Category Archives: Windows Blog

Windows Blog

Autodesk Tinkerplay helps you turn things from your imagination into 3D reality

Unleash your creativity with Autodesk Tinkerplay, now available to download for free from the Windows and Windows Phone Stores.

Tinkerplay 1

What’s better than putting together fantastic creatures and objects in 3D on your Windows PC, laptop, tablet or phone? Printing them in 3D! That’s what Tinkerplay offers. Design your characters and creatures either straight from your imagination or based on the provided templates by dragging parts together and snapping them into place on screen. Then print out the same parts in 3D so you can snap them together in real life. Tinkerplay features full multi-touch support so you can collaborate and design things with friends. You’re also covered because everything you do is automatically saved. Undo and redo at will. It’s all as much fun as it sounds, and much easier, too. Let Tinkerplay help you bring your imagination to life.

Tinkerplay 2

Download Tinkerplay for free from the Windows and Windows Phone Stores today.

The Sims FreePlay for Windows Phone updated with awesome new content

There’s a lot more fun in the land of The Sims FreePlay for Windows Phone today thanks to an awesome new update.

The Sims FreePlay

Take the throne as the Queen or King!

The Sims FreePlay is free to download from the Windows Phone Store and delivers countless hours of imaginative adventures. This latest update adds an entire back-catalog of content updates, from Carnival to Pet Paradise, Shopping to Witches & Wizards, and more. The latest Royalty content update is available, too, adding a majestic and mysterious castle to explore. In the world of The Sims FreePlay, you rule Sim Town, download The Sims FreePlay for free from the Windows Phone Store today!

Making Windows 10 More Personal and More Secure with Windows Hello

When we started building Windows 10, the team spent a lot of time and energy thinking about how to make computing more personal. We want your devices to recognize you, to understand what you’re saying… we want the experience to go wherever you do and we want you to feel a great sense of TRUST as you go.  We talked a bunch about these ideas on January 21, and today we’ve got another cool new “personal computing” feature to announce for Windows 10.

I’d like to introduce you to Windows Hello – biometric authentication which can provide instant access to your Windows 10 devices.*  With Windows Hello, you’ll be able to just show your face, or touch your finger, to new devices running Windows 10 and be immediately recognized.  And not only is Windows Hello more convenient than typing a password—it’s more secure!  Our system enables you to authenticate applications, enterprise content, and even certain online experiences without a password being stored on your device or in a network server at all.

So how does it all work?

Windows Hello introduces system support for biometric authentication – using your face, iris, or fingerprint to unlock your devices – with technology that is much safer than traditional passwords. You– uniquely you– plus your device are the keys to your Windows experience, apps, data and even websites and services – not a random assortment of letters and numbers that are easily forgotten, hacked, or written down and pinned to a bulletin board. Modern sensors recognize your unique personal characteristics to sign-you-in on a supporting Windows 10 device.

Which devices, you ask?  Well, there will be plenty of exciting new Windows 10 devices to choose from which will support Windows Hello.   And, if your device already has a fingerprint reader, you’ll be able to use Windows Hello to unlock that device. For facial or iris detection, Windows Hello uses a combination of special hardware and software to accurately verify it is you – not a picture of you or someone trying to impersonate you. The cameras use infrared technology to identify your face or iris and can recognize you in a variety of lighting conditions.

Of course, convenience and simplicity should never sacrifice security and privacy. Windows Hello offers enterprise-grade security that will meet the requirements of organizations with some of the strictest requirements and regulations. It’s a solution that government, defense, financial, health care and other related organizations will use to enhance their overall security, with a simple experience designed to delight.

Authenticating Applications, Enterprise Content and Online Experiences – Without Passwords

Today, passwords are the primary method most of us use to protect our personal information, but they are inconvenient and insecure. They are easily hackable and even when complex they are not effective, but most of us want something easy to remember, so we either choose a simple password or end up noting it down somewhere making it less secure. And, to be truly secure, you need to remember dozens of passwords to login to your many devices and services.

