28 Dec 2017

This Week on Windows: The Countdown to 2018 sale at Microsoft Store, Windows 10 tips and more

Author: Elana Pidgeon
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We hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of This Week on Windows! You can visit this blog post to learn more about how you can find the perfect last-minute gift or treat yourself during the Countdown to 2018 sale at Microsoft Store, check out our Windows 10 Tips on how to get started with Windows Hello on your PC, choosing your performance and battery balance, or saving disk space with OneDrive Files OnDemand  – or, keep reading for more of this week’s news!

In case you missed it:

Here’s what’s new at Microsoft Store:

Countdown to 2018

It’s too late to ship gifts to arrive in time for Christmas, but digital content and great deals are always ready to go in an instant in the Countdown sale. Check out this amazing collection of favorite games, movies, TV, ebooks and more, all in the Microsoft Store and on sale through Jan 4, 2018. Read more about all the deals in our blog post! 

Netflix – Bright


A Los Angeles rife with interspecies tension is the setting for Bright, debuting today exclusively on Netflix (Free app, subscription service). As an LA cop, Will Smith and his orc partner stumble upon a powerful object and are soon embroiled in a prophesied turf war. Watch the action unfold today – and get the soundtrack on Spotify (Free app, subscription service).

Have a great weekend!

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28 Dec 2017

Windows 10 Tip: Travel easier with the built-in currency converter

Author: Elana Pidgeon
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Did you know that with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, you have a currency converter built right into the calculator on your Windows 10 PC?

Open Calculator, click on the menu button on the left, and select what you’d like to convert

It’s true – in fact, it also includes converters for things like time, power and temperature – so you can easily, quickly convert from Fahrenheit to Celsius and back again. Simply open Calculator, click on the menu button on the left, and select what you’d like to convert.

Head over here to read more about what’s new in the Fall Creators Update, and have a great week!

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28 Dec 2017

Five Things You Should Do Right Now to Preserve Your Network and Systems


1. Backup Files Every Day – As catastrophic as data loss is, the number of businesses that still are not backing up their network is unbelievable. According to the Symantec Small to Medium Size Businesses (SMB) data, only 23% of SMBs are backing up their data on a daily basis and fewer than 50% are backing up data weekly. Any number of events can result in data loss, so the importance of frequently backing up your network cannot be overstated.
2. Ensure Backup Procedures Are Checked Regularly – Many times business owners think that they have a backup system in place only to find out after it’s too late that it hasn’t been working properly. It may seem like your files are being backed up daily, however, the backup could have become corrupt or it is not backing up huge chunks of critical data. Check your backup procedures regularly to ensure they are working properly in order to be sure that ALL of your data can be recovered. In the age of BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Devices) it is also important to frequently backup data on your employee’s personal laptops, iPads or Blackberrys, so make sure you have a procedure in place to check those backups as well.
3. Make Sure Updated Virus Protection and Firewalls Are Always Enabled – Far too many companies either have no virus protection, expired virus software licenses, or disabled virus programs that aren’t running at all. This makes their business technology vulnerable to virus attacks from emails, spam, data downloads, and unreputable websites. Further, because of inadequate firewall protection about 40% of small to medium businesses will have their network accessed by a hacker. Chances are, when these businesses are attacked they will be entirely unaware it is happening. In order to protect your valuable data and assets, ensure your virus protection is adequate, up-to-date and functioning properly and that your firewall is intact. Finally, don’t forget to update security patches and change passwords when an employee leaves in order to deter hacking attempts.
4. Monitor Server Drives – Dangerously full server drives can bring their own set of problems – ranging from program and server crashes to sluggish email delivery. Proactive monitoring and maintenance of your server can spare your business a lot of problems down the road.
5. Regularly Check Critical Built-In Logs – Very few problems with technology emerge suddenly. These problems typically progress over time and evolve into more serious problems. Frequently review your critical built-in log files to help identify the problem before it has gotten out of control and wreaks havoc on your business infrastructure.

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27 Dec 2017
22 Dec 2017

This Week on Windows: Celebrate the countdown to 2018 with great deals at Microsoft Store

Author: Elana Pidgeon
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We hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of This Week on Windows!

Beginning today, find the perfect last-minute gift or treat yourself during the Countdown to 2018 sale with deals of up to 50% off popular PC games, up to 65% on select Xbox Digital Games, up to 60% off popular movies and TV shows, up to 75% on must-have software and apps for Windows 10, great deals on Surface and Xbox One bundles, entertainment and more! You can shop the sale now at Microsoft Store online, on your Windows 10 PC, and on your Xbox.

