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How Workona can transform your team collaboration

Let’s get real for a minute: Much as the companies that create productivity apps would like to think otherwise, most of us don’t work and live entirely within any single software ecosystem.

Sure, maybe you use Google Workspace for your email, word processing, and file storing. Or maybe you consider Microsoft 365 (formerly known as Office) to be your home base.

If you’re anything like me, though, neither of those environments is where your virtual office ends. Perhaps that’s because you use Slack for your professional communication. Perhaps you rely on tools like Trello, Notion, or ClickUp — or, heck, even some combination of ’em! — for more advanced info organizing and project management.

Whatever the case may be, by the time you sprinkle in a pinch of WordPress, a dash of Todoist, and a healthy dusting of Miro, you’ve got yourself quite the cross-platform collaboration cocktail.

And here’s what’s really wild: For as often as many of us work that way, our virtual environments almost seem designed to make it difficult. That’s true even as an individual, as anyone who’s ever juggled two dozen browser tabs across seven different services can tell you. And once you add a team into the equation, it becomes an even greater exercise in frustration to keep track of all the different pieces connected to a typical project puzzle.

A service called Workona might have found the answer. Workona, founded in 2017, has slowly been chipping away at the gap between how we actually work these days and the types of work our desktops are designed to handle. With its latest improvements in tow, the service has created a deceptively simple solution for a complex-seeming and maddeningly common problem.

The core Workona concept

It’s easy to think of Workona as a mere tab manager for your browser. In fact, it is also that — via a free extension you can install into Chrome, Edge, or Firefox. (The company says a Safari extension is planned.)

But while that tab manager nomenclature may be the fastest way for an average user to wrap their head around Workona’s offering, it’s really just the very outer layer of what the service represents.

At its core, Workona is all about organizing workspaces within your browser, based on either project or purpose. It’s designed for people who spend their time working across a range of different and typically disconnected-from-each-other web apps. And while it could be useful for just about anyone, it has some supremely effective tools for team-centric collaboration in particular.

In fact, that’s how its founders describe their inspiration for creating the service in the first place. After working together as early employees of Lucid Software (the since-acquired company behind the web-based publishing program formerly known as Lucidpress), Quinn Morgan and Alma Madsen realized that the browser was a pretty lousy framework for the purposes it had evolved to handle.

Plain and simple, pulling up a bunch of disparate services and web pages every time you start working on a project just isn’t efficient. Toggling among all those elements as you’re working wastes time. And trying to keep your co-workers on the same wavelength with all those perpetually shifting pieces is a disaster waiting to happen.

So instead of trying to force you into using only a single productivity platform — an answer that just isn’t practical for most businesses at this point — Workona tames the chaos by acting as a connective tissue that ties all your productivity puzzle pieces together.

Notably, that approach won’t make sense if you’re in an organization that leans heavily on traditional local programs instead of their web-based equivalents. Workona works entirely within your web browser, so if, for instance, you prefer or are required to use the locally installed versions of Microsoft’s productivity apps and all of your work is contained within that one platform, it probably wouldn’t be the right fit for you. But as long as you’re willing and able to open projects on the web at least some of the time, it could go a long way in making those projects more cohesive.

And a more cohesive-feeling, efficient work process is ultimately what Workona is all about.

Filling in the missing spaces

Workona’s chaos-taming philosophy revolves around the concept of spaces. At their simplest level, spaces are centralized work canvases for every project you’re working on, and they exist right within your browser by way of the Workona extensions on the desktop front or the companion iOS app for iPhones and iPads and the mobile website (no dedicated app yet — grumble, grumble…) for Android.

Certain services can also be connected via a direct API-level integration so that they’re accessible in your spaces regardless of whether they’re actively open in a browser tab. This manner of integration is available for Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides as well as for Slack, Asana, ClickUp, Monday, and Trello. But beyond that, so long as something can be opened in your browser — as most of Microsoft 365 services can, to provide one particularly high-profile example — it can be brought into Workona and associated with your spaces.

