Hands-On with Redstone 5: Endgame

With Windows 10 version 1809 (“Redstone 5”) almost certainly feature-complete, we now have a full picture of the improvements we can expect from this release.

And I have good news to report: This release of Windows 10 has tracked according to my hopes and expectations. As with the previous release, Windows 10 version 1803 (code-named Redstone 4 and often incorrectly called the April 2018 Update), this version focuses almost exclusively on productivity-focused improvements and across-the-board refinements. This is exactly the way that Microsoft should treat a product like Windows, which is both mature and transitioning to a new role in its customers’ lives.

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If you’ve been following along in this series, you may know that I first explored what’s coming in Windows 10 version 1809 in Hands-On with Redstone 5: The Early Days in mid-May. By that time, this Windows version had been available publicly to Windows Insiders for three months, and that article covered 11 builds worth of new features. The most notable, interestingly—Sets—has since been removed and may appear in a future release.

Six weeks later, in early July, I checked in again on Windows 10 version 1809 in Hands-On with Redstone 5: The Future Comes Into Focus. That article focused on the 6 builds that Microsoft had since shipped.

Today, it is about six weeks later again. And with 10 more builds of Redstone 5 behind us, we now have what I believe to be a complete—or, at the very least, a very nearly-complete—view of this next version of Windows. After all, the latest build, 17735, arrived Friday night with no new features at all. Windows 10 version 1809, from what I can tell, is feature complete.

(It’s hard to know for sure, of course, as Microsoft is not transparent about key milestones like feature-complete and the final release. But I don’t anticipate any changes, major or otherwise, going forward.)

So what have we seen over the past 10 builds? Nothing but tons of good news, and none of the superfluous nonsense that dogged the “Creators Update” releases of which we will speak no more.

Without further ado, here are the Redstone 5 features for individuals (as opposed to businesses) that we’ve learned about in the past six weeks.

Updating improvements. In what is perhaps the new marquee feature of this release, Windows 10 version 1809 uses “updated reboot logic” to help ensure that the system never reboots at an inconvenient time in order to install an update.

Your Phone. The other leading contender for the most important new feature is Your Phone, a new app that helps you easily access the notifications, messages, and photos on your Android-based handset. There are two qualifiers to this. As I write this, only photos integration exists. And it’s unclear how well this app will work for those with iPhones.

Microsoft Edge improvements. In addition to the changes we saw earlier in this versions development, Microsoft Edge has received completely redesigned Settings and more menu and Settings pane, a customizable toolbar, the ability to control whether web-based media can play automatically on page load, improved Learning tools (including definition lookups), Autofill data improvements, various Fluent design system tweaks, PDF reader improvements, PDF toolbar improvements, and a new PDF icon. Microsoft Edge has improved so much in this release, in fact, that I now feel like most people could happily use it instead of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

Skype for Windows 10 improvements. With Microsoft set to kill off its Classic Skype desktop client, Skype for Windows 10 is improving in leaps and bounds. This version picks up an improved call experience, more flexible group calls, snapshotting, easy screen sharing, a new layout, customizable themes, and more. Microsoft is even looking at supporting multiple windows, my key concern, in a coming update.

Fluent design system improvements. Microsoft’s Fluent Design system is coming to more user interface surfaces in Windows 10 version 1809. For example, context menus, flyouts, auto-suggest box dropdowns, combo box dropdowns, date and time picker flyouts, and media playback flyouts and overflows all use the Acrylic material now.

File Explorer improvements. While Windows 10’s support for a “dark theme”—which the system actually calls a “dark app mode” since “theme” is a legacy feature that does something else—is haphazard at best, Microsoft is slowing improving things. And in Windows 10 version 1809, that support extends to File Explorer. But not other legacy Win32 system applications and windows.

Game bar improvements. Microsoft has completely redesigned the Game bar in version 1809 and it now allows you to customize far more features on a per-game basis. You can also access Game bar from a new Start menu shortcut too. I’ll be writing more about the new Game bar soon.

Display improvements. Belatedly addressing a huge problem with Windows 10, Microsoft has (re)added the ability to scale on-screen text separately from the rest of the system. This is such a big deal that I wrote about it separately in Hands-On with Redstone 5: Display Improvements. The system is also picking up a Windows HD Color settings interface for those with HDR-capable displays.

SwiftKey features in the Touch Keyboard. The Touch Keyboard in Windows 10 finally gets SwiftKey functionality such as gesture writing and improved auto-corrections and predictions.

Windows Mixed Reality improvements. Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality platform gets two substantive upgrades in this release. First, it no longer requires a physical display to be connected to your PC. And second, a new feature called Mixed Reality Flashlight brings the, ahem, mixed to mixed reality by letting you see into your physical environment using the headset’s camera. You can also stream audio to both the headset and the PC speakers simultaneously now.

More search improvements. Previously in the Redstone 5 development process, Microsoft improved the search preview functionality in Start search to be auto-expanded and support web results, recent documents and files, tasks, and Bing-based quick answers. Since then, it has added search preview support for software downloads too.

