Windows 10’s next big update, dubbed the “Anniversary Update”, comes out this summer, and will be available for users of the Insider Preview builds today. Here are some of the new features coming in the update.
Microsoft showed off a few of Windows 10’s new features–from the previously-named “Redstone” build, now called the Anniversary Update–at their Build conference in San Francisco. But if you don’t have the time to wade through the 2 and a half hour keynote, here are some of the highlights.
Cortana Becomes a Whole Lot Smarter
Arguably the biggest update is Cortana. Microsoft continues to expand on what Cortana can do, clearly trying to make it the most powerful assistant in an increasingly growing pool of competition (Siri, Google Now, Alexa, and the whole gang). This time around, Cortana comes to the Windows 10 lock screen, so you can invoke her at any time. And, she can push stuff to and from your mobile device, including notifications and text messages. (And remember, since Cortana is available on Android too, that doesn’t mean you need a Windows Phone to take advantage.)
More interestingly, though, Cortana can parse even more information about stuff it thinks you might need. For example, the on-stage demo showed us that Cortana can respond to things like “Send Chuck the PowerPoint I worked on last night”, or “What toy store did I visit at Build last year?” That’s pretty crazy. Of course, if you’re more privacy-conscious, that’s crazy in all the wrong ways–but it’s a pretty tempting set of features.
Cortana can also make proactive suggestions for you. If you receive email confirmation of flight details, it’ll add them to your calendar. If you promised Chuck you’d send him that PowerPoint in an email, Cortana will know, and remind you to fulfill that commitment later on.
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Furthermore, if you add an appointment to your calendar, it’ll know if that appointment overlaps with another, and ask you if you want to re-schedule one of the overlapping events. Or, if you have a meeting during lunch it’ll ask if you want to book a table, or make a to-go order, based on the apps you have available. In short, Cortana is getting more proactive, so you don’t have to be on top of your own stuff–and isn’t that what having an assistant is all about?
More Desktop Apps and Games Come to the Windows Store
The Windows Store is caught in a tough place right now. We want it to get more desktop apps and games, but we don’t want them limited by the Universal Windows Platform (UWP). Microsoft is trying to fix that disconnect in the Anniversary Update.
Regular desktop apps are finally coming to the Windows Store–at least, as long as developers “convert” them to the UWP. This allows for the easy discovery and installation of the Windows Store, but supposedly comes without all the limitations UWP apps traditionally have. We still aren’t quite sure what this means, and which apps might be candidates for a clean conversion without limitations, but it’s an intriguing proposition.
Games are a big part of this. Se’ve already seen that games bought from the Windows Store are missing certain features, like SLI and crossfire support, or the ability to toggle Vsync and borderless full screen. Microsoft says they’re addressing these issues, adding the ability to disable Vsync, better support for multiple GPUs, and more–including support for modding, overlays, and G-Sync and Freesync. That’s in addition to the UWP-exclusive features they have, like live tile support and notifications. Microsoft also says they’ll soon support bundles and season passes in the Windows Store. But only time will tell if games get feature parity with their regular desktop counterparts.
The Xbox One Becomes More Windows-Like
Microsoft is also making a big push for a unified app store across platforms. That means developers can easily make their Windows Store apps work on the Xbox. The Xbox is also getting Cortana, which comes with some new gaming-related features, like game recommendations and tips. The Xbox will support background music, multiple GPUs, and the ability to turn off Vsync as well.
Windows Hello Brings Fingerprint Authentication to Apps and Websites
Fingerprint sensors have been a huge convenience on phones and tablets, and Windows currently supports it for logging into your laptop too via Windows Hello–provided it has the necessary hardware. But in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Windows Hello will support Windows apps and Microsoft Edge, so you can securely log into apps and web sites using your fingerprint as well–not just Windows itself.
Windows Ink Improves Digital Drawing and Annotation in Lots of Apps
Touch screen laptops are more useful than they seem, and Microsoft is pushing that forward even more with Windows Ink: the ability to draw and annotate with a pen in all kinds of useful ways. For example, you can jot down notes in the Sticky Notes app, which on its own is mildly convenient. But Windows 10 is smart enough to recognize words like “tomorrow”, turn them into links that Cortana can use to set reminders or perform other tasks. This works with other words too, including places that Bing can point to on a map.
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Windows Ink is built into plenty of other apps, too, like Maps (which lets you measure distances between two points by drawing a line) and Microsoft Office (which lets you highlight text with your pen or delete words by striking them out). And, of course, it’s built for artists as well, which can use a pen for digital drawing in plenty of different apps.
Windows Gets Its Own Linux Command Line
In between all the developer talk, Microsoft announced something pretty huge: A true Bash shell in Windows 10. This is not a port like Cygwin, or a virtualization. It’s a full Ubuntu command line running natively right in Windows, built in partnership with Canonical. It comes with apt-get to download command line binaries, and all the built-in tools you’d expect from a Linux shell, like ls to browse your filesystem. This is mostly a tool for developers, but cross-platform power users may find this particularly useful as well.
These are just the features Microsoft showed off at Build 2016, but we’re sure there will be a few small goodies they didn’t mention in the final version. We’ll update this post over the next few months, as we play with the insider builds and when the final version gets ready to drop in the summer.
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