Hands-On with Redstone 5: The Future Comes Into Focus

Posted on July 3, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 63 Comments

Six weeks after my first exploratory look at the next version of Windows 10, I’m happy to report that my initial impression still stands. Microsoft, very clearly, is going to focus on core productivity features in “Redstone 5,” and has—at least so far—ignored introducing more of the type of nonsense that dogged the previous two feature updates.

That said, there has been one major step backward: Microsoft has apparently decided that the Sets feature—which adds tabs to application windows—won’t reach an appropriate level of quality in time for Redstone 5. And it has removed this feature from testing, at least for now.

That’s interesting mostly because Sets was going to be the only major new feature in Redstone 5. You can see what I mean by reviewing the list of Redstone 5 features I documented in Hands-On with Redstone 5: The Early Days.

Today, over seven weeks later, we’re at an interesting juncture. At the time of that first write-up, Microsoft had released 11 Redstone 5 builds. But since then, it has released 6 more, by my count. And we’re at roughly the halfway point between that first write-up and the time at which Redstone 5 will become feature complete. So this is a great time to step back and see what else we’ve learned about this next release.

Here are the Redstone 5 features we’ve learned about in the past six weeks.

SwiftKey functionality in the virtual keyboard. Satisfying a longtime customer request, Microsoft is finally bringing SwiftKey capabilities to the virtual keyboard in Windows 10, in English (United States), English (United Kingdom), French (France), German (Germany), Italian (Italy), Spanish (Spain), Portuguese (Brazil), and Russian.

More Setup improvements. While Windows Setup has remained largely unchanged, technically, since at least Windows Vista, Microsoft has dramatically changed some of the steps that users see in the Out Of Box Experience (OOBE) in Windows. Those upgrading to Redstone 5, for example, will now see links for setting up Windows Hello when available, linking their phone, configuring Office 365, and more.

More Microsoft Edge improvements. Microsoft Edge is always a big focus with each Windows 10 version, and in addition to the changes I noted back in May, Microsoft’s browser will receive several other improvements. These include more Fluent Design System elements, the ability to disable auto media playback in web pages, completely redesigned “Settings and more” menu, Settings, and Hub, the ability to customize the Edge toolbar, top sites in the Edge jump list, better organizational features for tabs you’ve set aside, and a more functional Downloads pane.

More Skype for Windows 10 improvements. Skype for Windows 10 is getting a big overhaul in this release to bring it more in line with the level of functionality we expect and received from the desktop version of the app. Improvements include new calling features, call snapshots, easier screen sharing, a new layout, customizable themes, and more.

Display improvements. Fixing a regression from the first version of Windows 10, Microsoft is finally making it possible to adjust the size of text in the UI again. And a new video playback mode, called “Adjust video based on lighting,” will help improve the visibility of videos when played outside or in bright environments.

More Fluent design. Continuing its trend of pushing the new Fluent Design System to more of the OS, Microsoft is adding Acrylic material in many more system controls and backgrounds.

Storage improvements. Storage Sense is being improved with OneDrive Files on Demand integration: Now, any On Demand files you’ve not used in a configurable number of days will be automatically made Download Only.

Search improvements. Microsoft is expanding the use of search previews in Start Search to include official download pages for Windows software.

Game bar and Game Mode improvements. The Game bar is getting new audio controls and performance visualizations. Plus, Game Mode is being improved for even better performance.

Mobile broadband (LTE) connectivity improvements. With Windows 10 Redstone 5, Microsoft is updating the core networking stack for the first time in 20 years. And one of the improvements is new and improved Mobile Broadband USB class driver for those PCs with integrated cellular connectivity capabilities (like Always Connected PCs).

Windows security changes. Starting with Windows 10 Redstone 5, antivirus products will need to run as a protected process to register. “Products that have not yet implemented this will not appear in the Windows Security UI, and Windows Defender Antivirus will remain enabled side-by-side with these products,” Microsoft explained back in May.

