Ma­jor Fea­tures from the Lat­est Win­dows Up­date


The Win­dows 10 Oc­to­ber 2018 Up­date—be­cause Mi­crosoft loves sim­ple names—is due soon, and may al­ready be down­load­ing by the time you read this. It’s the sixth ma­jor re­lease for Win­dows 10 since it first hit in July 2015, and it ar­rives through Win­dows Up­date. It’s not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing—al­though it might be nice if Mi­crosoft let us just get on with us­ing our PCs—but this re­lease seems a bit light on ac­tual new fea­tures. We spent some time with the In­sider Pre­view to see what’s ac­tu­ally new.

1 Start Menu and Search­ing

You can now name tile fold­ers on the Start menu, and hide the scroll­bars us­ing an op­tion in Ease of Ac­cess, but the big­gest change is in search­ing. It’s got a wider in­ter­face, and if you search for an app that’s not in­stalled, you get an in­stall link un­der the “Apps” header. Bing searches also launch straight out of the Start menu in Edge, but the promised nag­ging to get you to change from Chrome or Fire­fox to Edge seems to have been for­got­ten about.

2 Cos­metic Changes

Lovers of the dark side can find a choice of “de­fault app modes” in “Set­tings > Per­son­al­iza­tion > Col­ors.” There’s only “Light” and “Dark,” so it’s not a huge de­ci­sion, but the dif­fer­ence be­tween them is enor­mous. Else­where, Ac­tion Cen­ter has new an­i­ma­tions, and users of the Snip­ping Tool (mainly peo­ple who make lists for mag­a­zines) should note it’s be­ing phased out in fa­vor of a “Screen Snip” op­tion on the Ac­tion Cen­ter and a Snip and Sketch app. Hope­fully, this’ll fix Snip­ping Tool’s prob­lem with catch­ing it­self in its own screen­shots.

3 Clip­board

Copy­ing and past­ing isn’t ex­actly the most ex­cit­ing fea­ture, but it’s good to see such an old Win­dows stal­wart get­ting a makeover. In ad­di­tion to the old Ctrl-V to paste, there’s now a Win­dows-V op­tion that needs to be ac­ti­vated the first time you use it. Af­ter this, ev­ery­thing you Ctrl-C is re­mem­bered, not just the last thing, and you can choose what to paste from a list when you press Win­dows-V. There’s also an op­tion to clear the list. It gets bet­ter, be­cause if you’re logged into Win­dows 10 us­ing the same ac­count on mul­ti­ple de­vices, this clip­board his­tory is shared through the magic of the In­ter­net. As long as it’s just snip­pets of text, that is—there’s no abil­ity to sync copied pic­tures as yet. There are, of course, var­i­ous set­tings to con­trol this be­hav­ior in the new “Clip­board” sec­tion of Set­tings.

A fu­ture goal is the ad­di­tion of Cloud Clip­board synch­ing to the Swiftkey key­board for mo­bile de­vices, pur­chased by Mi­crosoft in 2016, which would make a lot of sense. The key­board has come to Win­dows, too— the on-screen key­board is “pow­ered” by Swiftkey.

4 Phone Con­nec­tiv­ity

There’s a “Your Phone” short­cut promi­nently placed

at the top-left of a desk­top that’s clear of other icons apart from the Re­cy­cle Bin. Dou­ble-click­ing this opens a win­dow that asks for your cell phone num­ber, and sends you a link to an app on Google Play (so it’s An­droid-only for now; an iOS ver­sion is com­ing) for Your Phone Com­pan­ion. This is a re­brand of the old Mi­crosoft Apps, and still con­tains links to down­load mo­bile ver­sions of Out­look, Soli­taire Col­lec­tion, and Edge, but it now links to the Your Phone app on Win­dows, as long as you’re signed into the same Mi­crosoft ac­count on both.

Once they’re linked—you need to give per­mis­sion— Your Phone can view the pho­tos (if you give per­mis­sion) and read the SMS mes­sages (again, per­mis­sion needed), and it must read your contacts, too, as the cor­rect names ap­pear next to the mes­sages. The pho­tos are de­scribed as “re­cent”—for us, it dis­played only the past three days’ worth—and while there’s no ex­plicit “Save” op­tion (a dou­ble-click opens them in the app of your choice), you can drag them from Your Phone on to the desk­top. Text can be copied from SMS mes­sages, and you can write new mes­sages, too, with contacts auto-com­plet­ing in the “To” field. SMS may be old­fash­ioned in th­ese days of Skype and What­sApp, but it’s clever, none­the­less.

5 Game Bar

Win­dows 10 taught us that any­thing can be a game as far as the Game Bar is con­cerned, so you can cap­ture video of any app, and the up­dated ver­sion is no dif­fer­ent. It no longer asks you up front if the app you want to cap­ture is a game, and we’re quite pleased about that, as it was just a lit­tle silly. It’s not re­ally a bar any longer, more of a col­umn, and it en­ables you to cap­ture screen­shots and video from in­side any app.

6 Win­dows HD Color

If you’ve got a fancy new HDR mon­i­tor, there is now a sec­tion in Set­tings ded­i­cated to the dis­play of High Dy­namic Range and Wide Color Gamut con­tent. It’s rather lim­ited, though, telling you whether your screen is ca­pa­ble of dis­play­ing the con­tent to its fullest, and link­ing to video play­back set­tings.

7 Other Changes to Set­tings

Blue­tooth de­vices now dis­play their bat­tery lev­els in Set­tings, and there’s a new sec­tion in Typ­ing, called Typ­ing In­sights, that claims Win­dows is us­ing AI to help us type. Win­dows has clearly never seen our unedited typ­ing, other­wise it wouldn’t of­fer, but by click­ing “Typ­ing In­sights,” you get a run­down of how many times the AI has cor­rected your ty­pos and auto-com­pleted words, as­sum­ing you have au­to­cor­rect turned on.

There’s also some un­der-the-hood stuff, such as safely re­mov­ing ex­ter­nal GPUs con­nected by Thun­der­bolt 3, a new col­umn in Task Man­ager that shows how much en­ergy var­i­ous pro­cesses are us­ing, and Pho­tos can now ro­tate im­ages taken in HEIF for­mat (this will mainly be of in­ter­est to those sport­ing top-end iPhones). Pen users will now find hand­writ­ing recog­ni­tion is the de­fault in­put method, too.

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