Microsoft 365: If your writing’s clunky, Word Rewrite now suggests whole new sentences

Microsoft rolls out a new AI feature for Word on the web – and republishes Notepad on the Microsoft Store.

Microsoft has rolled out a new AI-powered feature for Word on the web that suggests improvements to whole sentences.

The updated Rewrite Suggestions in Word aims to help users rephrase clumsy sentences with clearer expressions that still reflect what the author intended to say.

Microsoft announced the feature at its 2019 Build conference last May but it was limited to suggesting new phrases, whereas the updated feature provides larger sentence-level suggestions. 

The company boasts that the suggestions feature is powered by “cutting-edge, neural-network, machine learning models, which are trained on millions of sentences”.

To have this AI transform a sentence, the user needs to highlight the problematic sentence and then select Rewrite Suggestions in the context menu.

Word will then display a rewrite suggestion card near the selected sentence with three suggestion types that Word considers will improve the flow of the wording, make a phrase more concise, and improve readability with shorter, simpler wording.

The suggested changes in each case are highlighted in purple. However, if a sentence is good enough, there might not be a suggestion from Word.

The updated Rewrite Suggestions is available for Word on the web, but it requires a Microsoft 365 or Office 365 subscription.

The availability follows Microsoft’s announcement in March of its AI-powered Editor service for Word and Outlook. The company also released its Editor extension on the Chrome Web Store for Chrome and Chromium-based Microsoft Edge. The extension promises to fix up sentences anywhere in web mail and on social networks.

Separately, Microsoft’s popular Notepad has re-emerged on the Microsoft Store after Microsoft yanked it in December without an explanation. Now it’s back on the Microsoft Store, again without explanation.        

In August, Microsoft explained that Notepad was a “well-loved text editor in Windows for over 30 years” and wanted to make it store-updatable so that it could respond to issues and feedback outside the Windows release cycle.   

give-feedback-in-suggestions.png

Word displays a rewrite suggestion card near the selected sentence with three suggestion types.

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Microsoft Warns Of Trickbot Malware That Preys On Public COVID-19 Fears

Hacker

You would have a better chance of finding a needle in a haystack that is a mile high, than scruples in a malware author that targets victims during a pandemic. The current virus outbreak is no exception. According to Microsoft, a piece of malware masquerading as an informational document from a non-profit offering free COVID-19 testing is making the rounds in a big way.

It’s called “Trickbot” and it is “the most prolific malware operation using COVID-19 themed lures,” based on Microsoft’s Office 365 ATP data, the company stated on Twitter.

“This week’s campaign uses several hundreds of unique macro-laced document attachments in emails that pose as message[s] from a non-profit offering free COVID-19 test[ing].,” Microsoft’s Security Intelligence division tweeted.

Similar to other recent Trickbot campaigns, if a victim is duped into opening the malicious attachment, it initiates a macro that runs a file called choice.exe, which prompts the PC to wait 20 seconds before downloading a payload designed to steal a user’s data. This kind of delay is intended to evade emulation and/or sandbox analysis, Microsoft says.

“Microsoft Threat Protection shields customers from this and other COVID-19 themed campaigns. Office 365 ATP’s detonation technology detects the numerous attachments, and this signal is shared to Microsoft Defender ATP to block the files on endpoints,” Microsoft added.

Trickbot malware can be gateways to installing all kinds of payloads, including viruses, keyloggers, ransomware, and so forth. This latest iteration is essentially a phishing campaign. That’s not surprising—there has been a massive rise in COVID-19 themed phishing scams, with Google saying it saw 18 million daily malware and phishing emails related to the virus in the last week alone.

Malware authors have also tried to spread their infections through Coronavirus tracking maps. It’s a scummy thing to do, but regardless, everyone should take an extra bit of caution during these times. Smart computing habits are your best bet, which include things like not downloading and opening unexpected email attachments, typing web addresses directly into your browser, and being wary of what and where you download files.