Wireless projection improvements. The wireless projection experience in Windows 10—where you connect to an external display wirelessly—is being updated to support a configuration toolbar similar to the one in Remote Desktop Connection.

Improved locale experience. In Redstone 5, you will be able to override default regional format settings such as Calendar, First day of the week, Dates, Times, and Currency in Settings.

More Narrator improvements. Narrator is being bolstered with selection commands in Narrator Scan Mode, a new keyboard layout, automatic dialog resizing, and more.

Task Manager improvements. This is a seemingly small change, but it’s important: Going forward, the main memory column Task Manager’s Processes tab will not include memory used by suspended UWP processes. “This is to more accurately reflect the OS behavior in which the OS can reclaim memory used by suspended UWP processes if needed,” Microsoft explained.

Windows Mixed Reality improvements. Windows Mixed Reality no longer requires a physical display, which is useful for backpack gaming PCs. And you can now capture images of the mixed reality world using the system capture experience, plus stream audio to both your headset and the PC’s speakers simultaneously.

RSAT improvements. In the past, Microsoft would stagger release a new version of its Remote Server Administration Tools sometime after each new Windows version. Now, these tools will be updated in lockstep with each new Windows 10 version and those who install them will automatically get the latest version on upgrade.

There are a few other minor changes, but two things stand out to me when viewing this list and, especially, when adding it to the list I made back in May.

First, that is a lot of stuff. No, no major new features, but then that’s not what Windows needs today. Instead, this is a steady drumbeat of refinement and I really appreciate that. It kinds of flies in the face of the general consensus about this release.

Second, the quality of these updates is high. There is no fluff in Redstone 5, at least not that I’ve seen. And I really appreciate that. For those who have been losing the faith a bit with Windows, this is a welcome step in the right direction.

More soon.


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Comments (63)

63 responses to “Hands-On with Redstone 5: The Future Comes Into Focus”

  1. 1armedGeek

    I like Sets. But I thought it needed more work. And I am very glad about the swipey kb.

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to 1armedGeek:

      If you like swipe typing, it is already currently available in the mobile-style mini touch keyboard. I use this all the time when I have my Surface in tablet mode. I can type with a single thumb just like I do on my phone.

  2. irfaanwahid

    Hey Paul, my interest in LTE on laptops/Surface has been high, specially on Surface.

    I have one concern though, I am not sure how much is Windows 10 is optimized to handle LTE connectivity.

    By this I mean, like iPad/Other tablets, the browsing experience/OS is optimized for the mobile, hence reducing or eliminating heavy content from the website.

    This also applies to other features and background activities in Windows that run & require connectivity, like OneDrive sync.

    My issue is the cost implications it's going to have on my bills.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to irfaanwahid:

      Not sure about optimized, but Windows has had integrated LTE capabilities for years, and of course the whole Always Connected PC thing and the changes in RS5 should make this more seamless. I've found that it works well on the HP Envy x2.

    • LocalPCGuy

      In reply to irfaanwahid:

      LTE is just another connection to the outside world. Whether it's LTE, Wi-FI or LAN shouldn't matter at all, as long as the drivers for each device work well.

  3. rmlounsbury

    Finally, I can't say enough how fantastic it is to see RSAT get updated with Windows 10 at the same time. The methodology for that platform before RS5 was a pain in the butt.

  4. lezmaka

    I haven't tried either but how is it that Stardock can get Groupy to work but Microsoft has problems getting Sets to to work?

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to lezmaka:

      Stardock has a much lower bar than Microsoft does when it comes to quality. Plus, Groupy is an app and can be updated at any time. Sets is integrated into the OS: The next time it can be fixed or evolved is six months later in the next version of Windows 10.

  5. scorpiofist

    Since upgrading from the horrible unstable business damaging build 1709 to the new stable usable 1803 I have not had any issues as a managed services provider having over 100 pcs with 1709 and then having to determine which ones to do clean installs on was a nightmare.  I have only run into vpn issues with 1803 that can be fixed by turning off use remote gateway in the vpns TCP/IP settings.

