Win­dows 10 Spring Cre­ators Up­date

Many of the up­date’s new fea­tures are promis­ing but re­main works in progress, writes MARK HACHMAN

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

Mi­crosoft’s next Win­dows 10 up­grade – in­for­mally known as the Spring Cre­ators Up­date and set to be avail­able in the com­ing weeks – im­proves Win­dows in nu­mer­ous ways. But the firm has also added in­nu­mer­able un­der-the-hood ad­just­ments. That’s why we’ve put to­gether this preview to un­der­score smaller ad­di­tions you might miss, or ex­plain sub­tle changes in how Win­dows 10 works.

Un­like previous lists we’ve com­piled, though, some of th­ese hid­den fea­tures seem ten­ta­tive, with more work clearly needed. For­tu­nately, Mi­crosoft seems in­clined to keep devel­op­ing Win­dows 10, with no ma­jor re­place­ment on the radar. (We’ll high­light the very best fea­tures as part of our re­view.)

One-click data dele­tion

One of the con­tin­ued com­plaints about us­ing Win­dows 10 is Mi­crosoft’s use of teleme­try – collecting in­for­ma­tion about you as you use the OS. In ad­di­tion to the pri­vacy con­trols al­ready built into Win­dows, there’s now a Delete but­ton (Set­tings > Pri­vacy > Di­ag­nos­tics & Feed­back) which re­moves all the di­ag­nos­tic data that Mi­crosoft has col­lected on your de­vice.

App-by-app GPU man­age­ment

If you own a desk­top PC with a graph­ics card, you’ll know that both AMD and Nvidia sup­ply util­i­ties whose func­tions in­clude se­lect­ing which GPU apps you should use: ei­ther the eco­nom­i­cal in­te­grated graph­ics chip in­side your CPU, or the power-hun­gry dis­crete GPU. Now Win­dows takes con­trol over that de­ci­sion by de­fault. (Go to Set­tings > Dis­play, then click the Graph­ics set­tings link at the very bot­tom of the page.)

Don’t worry, this isn’t an­other case of Win­dows in­trud­ing into your life. With most apps, let­ting Win­dows make the de­ci­sion is per­fectly rea­son­able (apps have the fi­nal say). But in the rare case where you’d pre­fer your in­te­grated GPU to run a sim­pler game like Asphalt 8 to pre­serve your lap­top’s bat­tery life, this new con­trol al­lows you to do that.

A bet­ter Game Bar

Mi­crosoft wants you to stream PC games via Mixer, and to help you do that, it’s re­vamped the Game Bar. Now you’ll find a clock as well as tog­gles to turn your mic and cam­era on and off. You can edit your Mixer stream ti­tle. The Game Bar is still a bit ob­tru­sive at times, and could be­come more so, the more tog­gles and switches Mi­crosoft is tempted to add here. But the new ad­di­tions are use­ful.

Fonts in the Mi­crosoft Store

Many of us have a few favoured fonts, and that’s it. But for those who pre­fer a more var­ied type­face, Mi­crosoft now al­lows you to down­load new fonts from

the Mi­crosoft Store. There are only nine or so at the time of writ­ing, but Mi­crosoft seems to be plan­ning to add more, just as the com­pany has added dozens of Themes to per­son­al­ize your PC.

Th­ese fonts can be man­aged from your Set­tings menu, specif­i­cally Set­tings > Per­son­al­iza­tion > Fonts. While the set­tings al­low you to preview a font in its var­i­ous de­riv­a­tives (reg­u­lar, black, bold, italic and bold italic for the Arial font, for ex­am­ple) it also al­lows you to ad­just new, vari­able fonts like Bahn­schrift. Click­ing Vari­able font prop­er­ties down at the bot­tom of the page al­lows you to ad­just its weight and width.

Swift Pair: On-de­mand Blue­tooth pair­ing

Nor­mally, Blue­tooth pair­ing on a PC goes some­thing like this: via Set­tings > De­vices > Blue­tooth, you click the ‘+’ icon to be­gin the pair­ing process, then ini­ti­ate pair­ing on the de­vice as well.

The Spring Cre­ators Up­date par­tially elim­i­nates Win­dows from the equa­tion. When you trig­ger a pair­ing re­quest from a de­vice, Win­dows pops up a no­ti­fi­ca­tion ask­ing you whether you’d like to go through with the re­quest. Mi­crosoft calls this Swift Pair.

Within your own home, Swift Pair sounds great. But in a crowded airport lounge or a com­mu­nity workspace, Swift Pair seems rife for mis­chievous or out­right malev­o­lent exploitation. Re­gard­less, you won’t be see­ing much of it, as it’s en­abled only for the Mi­crosoft Sur­face Pre­ci­sion Mouse, at least for now.