You might, for instance, create a space called “Website Redesign.” Within that space, you could store Google Docs with in-progress copy for different pages, Word files from a client with thoughts and feedback, Drive folders with assorted design assets, Figma files with under-development visual mockups, and collections of live web pages from a private staging site.

That same space could have natively stored notes about goals and timing, lists of specific tasks around different priorities, and even an embedded Slack channel for website-related discussion right within that same area.

JR Raphael / IDG

Anyone with access to the space sees the same view, in real time. You can search across all the connected elements right then and there, too, as well as create new elements in any associated app with a couple quick clicks.

Workona even autosaves progress as everyone within a space works, so the canvas is always complete and current and can also be restored to any earlier point as needed. You can open all tabs from a space with a single click, if you’re so inclined, or you can just use a space as a launching pad and selectively fire up individual items as you need ’em.

It’s a lot like the same-named “spaces” feature within the buzzy new browser Arc, only it works on any platform and with any browser you want — no awkward (and often impossible, especially in an enterprise setting) switching required. And it’s much more robust in the possibilities it allows, particularly when it comes to collaboration.

To wit: Workona’s latest innovation is its introduction of automatically created unified spaces for teams. That option, rolled out earlier this year, allows teams to create consistent templates that then instantly populate new spaces with specific sets of folders, documents, task lists, and other relevant resources — with the idea being that companies working on projects with clients tend to use the same basic starting points over and over again. And this way, they can create an organized, ready-to-roll workspace involving all their pertinent browser-based tools with a single click and about seven seconds of effort.

Workona is available in a limited free individual plan. For a fully featured experience without any limitations, you’ll be looking at $7 per month for its pro plan, $10 per user per month for its collaboration-ready team plan, or $20 per user per month for its admin-friendly enterprise arrangement.

Hosted on Google Cloud, Workona is SOC 2 compliant and uses 256-bit TLS and AES encryption to protect data in transit and at rest. Read more about Workona’s security practices.

It’s no stretch to say that the web has become the bedrock for much of our modern work. And Workona really does feel like the unifying layer that’s traditionally been missing from that framework. It’s the operating system you never knew you needed, within your browser — and you might just be surprised by how much easier it makes your web of virtual puzzle pieces to manage.

Collaboration Software, Productivity Software
The webcam privacy guide for Windows PCs

Is someone watching your PC’s webcam? Modern laptops are packed with webcam LEDs, privacy shutters, and even switches that physically disconnect the webcam to ensure you have control. Windows has a variety of useful settings, too — but those software options aren’t perfect.

This is complicated on Windows 11 and Windows 10 PCs because Windows software was designed to have deep access to the operating system. It’s not like on a modern Android phone or iPhone, where the apps have to request access to your camera. No, applications on your system can generally just start using your webcam whenever they like. That’s fine with well-behaved software you trust, but it’s a problem if your computer is infected with remote access Trojans (RATs) or other types of malware.

Modern laptop webcam privacy solutions

Modern laptops — especially business laptops and premium consumer laptops — have built-in webcam privacy solutions:

  • Webcam LEDs are common on most laptops with webcams. A physical LED light will appear on or near the webcam when it’s activated. If the LED is on and you’re not using the webcam, that’s a clue something is up.
  • Privacy shutters are becoming more common, too. You physically slide a shutter in front of the webcam, and the shutter blocks it from recording.
  • Physical webcam shutoff switches are also popping up. You flip a physical switch somewhere on your laptop — perhaps on the side, near the power button or ports — and the laptop disconnects the webcam. It no longer appears as a connected device to Windows, and software on your PC can’t access it until you flip that switch and reconnect it.

If webcam privacy is important to you, be sure you buy a laptop with a shutter that physically blocks the webcam or a switch that disconnects it. Some laptops have function keys that turn off their webcam on the keyboard, but these don’t generally disconnect the webcam — they just send a signal to the operating system to turn it off. Malware running on your PC could reactivate the webcam if you disable it in this way.