    Windows 10 running on a standard 7200RPM HDD or 5400  RPM HDD is very slow.  key reason I moved all clients to SSDs.

    if you are using windows 10 migrate to an ssd

  6. Rob_Wade

    So, here's where I'm at with the latest version of Redstone 5.

    SWIFTKEY: It's no improvement. Word shaping on Windows has been horrible ever since it left Windows Phone 8 (which is still pretty darn good on my Lumia 1020). Their word prediction is, at best, 50%. I normally resort to just typing everything out. It's like Microsoft has NO CLUE how to pick up the context of a sentence for accurate word shaping.

    EDGE: I use it. I use IE11 almost as much because, frankly, Edge is STILL a system resource hog and slows down to a crawl or only half-renders a screen. I don't want my browser to be a PDR reader or whatever garbage they keep adding in. IE11 remains a better browser. And I refuse to use Google's filth.

    SKYPE: I don't think there's any rescuing this program. Microsoft can't figure out what they want it to be. And while most of my contacts appear to HAVE Skype (or, at least, an account), none of my friends use it. It sees no use on any of our devices, save my periodic testing of the changes. 95% of all messaging I and my friends do is SMS, the rest is Facebook Messenger.

    DISPLAY: I've never had any issues with display settings.

    FLUENT: I hate it, just like I hated Aero. I disable as much of that as possible. It's ugly and annoying.

    STORAGE: Generally, nice improvements all around.

    SEARCH: This is another area where Microsoft simply has no clue what they want to do, and they're just angering people by being all over the map. For me, the best search ever got was on Windows 8.

    GAME BAR/GAME MODE: I'm a PC-only gamer, and I don't use any of this. I disable it.

    LTE: I have no Windows 10 devices with LTE, and see no need for it since I'm always carrying my Lumia 1020 and can tether my devices. Perhaps, if AT&T eliminates the extra cost to have yet another line and maintain that, I'll look into LTE-capable Windows 10 tablets.

    SECURITY: Moving in the right direction, just as long as I can enable/disable aspects as necessary.

    WIRELESS PROJECTION: Well, working for DoD, it's not something we'll ever see in the workplace, and I've not run into a situation where I need it recreationally...and if I did, I'd likely opt for wired for performance reasons.

    TASK MGR: More granularity of information and control, the better.

    MIXED REALITY: Unfortunately, I'm not running any RS5 builds on my main PC, which also has my WMR rig, so I can't evaluate the improvements. I can say, though, that I'm generally happy with the way things on are RS4--except I'd give anything to get rid of these idiotic "rooms" in the Portal. I just need a round, 360 degree area with NO WALLS or other garbage to get in my way. At most, give me that and a way to "paint" the walls, but nothing else.

    RSAT: Again, not something we'll use at work, and for personal use I can't see myself ever using anything other than Teamviewer.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Rob_Wade:

      Re Fluent, I agree. It should be available as an alternative theme which applications can reflect in Fluent themes, but those who never want to see it should have the option to disable it completely, and that should be the default.

    • Maktaba

      In reply to Rob_Wade:

      I learned from your post that Fluent design can be disabled. I have disabled it. Thanks.

  7. brettscoast

    Good post Paul

    While sets not happening quite yet is disappointing the listed changes are welcome. If Microsoft can strip out the crapware in these releases would be much appreciated too

  8. JerryH

    I'm glad Sets is gone for now. It was SO buggy and annoying, especially with Office. You'd open an email note and sometimes it would open in the same set as your other Outlook windows, other times it would open in its own set. When it opened in the same set, you often closed the whole damn set (exiting Outlook) when you just wanted to close the note. Often times you would have a calendar window, and Inbox window and a note all in one Set and then boom - one or more of them would just pop to their own Set. This type of thing often happened to other programs as well. It was really, really buggy. I had gotten to the point where I wanted a switch to disable it (which was no longer there). Good riddance until it works better.