Below we’ve rounded up some of the best Countdown deals, available now at Microsoft Store:

Game On

There are numerous adventurous options on sale now for PC and Xbox gamers alike:

PC Games

Save up to 50% on popular PC games for Windows 10, including these favorites:

Disneyland Adventures – 35% off

Disneyland Adventures key art

The Disneyland theme park comes alive like never before. Each adventure is based on the park’s real-life attractions, with opportunities to interact with beloved Disney characters.

Forza Motorsport 7 Standard Edition – 35% off

Forza Motorsport 7 Standard Edition key art

Gorgeous graphics and more than 700 Forzavista™ cars to collect bring you the danger and beauty of competitive racing at its limit.

Super Lucky’s Tale – 35% off

Super Lucky's Tale key art

A delightful platformer for all ages that follows Lucky, the ever-optimistic, energetic, and lovable hero, on his quest to help his sister rescue the Book of Ages.

Xbox Consoles

For a limited time, buy an Xbox One X and get PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the game named “Best Multiplayer Game” at this year’s Video Game Awards.

For Minecraft fans, save $100 on the Xbox One S Minecraft Limited Edition Bundle (1TB), and enjoy $20 off select Minecraft Edition Xbox Wireless Controllers with purchase of the Minecraft Explorers Pack. There are also several limited-time deals happening now inside Minecraft.

Or save up to $80 on Xbox One S 500GB bundles, now starting at $199, plus get a free select game.

Xbox Digital Games & Subscriptions

Save up to 65% on select Xbox Digital Games. Plus, if you’re an Xbox Live Gold member, you can save up to 10% more! Not a Gold member? Get your first month of Xbox Live Gold membership for just $1. And while you’re at it, try Xbox Game Pass for just $1 for the first month.

Here are a few of our Xbox Digital Game favorite deals:

Call of Duty WWII – 17% off; 25% off with Gold

The popular franchise returns to its roots in this edition, a breathtaking experience that redefines World War II for a new gaming generation.

Star Wars Battlefront II – 30% off; 40% with Gold

Enter a Star Wars™ multiplayer universe where up to 40 players fight as iconic heroes and authentic-to-era troopers, all in a massive array of vehicles on land and in the air.

Cuphead – 15% off on Windows 10 and Xbox

Inspired by cartoons from the 1930s, this game is a classic run-and-gun actioner with visuals and audio painstakingly recreated to be authentic to the feel of the era.


Not a gamer but still want to be entertained? Find great deals on Movies & TV and ebooks during the Countdown sale, too.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens + Bonus – 25% off

Star Wars the Force Awakens key art

Relive this epic adventure and see tons of deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage and amazing bonus features, too – including an hour-long featurette.

Spider-Man: Homecoming + Bonus – 50% off

Spiderman key art

Following his sensational debut in Captain America, a young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) begins to navigate his newfound identity as a web-slinging superhero.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle + Bonus – 25% off

Kingsman movie key art

When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, the Kingsman’s journey leads them to discover an allied spy organization in the U.S.


If a good read is more your speed, you’ll enjoy flipping through and choosing from the numerous ebooks on sale, up to 80% off, including:

The Bourne Objective by Robert Lundum – 50% off

The Bourne Objective book art

No matter how the plot twists and turns in a Jason Bourne novel, the thrills are always first-rate. In this installment, he’s facing down mercenaries in Africa when he witnesses the death of an art dealer named Tracy Atherton.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson – 80% off

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff book art

The holidays are a stressful time of year, but keeping life’s little things from driving you crazy is what this book is all about.

Today Will Be Different – 50% off

Today Will be Different book art

A brilliant novel from the author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, about a day in the life of Eleanor Flood, forced to abandon her small ambitions and awake to a strange, new future.

Gear up for the best you in 2018

It’s not all fun and games – we’ve got great deals on Surface, PCs, and apps to help ring in the new you in the New Year!

Surface and PC Deals

Save $200 on select Surface Pro and Surface Laptop i5 devices, designed for the way you work, play and all of the moments in between. Save up to $650 on PC and Windows Mixed Reality headset bundles and immerse yourself in a wide range of epic experiences. Or save up to $500 on select new Windows 10 PCs.

