Microsoft provides quiet system sounds in Windows 11

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Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft Corp., speaks at an Economic Club of New York event in New York, United States, Wednesday, February 7, 2018. Nadella discussed the responsibility that technology companies have need to support the future of artificial intelligence. .

Marc Kauzlarich | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Personal computers with Windows have been making sounds to indicate errors since the 1980s. With Windows 11, Microsoft redesigned these sounds to make them less stressful.

Windows remains the most popular operating system in the world, accounting for about 14% of Microsoft’s $ 168 billion in annual revenue. But it’s not always easy for Microsoft to keep its hundreds of millions of customers happy because they have very different opinions on what Windows should be, including what it should look like.

The designers of Windows 11 took inspiration from an approach called Quiet Technology, described by two employees at the Xerox PARC research lab more than two decades ago. “Calmness is essential in today’s world, and it tends to depend on our ability to feel in control, at ease and confident,” wrote Christian Koehn and Diego Baca of Microsoft in an article in blog. “Windows 11 makes this easier with foundational experiences that feel familiar, soften the once intimidating user interface, and increase emotional connection.”

Quiet technology also informed the development of sounds in Windows 11, said Matthew Bennett, who designed the sounds, following contributions to Windows 8 and Windows 10.

Windows 11 sets itself apart from its predecessors and competition by allowing users to use a group of sounds to match clear visual themes, and a different group that goes with dark themes. The sounds are similar, which means people can recognize them when they switch between modes, but slightly different. Applying a dark theme generally makes the sounds softer. They seem to resonate, as in a large room.

“The new sounds have a much rounder wavelength, which makes them smoother so they can still alert / warn you, but without being overwhelming,” a Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC in a statement. E-mail. Just like we rounded up the user interface [user interface] visually, we also rounded off our soundscape to soften the overall feel of the experience. “

Users can change the default sounds by opening the Settings app and going to “Sound> More sound settings”. But many people will continue to use the default sounds, just as many people who open Microsoft Word will end up using the default font.

Bennett, who left Microsoft in February after 12 years with the company, explained several changes the company made to its system sounds with Windows 11 in several interviews. (Each of the audio files below contains the new sound, followed by its Windows 10 predecessor.)

Default beep

When something is wrong – for example, you search for text on a website and it isn’t there – and your PC needs to warn you, Windows 11 won’t make as much noise as Windows 10. The new sounds. , consisting of three rising notes, begins at a lower pitch than the trill it replaces, and it doesn’t linger that long after that, Bennett said.

Notes are not simply played by a piano or a marimba. Bennett said the sounds are “digitally sculpted” and designed not to evoke a musical instrument. That way, they are less likely to have negative associations in various cultures across the world, he said.

Calendar reminder

Four quick ascending notes let you know an event is coming. The arrangement is much simpler than the seven-note predecessor, which Bennett described as having a clear start, middle, and end.

After Windows 10 arrived in 2015, people used it in schools and offices, where background noise could mute some of the calendar reminder sound. Then the coronavirus pandemic forced workers, teachers and students to stay at home, where there could be fewer distractions. The new sound demands less attention in these environments.

Office mail notification

When you receive an email in Windows 11, you hear three quick descending notes. The new version is slightly faster – the one in Windows 10 included four notes and sustained a moment at the end – and records a lower pitch.

It’s more of a gesture, reminiscent of an email arriving in an inbox, and less of a voice clip. “I read it as a ‘message to you’,” Bennett said.

Device connection, Device disconnection, Device connection failure

These areas of the next generation of Windows hark back to the stripped-down effects that first appeared in Windows Vista and remained available in Windows 7, Bennett said. Whenever you plug a mouse, joystick, or other device into a USB port, or remove it, or the computer does not recognize the device, these 2000s operating systems make two abbreviated throaty noises. .

Windows 10 has moved a bit away from this concept with additional notes and various melodies. Each of Windows 11’s sounds echoes the idea of ​​two single notes, albeit in a more user-friendly way than their 2000s predecessors.

An ascending tone indicates that the connection was successful.

Getting off means you’ve successfully unplugged.

And two sounds involve error, much like how parents who speak a variety of languages ​​will quickly say “uh-uh” to warn their children not to do something, Bennett said.

Instant message notification, message boost

Sounds for calendar events and emails can be played frequently on Windows PCs, but sounds indicating new instant messages are much less common, Bennett said.

But they’re still there, and in Windows 11 they’re simpler. Three descending notes go out to mark a new message, instead of a beep that goes up and down. The Windows 10 message sound was supposed to stand out from the mail sound to reflect the different rhythm of messaging, Bennett said. Now this distinction is more subtle.

The purpose of Message Nudge is to signal the arrival of a new message through a program you’re currently using, but perhaps in a different conversation, Bennett said. In Windows 11, you hear a note, then a slightly lower note. It’s shorter than the crisp sound of Windows 10, which is equivalent to a miniaturized version of the instant message notification sound in that operating system.

Notification

This sound, which comes back together with certain “toast system” boxes on the side of the screen, has also been given a facelift. There are two slightly ascending notes that are close together, instead of four notes that rise and then fall. The sound is shorter and the final note is not sustained as long.

Windows User Account Control

When a program requests permission to make changes to your PC, Windows 11 displays a prominent dialog box on your screen and plays a sound. The result may have security implications, hence the notification.


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