Microsoft has committed to updating Windows 10 with significant changes, delivered by way of major patches. Last year August we received the Anniversary Update, then in July of this year we received the Creators Update, and now in October we will be getting another one.
These updates have not been small, either, and have added plenty of new features and functions to Windows 10 that were nowhere to be seen when the OS first launched back in late July of 2015.
We now have baked-in support for “digital inking”, there’s a 3D version of Paint used to load up and edit 3D models, there’s biometric authentication for websites and apps thanks to Windows Hello’s expanded functionality, and much more.
The next planned update to the OS is called the Fall Creators Update, and it will roll out on the 17th of October as confirmed by Microsoft at a briefing at the IFA consumer electronics showcase in early September.
Before that day arrives, we thought we’d take a look at the additions Microsoft has planned for the update, and paint a picture of why business folks and everyday consumers should care.
Just a note, many of these features are taken from the “Insider Previews” Microsoft rolls out to participants in its Windows Insider programme, and may or may not end up in the final build.
Fluent Design rollout
A big part of the changes coming in this update are to do with Microsoft’s overhaul of its approach to app and user interface design. It was unveiled earlier this year at the 2017 Build conference, and it’s called Fluent Design.
In a nutshell, it’s a new philosophy about how to design everything Windows-related to be simple and elegant. Microsoft calls it “An eloquent design system for a complex world”, and wants it to be “bold, scalable, and universal”.
Of course, making complex systems simple is a huge challenge – just ask anyone whose results seem effortless just how much time and effort went into getting them to that point. Still, the videos Microsoft has put out about it seem to confirm that that’s exactly what they’ve achieved with it.
You’ll see a lot of this philosophy reflected in the changes to Windows 10 via the Fall Creators Update. For a preview, check out the video below.
Part of the Fluent Design philosophy is making user interfaces that scale beautifully, something that the Start Menu just hasn’t done very well when being resized. The Fall Creators Update aims to fix this by making resizing the Start Menu much smoother using Fluent Design – instead of “snapping” to pre-defined widths, the frame will start resizing immediately, and its edges will be easier to “grip”.
The new “Acrylic” theme that features heavily in the new Fluent Design will also show up in the overhauled Start Menu. Like acrylic paint, “Acrylic” in Windows 10 is translucent, and allows background images and anything behind the current active app or window show through, but not so much so that it dominates what you see.
Action Centre overhaul
The notification panel that slides out from the right side of the screen to alert the user to recent events is being tweaked to show much clearer information. The hierarchy of what is displayed has also received attention, so everything shown on the new notification panel will be more relevant.
And with the ability to customise the visible quick actions that can be taken, the Action Centre will become more relevant to each user. Acrylic will feature here, too.
Major Security Upgrades
Microsoft has made it clear that they are going to harden Windows 10’s security significantly in this update, because “The Microsoft mindset is a security mindset”.
They’re doing it by bringing together advanced data science, machine learning, automation, and behavioural analysis that’s “better able to meet the current and growing list of cyber-threats” head-on, and presenting as much as they can on a single pane of glass for easy management and oversight.
The primary means of delivery of this vision is what they call Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, a suite of tools engineered to challenge traditional antivirus solutions with rich, centralised control and protection that extends across the entire Windows stack.
New additions to Windows Defender ATF are Exploit Guard, Application Guard, and huge updates to Device Guard and Windows Defender’s antivirus component.
OneDrive to allow on-demand file-syncing
The new update brings one big welcome change to OneDrive, too, Microsoft’s cloud-based storage service: it will once again offer “Files On-Demand” file-syncing, like it did in the Windows 8 days.
Except this time, it won’t use placeholder files that take up space on your local drive for files that aren’t synced with your machine. All files stored on OneDrive will truly become “on-demand”, and only download to your local PC when needed.
Once the patch lands, and you’ve chosen which files and folders to keep synced with OneDrive, you’ll see the entire contents of your OneDrive folder. The difference is, the files that are physically on your PC, the files that are stored on Microsoft’s servers, and the files that are pending upload, will all be clearly marked.
The biggest benefit of this is that it’ll allow people total access to the contents of their OneDrive folders, without having to store a local copy of specific files and folders if they’re not required, thus saving on storage space.
Improvements to Edge
User feedback inspired Microsoft to build in the ability to pin websites opened with Edge directly to the task bar, so they sit down there like any other app would. When clicked, they simply open Edge and take the user directly to the site. Handy for hitting Facebook with a single click.
They’re also making it possible to make Edge go full-screen by pressing F11, to annotate EPUB books directly in the browser, and to do more highlighting in PDFs opened in Edge with additional colours, plus the ability to Ask Cortana anything about those PDFs.
These are all solid improvements to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer replacement, especially for people who’ve turned to using Edge as their default PDF reader and who’ve craved more functionality.
Being able to write freehand on compatible Windows 10 devices has proved a very popular feature, but feedback presented to Microsoft has been that it needs tweaking. So that’s what Microsoft has done.
In the Fall Creators Update, you’ll be able to write as much as you want in the new Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) handwriting panel, which also introduces additional gestures, easier editing, emoji, and more to the Windows 10 inking experience.
Using the panel, your words will be converted into digital text on the fly. When the panel is full and your pen is lifted off the screen, the text shifts automatically to give you more room to keep on writing.Selecting text while the handwriting panel is open makes it appear there, where you can make edits with your pen, even correcting incorrect suggestions by writing over them. Corrections go even further with new gestures like strikethrough, scratch, join, and split, all features that that make correcting with a pen far more natural.
Windows Mixed Reality arrives
The much-vaunted mixed-reality potential of Windows 10 will be unleashed on the 17th of October, as the Fall Creators Update brings with it support for various mixed-reality functions.
Various AR and VR headsets will also launch on the 17th at retail from Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Acer. Some will also be compatible with other virtual reality systems; Acer’s $300 set, for example, will also support Steam VR, and will thus let owners play VR games from Steam’s extensive library of titles.
HDR for supported displays
High Dynamic Range (HDR) is an exciting technology that’s come to high-end displays, and the Fall Creators Update will roll out operating system-level support for it.
HDR enhances scenes in videos, static images, and games with high-tech lighting technologies that make everything look that much more life-like.
The tech is still quite new, but it’s great to see Microsoft enabling support for it. To enable it if you have a supported display, simply go to “Settings”, “Display”, then click “HDR and advanced colour settings”.
Multi-monitor aware DPI
If you’ve ever used multiple monitors that use different resolutions in Windows 10, you’ll surely have been annoyed at how the Registry Editor appears fine on some but blurry on other screens.
Well, the new update will introduce a new per-monitor awareness of the system’s DPI scaling, so Registry Editor will remain sharp and in focus no matter the screen it’s on.
Just the start…
There are many more tweaks coming with the Fall Creators Update; these examples make up just a small sample of the overall changes coming to Windows 10 in October, as directed by the user feedback gained from testers in the Windows Insider Program.
If you’d like to be one of those testers and provide feedback to help Microsoft build the operating system features you’d like to see, consider signing up for the Windows Insider Program yourself.
It’s free, and it’s fun, just remember not to install those Insider builds on live business-critical Windows systems, as Microsoft does not guarantee the stability of test builds.