  9. Lewk

    You forgot to mention Cloud Clipboard! Which to me IS a Major New Feature. Until I started using it, I didn't realise how useful it is and is now something I can't live without. I have a hard time holding myself back from upgrading all of my machines to fast ring, just to use this major new feature which is insanely good!

  10. Tony Barrett

    Well, the positive news is that MS don't seem to be adding pointless 'features' to RS5 for the sake of adding features nobody asked for. Win10 is starting to suffocate under it's own bloated weight. Improvements are worthwhile only if they actually improve things, and not ruin something that worked before, or even take things away (MS may see these as 'improved', many don't).

    What MS should be focusing on is stability, bug fixing and sorting out that god-awful mess that is Windows Update. A truly shocking sh*t show that often means high blood pressure and a squeaky bum - it's that bad and that risky. While they're at it, why don't they just switch to an annual update model. At least it would give them some time to actually try and get things right rather than rushing out patches after each 'upgrade'. Personally, on my single Win10 machine (not out of choice!), I fresh installed 1709 and disabled all upgrades. It's been moderately ok since.

  11. BBoileau

    No sign of the broken network printer problem from previous release. How can I be productive if I can't print.

  12. scoob101

    Why is edge not being split out into a store app?

    The cadence of updates to Edge desperately needs to increase.

  13. Eric Rasmussen

    I don't like the fact that "Windows 10 is a service, and as a service needs regular updates." I understand the importance of updating for security, but the past couple of major updates did not go very smooth in my house. I just finished getting everything for 1803 settled and now 1809 is going to get installed. It's beating a dead horse, as we've talked about this at length before, but I wish I could at least use LTSB for Xamarin development. It's highly disruptive to need to change the underlying OS every few months just so that I can continue using the features in their mobile development stack.

    If Xamarin worked on Linux, I'd go use Ubuntu 18.03 for my work stuff just so I wouldn't have to worry about major upgrades for a couple of years.

  14. Siv

    I am just pleased that they are stopping adding half baked features and starting to fix the long standing issues with Windows. I am running Linux Mint on my main PC but still run Windows 10 on my laptop I use for development work as I can't find an alternative to VS2017 on Linux that supports all the development stuff I do. If they can get Windows back to the way it was in Windows 7 and then modernise it as if they had never done Windows 8 and 10 we might get back to an O/S that doesn't look so rubbish and actually works for the real users who do productive work.

    I would love it if they spent a few updates just rationalising the UI, getting Settings to completely replace control panel (assuming it improves over control panel i.e. give us a way to easily set what type of network you are (home business public)). Sort out the login screen so that it is obvious whether you are logging into a local or domain account, this causes huge issues for normals who inevitably log into the local account by mistake and then get really lost accessing server files and features.

    We can but hope!

  15. davidblouin

    I have no use for feature X, why is Microsoft putting so much effort on putting feature X in, i don't like it and i don't plan on using it, it is useless.

    And please Microsoft remove feature Z please .

    Microsoft has wasted to much damn time on adding to many features (C, G, H, S, etc.) in Windows 10, it's bloat, they should go back to basic.

    /sarcasm off

  16. Intara

    When I only read "Skip for now" ... I am again reminded why I never would chose Windows 10 as my operating system or should I better say my bugging system.

  17. John Dunagan

    I still can't install the Redstone 5 update. Working on 8 tries now, each failing at around 42%. How much free hard drive space do I need?

  18. compunut

    "Microsoft is updating the core networking stack for the first time in 20 years."

    This goes against what I remember. I could have sworn that they rewrote the networking stack from the ground up for Vista. I very specifically remember the networking stack in Vista being quite buggy, too. Some of the bugs carried over to Windows 7 before getting fixed. Perhaps you meant 10 years?