Software and apps

Save up to 75% on must-have software and apps for Windows 10, including:

Affinity Photo – 20% off

Affinity Photo key art

The latest version of this professional photo editing software is faster, smoother and more powerful than ever so you can do more than you imagined with your photos.

Dolby Access – 20% off

Dolby Access app key art

Music, games, and movies have never sounded this sweet! Whatever you watch, listen to or play, enjoy the rich, deep sound they deserve with Dolby Access.

djay Pro – 40% off

dj PRO key art

Hosting a New Year’s party or just need a new soundtrack for your life? Use djay Pro to access millions of tracks, including millions on Spotify, and put your own unique spin on music.

You can also still get your gifts in time for the holidays by picking up your online purchase or visiting your local Microsoft Store, and get a Limited-Edition Xbox Holiday Ornament with any in-store purchase while supplies last. Plus, experience the Microsoft Wish Machine by sharing an inspiring wish for your local community while you’re there. Wishes are already being granted so follow #MicrosoftWishMachine and get yours in today through December 31!

If you’re still looking for that perfect gift to give this Holiday season, we have the answer: This year, give the gift of choice with a Microsoft or Xbox Gift Card. Or, give the gift of games through Xbox digital gifting. It’s simple and fast, no shipping required.

Explore more deals

We’ve rounded up some of our favorite Countdown deals from Microsoft Store here, but there’s so much more to explore – PC games, Xbox digital games, Movies & TV, ebooks, software, and apps galore!

And just to keep things interesting, be sure to visit the Microsoft Store on Xbox, on Windows 10, or follow Microsoft Store on Twitter, for even more, one-day-only Daily Deals on Xbox games, Movies & TV, and ebooks!

Happy shopping!

*Available 12/22/2017 to 1/4/2017 on select items available through Microsoft Store while supplies last. Offers and content vary by market and may change at any time. Not valid on prior orders or purchases. May not be combinable with other offers. Other exclusions and limits may apply.

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21 Dec 2017

Windows Template Studio 1.6 released!

Author: Clint Rutkas
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We’re extremely excited to announce the Windows Template Studio 1.6!

In this release, we added in app scheme launch, finalized our work for localization, massive improvements in accessibility, and started our work for Visual Basic support.

What’s new:

Full list of adjustments in the 1.6 release, head over to WTS’s Github.

New Pages:

  • Image Gallery

New Features:

  • Drag and drop source
  • Web to App Link

Template improvements:

  • Minor tweaks for Fluent
  • Discovered a few pages that set background color

Improvements to the Wizard:

  • Lots of under the hood bug fixes and code improvements
  • Much more Visual Basic engine work
  • Work for supporting multiple projects in a single solution
  • Work to support Prism

How to get the update:

There are two paths to update to the newest build.

  • Already installed: Visual Studio should auto update the extension. To force an update, Go to Tools->Extensions and Updates. Then go to Update expander on the left and you should see Windows Template Studio in there and click “Update.”
  • Not installed: Head to https://aka.ms/wtsinstall, click “download” and double click the VSIX installer.

Known issue

We are tracking an issue (#1532) when uninstalling / upgrading where you may get an error of “A value for ‘Component’ needs to be specified in the catalog.”

If you get this error, we need logs to help track this with the help of the Visual Studio team. We don’t know how to reproduce it, but we know a few people have hit this scenario.

We have how to capture these logs in the tracking issue on GitHub.

What else is cooking for next versions?

We love all the community support and participation. In addition, here are just a few of the things we are currently building out that will in future builds:

  • Visual Basic support (In nightly)
  • Prism support (In nightly)
  • Improved update system to help increase speed of startup and file size download
  • Improved user interface in-line with Visual Studio
  • Continued refinement with Fluent design in the templates
  • Ink templates
  • Improved Right-click->add support for existing projects

With partnership with the community, we’ve will continue cranking out and iterating new features and functionality. We’re always looking for additional people to help out and if you’re interested, please head to our GitHub at https://aka.ms/wts. If you have an idea or feature request, please make the request!

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21 Dec 2017

#ifdef WINDOWS – Dev Center Analytics with Hannah Jimma

Author: Nikola Metulev
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Analytics are invaluable when it comes to continued success with Microsoft Store. Dev Center analytics enable developers to measure success and generate learnings about how users use their creations, and allow for targeted actions to increase reach and continuously improve the overall experience.