Go pass­word-less within Win­dows 10 S

If you use a Win­dows 10 S ma­chine, you’ll now have the op­tion of com­pletely elim­i­nat­ing pass­words in favour of the Authen­ti­ca­tor app for An­droid or iOS. Essen­tially, Mi­crosoft’s sneak­ing a more se­cure twofac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion method into your PC.

I haven’t tested this per­son­ally, as I pre­vi­ously mi­grated our in-house Sur­face Lap­top onto Win­dows 10 Pro. But I’ve used the Authen­ti­ca­tor app fre­quently. The app ei­ther of­fers you the op­tion of en­ter­ing a time-limited code into your PC, or, more con­ve­niently, al­lows you to ap­prove an au­then­ti­ca­tion re­quest with a sin­gle click. Given that Win­dows 10 S is re­port­edly be­com­ing the pub­lic face of Win­dows 10, you may see this op­tion more, and more.

Some­what bet­ter Set­tings for your PC’s au­dio

Plac­ing gran­u­lar au­dio con­trols in­side your taskbar was a nice fea­ture of the Fall Cre­ators Up­date. But Mi­crosoft’s per­pet­ual prob­lem is that too many con­trols are scat­tered about, divvied up be­tween the taskbar, Set­tings, and Con­trol Panel. The firm has at­tempted to phase out the Con­trol Panel’s au­dio set­tings by putting more gran­u­lar con­trols in­side the Set­tings menu. (It’s still a work in progress.)

While the new Set­tings menu adds in­di­vid­ual UWP app con­trols within the Au­dio set­tings, it con­ve­niently leaves them in place on the taskbar, too. What’s

new are handy au­dio and mic level in­di­ca­tors that pro­vide real-time feed­back.

It’s ex­tremely frus­trat­ing, though, that Win­dows still doesn’t of­fer a ba­sic graph­ics equal­izer – even though Mi­crosoft added one to its Groove Mu­sic app, then killed off the Groove ser­vice that pow­ered it, then routed users to Spo­tify. Does the Spo­tify app have a graph­ics equal­izer yet? Of course not.

Au­to­cor­rect/au­to­sug­gest for hard­ware key­board

Within this re­lease, Win­dows 10’s Spring Cre­ators Up­date tries to pro­vide the same smart­phone­like au­to­cor­rect and au­to­sug­gest func­tions for the hard­ware key­board that it does for the soft­ware key­board that pops up on Win­dows tablets. Nei­ther, un­for­tu­nately, re­ally de­liv­ers.

Within Set­tings > De­vices > Typ­ing, you have the op­tion to tog­gle on auto-cor­rect ca­pa­bil­i­ties as well as auto-sug­gested words – but, oddly, au­to­sug­gested words were en­abled only if you tog­gle on auto-cor­rec­tion. As you type in apps such as WordPad or Word, Win­dows pops up a list of three sug­gested words.

Un­for­tu­nately, the pre­dic­tions are con­sis­tently poor; typ­ing ‘dipt’ yielded guesses like ‘foot­ball’. And the way in which you ac­tu­ally select your word choice – click­ing the up-ar­row, then click­ing the lef­t­and right-ar­row to nav­i­gate to your choice – quickly makes auto-sug­ges­tions a chore.

Ev­ery smart­phone’s key­board al­ready knows how to prop­erly sug­gest words. When will Win­dows learn?

Im­proved eye-track­ing con­trols with Eye Con­trol

For some peo­ple, eye tracker pe­riph­er­als such as those made by To­bii re­main their pri­mary way of in­ter­act­ing with Win­dows. (Win­dows won’t track your eyes with your lap­top’s built-in we­b­cam.) For those who rou­tinely use them, Mi­crosoft has fine-tuned the short­cut menu in which users can in­ter­act with Eye Con­trol, in­clud­ing a way to pause Eye Con­trol to pas­sively watch a video.

Bet­ter sup­port for HDR dis­plays

Chances are that you don’t own a state-of-the-art HDR dis­play. But Mi­crosoft is look­ing for­ward to a day when both pro­fes­sional artists and ev­ery­day users en­joy a panel with higher graphic fidelity. Within the Fall Cre­ators Up­date, Set­tings > Apps > Video Play­back al­lowed you to tog­gle HDR sup­port and ap­ply pro­cess­ing power to im­prove the vis­ual qual­ity.

Within the Spring Cre­ators Up­date, you gain a few new op­tions, in­clud­ing cal­i­brat­ing your dis­play (click Change cal­i­bra­tion set­tings for HDR video) that al­lows you to tweak the bright­ness of the dis­play. (The video’ you’re asked to ad­just looks a lot like the static im­age op­po­site.)

You also have more op­tions when choos­ing to play back video. Within the FCU, you had the op­tion to em­pha­size bet­ter bat­tery life or bet­ter video when play­ing back video, in­clud­ing ap­ply­ing pro­cess­ing power. The lat­ter op­tion re­duced bat­tery life as it bright­ened the screen. Now, you have the op­tion of leav­ing the screen bright­ness di­alled down, while still ap­ply­ing more pro­cess­ing power to clean up the video.