You may have seen recent press coverage about a single group collecting 1.2 billion user names and passwords from websites they hacked. This creates lousy odds in the hacker roulette for all of us – there are only about 2 billion people online today!

“Passport” is a code name for a programming system that IT managers, software developers and website authors can use to provide a more secure way of letting you sign-in to their sites or apps. Instead of using a shared or shareable secret like a password, Windows 10 helps to securely authenticate to applications, websites and networks on your behalf—without sending up a password.  Thus, there is no shared password stored on their servers for a hacker to potentially compromise.

Windows 10 will ask you to verify that you have possession of your device before it authenticates on your behalf, with a PIN or Windows Hello on devices with biometric sensors. Once authenticated with “Passport”, you will be able to instantly access a growing set of websites and services across a range of industries – favorite commerce sites, email and social networking services, financial institutions, business networks and more.

“Passport” also will work with thousands of enterprise Azure Active Directory services at launch, and Microsoft has joined the FIDO alliance to support replacing passwords with a growing set of financial, consumer, and other security services over time.  Windows 10 will also have industry-leading security and identity protection for enterprises, so they can deploy new Windows 10 devices with hardware necessary to use Windows Hello, enabling enterprise-grade protection of the device and more secure password-free authentication to enterprise line of business applications.

Using Windows Hello and “Passport” is your choice and you control whether to opt-in to use it. We understand how critical it is to protect your biometric data from theft, and for this reason your ‘biometric signature’ is secured locally on the device and shared with no one but you. It is only used to unlock your device and “Passport”, it is never used to authenticate you over the network.

We’re working closely with our hardware partners to deliver Windows Hello capable devices that will ship with Windows 10 and we are excited to announce that all OEM systems incorporating the Intel® RealSense™ 3D Camera (F200) will support the facial and iris unlock features of Windows Hello, including automatic sign-in to Windows, and support to unlock “Passport” without the need for a PIN.

We’re really excited about taking another step with Windows 10 to make computing more personal, and more secure, with Windows Hello and “Passport”.

*Windows Hello requires specialized hardware, including fingerprint reader, illuminated IR sensor or other biometric sensors.

How Windows 10 achieves its compact footprint

Windows devices can be lightweight and highly mobile, yet, when you need it, have the full capabilities of the Windows OS. The Windows Storage and Deployment Teams, the people who bring modern storage APIs, Storage Sense, setup, and servicing to your phone, tablet, laptop, and desktop would like to introduce you to how they are giving Windows 10 a compact footprint.

Compactness via system compression and recovery enhancements

Windows 10 employs two separate and independent approaches for achieving a compact footprint. First, Windows 10 leverages an efficient compression algorithm to compress system files.  Second, recovery enhancements have removed the requirement for a separate recovery image.

With current builds, Windows can efficiently compress system files. That gives back approximately 1.5GB of storage for 32-bit and 2.6GB of storage for 64-bit Windows. Phones will also be able to use this same efficient compression algorithm and likewise have capacity savings with Windows 10.

We are also redesigning Windows’ Refresh and Reset functionalities to no longer use a separate recovery image (often preinstalled by manufacturers today) in order to bring Windows devices back to a pristine state. This reduces Windows’ storage footprint further as the recovery image on typical devices can range in size from 4GB to 12GB, depending on the make and model. Phones already have a storage-optimized recovery solution, so, unlike compression, this enhancement is only for tablets, laptops, and desktops.

With these new and enhanced functionalities, devices running Windows 10 will have more free space for photos, videos, and music, as the figure below illustrates.



Windows uses compression when it is helpful

To ensure compressed system files do not adversely affect system responsiveness, Windows considers a number of factors when assessing whether a device should use compression or not.

One important factor is the amount of memory (RAM) a device has. The amount of RAM a device has determines how often it retrieves system files from storage. Another important factor is how quickly a device’s CPUs can run the decompression algorithm when retrieving system files. By considering these and other important factors, Windows is able to assess if a device can use compression without reducing human-perceivable responsiveness.

