for the next decade devoted himself to creating scores for film and television, as well as brand sound design for Fortune 500 companies. But he eventually became dissatisfied with the music he was creating.

Seeking new inspiration, he quit composing to study medieval chant and the musical cultures of West Africa, India, the Middle East and Indonesia. When he gradually resumed composing, his goal was to create a personal musical language – “a sound world that I could live with,” as he describes it. These examples show the results.

Once back at Microsoft, Bennett dug in hard. Now his work can be heard not only throughout the Windows platform, but also in the Xbox operating system and products including Office, Surface, Cortana and Skype. Having a strong sound design philosophy and creative point of view at the center is intended to help unify the soundscape of Microsoft products, just as the company’s user-interface design principles attempt to create a company-wide visual and functional continuity among its products.

We want to orchestrate harmony across devices and senses.

Beyond that, Microsoft’s Fluent Sound and Sensory Design development environment seeks to influence sound design in the technology industry more broadly.

“We use sound to shape the rhythm and emotional texture of the user experience,” Bennett said. “Sound is an element that’s integrated with other sensory experiences like touch, texture and movement. We’re shifting the way we think about sound design at Microsoft, and hopefully the industry at large. Our goal is to help orchestrate harmony across devices and senses.”

Rick Senechal, a Microsoft media solutions architect, has worked with Bennett for 20 years. Senechal directs a worldwide music service for company teams and agencies. Each year the service provides 4,000 songs for events, videos, podcasts and products.

Bennett takes his time and is extremely deliberate, Senechal said.

“Matthew is the most focused person I’ve ever worked with,” he said. “He takes a long, in-depth view of his craft and really thinks things through. He’s not just making sounds and saying, ‘Oh, that sounds good.’ There’s a logic and intelligence behind the sounds and textures he creates.”

Bennett is quick to declare what Microsoft sounds are not.

There’s a logic and intelligence behind the sounds and textures he creates.

“We’re not sound effects, game sounds, generic sounds (beeps and bloops), novelty sounds (dogs and fog horns), futuristic sounds, wall-to-wall music or alarms,” he said. “Our product sounds are not live musicians or sampled bits of real instruments, like a piano or guitar or analog synthesizer, because those evoke specific musical styles and emotional memory, which is very subjective between individuals and across cultures. Those design approaches don’t make sense for the kinds of modern digital experiences our teams are creating. Our goal is to develop a sound design language that feels unique and authentic and deeply integrated with our products and devices.”

Sounds in older versions of Windows were quite different from those in Windows 10, Bennett noted. For one thing, there were a lot more of them. Triumphant sounds denoting a successful boot-up “aren’t necessary anymore,” he said. “We no longer need to celebrate the fact that our devices are turned on. That’s something we can take for granted at this point.”

Many modern product sounds tend to be shorter. Earlier sounds, such as the shutdown signal in Windows NT Workstation 4.0 (1996), lasted 8 seconds – interminable by today’s standards, which call for less intrusive sounds measured in milliseconds (1/1,000 of a second). And, like start-up sounds, shut-down sounds are a thing of the past, deemed just another needless contributor to tech-induced noise pollution.

The start-up sound in Windows NT Workstation 5 (2000), nearly 12 seconds long, sounded like a squadron of fighter jets taking off, followed by twinkling marimbas. Today’s sounds are “more deeply integrated with the product and as calm, quiet and non-intrusive as possible,” Bennett said.

Gone are sounds that specialists call skeuomorphic – those that replicate their real-world counterparts, like a piece of paper being crumpled up when a document is deleted or the clacking of 19th century, mechanical typewriter keys denoting on-screen keystrokes.

Matthew Bennett at Microsoft Production Studios with audio engineer Dan Charette.

Matthew Bennett at Microsoft Production Studios with audio engineer Dan Charette.

“In earlier stages, those sounds helped people get familiar with technology, but we don’t need them anymore. They no longer add to the experience, and they tend to feel more like clutter now,” Bennett said. “For many years now, the visual design world has been reducing clutter and using more space,” he observed. “Now sound is starting doing the same.”

Windows 7 had about 40 sounds. Windows 10 has about eight, though legacy sounds are included with the OS to ensure backwards compatibility, he said. “When I started, there were seven different system error sounds. They had accrued over years and no one knew what they meant. There were no clear guidelines for partners or for ourselves. We got rid of the whole set and replaced them with two much more focused sounds – one gentle background notification and another more urgent sound.”