The webcam privacy guide for Windows PCs

Business laptops often have physical privacy shutters — no taping over your webcam necessary.

Chris Hoffman, IDG

How to see which apps have used your PC’s webcam

Windows 10 and 11 both will tell you which applications recently used your PC’s webcam.

[Boost your Windows IQ with my free Windows Intelligence newsletter — three things to know and try every Friday and a free Windows Field Guide to start!]

Unfortunately, this convenience isn’t foolproof. Microsoft’s own documentation points out that some applications might not appear in this list. While this access log is nice to have, sophisticated malware running on your PC could certainly dodge it.

To find the list of apps that recently accessed your webcam:

  • On Windows 11, open the Settings app and select “Privacy & security” in the left pane. Scroll down and click “Camera” under App permissions. Scroll down again and click “Recent Activity” to see which applications have used your camera in the last seven days.
  • On Windows 10, open the Settings app and select “Privacy.” Choose “Camera” under App permissions in the left pane. Examine the list of apps, especially the desktop apps at the bottom — Windows will show you the date and time each app last accessed your webcam.
Windows 11 webcam recently accessed

Windows has a lot of options for seeing and controlling webcam access. But they’re not foolproof, and malware can get around them.

Chris Hoffman, IDG

You might see your web browser here, too. Websites can access your webcam, but only if you let them — your web browser controls which sites have access to it. You can check which sites in your browser’s settings:

  • In Google Chrome, click menu > Settings. Select “Privacy and security, “ click “Site settings,” and click “Camera.” Look at the “Allowed to use your camera” list here — you can remove sites if you don’t want them to have access to your camera.
  • In Microsoft Edge, click menu > Settings. Select “Cookies and site permissions,” and click “Camera” under All Permissions. Look at the list of sites in the “Allow” list — these are the sites that have access to your webcam.
  • In Mozilla Firefox, click menu > Settings. Select “Privacy & Security.” Scroll down to the Permissions section and click “Settings” to the right of Camera. You’ll see a list of sites that have been given access to your webcam here.
Chrome webcam privacy

Your web browser gives you complete control over which websites get access to your PC’s camera.

Chris Hoffman, IDG

How to see if your webcam is being used right now

Windows relies on the camera’s status LED to turn on to indicate your camera is being used. For devices without physical camera LEDs, Windows will show on-screen “Camera on” and “Camera off” messages.

You can activate these on-screen messages on any Windows PC with the “NoPhysicalCameraLED” registry hack, if you like.

Other ways to disable your PC’s webcam

While many modern laptops have great solutions for disabling your webcam — all those shutters and switches — some don’t. You still have options:

  • Unplug your webcam: If you use an external webcam, you can just unplug its USB cable from your computer when you aren’t using it.
  • Turn it off in the UEFI or BIOS: If your laptop has a built-in webcam you’re not using, you could boot into its UEFI firmware settings screen — this is the modern replacement for the traditional BIOS settings screen. You can boot to this interface from the Windows Recovery Menu. From here, you can usually find an option to deactivate the webcam. It won’t function again until someone reboots into this screen and activates it once again — that’s inconvenient if you frequently use the webcam, but it’s a nice privacy upgrade if you never do.
  • Tape or cover your webcam: The traditional method of covering your laptop’s webcam with tape or some other kind of cover still works! It became extra famous when Mark Zuckerberg revealed he tapes his webcam back in 2016. Now, most of us aren’t billionaires, and Zuckerberg certainly faces privacy threats most people don’t. But even this low-tech solution works for him. (These days, hopefully Zuckerberg has a modern laptop with a built-in webcam privacy cover or disconnect!)

By the way, you’ll also find options to turn off your webcam at Settings > Privacy & security > Camera on Windows 11 and Settings > Privacy > Camera on Windows 10. You can use these options if you like, but don’t rely on them: As the interface itself says on Windows 11, “Some desktop apps might not appear on this page or be affected by these settings.”