Since a diversity of Windows devices exist, Windows 10 performs this suitability assessment in the upgrade path.  If compressed system files will give you storage capacity back without compromising your device’s responsiveness, then upgrade will automatically compress Windows 10. For new Windows 10 devices, manufacturers perform the suitability assessment and enable system compression appropriately.

On the topic of compression performance, we conducted extensive analysis and tuning for the first iteration of system compression (called WIMBOOT, we have a little more to say about WIMBOOT further below). Windows 10’s iteration of system compression retains that performance tuning and gains the advantage of tuning and enablement based on performance data from in-market devices. System compression enablement through software means Windows can adapt as the device landscape evolves.

Not only does Windows 10 intelligently use compression to keep the system footprint efficient, Windows 10 also uses compression to keep store apps’ footprint small. When compression makes sense for a device’s system files, it also makes sense for its apps. Because of compression, you will have more spare capacity for store apps and the store apps themselves will use less capacity.

In summary, system compression enables Windows 10 to provide capacity savings where it is important and without compromising human-perceivable system responsiveness.

Recovery is lightweight and efficient

Without a separate recovery image, the Refresh and Reset functionalities will instead rebuild the operating system in place using runtime system files. Not only does this take up less disk space, it also means you will not have a lengthy list of operating system updates to reinstall after recovering your device.

Even though Windows no longer requires a separate recovery image, Windows can still recover a device from severe corruption. With Windows 10, you can create your own recovery media and back up the pristine state of the operating system and preinstalled software. If things go wrong and you are unable to refresh or reset your device successfully, you can boot the device using recovery media and reset to the prior pristine state.

Windows 10’s compaction is the evolution of WIMBOOT

Prior to Windows 10, Windows 8.1 achieved significant footprint reduction via a special deployment configuration called Windows Image Boot (WIMBOOT). If you are interested, here is a link to a little blog post about WIMBOOT from last year.

WIMBOOT enabled specially prepared Windows 8.1 devices to have all the goodness of an efficient compression algorithm without compromise to responsiveness. “Specially prepared” means manufacturers had to use a different install process. The result was only a small subset of Windows 8.1 devices enjoy the goodness of WIMBOOT’s capacity savings. Windows 10 has the compression algorithm seamlessly integrated with the rest of the OS so that the install process is minimally impacted. As noted earlier, Windows 10 can even compress the OS upon upgrade, if a device is suitable and should it need compression.

We’re working on bringing upgrade to low capacity devices

The reason Windows 8.1 devices using WIMBOOT are not yet able to upgrade to Windows 10 is because many of the WIMBOOT devices have very limited system storage. That presents a challenge when we need to have the Windows 8.1 OS, the downloaded install image, and the Windows 10 OS available during the upgrade process. We do this because we need to be able to restore the machine back to Windows 8.1 if anything unexpected happens during the upgrade, such as power loss. In sum, WIMBOOT devices present a capacity challenge to the upgrade process and we are evaluating a couple of options for a safe and reliable upgrade path for those devices.

Windows 10’s compact footprint gives storage space back to you

Through the capacity savings of system compression and recovery enhancements, Windows devices can be lightweight and highly mobile, yet, when you need it, have the full capabilities of the Windows OS.

Have questions and comments about system compression in Windows 10? Head over to the Windows Insider Program forums.

The Voice Official App for Windows Phone brings you closer to The Voice than ever before

Just in time for tonight’s big show, The Voice Official App is available to download from the Windows Phone Store for free today. The Voice Official App gives you the ultimate viewer experience that is customized for each phase of the show, bringing you closer to The Voice than ever before!

The VoiceThe Voice 2

With The Voice Official App, you’ll enjoy these awesome features:

  • Instantly cast your vote the moment the show starts, and instant save on results night
  • Vote for artists and see real-time results
  • Share your choices on Facebook & Twitter and see what’s trending
  • Tweet the coaches straight from the app
  • Make your own picks for battle winners and steals
  • Suggest the songs you want to hear the artists perform
  • Create a “Favorites List” to keep track of your favorite artists through the season
  • Tweet directly to your favorite artists to show your support
  • Download artists’ songs quickly and easily

The Voice Official App puts you in the coach’s chair, download it today for free from the Windows Phone Store.