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Microsoft offers free Skype video chat as Zoom’s privacy nightmare continues

Skype Meet Now vs. Zoom

By Chris Smith @chris_writes

April 6th, 2020 at 6:50 AM

  • Skype’s Meet Now free video calling tool could be a great alternative to Zoom as the latter is scrambling to fix a slew of security and privacy issues.
  • Microsoft’s video conferencing app can be used without an account or app downloads and provides free, unlimited video calls.
  • Meet Now also supports video recording and screen sharing, features that can home in handy for work calls.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

If you’ve been working from in the past few weeks, the chances are that you attended at least one meeting via Zoom video call. Zoom rose rapidly to popularity during the COVID-19 crisis, as it’s an easy to use app that delivers a reliable video calling experience. You don’t need to be a pro at video chat apps to set it up and run it comfortably. However, with each day that went by, we heard of novel ways Zoom was endangering your privacy and security. Zoom has been sharing data with Facebook, exposed thousands of emails to strangers, and allowed access to private videos. Add to that the fact that Zoom isn’t end-to-end encrypted as you were lead to believe, and you’ve got the full picture of an app you should discard until the company fixes it for good. That’s where Microsoft’s Skype comes in, as the app now offers users a Zoom-like experience.


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Here’s why Microsoft Edge is now the world’s second most popular browser

a body of water with a mountain in the ocean: Microsoft Edge Chromium© Provided by TechRadar Microsoft Edge Chromium

Less than three months after leaving beta, Microsoft’s Chromium-based Edge browser has overtaken Firefox to become the second most popular web browser in the world, as reported by Bleeping Computer.

As of March 2020, Microsoft Edge holds 7.59% of the browser market according to NetMarketShare – a far cry from Google Chrome, which is far and away the most popular at 68.5%.

This finally puts Microsoft Edge ahead of Mozilla’s Firefox – previously Chrome’s biggest competitor but now in third place with just 7.19% of the browser audience.

Of course, Microsoft Edge’s numbers would likely be even higher if not for the 5.6% of users who are still using Internet Explorer 11, putting the ancient browser in fourth position ahead of Apple’s Safari browser, which holds just 3.62% of the market share.

  • a screenshot of a cell phone screen with text: (Image credit: NetMarketShare)© Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: NetMarketShare)

Why Microsoft Edge is gaining traction

While it helps that it’s automatically the default browser on every Windows 10 installation, it’s encouraging to see that true adoption of Microsoft Edge is really starting to take off.

For one, it proves that giving people what they want actually works – for years, Microsoft Edge was the browser I only ever used to download Chrome.

However, the fact that this version is based on Chromium means that sticking with Edge is no longer much of a leap in terms of day-to-day use.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons as to why people have started to flock to the new and improved Microsoft Edge.

Reasons to make the switch

Firstly, the Microsoft Edge add-ons store offers a wide variety of extensions which bring Microsoft Edge even closer to Google’s Chrome browser in terms of functionality.

Add to this the promise that users will soon be able to easily install extensions built for Chrome, and the decision to switch to Edge becomes even more compelling.

Another big reason is that it’s gotten a lot faster as of late, with recent benchmark results showing a 13 percent improvement in performance over previous beta versions of the app.

Then, there are the security benefits that come with using Microsoft Edge. A little over a month ago, it was announced that Edge will stop you downloading adware and cryptominers – an invaluable asset when it comes to protecting yourself against potentially unwanted applications (PUAs).

And, saving the best for last, Microsoft Edge will now finally let you ditch Bing for Google, meaning you can go back to using the world’s most popular search engine leave the ridiculous term “Bing it” in the past where it belongs.

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Microsoft’s Grammarly-killer Microsoft Editor is now available to download for Chrome and Edge


Last week Microsoft announced a new service called Microsoft Editor, an AI-powered writing assistant that takes on Grammarly. Microsoft Editor helps you write with confidence in 20+ languages. Since it is a browser add-on, it will help you whenever you are on the web, right from writing emails to posting your story on Facebook.

Microsoft Editor has two different tiers. The free edition includes basic features such as spelling and basic grammar across Word, Outlook.com and the web. But with Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscription, you can have advanced grammar and style refinements such as clarity, conciseness, formal language, vocabulary suggestions, and much more.