As with the list of apps that have recently accessed your webcam, traditional Windows desktop apps could get around this setting, even if you turned off the microphone — and it’s likely the most dangerous malware applications would be designed to do so. If you’re concerned about privacy, it’s much better to physically cover or disconnect the webcam — or at least disable it at a low level in your system’s UEFI settings.

Wait, what about microphone privacy?

There’s a huge elephant in the room here — and that’s microphones. Laptops have integrated microphones. Those microphones don’t have status LEDs and there are no physical switches to turn them off.

Picture a conference room full of laptops with excellent webcam privacy solutions: Each laptop has the shutter closed. Malware running on any of those laptops could still listen in. Of course, that would require at least one of those laptops to be infected with malware — and malware on a laptop could capture all kinds of other sensitive information, from passwords and payment details to sensitive correspondence.

Still, as PCWorld pointed out in 2019, laptop manufacturers haven’t offered the kind of microphone privacy switches we see in smart speakers. Hopefully that will be a focus going forward.

For now, you could perhaps boot into UEFI firmware settings and disable your laptop’s integrated microphone from there if you’re concerned. Or, you could just tape over your microphone. When Mark Zuckerberg revealed he tapes over his laptop’s webcam, he also revealed he tapes over his laptop’s microphone hole, too. Of course, you can prevent many of these threats with good security practices, too. As long as your computer isn’t infected by malware, you don’t have to worry about someone listening in on you.

Still, it usually pays to be extra careful — especially if you’re a billionaire like Mark Zuckerberg.

Want even more practical Windows knowledge? Check out my free Windows Intelligence newsletter to get the best Windows tips in your inbox — and get a free Windows Field Guide just for subscribing.

Desktop PCs, Privacy, Windows, Windows 10, Windows 11
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The most up-to-date version of Anthropic’s Claude AI, Claude 3 Opus, is now available on Amazon’s Bedrock managed AI service, bringing higher performance on more open-ended tasks to enterprise developers who rely on Amazon for generative AI model access.

According to an announcement today from Amazon, Claude 3 Opus roughly doubles the accuracy of the AI’s responses to difficult, novel and open-ended questions. By offering Claude 3 Opus via Bedrock, Amazon said it is trying to enable enterprise developers to build more robust, feature-rich applications based on generative AI, like complex financial forecasting and R&D.

Task automation, research, and even high-level tasks like formulating strategy are all within the reach of Claude 3 Opus, Amazon said. “As enterprise customers rely on Claude across industries like healthcare, finance and legal research, improved accuracy is essential for safety and performance,” the statement said.

Amazon is also a direct investor in Anthropic, having announced a $2.75 billion funding contribution to the company late last month, which brings its total investment in Anthropic to $4 billion.

Claude 3 Opus was released in March, and its inclusion in Bedrock – a cloud platform designed to let developers work with a range of different generative AI models through a common API – continues the trend of Amazon bringing the latest models from Anthropic to its platform. The latest and most robust version of Claude, Opus provides fewer hallucinations, better visual processing and fewer incorrect refusals to perform harmless tasks, Anthropic said at the time.

“It exhibits near-human levels of comprehension and fluency on complex tasks, leading the frontier of general intelligence,” the company said.

Amazon’s stated strategy with generative AI is shifting, CEO Andy Jassy said last week in an annual shareholder letter, moving away from in-house, consumer-facing AI applications and towards systems like Bedrock, allowing it to sell services via the web to business users.

It’s an area where huge hyperscalers like Amazon have a key advantage, according to experts; actually operating the LLMs that underpin generative AI and its associated applications requires the type of vast computing infrastructure that only major platform providers and the largest corporations can afford.

Bedrock competes with similar offerings from other hyperscalers, including Azure AI Studio from Microsoft and Vertex AI Generative AI Studio, from Google. It lacks the same access to OpenAI models that Azure AI Studio possesses, and has fewer AI models available overall, but the costs of prompt engineering and certain types of app development tend to be lower on Amazon’s platform.

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