Notepad improvements. In addition to the support for UNIX-style line endings that was added earlier, Notepad has picked up support for wrap-around find/replace, on-the-fly text zooming, the ability to display line and column numbers when word-wrap is enabled, and more. Yes, really.

Registry Editor improvements. The decades-old Registry Editor is updated with a drop-down auto-complete capability to help with those long registry paths.

Windows Ink improvements. All modern Store apps now support embedded handwriting capabilities so that those with smartpens can write in search and other text boxes.

Storage improvements. Storage Sense now integrates with OneDrive and can automatically change any downloaded files to online-only if you haven’t used them in a configurable number of days (in Settings > System > Storage > Storage Sense).

Locale improvements. A new Region page in Settings > Time & Language lets you override the Calendar, First day of the week, Dates, Times, and Currency defaults for your locale. Additionally, you can now install new Local Experience Packs via Settings > Time & Language > Language to add new display languages to Windows. These Local Experience Packs download from the Microsoft Store.

Privacy improvements. If you disable microphone access in Settings > Privacy > Microsoft, Windows will now prompt you whenever an app or service needs to use that device. A new Diagnostic Data Viewer shows you what data Windows collects, albeit in a human-unfriendly XML format.

Leap second support. Every 18 months, a leap second adjusts the official time by one second to account for variations in the earth’s rotation around the sun. So Windows 10 now supports that automatically.

Accessibility improvements. Microsoft continues to improve key accessibility experiences such as Narrator.

Emoji improvements. Windows 10 version 1809 supports Unicode 11 and its 157 new emoji characters. Microsoft has also tweaked some existing emoji.

That’s a lot of stuff, especially when you add it to the new features I covered back in May and back in July. More important, it’s all high-quality changes, too, and not nonsense. And on that note, Windows 10 version 1809 is looking to be the most solid Windows 10 release yet. And I could not be happier about that.

Given its state of near-completion, I’ve upgraded all of my daily-use PCs, including my desktop computer, to Windows 10 version 1809 and will switch over to this version for all of the upcoming chapter revisions in the Windows 10 Field Guide. It’s time to move forward.


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  • DocPaul

    12 August, 2018 - 12:45 pm

    <p>All sounds great!</p>

  • zself

    Premium Member
    12 August, 2018 - 12:51 pm

    <p>Can't wait. Thanks for the article. Does anybody know why there no dictionary function as part of OS? Why does the application have to carry that burden? I think that's the only thing I miss from iOS.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      13 August, 2018 - 7:49 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#301012">In reply to zself:</a></em></blockquote><p>Hm. This is an interesting question.</p>

  • JBarretta9

    12 August, 2018 - 12:54 pm

    <p>I really hope Edge works well so I can save some battery. I like how smooth the scrolling is, the design and text rendering. I've been wanting to switch but it is slow and unresponsive on my Surface Laptop. I try to watch videos or go to a site and end up loading it on Firefox twice as fast, if it loads on Edge at all. I had a similar problem on my old Samsung too. </p>

    • james_wilson

      13 August, 2018 - 8:30 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#301013">In reply to JBarretta9:</a></em></blockquote><p>I switched from Safari / Edge to Firefox on all devices ( mix of iOS, mac and Windows). Switching to ‘touch’ mode in Firefox makes the tabs larger etc so works for me now. Will I switch back. Not sure now. </p>

  • mclanasa

    Premium Member
    12 August, 2018 - 1:29 pm

    <p>What is the ballpark release date to the public. </p>

    • simont

      Premium Member
      12 August, 2018 - 2:53 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#301015">In reply to mclanasa:</a></em></blockquote><p>Sometime in September. Or October.</p>

  • chrisrut

    Premium Member
    12 August, 2018 - 2:03 pm

    <p>While long overdue, particular kudos to MS for the display scaling improvements – lots of things look much better on my 4K displays now. </p><p><br></p><p>And the Notepad tweaks are really apprecaited.</p><p><br></p><p>As you say; the absence of fluff is appreciated.</p>

  • jbinaz

    12 August, 2018 - 2:10 pm

    <p>I recently switched back to Edge almost full-time on my 1803 machine. It's pretty usable, there's a few things I'd like to see in 1809 and beyond.</p><p><br></p><p>One is for it to remember zoom levels, per-site. I have a VM with RS5 on it, but haven tested it yet.</p><p><br></p><p>The other feature is for it to auto-install my extensions when I log in. Granted, for most people this isn't a huge deal, but it sure is nice when I set up a new machine.</p><p><br></p><p>Looking forward to giving 1809 a full spin. I have a vhdx with it installed and bootable. I'll probably try it out this week.</p>

  • beq

    12 August, 2018 - 2:10 pm

    <p>Wait what is the future of Skype?</p><p><br></p><p>Are they continuing the UWP Store version, or the new desktop v8 version??</p>

