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Microsoft boosts productivity in Windows 11 through taskbar

The latest Windows 11 update lets video conference participants use the taskbar to mute and unmute audio and share content without opening the Teams app.

Microsoft's latest Windows 11 update makes several changes to the operating system's taskbar to help office workers make the best use of their time while attending Teams video conferences.

The update, released this week, lets people control the audio through the Windows taskbar while a Teams video conference runs in the background. Users can also share content from PowerPoint or Excel by clicking on the app's taskbar icon, bringing Teams back to the foreground.

Windows 11 ships with Teams pre-installed and offers some Teams capabilities without a Microsoft 365 subscription. Microsoft has embedded Teams' real-time communications in the operating system to lessen the chance of people using a third-party product, said Raul Castanon, an analyst at 451 Research.

"Windows 11 is the larger operating canvas in which everything happens," Castanon said. "Embedding Teams within the OS … means that users might be more inclined to use native rather than [over-the-top] communications."

Microsoft has integrated Teams into other products. The company has added Teams-specific features to Surface tablets running Windows 11 and the Outlook email client.

With the latest taskbar update, people will see an active mic icon appear on the right side of their taskbar during a video meeting. They can toggle audio on and off by clicking on the icon without leaving an open app or browser window.

People who want to screen share an Excel or PowerPoint document can hover their mouse over the app icon on the taskbar, and a preview window will appear asking if they are ready to share content from the app live.

Windows 11 taskbar
The Windows 11 taskbar gets an upgrade to make office workers more productive.

Other recent changes to the taskbar include a widget that people can hover over with their pointer to glance at the weather and a dual-screen feature that keeps the clock and date visible on all monitors. 

Microsoft released the taskbar changes alongside running Android apps on Windows 11. People can download more than 1,000 Android apps from the Amazon Appstore, including Audible's audiobook app and games like Subway Surfers. The Amazon Appstore does not come pre-installed on the OS.

There are additional hardware requirements for running Android apps. The PC will need 8 GB of RAM, a solid-state drive and at least an Intel Core i3 8th Generation, AMD Ryzen 3000 or Qualcomm Snapdragon 8c processor.

Other recent Windows 11 changes include replacing the Microsoft Groove Music app with the combined music and video player Media Player. The company also redesigned the Notepad interface with a new find-and-replace feature.

Maxim Tamarov is a news writer covering mobile and end-user computing. He previously wrote for The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C., and the Sun Transcript in Winthrop, Mass. He can be found on Twitter at @MaximTamarov.

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