One design technique Bennett has developed involves the extensive recording and comparison of vocal contours – the melodic and rhythmic aspects of speech – from many different languages, to identify universal patterns that can help create a sound design language. For example, a statement that means “Ready to go?” can have a very similar pitch pattern when spoken in English, French, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish or Russian. It’s basically “up, down, and a small leap,” he says.

Bennett took that particular vocal contour and replicated it musically, so that it can be heard underlying the 2.5-second Windows 10 calendar alert prompt. This technique has shaped the entire set of Windows 10 sounds. “The language contours are deeply integrated, not intended to be heard literally, or consciously,” he said. “They should just be felt intuitively to create an emotional connection that feels natural, instinctive.”

Bennett believes the best operating system sounds should be deeply integrated with the events they support. For example, texting is more time-sensitive than emailing, so the Windows 10 text messaging sound “pulls you forward a bit and is a little more alertful,” he said. For a new email, “you still want to know something’s come in, but the sound pulls back a bit. It’s a little more relaxed.”

Does he call his creations “music”?

We design sound with silence in mind.

“In the broadest sense, yes. I would describe them as paramusical,” he said. “They utilize musical elements – rhythm, melody and harmony – to make sounds that feel beautiful, but they should never call attention to themselves as a piece of music,” he said.

Musical concepts certainly play a major role in Bennett’s design thinking.

“The error-message tone uses a minor 9th interval, which is definitely a little dissonant and says, ‘You really need to pay attention to this,'” he said.

While more tech companies are now employing audio directors like Bennett, “as a discipline, sound design still lags a little behind hardware and visual design,” he said. “We traditionally haven’t been deeply integrated into product design teams, aside from games. Microsoft was one of the first companies to realize the value of embedding sound designers with product teams.”

In addition to influencing Microsoft and technology design more broadly, Bennett thinks the discipline of sound design has an obligation to the world at large. The New York Times, in a Feb. 9, 2018 story, noted the cacophony produced by today’s ubiquitous electronic devices, asserting that “bombastic, attention-grabbing inorganic noises are become the norm [and] disruptive sonic alerts trigger Pavlovian feedback.”

Bennett hears that.

Matthew Bennett playing piano.

“There are so many device sounds in our environment now. Windows sounds alone are heard hundreds of millions of times a day around the world,” he said. “That’s a lot of sound affecting a lot of lives. Even if they are relatively short, every sound has an emotional impact, whether we’re aware of it or not. We have a responsibility to approach this as a system and to help create an audio ecology that supports healthy relationships between people and technology.”

The World Health Organization has recognized that unexpected loud sounds can cause stress and anxiety which are detrimental to public health, and that unnecessary sounds and excessive volume are just another form of pollution.

“In a rainforest, there’s an incredible amount of information being communicated through sound, with many layers in motion simultaneously – birds, insects, trees, plants, water and wind. And it’s all very intelligible because the acoustic design of a rainforest has evolved to be naturally orchestrated, with a deep harmony that let’s all the layers breathe and function together. That’s a powerful metaphor for how we should be designing sound.”

Toward the end of our conversation, I made a confession to Matthew: I haven’t operated my Windows computer with the sounds turned on since, oh, about 1990. I found them unnecessary and even irritating.

I asked him what I’d been missing – whether there is some subtle aspect of the OS that is being lost on me.

He answered, “The right sounds at the right time, can support a more efficient and more pleasant user experience. They can convey important information and improve the rhythm and flow of attention, which is really our most important resource. They can convey crucial information when we’re away from a screen. They can improve the way our technology feels. We want people to know it’s OK to turn your sounds back on. Our modern approach to sound design is deeply respectful. We’re not going to boot up loudly in a meeting or in the library, we’re not going to disturb the people around you. It’s not going to be random noise. It’s going to be a small set of beautiful sounds that are carefully curated to communicate important information very efficiently and to sit well in your environment.”

A Gentle Reminder

Matthew Bennett on creating the Windows 10 calendar alert sound

A lot of people feel anxiety over their calendar sounds, because it means there’s something they have to do. Some of them say it’s like responding to fire alarms all day. We needed something that was alertful but not anxiety-producing. And we wanted to get the right amount of optimism and energy, pulling the user forward to their next activity, but with the feeling of a calm, supportive friend.

