This week, Microsoft will begin rolling out its fourth feature update for Windows 10. Unlike its predecessor, however, the Fall Creators Update is a fairly substantial upgrade that should offer useful improvements for just about anyone.
Which is itself kind of interesting: So far, Windows 10 versions have pretty much followed an “every other” schedule, alternating between big releases and less impressive updates.
The initial version of Windows 10 shipped in mid-2015 and was obviously a big deal. It provided a nice return to the PC focus that Microsoft lost track of in the ill-fated Windows 8. But it was a bit unfinished, so Microsoft quickly shipped a Fall Update in November 2015 that focused mostly on fit and finish.
The biggest Windows 10 upgrade so far was the Anniversary Update from mid-2016. This release, sadly, was also a disaster, with reliability issues overshadowing its many new features. Then, in March 2017, Microsoft finalized the Creators Update, a minor upgrade that had little in the way of features for creators. That said, the Creators Update provided some important underpinnings for features that are finally now broadly available in the Fall Creators Update.
Given how much is happening in the Fall Creators Update, it’s fair to say that many of the improvements, especially the smaller ones, will only impact certain classes of users. So I’ve tried to identify the top new features and changes that will either impact the most users overall, or will at least impact Windows as a platform.
And, go figure, I came up with ten of them. They are:
Windows Mixed Reality. Microsoft’s hardware partners are now selling the first generation Windows Mixed Reality headsets, which provide access to a new spatial interface for Windows itself as well as new virtual reality (VR) and 3D games, apps, and other experiences.
Remix: Photos, videos, and 3D effects. One of the most stunning Microsoft consumer demos ever is now available as a feature inside of the Windows 10 Photos app. That may sound humble, but Photos can now be used to “remix” photos and videos into stunning presentations, and its built-in video editor is topnotch.
OneDrive Files On-Demand. One of the best features from Windows 8—OneDrive placeholders—is back and better forever as OneDrive Files On-Demand. This feature lets you navigate your entire OneDrive storage directly from File Explorer and access files and folders that are stored only in the cloud in a very seamless fashion.
Pick up where you left off. With the Fall Creators Update, Microsoft is finally getting serious about integrating your PC with your smartphone, and while some of these features will get better over time, the basics are there now. These include picking up where you left off in the Microsoft Edge browser (currently in preview) or via Cortana, which offers a wider range of options.
My People. It’s nice to see Microsoft bring its people-centric user experiences to the desktop. And while My People isn’t for everyone, those who prefer this type of interaction will wonder how they ever used Windows without it.
Fluent Design System. Another feature that is only partially implemented in the Fall Creators Update, the Fluent Design Systems marks the first change to Microsoft’s design language in several years. You can see it most obviously in the reveal highlight and acrylic effects throughout the OS, which are subtle and light-based.
Microsoft Edge improvements. As has been the case with each Windows 10 version, Microsoft Edge gets a major update this time around, adding big performance improvements, many more extensions, simple and consistent full-screen support, and many ink-based updates.
Gaming improvements. In the Fall Creators Update, Windows 10 gets several gaming-related improvements, including an improved Game Bar with easier access to Game Mode, improved Mixer broadcast capabilities, improved Game settings, and GPU performance tracking capabilities.
Inking improvements. Windows Ink has improved all across Windows 10, with new inking capabilities in Microsoft Edge for ebooks and PDFs, an improved handwriting panel with overflow and correction support, more customizable palm rejection capabilities, pen scrolling, and a new Find My Pen feature.
Security and privacy improvements. Windows Defender now includes ransomware protection for the first time, with controlled access to protected folders. And with the Fall Creators Update, Microsoft has once again tweaked the system’s privacy features to make them more transparent and easily managed.
So that’s the major improvements. But there is so much more in the Fall Creators Update, of course, from Eye Control to Windows Sonic, a way to emulate Dolby Atmos surround sound with headphones. So I’ll continue to document the new features, both here on this site via Feature Focus articles and in the Windows 10 Field Guide. There’s really a lot going on, and while it’s easy to dismiss what Microsoft is trying to do to in the PC space, I find its efforts to be both fascinating and useful. You will too, no matter what your needs.