I met with Hannah Jimma, a program manager on the Microsoft Store team focusing on Dev Center analytics, and I learned about what analytics are available today and some new features the team is working on for the future. Among other things, we covered:

  •        Measuring success of acquisitions, including what data is available on the way developers are discovering your apps
  •        Understanding how developers are using your apps and quickly discover bugs and crashes
  •        Capturing feedback from your users and interacting with them
  •        Analyzing data that is specific to Xbox
  •        Trying out new features in the Dev Center with the Dev Center Insider Program

and much more. Check out the video above for the full overview and feel free to reach out on Twitter or in the comments!

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21 Dec 2017

Data Loss Can Cause You to Shut Down


Small and medium sized businesses today are relying more than ever on IT systems to efficiently run their business, support customers and optimize productivity. These systems house sensitive digital data ranging from employee and customer information, to internal emails, documents and financial records, sales orders and transaction histories. This is in addition to applications and programs critical to daily business functions and customer service.
While corporate-level data losses and insider theft are well publicized, many smaller businesses have also become casualties of data loss and theft. Following a significant data loss, it is estimated that a small-to-medium sized business can lose up to 25% in daily revenue by the end of the first week. Projected lost daily revenue increases to 40% one month into a major data loss.
According to The National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, 93% of companies that have experienced data loss, coupled with prolonged downtime for ten or more days, have filed for bankruptcy within twelve months of the incident while 50% wasted no time and filed for bankruptcy immediately. Finally, 43% of companies with no data recovery and business continuity plan actually go out of business following a major data loss.
Still, a survey conducted by Symantec SMB revealed that fewer than half of SMBs surveyed backup their data each week. Only 23% of those surveyed said they backup data every day and have a business continuity plan in place.
Businesses play on a much bigger playing field than they did two decades ago. Any disruptive technological event – even the smallest of incidents – can have an amplified impact on day-to-day business and profitability. Being proactive with data recovery solutions, and having emergency response procedures in place prior to a disruption or data disaster, is the only way to minimize downtime and soften the impact of such events.

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21 Dec 2017
21 Dec 2017

Application Engagement in Windows Timeline with User Activities

Author: Shawn Henry
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Great applications help users do great things — enabling a wide range of creative, productivity and entertainment scenarios. Returning to activities can be a challenge, especially when a person wants to continue those activities across multiple devices. By writing User Activities, application developers have a new tool to get users back into their application.

In this article, you’ll learn how to drive application re-engagement by writing great User Activities into the Microsoft Graph with their UWP applications. This article is also a companion to the Microsoft Connect(); session: Engaging with your customers on any platform using the Microsoft Graph, Activity Feed, and Adaptive Cards.

User Activities and Timeline

Starting in Windows Insider Preview build 17056 or higher, User Activities generated by your application appear in Timeline. By writing User Activities into the Microsoft Graph, you can express specific content within your application as a destination which is showcased in Windows, and accessible on your iOS and Android devices.

Each User Activity represents a single destination within your app: such as a TV show, document or your current campaign in a game. When you engage with that activity (by creating an Activity Session), the system creates a history record indicating the start and end time for that activity. As you re-engage with that User Activity over time, multiple History Records will be recorded for a single User Activity. Here’s how to get started:

Adding UserActivities to your app

UserActivities are the unit of user engagement in Windows, and they consist of three components: a deep-link, visuals and content metadata.

  1. The Activation Deep Link is a URI that can be passed back to an application or experience in order to resume the application with specific context. Typically, these links take the form of protocol handler for a scheme (e.g. “my-app://page2?action=edit”) or an AppUriHandlers (e.g. http://constoso.com/page2?action=edit).
  2. Visuals are a set of properties that allow users to visually identify an activity, for example: title, description, or Adaptive Card elements.
  3. Finally, Content Metadata is metadata for the content of the of activity that can be used to group and retrieve activities under a specific context. Often, this takes the form of http://schema.org data.