This sound is meant to be heard at lower volumes and to be more felt than heard. It has a beginning, middle and end. If you listen closely, you’ll hear that it’s a rhythm of seven equal pulses. It starts low and slow, with three pulses that are designed to be felt more than heard. And it lasts a long time for a user-interface sound – 2.5 seconds – but at normal volume you only really hear part of the sound because those first three tones are so soft. They’re like a breath, a musical pick-up, to let you know something is about to happen. Then the volume swells a bit, it blooms, to make the middle section more audible. And at the end there’s a long reverb tail, falling off, that feels very transparent and light but can also improve audibility in certain loud contexts or when users are away from their device.

Windows calendar alert animation.

So it’s long sound, but very open. It’s definitely not alarming. It feels lightweight and pleasant and has a nice emotional texture.

There’s also a subtle left-to-right movement in the sound field that you can hear through headphones or decent speakers, like those on a good laptop to tablet.

There are foreground and background layers baked into the finished sound. The foreground is digitally sculpted plucks and tuned percussion. The textures sound familiar but they aren’t real-world instruments.

There’s a triplet feel to this sound and to a lot of the others in Windows 10. Over the years, the sounds that usually feel the most fluid, and that can balance the right qualities of energy and calmness, have tended to be resolved to an underlying triplet rhythm. So that pulse, that rhythmic substructure, has become part of our DNA.

We want to sound organic, and integral. That means we definitely don’t want the sounds to feel like they’ve been programmed on a computer. But we also don’t want to sound like a human being performing a little piece of music inside your device. So we resolve to a subtle temporal grid, to feel a little machine-like, while still keeping a little soulfulness.

Originally published on 8/28/2018 / Photos by Brian Smale / © Microsoft
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Windows 10 Tip: Find out how to get HDR video on your PC

When you’re watching high dynamic range (HDR) video on your PC, colors are more vivid. You find more details in the darkest and brightest parts of a scene, such as dimly lit rooms or a blazing fire. You notice more contrast, with a pronounced difference between lights and shadows.

To see how HDR video compares to traditional content (SDR), look at the images below. The SDR version, in general, is more flat and washed out. With an actual video on an HDR-capable PC, the difference is like night and day – literally. 

Still of an HDR video showing a man with a a snowboard and a backpack walking toward a sunset

HDR video still

Still of an HDR video showing a man with a a snowboard and a backpack walking toward a sunset

SDR video still

Simulation of HDR content vs. SDR content 

Windows HD Color is a set of features bringing HDR content to Windows PCs. Our team works hard to improve the quality of every pixel on your display, including better colors and more vivid scenes. The goal is to help you get ultra-realistic movie, gaming and creative experiences in Windows 10.  

To enjoy HDR video, you need the right content, hardware and software. As more HDR hardware and content come to market, we’re committed to giving you the best HDR experiences. 

Gif shows moving from Settings to Apps to Video Playback to turn on Stream HDR Video

In settings, you’ll be able to choose “Stream HDR Video” in the Video Playback if your display supports HDR video

HDR is a dramatic improvement over traditional SDR (standard dynamic range) content in two ways: light and color.  

When it comes to light, HDR video takes advantage of new hardware that can show much higher contrast between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks on your screen. HDR video encodes additional information into your content (and allows for a much higher peak brightness) so you can see much more detail across the entire spectrum of display capabilities. For example, in a single frame of HDR video, the sun will appear distinctly brighter, details on the brightest surfaces will be sharper, and the darkest shadows will appear with terrific detail.  

With respect to color, HDR video also improves over traditional content in two ways. First, it typically uses wider color gamut (WCG) when encoding information, meaning that it shows a wider range of colors compared to traditional SDR content. This results in, for example, increasingly saturated hues of color. Second, color is more precise with HDR. This is because it can represent many more unique shades even within the same range of color. On new HDR-capable hardware, these two color-related improvements result in much deeper and more vivid reds, greens, and blues, and allows for more gradations of color in-between.  

How can I get HDR video? 

With Windows HD Color, our goal is to make HDR video look as good as possible using the fullest extent of your PC’s capabilities. Since fully HDR-capable, built-in displays aren’t on laptops today, our efforts are focused on:  

1. Playing HDR video on external HDR10 displays 

In the Windows 10 Fall Creators update, Windows supports external HDR TVs and monitors. Among other features, this allows Windows to consume HDR video and show full HDR quality (i.e., HDR features described above like higher peak brightness, wider color gamut, and more accurate color). You will also need a modern graphics card and updated drivers.  