Some exclusive feature available for Microsoft 365 subscribers are listed below:

  • When you know what you want to say but can’t seem to find the “right” way to say it, just highlight a sentence and right-click for Rewrite Suggestions. Rewrite Suggestions in Word can offer ideas to help you rephrase sentences for more impact or clarity while staying true to your original meaning.
  • For the first time ever in Word, Editor’s similarity checker leverages plagiarism-checking capabilities to support writers in creating original content and, when necessary, insert relevant citations right into their document with just a click. This tool allows writers to focus less on the mechanics of writing and more on the content. And teachers love that similarity checker helps students learn how to appropriately cite content.
  • Additional style critiques including clarity, conciseness, formality, and inclusiveness assist Microsoft 365 subscribers to write with more confidence across documents, email, and the web. For example, the inclusive language critique can suggest refinements to help a writer avoid unintentional bias by suggesting a writer may want to try a term like “police officer” in place of “policeman.”

The extensions are now available in the various stores and you can now download the new Microsoft Editor add-on for Edge browser here and Chrome browser here.

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How to use URI commands to quickly locate settings pages in Windows 10

The Settings app menu of Microsoft Windows 10 contains dozens of configuration screens that allow users to make changes to how the operating system works. Under normal circumstances, navigating through the labyrinth of menus is efficient enough for the occasional configuration change, but there is another way.

a close up of a blue wall© MrIncredible/Getty Images


By combining the run dialog box and a specific set of commands known as Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI), users can skip a multitude of menu selections and corresponding mouse clicks to reach their configuration setting destination practically instantantly. The key is knowing the right Settings URI.

This how-to tutorial shows you how to combine the run dialog box and a list of available URIs to jump to specific configuration screens in Windows 10.

Use URI commands to quickly locate settings pages in Windows 10

The Settings app in Windows 10 is laid out as a series of categories and sections. Using the menu interface, users drill down until they find the page that contains the settings they are looking to change. Using the right URI, a user can skip the menu system completely and jump directly to the setting for which they are looking.

Note, for this example we are using the run dialog box, but the URI commands can also be entered into a command prompt or even the address bar, if it is active on your Windows 10 desktop.

To open the Settings main page, for example, press the keyboard combination Windows key + R to open the run dialog box and enter this URI: “ms-settings:” Ignore the quotes, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

a screenshot of a cell phone© Provided by TechRepublic

Pressing the Enter or clicking OK, will open the main Settings screen shown in Figure B.

Figure B

a screenshot of a cell phone© Provided by TechRepublic

The URI “ms-settings:” is the root for all the other setting URIs. Delving deeper into Settings will require the entry of a category and a section. For example, “ms-settings:printers will open the Printer configuration screen, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

a screenshot of a cell phone© Provided by TechRepublic

Table A provides a complete list of Windows 10 Settings URIs you can use as a reference. If you find yourself tweaking a specific setting over and over, it might save you some precious time to remember how to get to that particular configuration screen quickly, without wading through menus.

Table A

Settings page

Commands

Settings main page

ms-settings:

System

Display

ms-settings:display

Display -> Night light settings

ms-settings:nightlight

Sound

ms-settings:sound

Notifications & actions

ms-settings:notifications

Focus assist

ms-settings:quiethours

Power & sleep

ms-settings:powersleep

Battery

ms-settings:batterysaver

Battery -> Battery usage by app

ms-settings:batterysaver-usagedetails

Battery -> Battery saver settings

ms-settings:batterysaver-settings

Storage

ms-settings:storagesense

Storage -> Change where new content is saved

ms-settings:savelocations

Storage -> Change how we free up space

ms-settings:storagepolicies

Tablet mode

ms-settings:tabletmode

Multitasking

ms-settings:multitasking

Projecting to this PC

ms-settings:project

Shared experiences

ms-settings:crossdevice

Clipboard

ms-settings:clipboard

Remote Desktop

ms-settings:remotedesktop

About

ms-settings:about

Devices

Bluetooth & other devices

ms-settings:bluetooth

Printers & scanners

ms-settings:printers

Mouse

ms-settings:mousetouchpad

Touchpad

ms-settings:devices-touchpad

Typing

ms-settings:typing

Pen & Windows Ink

ms-settings:pen

AutoPlay

ms-settings:autoplay

USB

ms-settings:usb

Phone

Phone

ms-settings:mobile-devices

Network & internet

Status

ms-settings:network-status

Cellular & SIM

ms-settings:network-cellular

Wi-Fi

ms-settings:network-wifi

Wi-Fi -> Manage known networks

ms-settings:network-wifisettings

Wi-Fi calling

ms-settings:network-wificalling

Ethernet

ms-settings:network-ethernet

Dial-up

ms-settings:network-dialup

VPN

ms-settings:network-vpn

Airplane mode

ms-settings:network-airplanemode

Mobile hotspot

ms-settings:network-mobilehotspot

Data usage

ms-settings:datausage

Proxy

ms-settings:network-proxy

Personalization

Background

ms-settings:personalization-background

Colors

ms-settings:colors

Lock screen

ms-settings:lockscreen

Themes

ms-settings:themes

Fonts

ms-settings:fonts

Start

ms-settings:personalization-start

Taskbar

ms-settings:taskbar

Apps

Apps & features

ms-settings:appsfeatures

Apps & features -> Manage optional features

ms-settings:optionalfeatures

Default apps

ms-settings:defaultapps

Offline maps

ms-settings:maps

Apps for websites

ms-settings:appsforwebsites

Video playback

ms-settings:videoplayback

Startup

ms-settings:startupapps

Accounts

Your info

ms-settings:yourinfo

Email & app accounts

ms-settings:emailandaccounts

Sign-in options

ms-settings:signinoptions

Access work or school

ms-settings:workplace

Family & other people

ms-settings:otherusers

Sync your settings

ms-settings:sync

Time & language

Date & time

ms-settings:dateandtime

Region & language

ms-settings:regionlanguage

Speech

ms-settings:speech

Gaming

Game bar

ms-settings:gaming-gamebar

Game DVR

ms-settings:gaming-gamedvr

Broadcasting

ms-settings:gaming-broadcasting

Game Mode

ms-settings:gaming-gamemode

TruePlay

ms-settings:gaming-trueplay

Xbox networking

ms-settings:gaming-xboxnetworking

Ease of Access

Display

ms-settings:easeofaccess-display

Magnifier

ms-settings:easeofaccess-magnifier

Color filters

ms-settings:easeofaccess-colorfilter

High contrast

ms-settings:easeofaccess-highcontrast

Narrator

ms-settings:easeofaccess-narrator

Audio

ms-settings:easeofaccess-audio

Closed captions

ms-settings:easeofaccess-closedcaptioning

Speech

ms-settings:easeofaccess-speechrecognition

Keyboard

ms-settings:easeofaccess-keyboard

Mouse

ms-settings:easeofaccess-mouse

Eye control

ms-settings:easeofaccess-eyegaze

Other options

ms-settings:easeofaccess-otheroptions

Cortana

Talk to Cortana

ms-settings:cortana

Permissions & history

ms-settings:cortana-permissions

Notifications

ms-settings:cortana-notifications

More details

ms-settings:cortana-moredetails

Privacy

General

ms-settings:privacy-general

Speech, inking, & typing

ms-settings:privacy-speechtyping

Diagnostics & feedback

ms-settings:privacy-feedback

Activity History

ms-settings:privacy-activityhistory

Location

ms-settings:privacy-location

Camera

ms-settings:privacy-webcam

Microphone

ms-settings:privacy-microphone

Notifications

ms-settings:privacy-notifications

Account info

ms-settings:privacy-accountinfo

Contacts

ms-settings:privacy-contacts

Calendar

ms-settings:privacy-calendar

Call history

ms-settings:privacy-callhistory

Email

ms-settings:privacy-email

Tasks

ms-settings:privacy-tasks

Messaging

ms-settings:privacy-messaging

Radios

ms-settings:privacy-radios

Other devices

ms-settings:privacy-customdevices

Background apps

ms-settings:privacy-backgroundapps

App diagnostics

ms-settings:privacy-appdiagnostics

Automatic file downloads

ms-settings:privacy-automaticfiledownloads

Documents

ms-settings:privacy-documents

Pictures

ms-settings:privacy-pictures

Videos

ms-settings:privacy-videos

File system

ms-settings:privacy-broadfilesystemaccess

Update & security

Windows Update

ms-settings:windowsupdate

Windows Update -> Check for updates

ms-settings:windowsupdate-action

Windows Update -> Update history

ms-settings:windowsupdate-history

Windows Update -> Restart options

ms-settings:windowsupdate-restartoptions

Windows Update -> Advanced options

ms-settings:windowsupdate-options

Windows Security / Defender

ms-settings:windowsdefender

Backup

ms-settings:backup

Troubleshoot

ms-settings:troubleshoot

Recovery

ms-settings:recovery

Activation

ms-settings:activation

Find My Device

ms-settings:findmydevice

For developers

ms-settings:developers

Windows Insider Program

ms-settings:windowsinsider

Mixed reality

Audio and speech

ms-settings:holographic-audio

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Microsoft’s Office 365 is now Microsoft 365, a ‘subscription for your life’