In order to integrate UserActivities with your application, you need to:

  1. Generate UserActivity objects when your user’s context changes within an application (page navigation, new game, etc.)
  2. Populate UserActivity objects with the minimum set of required fields: ActivityId, ActivationUri, DisplayText
  3. Add a custom scheme handler to your application so it can be re-activated by your UserActivities

UserActivities can be integrated into an application with just a few lines of code:

UserActivitySession _currentActivity;

private async Task GenerateActivityAsync()
    //Get the default UserActivityChannel and query it for our UserActivity. If the activity doesn't exist, one is created.
    UserActivityChannel channel = UserActivityChannel.GetDefault();
    UserActivity userActivity = await channel.GetOrCreateUserActivityAsync("MainPage");

    //Populate required properties
    userActivity.VisualElements.DisplayText = "Hello Activities";
    userActivity.ActivationUri = new Uri("my-app://page2?action=edit");
    await userActivity.SaveAsync(); //save the new metadata

    //Dispose of any current UserActivitySession, and create a new one.
    _currentActivity = userActivity.CreateSession();

The first line in the GenerateActivityAsync() method gets a user’s UserActivityChannel. This is the feed that this app’s activities will be published to. The next line queries that channel of an activity called “MainPage”

  • Your application should name activities in such a way that same ID is generated each time the user is in a particular location in the app. For example, if your application is page-based, use an identifier for the page, if it’s document based, use the name of the doc (or a hash of the name).
  • If there is an existing activity in the feed with the same ID, that activity will be return from the channel (with the UserActivity object State property set to Published). If there is no activity with that name, and new activity with State set to New.
  • Activities are scoped to your app, there is no need to worry about your activity ID colliding with IDs from other applications

After getting or creating the activity the next lines of code specify the other two required fields: the DisplayText and the ActivationUri.

Next, save the UserActivity metadata, by calling SaveAsync(), and finally CreateSession(). That last method returns a UserActivitySession object that we can use to manage when the user is actually engaged with the UserActivity. For example, we should call Dispose() on the UserActivitySession when the user leaves the page. In the example above, we also call Dispose() on _currentActivity right before we call CreateSession(). This is because we made _currentActivity a member field of our page, and we want to stop any existing activity before we start the new one (the ‘?’ is an inline null-check).

Since, in this case, our ActivationUri is a custom scheme, we also need to register the Protocol in the application manifest. This can be done in the Package.appmanifest XML file, or using the designer, as shown below. Double-click the Package.appmanifest file to launch the designer, select the Declarations tab and add a Protocol definition. The only property that needs to be filled out, for now, is Name. It should match the URI we specified above hello-activities.

Now we need to write some code to tell the application what to do when it’s been activated via a protocol. In this case, we’ll override the OnActivated method in App.xaml.cs to pass the URI on to our MainPage:

protected override void OnActivated(IActivatedEventArgs e)
    if (e.Kind == ActivationKind.Protocol)
        var uriArgs = e as ProtocolActivatedEventArgs;
        if (uriArgs != null)
            Frame rootFrame = Window.Current.Content as Frame;
	    if (uriArgs.Host == "page2”)
                rootFrame.Navigate(typeof(SecondaryPage), uriArgs)

Use Adaptive Cards to Improve the Timeline Experience

User Activities will appear in Cortana and Timeline experiences. When activities appear in Timeline, we display them using the Adaptive Card framework. If you do not provide an adaptive card for each activity, Timeline will automatically create a simple activity card based on your application name and icon, the required Title field and optional Description field. Below is an example Adaptive Card payload and the card it produces.

  "$schema": "http://adaptivecards.io/schemas/adaptive-card.json",
  "type": "AdaptiveCard",
  "backgroundImage": "https://winblogs.azureedge.net/win/2017/11/eb5d872c743f8f54b957ff3f5ef3066b.jpg",
  "body": [
      "type": "Container",
      "items": [
          "type": "TextBlock",
          "text": "Windows Blog",
          "weight": "bolder",
          "size": "large",
          "wrap": true,
          "maxLines": 3
          "type": "TextBlock",
          "text": "Training Haiti’s radiologists: St. Louis doctor takes her teaching global",
          "size": "default",
          "wrap": true,
          "maxLines": 3

Adaptive Cards can be added to the UserActivity object by passing a JSON string to the AdaptiveCardBuilder and setting the UserActivity.VisualElements.Content property:

activity.VisualElements.Content = 

Cross-platform and Service-to-service integration

If your application has a cross-platform presence (for example on Android and iOS), or maintains user state in the cloud, you can publish UserActivities via integration with Microsoft Graph.

Once your application or service is authenticated with a Microsoft Account, it is two simple REST calls to generate Activity and History objects, using the same data as described above.


In this blog post, we learned how to use the UserActivity API to make your application show up in Timeline and Cortana, but there is much more you can do:

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