Al­though I could see no­tice­able changes to the demon­stra­tion video on Mi­crosoft’s page as I ad­justed the set­tings, I wouldn’t say there was any mea­sur­able im­prove­ment. Part of that might have been be­cause Win­dows mis­tak­enly iden­ti­fied my test Sur­face Lap­top as a de­vice ca­pa­ble of ren­der­ing HDR video. The graph­ics prop­er­ties of my adap­tor in­di­cated that both the Lap­top’s dis­play, as well as an ex­ter­nal HDR-ca­pa­ble mon­i­tor, were still be­ing ren­dered in SDR mode. If HDR does take off, Win­dows will need to in­di­cate more clearly to users what their vis­ual op­tions are.

A larger num­ber of MyPeo­ple users

Mi­crosoft de­buted MyPeo­ple within the Win­dows 10 Fall Cre­ators Up­date, al­low­ing you to in­clude icons of

up to three of your clos­est friends within the taskbar, and giv­ing them the abil­ity to send pop-up no­ti­fi­ca­tions that in­cluded emoji. Mi­crosoft orig­i­nally limited the num­ber of MyPeo­ple friends to three; ten is now the limit. You can now drag and drop the icons to rear­range them, too. Pre­vi­ously, Mi­crosoft hid any over­flow within a sep­a­rate, de­fault icon. Now the friends who don’t rate be­ing in­cluded on your taskbar hide un­der­neath the MyPeo­ple icon it­self.

Cor­tana changes, and not for the bet­ter

The ap­point­ment of Javier Soltero (re­spon­si­ble for the ex­cel­lent Out­look mo­bile app) as Cor­tana’s new boss will hope­fully fast-track Cor­tana’s de­vel­op­ment, which has stag­nated. For now, the only real ad­di­tion to Cor­tana is up­dated Lists, as well as bet­ter nat­u­ral­lan­guage recog­ni­tion, à la the Har­man-Kar­don In­voke.

Cor­tana was sup­posed to have added a sort of meta list, called Col­lec­tions, with rec­om­men­da­tions for recipes, web­sites, and more. But the only sug­ges­tions

Cor­tana pro­vided were on my to-do list, such as ‘home­work’ and ‘wa­ter plants’. Not good.

Mean­while, one im­por­tant as­pect of Cor­tana, the ‘I’ve got more for you’ box, has been de­moted. This fea­ture used to dis­play a list of rel­e­vant news sto­ries, stock prices, sports re­sults, and more within the Fall Cre­ators Up­date. Mi­crosoft sup­pos­edly planned to mi­grate it into the No­ti­fi­ca­tions Cen­tre in the lower right-hand cor­ner. If so, it never made it to my In­sider builds. It an­nounced a preview app called Cor­tana Show Me in a late In­sider build. Though it hasn’t yet down­loaded to my ma­chine, it sounds use­ful: like the ‘out of the box ex­pe­ri­ence’ that uses the friendly Cor­tana per­sona to help set up a new PC, Show Me walks you through a se­ries of guides of com­mon Win­dows tasks.

Win­dows for Work­sta­tions Ul­ti­mate Per­for­mance

This is a true hid­den fea­ture, if only be­cause few of you will run Win­dows for Work­sta­tions, the pre­req­ui­site for this fea­ture. Mi­crosoft de­scribes this as go­ing one step be­yond the cur­rent ‘high per­for­mance’ set­ting, elim­i­nat­ing mi­cro-la­ten­cies as­so­ci­ated with fine-grained power man­age­ment tech­niques. (It con­sumes a bit more power as a re­sult.)

Most gamers would love to see this op­tion mi­grate down to Win­dows 10 Pro – or even a hy­po­thet­i­cal Gam­ing Edi­tion – but it hasn’t hap­pened yet.

As with any Mi­crosoft fea­ture re­lease, there are many more up­grades and changes than we’ve pro­vided here. We’ll look at th­ese once the up­date has been re­leased.

Even though a dis­crete GPU could power the im­age ma­nip­u­la­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the Win­dows 10 Photos app, my lap­top’s in­te­grated GPU can do it just fine

Down­load­ing fonts from the Mi­crosoft Store app might seem a lit­tle odd, but it’s eas­ier than track­ing them down else­where

The Au­dio Set­tings menu du­pli­cates some of the taskbar con­trols, but does so in a way that con­sol­i­dates most of Win­dows’ au­dio set­tings within Set­tings, rather than the Con­trol Panel

Mi­crosoft’s HDR cal­i­bra­tion page al­lows you to favour de­tails in darker or lighter scenes via a slider bar

This is Cor­tana’s Lists. Graph­ics aside, this is a pretty sorry to-do app

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