There’s a subscription for almost anything these days. Streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN charge as little as $5 a month to access vast libraries of movies and TV shows. Apple and Google  ask for 99 cents a month to store your photos, documents and other data. Game consoles such as Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation offer hundreds of games for as low as $10 per month. And Amazon Prime , Instacart Express and Grubhub Plus charge up to $120 a year to deliver take-out, groceries and all sorts of goodies.

a sign on the side of a building: James Martin/CNET© Provided by CNET James Martin/CNET

Microsoft is betting there’s another subscription you’ll be willing to sign up for. The company calls it the “subscription service for your life.”

The new service, called Microsoft 365, takes the Office subscription service and tries to make it more appealing. The company is adding new features like its Microsoft Editor, which tracks what you type and recommends different words, less jargon and more concise ways to say whatever you’ve typed. And it has partnered with companies such as photo and video app maker Adobe , meditation app Headspace and kid-monitoring app Bark to give you access to some of their apps and services too. Microsoft 365 will be available starting April 21, costing the same as before at $6.99 per month for an individual plan and $9.99 per month for a family of up to six people.

a close up of a sign: James Martin/CNET© James Martin/CNET James Martin/CNET

Microsoft believes the service will entice people by offering a merger between work and life, said Yusuf Mehdi, a Microsoft vice president who helps head up its search, devices and “modern life” initiatives. “We’ll be a curator of stuff that’s out there.”

The move, which CNET sister site ZDNet reported was in the works for well over a year, marks Microsoft’s latest effort to stake out ground beyond its Office suite of software. Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook have become staples of the corporate world over the decades. But increasing competition from Google’s free Docs, Sheets and Slides has pushed Microsoft to change its approach.

In 2014, the company began offering its Office suite of apps on iPads, iPhones and devices powered by Google’s Android operating system. The company also offers free access to its OneNote note taking software, which competes with apps like Evernote, Google’s Keep and Apple’s own Notes app.

Microsoft’s effort to add outside apps makes its 365 service like Xbox Game Pass, its popular $9.99 per month service offering people access to more than 260 games both from its Xbox team, as well as outside developers such as Square Enix, maker of the Final Fantasy adventure series, and Bethesda, publisher of the popular Doom shooting games.

Over time, Mehdi said Microsoft plans to add more outside apps to Microsoft 365.

New features

In addition to the new partnerships Microsoft struck for its service, the company is adding new features, such as its Microsoft Editor. The technology, which works in 20 languages and was first offered in December as an add-on for Google’s Chrome extension, uses artificial intelligence to track what you’re writing and suggest changes for duplicate words, jargon and poor grammar.

Now, it’s being built into Microsoft’s Office apps and has new features like a plagiarism checker and inclusive language critiquing that will suggest terms like “police officer” instead of “policeman.”

Microsoft is also building new features into its PowerPoint presentation software that will listen as you rehearse and recommend changes.

In Excel, Microsoft is offering new features that will connect with banks and credit cards to download people’s spending data so they can better budget their money. “It can help you improve your spending habits by providing personalized insights on how much you’re spending on categories like groceries each month and proactive alerts about price changes for recurring payments, bank fees, overdraft warnings, and more,” the company said.

Also new is an app called Family Safety that lets parents monitor and regulate their kids’ screen time on Windows, Android and Xbox. Parents can see the apps and games kids are using and for how long, steer them away from mature content, set their default web browser and even see what search terms kids are using.

And for when the coronavirus shelter-in-place limits lift, Microsoft Family Safety can send parents alerts when family members leave specific locations like home, work or school. It also will be able to track driving habits. Family Safety will be available for iOS and Android devices in coming months, Microsoft said.

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