How to make a Windows Store game with C# and XAML – part 1

This guest blog post is the first of a 3-part series written by Windows MVP Jani Nevalainen. Please see the original post here, and stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 coming soon. 

I believe that games are still one of the most fun ways to get to know a new programming language.  Since there is currently a shortage of beginner level game programming tutorials for Universal Apps, I thought I’d share with you how I did a simple shoot’em up for Windows and Windows Phone with shared code.

I’ve tried to include all the steps, so you can follow it like a hands on lab while doing your own version. You can find the finished tutorial from the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store to download and try it out. I also made the finished tutorial source available for you to play with.

Creating the project
Creating the game project doesn’t differ from creating a normal app, so you would open the Visual Studio, go to File… New, Project, and select from under Visual C#, Store Apps and Universal Apps. As this is the most basic version of a game, we’re not doing MVVM but will keep it as simple as possible. For the same purpose, we select Hub App as a project type, and give it a name, for example “MySpaceInvanders.”

Jani 1

When you have the project set up, you have three projects in your solution tree on the right, “MySpaceInvanders.Windows,” “MySpaceInvanders.WindowsPhone” and “MySpaceInvanders.Shared.” We’ll do some housekeeping, and remove everything else from the solution by pressing the Delete key on top of the files, until left with a solution which looks like this:

Jani 2

We’re going to put all the logic to the Shared project so it will be really easy to upkeep and keep adding features.

Next we’ll do some basic settings for the projects by going to the project settings. First open the Package.appxmanifest in MySpaceInvanders.WindowsPhone. On the Application –tab, select from Supported rotations “Landscape.” Now open the same file from MySpaceInvanders.Windows, and select also only “Landscape” and save your changes. Go to Visual Assets –tab in Package.appxmanifest and change Background color to #000000 for both projects as well.

Creating a start page
We’re forgetting the splash screens for now, and focusing on the first screen which will be where the game can be started, and high scores are visible. Right click on the solution explorer on the Shared –project, select Add, New Item, and Blank Page. Give the page name “StartPage.xaml” and click ok. Next we’ll set it as a start page by opening the App.xaml.cs file in the Shared –project, and going to the OnLaunched -method. There you will find a line of code like this:

if (!rootFrame.Navigate(typeof(MainPage), e.Arguments))

Now we changed the MainPage text from that line to StartPage to launch our custom start up page when the app launches.

Open the StartPage.xaml, and copy the following on top of the <Grid> … </Grid> area of code:

    <Button x:Name="StartButton" Content="Start" 
            Height="105" Width="370" 
    <TextBlock Text="UNIVERSAL "
               Margin="0,53,0,0" TextWrapping="Wrap" 
               FontFamily="Georgia" FontSize="48"/>
    <TextBlock Text="INVANDERS" 
               FontFamily="Georgia" FontSize="48"/>
        <TextBlock Text="Highscore:" 
        <TextBlock x:Name="HighScoreBlock" Text="0" 
    <Canvas x:Name="LayoutRoot">
            <Storyboard x:Name="Move"/>

Add the following to StartPage.xaml.xs:

private void OnStart(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)

Adding some animation
Now that we have the start screen set up, it looks kind of dull. Let’s put an emitter there to shoot some stars to make it look more alive. If you look at the XAML we just added, you notice a Canvas element which has a Storyboard element inside it. That is our animation container, which will show the emitter.