    Also, yay for RSAT getting updated automatically. That will be really nice.

    I am agree with some other comments that they really need to focus on a consistent, manageable UI. Make dark mode global and make everything look the same. Apple seems to be able to do this, I don't understand why Microsoft struggles so much with it.

  19. JustMe

    From your description, I agree its a step in the right direction. I am all for Microsoft to cease and desist its insistance on feature bloat with every release. However, as you point out, we are only ~halfway through the cycle for this release. The cynic in me says regardless of what Microsoft says there is still *plenty* of time for Microsoft to screw up the release endgame. The skeptic in me will tell you I am encouraged by this development, but will reserve judgement until Redstone 5 is formally released. The doubter in me will tell you this is Microsoft we're talking about - they will hook slide a way to not get it right at the end of this release cycle because what you've listed above is far too refreshing a change for the consumer.

  20. Bart

    Not sure raking out Sets is a step back. This feature, though we can all see the usefulness of it, isn't ready for prime-time yet.

    I am glad MS is taking its time to get this major feature right.

  21. NT6.1

    No useful features as always.

  22. Daniel Blois

    You forgot the new Windows Screenshoting tool and the new Cloud Clipboard

  23. Daekar

    Looks good to me. I was never going to use Sets anyway. Better that they get things right from the get-go than shove it out the door to make some artificial deadline.

    • navarac

      I saw no (personal) need for sets and experimented with turning it off in Group Editor. Additional tabs always opened in Edge, which was the main fault for me. The refinement of Dark Mode is important to me to help lessen eye strain.

  24. will

    Now if we can get them to focus on the shell experience of Windows 10 as a whole for RS6 or whatever it is called, they would be on a good direction IMO.

    Lets get a proper system wide dark theme, not the current super black thing we have now that seems to be different from app to app. Lets get File Explorer modernized. Lets get Edge as an app outside of the OS and bring updates to the store. Lets get rid of all of the old Windows 7/Vista UI elements and move into a modern look for everything.

    Yes, new stuff can come along the way but if Microsoft would finish some of the work they have done, or refine and improve what they have, in many ways it will feel like something new!

    • Richardsona39

      In reply to will:

      Agreed. File Explorer is such an anachronism. I find it odd they've brought dark mode to it if they are going to be over hauling it...which doesn't give me much hope it will finally get the overhaul it needs to bring it in alignment with the rest of the UI. Plus it needs modern functionality like improved file preview (Quick Look like), columns view

  25. Lord baal

    The newest version is just so slow, it's unusable.

  26. Paul Avvento

    Thanks for this breakdown. Do you know if the SwiftKey functionality includes syncing across devices? This would be helpful as to not have to 're-teach' the keyboard for auto-fill and auto-correct.

  27. lwetzel

    Paul you Windows security changes area has some duplicated sentences.

  28. Patrick3D

    Hooray for RSAT tools getting updated automatically. It's nice to see them focus on fixes and improvements to existing apps rather than adding new stuff.

  29. James Wilson

    Be nice if they decoupled Edge rendering engine from Edge (the application). Most of the updates above appear to be look and feel rather than deeply embedded features. They could then improve Edge out of release.

  30. Martin Pelletier

    I hope they change the way you white list applications when you activate protected folders with Defender. It's a pain to go to the event log to find the full path of the program to add.

    And drivers maker will have to be sure to be compatible to the Memory Integrity feature of Defender. I had alot of troubles with Logitech Game software. One USB driver seems not compatible with it.

  31. jwpear

    Now that Windows is refocused on productivity and enterprise users, why are they wasting time on Acrylic material in many more system controls and backgrounds?

    I seriously doubt there are very many enterprises asking for this feature. Personally, I'd much rather see more invested in Edge. And I think that would benefit their enterprise customers.

  32. MutualCore

    Edge in 1803 is still unusable.

  33. shaibaz_12

    Experienced alot slowness in the new version !