To get HDR, go to Settings > System > Display, and turn on “HDR and WCG.”

Screenshot of the display setting for HDR-capable external monitor

Display settings for HDR-capable external monitor

For more info on HDR on external monitors, see Display requirements for HDR video in Windows 10 

2. Improving video on current generation built-in displays (i.e., laptops)  

Currently, most laptop displays don’t truly support HDR content, particularly when it comes to color (they do not have wider color gamuts nor higher color precision). Nevertheless, medium- to high-end models tend to have bright screens. We can combine these bright screens with the expanded range of brightness information available in HDR video formats so that Windows plays HDR video at its best for that display. 

Playback quality of HDR content on these devices is noticeably better than the SDR version of the same content. This is particularly apparent in scenes where movie creators have mastered their content to fully exploit new HDR technologies. 

While this update for built-in displays focused on the better brightness of HDR content, in the future we are working on bringing you better color.  

Only devices that meet certain hardware requirements will be capable of playing HDR video.  


Does my Windows device support HDR? 

See our help articles Display requirements for HDR video in Windows 10 and Stream HDR video on Windows 10   

How can I set up my laptop display for HDR video? 

See our help article Calibrate your built-in display for HDR content in Windows 10 

What HDR content can I watch? 

There is a lot of free HDR content available online. You can find some good examples if you open Microsoft Edge on your Windows 10 PC, go to YouTube, and then search for “HDR.” 

Netflix has HDR content as well, but you need to be on the “Premium” tier plan to have access. If you are on this plan, either download the Netflix app from the Store or go to in Microsoft Edge and search for “HDR.” Check out “Chef’s Table: France.” 

(Side effects of this last show in HDR include uncontrollable hunger and impulse-purchase plane tickets to Paris.) 

We are working with other content providers to expand the scope of HDR content on Windows. 

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Windows 10 Tip: Use Paint 3D to edit your snips

If you use the Snipping Tool and like to mark up your snips when you share them, now there are more ways to liven them up, thanks to the Windows 10 April 2018 Update.

With the new “edit in Paint 3D” button built into the Snipping Tool, you can take your snips to the next level. Move (or remove) objects with Magic select, augment and annotate with realistic brushes, bring in 3D objects from Remix 3D and more.

For example, someone could snip a chart from Excel, load it into Paint 3D, then add a text box to give a title to this new creation and a 3D model to make it feel different and more compelling.

Check it out in action:

A 3D bike drag and dropped onto a chart to show Paint 3D in action in a snip

Drag and drop a 3D image into your snip

If you like this, check out more Windows 10 Tips.

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Windows 10 Tip: Find out all you can do with improved Game bar

Good news for PC gamers: The Windows 10 April 2018 Update delivered a makeover to the Game bar so it’s even easier to find what you’re looking for.

New buttons on the Game bar provide easy access to your captures, themes (dark, light, or your current Windows theme) and the time (thanks to a new clock).

You can also use the bar to toggle your microphone and camera, start a Mixer stream without any extra hardware or software, and edit the title of your Mixer stream.

Check out the improved Game bar:

The improved Game bar shows up on the screen of a game

If you like this, check out more Windows 10 Tips.

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Find out how easy it is to make videos in Microsoft Photos

When Alex Thomopoulos says “Get down, rise up,” she’s asking you what you’re passionate about and what makes you get up every day to pursue it. It’s a motto she reinforces as a Burton Girls Ambassador. The program encourages strength, independence and creativity for young women.

Food is one thing that makes Thomopoulos get down and rise up.

As a chef and entrepreneur, Thomopoulos can tell you how to make a gluten-free Meyer lemon cake, but she admits making videos that will take her business to the next level is not her forte.

“I know how to cook, but I don’t understand technology at all,” she says.

Fortunately, she gets help from Ashlie Little, a Microsoft product specialist, who shows Thomopoulos how to use the Microsoft Photos app in Windows 10 to edit existing video clips and still images into a movie that’s ready to share on social media.

Check out the tutorial, which goes over importing photos and videos; as well as adjusting lighting and cropping; syncing music; and adding text (recipe instructions and ingredients), filters and 3D effects.