First we need a particle for the emitter. We’ll create class called Dot by right clicking the MySpaceInvanders.Shared -project, and selecting Add, New Item, Class. Make sure the Name –field has Dot.cs written in it before clicking ok. Next we’ll open the Dot.cs and add some properties to the particle. Each particle will have two different properties: Shape and Velocity. Add the following member variables to class Dot:

public Ellipse Shape { get; set; }
public Point Velocity { get; set; }

Next we need to create the emitter itself, which will be shooting these particles we just created. Open the StartPage.xaml.cs, add on the top of the file:

using Windows.UI;
using Windows.UI.Xaml.Media;
using Windows.UI.Xaml.Shapes;

Then we need to add these member variables to StartPage class:

private const int StarCount = 200;
private List<Dot> stars = new List<Dot>(StarCount);
private Random randomizer = new Random();

After we have a list to keep the particles, and set the number of particles, we’ll create a new method:

private void CreateStar()
    var star = new Dot()
        Shape = new Ellipse() { Height = 2, Width = 2},
        Velocity = new Point(randomizer.Next(-5, 5), randomizer.Next(-5, 5))

    // Center the star
    Canvas.SetLeft(star.Shape, LayoutRoot.ActualWidth / 2 - star.Shape.Width / 2);
    Canvas.SetTop(star.Shape, (LayoutRoot.ActualHeight / 2 - star.Shape.Height / 2) + 20);

    // Prevent stars getting stuck
    if ((int)star.Velocity.X == 0 && (int)star.Velocity.Y == 0)
        star.Velocity = new Point(randomizer.Next(1, 5), randomizer.Next(1,5));

    // Set color

Now we have created a particle, but it’s sitting idle on the screen, as generic and dull as the next one. Let’s give it some personality by adding some color to it by adding the following code under //Add color –line:

var colors = new byte[4];
    star.Shape.Fill = new SolidColorBrush(
        Color.FromArgb(colors[0], colors[0], colors[0], colors[0]));

We’re using the Random class to get a new color value. If you prefer to have colorful particles, you can change the Color constructor like this:

Color.FromArgb(colors[0], colors[1], colors[2], colors[3]);

At this point we have a lot of particles staying static at one point. What we need is a method to move particles, reset those which have gone off the screen back to the center. Add the following code under the CreateStar method:

void MoveStars(object sender, object e)
    if (stars.Count < StarCount)

    foreach (var star in stars)
        double left = Canvas.GetLeft(star.Shape) + star.Velocity.X;
        double top = Canvas.GetTop(star.Shape) + star.Velocity.Y;

        Canvas.SetLeft(star.Shape, left);
        Canvas.SetTop(star.Shape, top);

        // Star is off the screen
        if ((int)left < 0 ||
            (int)left > LayoutRoot.ActualWidth ||
            (int)top < 0 ||
            (int)top > LayoutRoot.ActualHeight)
            Canvas.SetLeft(star.Shape, LayoutRoot.ActualWidth / 2 - star.Shape.Width / 2);
            Canvas.SetTop(star.Shape, (LayoutRoot.ActualHeight / 2 - star.Shape.Height / 2) + 20);

As the effect of all the stars coming to screen at once is quite ugly, we’re adding them one by one each pass to the screen until we have max number of them visible. After that the method goes through all the particles and sets their new position according to their velocity. In the last part we’re checking if the particle has gone off the screen and center it back if it’s not visible anymore.

Now we need to just activate these methods and we’re set to try it out. Add the following code to constructor, just after InitializeComponent() –line:

Loaded += (sender, args) =>
    Move.Completed += MoveStars;

Now you’re set to try it out! Just select the Windows project and run on local machine. I’ll show you how to keep building the game in Part 2.

Celebrating an extra special Pi Day!

Tomorrow is Pi Day. Pi Day is celebrated around the world every year on 3/14, this year however is especially epic because Pi Day falls on 3.14.15. This number sequence corresponds with the first few numbers of Pi, 3.1415. A sequence like this only happens once per century, which makes this truly a once in a lifetime event for most of us. For those who’ve forgotten what they learned in math class, Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, approximately 3.14.

In celebration of this extra special day we’re doing a few things to help you celebrate with your fellow Pi enthusiasts!

1. New Digital Gift Cards with the Pi Day theme. Giving something special is a great feeling. When it’s a Digital Gift Card that can be redeemed for top apps, games and music, you’re giving the gift of choice! Download the Digital Gift Cards app for free for Windows and Windows Phone.


