The following is meant as an informational notice and is subject to change based on many things, one of them being Windows 10/11 development:
As I was preparing Windows App Essentials 22.02.1 out of band update, I thought it would be best to let the community know what’s going on with this add-on. While people using development snapshots would have had a chance to test upcoming features and changes, stable users must wait a while before they can get a chance to use new features and changes. Also, 2022 may turn out to be quite an interesting year as there are some major changes planned for the add-on, and I figured it would be best to inform you now before I won’t have time to do so.
The upcoming changes to Windows App Essentials add-on can be divided into three areas: Windows 10 and 11 development, NVDA changes, and refining support for Windows 10/11 aps. Some of these changes are already present in recent development snapshots, some will be implemented in coming weeks, and some will take up to a year to fully implement.
First, in regards to NVDA changes, I hereby announce that support for NVDA 2021.2 is coming to a close soon. The upcoming version of Windows App Essentials (tentatively scheduled for end of February/early March and designated 22.03) will be the last stable version to support the immediate past release of NVDA. This means that the version coming after that (tentatively scheduled for April 2022) will ask you to upgrade to NVDA 2021.3 or later. In fact, this will happen sooner for users of a particular add-on: about a week after Windows App Essentials 22.03 is released, Add-on Updater will refuse to update Windows App Essentials if you are using NVDA 2021.2. To avoid this situation, I advise upgrading to NVDA 2021.3 today if you haven’t done so. This change is in keeping with NVDA support policy from the add-on: Windows App Essentials supports, at a maximum, current, immediate past, and latest NVDA development builds (as of time of this writing, this corresponds to 2021.3.1 (current), 2021.2 (immediate past), and alpha builds).
Speaking of NVDA changes, as of time of this writing, the add-on is being prepared to support NVDA 2022.1 changes, with this work to be completed around the time NVDA 2022.1 beta 1 is released for testing. I can assure you that when 2022.1 beta 1 is released, a stable version of Windows App Essentials will be released which will declare support for the upcoming NVDA version. More on that later.
Second, in regards to refining support for Windows 10/11 aps, that is the focus of the add-on 22.03 release. In particular, the next version of the add-on will vastly improve support for Windows 10/11 Calculator and will respond to latest changes in Maps app. Other apps may see refinements depending on what happens with them and Windows in general, more so if apps do change in Windows 11 Insider Preview builds.
Speaking of Windows Insider Preview, this is part of the third change area: Windows 10/11 development. A few days ago Microsoft announced changes to how features will be tested by Windows Insiders on dev channel (for specifics, see the Windows Insider Program blog post published not long ago). The highlight of this change is that not all Insiders will see a feature come to life (termed “A/B testing”). Therefore, Windows App Essentials add-on may or may not support all features being tested by Insiders, but I will do my best to support a feature that is being rolled out to all dev channel Insiders (this is one of the reasons for the existence of this add-on).
Speaking of Windows development, you might be wondering about Windows 10 support. Since Microsoft is putting more effort into Windows 11, it is natural that not all big features will make their way to Windows 10. What I can say is that Windows App Essentials will never forget Windows 10 users – the add-on will support you until Microsoft ends Windows 10 support in 2025.
Speaking of Windows 10, a big change is being planned this year from the add-on. Specifically, the installation error message you get when attempting to install the add-on on unsupported Windows 10 releases will change. Currently when you try to do that, NVDA will simply say that you must install the earliest supported Windows 10 release (currently, Windows 10 21H1) or later. As early as northern fall of 2022 (around September), if you try to install the add-on on anything earlier than Windows 10 21H2, NVDA will show you the list of supported Windows 10 releases (21H2, 22H2, Server 2022). This change stems from a possibility that Windows 10 Version 22H2 could be a minor feature update (we won’t speculate further as it is too early to tell). This change also acknowledges that Windows 10 is, for all practical purposes, in maintenance mode. The change from the add-on will take about a year to fully implement – the vast majority of this change will be done by fall 2022, with the final pieces put in place around this time next year. To clarify, this change will be for Windows 10 users – it won’t affect Windows 11… actually, it will affect Windows 11 users but that won’t happen until next year (hint: search for “Windows 11 support duration” using your favorite search engine).
You may have noticed that when I talked about earliest supported release for the upcoming change, I didn’t say Windows 10 21H1. All I can say is that if you are running Windows 10 releases earlier than 21H2 (November 2021 Update/build 19044), please DO upgrade at your earliest convenience. Put it differently, Windows App Essentials will drop support for 21H1 (May 2021 Update/build 19043) in a few months, and I will give you at least 30 days’ notice before doing so.
Although I could have talked about Windows App Essentials add-on development plan a few weeks later, I wrote the above plan today to not only serve as a reminder for me, but to let you know that I haven’t forgotten about users of my add-on in the midst of school (as I’ve been preaching on various channels, it is far better to inform the community about what’s up so folks can prepare and add-on authors should invite users along the ride). But I do foresee a day when I will not have time to discuss add-on development plans months in advance, let alone devote more time to testing Insider Preview builds and come up with workarounds for users. Until that day comes, I will do my best to make sure NVDA users on Windows 10 and 11 are treated with respect through development of Windows App Essentials, and one way I can do so is discussing development plans with you all.
P.S. I think I said this before, but it won’t hurt to repeat: there will come a day where Windows 10 and 11 users won’t have to hunt for Windows App Essentials on community add-ons repository, nor read add-on release announcements from me. All things eventually come to a close, and Windows App Essentials add-on is no exception; I just don’t know when that will happen, which makes it both certain and uncertain.
Hope this helps.