2. Purchase an Xbox Music Pass for $31.41. Tomorrow only you can purchase a 12 month Xbox Music Pass for $31.41 (regularly $99). An Xbox Music subscription gives you access to millions of songs to play on your Xbox, the Web, or your Windows PC, Tablet and Phone. You can purchase this limited time offer tomorrow only (3/14/15) from the Microsoft Store. This offer is good for new subscriptions and renewals of existing subscriptions.

3. Train your brain with Einstein Brain Trainer HD for Windows and Windows Phone. Did you know that March 14 is also Albert Einstein’s birthday? Now you can train like a true math-lete with Einstein Brain Trainer HD which offers 30 exercises for brain activation. This is a brand new app for Windows Phone and is already available in the Windows Store. Now for a limited time you can purchase these apps at 50% off!

Pi Day

Happy Pi Day from all of us on the Windows Team!

Catch all the action with the NCAA March Madness Live app on your Windows PC, laptop, tablet or phone

College basketball fans, are you ready for the 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship? We’re thrilled to share that you will be able to watch every game live with NCAA March Madness Live app that is available to download for free from the Windows and Windows Phone Stores. Now no matter where you are or which device you have with you, you can keep track of your favorite teams on your Windows PC, laptop, tablet or phone.

March Madness Live photo 2

It’s never been easier to make bracket picks on your phone.

March Madness Live photo

GameCenter with LIVE video streaming

NCAA March Madness Live is the place to watch all the best rivalries, upsets, and buzzer beaters! The app will feature a sleeker design, improved navigation, an all-new GameCenter experience, a new “run” game and new sections focused on providing fans with more content than ever before. Simply log in with your TV provider to enjoy unlimited access to live streaming video of all 67 games of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV. NCAA March Madness Live will offer a temporary preview period giving you access to live game streaming before login is required.

Download NCAA March Madness Live for free from the Windows and Windows Phone Stores today.

Age of Empires: Castle Siege receives a new update today

Age of Empires: Castle Siege for Windows and Windows Phone received an update bringing you tons of epic new content. Now you can enjoy new features like the all-new Musket tower, new troops, and enjoy new economic and military tech upgrades. Here’s a quick video on what you can expect in this update.

You can also read more about the new features on the Age of Empires Blog.

Age of Empires

Take command, and make your mark on history!

Download Age of Empires: Castle Siege today from the Windows and Windows Phone Store.

Xbox app for Windows 10 March 2015 update

The Xbox Team has announced an update today to the Xbox app in Windows 10 that brings some new features and functionality:

More ways to connect with your friends.

  • Game Clips – You can now view the game clips you created on Xbox One and watch popular game clips from the Xbox Community. Additionally, you can download your game clips from Xbox Live directly to your PC.
  • Activity Feed – Today’s update features the ability to like comments and delete your own activity feed posts.
  • User Profile – Your profile header will now be collapsed by default to show more profile information on the screen.
  • Friends Search – Use the search box at the top of the friends list to not only quickly find an existing friend by gamertag, but also by their real name if they are sharing it with you. Also, you can search by game title name to quickly see which of your friends are playing a particular game.

More control of your experience.

  • Improved Window Sizing – The Xbox app now fluidly adapts to changing window sizing to more intelligently display different views dependent on the size of the application window. This better supports a broader range of PCs with varying screen and windows sizes and serves as a performance improvement to reduce memory.
  • Connect to your Xbox One – With this month’s update, you can connect from the Xbox app to your Xbox One console, so you can remotely control your Xbox One from the Xbox app using a virtual game controller.
  • OneGuide and Universal Remote Control– after you Connect, you can also access OneGuide and the Universal Remote Control to change channels, manage volume or access the DVR on your set-top box connected to your Xbox One.
  • Games – Starting today, you will be able to see recently played Xbox Live games across devices – that includes Windows 10 devices, Windows Phone, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Major Nelson does a walk-through of today’s update in the below video:

The Xbox app will automatically update to the latest version once its available in the Windows Store (your version number should be 3.3.4004.00000 or higher after you receive this update).

What do you think about today’s update?

If you’re not already trying out the Windows 10 Technical Preview, join the Windows Insider Program to see what we’re building!