    • nerocui

      12 August, 2018 - 4:23 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#301018">In reply to beq:</a></em></blockquote><p>Those two are the same one now. Both based on web tech. One is React Native, the other is Electron. Same code base, just run on different framework now.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      13 August, 2018 - 7:50 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#301018">In reply to beq:</a></em></blockquote><p>Both. Because Microsoft. :)</p>

  • simont

    Premium Member
    12 August, 2018 - 2:53 pm

    <p>SwiftKey on the Surface Go would be very interesting.</p>

  • hrlngrv

    Premium Member
    12 August, 2018 - 5:41 pm

    <p>Emoji improvements! Nirvana!!</p><p><br></p><p>Does Cortana still scream at full volume on first login after a fresh install?</p><p><br></p><p>Serious: either keep Notepad as simple as possible or add some more substantial features.</p>

  • Jacob Klein

    12 August, 2018 - 6:57 pm

    <p>zself said:</p><p class="ql-indent-1">Can't wait. Thanks for the article. Does anybody know why there no dictionary function as part of OS? Why does the application have to carry that burden? I think that's the only thing I miss from iOS.</p><p><br></p><p>=================================</p><p>zself:</p><p><br></p><p>I saw your post in the Premium Comments, but I cannot reply there.</p><p><br></p><p>Basically, there IS an OS-level user dictionary, for apps that support it. Like Mail, Skype, Office, etc. For instance, intentionally mis-spell a word (mine is Halb), and verify that all these apps show it as mis-spelled. Now right click the word, add it to the dictionary. Now verify that all these apps show it as NOT mis-spelled.</p><p><br></p><p>If you go to Settings, and search for "dictionary", you can even "View contents of local user dictionary". Sadly, you can only "Clear the entire list", and cannot remove a single entry that you may have added by mistake. Classic Microsoft. Half baked.</p><p><br></p><p>Anyway, the OS dictionary exists!</p>

  • markld

    Premium Member
    12 August, 2018 - 7:50 pm

    <p>Paul, </p><p>Very thorough and comprehensive articulated article, well said in about every way. I read others article on this subject, and I don't think others touched it in depth like you did. </p><p>Your comments regarding Edge are accurate. I have been using it from its inception 90% of the time, and I have liked it. In a strange way, I didn't know exactly what I was missing until Edge has matured, improved, and changed over time. Now I really like it. </p><p>Thanks again. </p><p><br></p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      14 August, 2018 - 10:03 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#301126">In reply to Markld:</a></em></blockquote><p>Thanks!</p>

  • brettscoast

    Premium Member
    12 August, 2018 - 8:38 pm

    <p>Great wrap up Paul</p><p>Looks as though windows 10 is finally back on track with some important and necessary updates and fixes this is most welcome.</p>

  • ericmeetsworld

    Premium Member
    12 August, 2018 - 8:40 pm

    <p>Was waiting for that leap second enhancement, game changer!</p>

    • Singingwolf

      13 August, 2018 - 7:23 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#301152"><em>In reply to ericmeetsworld:</em></a><em> I moved my whole family and all my friends over </em>for this feature – don't knock it.</blockquote><p><br></p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      14 August, 2018 - 10:03 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#301152">In reply to ericmeetsworld:</a></em></blockquote><p>lol</p>

  • Lewk

    Premium Member
    13 August, 2018 - 1:51 am

    <p>Paul, you keep forgetting about Cloud Clipboard. The biggest feature by far of the whole release. And for me personally, the biggest and most important feature to come to Windows ever. This is huge. And you don't talk about it at all???</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      13 August, 2018 - 7:47 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#301160">In reply to Lewk:</a></em></blockquote><p>Not sure what you mean. This article is about what's happened over the past six weeks. </p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      14 August, 2018 - 10:03 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#301160">In reply to Lewk:</a></em></blockquote><p>By the way, I mentioned this feature in the first article in this series. I haven't forgotten it.</p><p>https://www.thurrott.com/windows/windows-10/159260/hands-redstone-5-early-days</p&gt;

  • james_wilson

    13 August, 2018 - 5:31 am

    <p>For the next Windows, I’d like to see some improvements to tablet mode eg make it as seamless as the version in windows 8. </p><p><br></p><p>The problem with Windows 8 was that it was a tablet version with a desktop plugged on. Windows 10 should be a desktop version with the tablet features plugged on. The seamless tablet mode in 8 was actually really well done, sleek, minimalist etc. With Surface and similar devices out there, perhaps now is the time to bring it back? </p>

    • lazybum131

      13 August, 2018 - 8:10 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#301167">In reply to James_Wilson:</a></em></blockquote><p>It's really taking far too long considering they had these UI features in Win8 and Win10 Mobile.</p><p><br></p><p>Even with the release of Surface Go, RS5 only has soft keyboard improvements for tablet usage. Where are touch improvements to Edge? They finally have a full screen mode and tab previews which kind of imitates Modern IE, but the tab previews can't be made default, and it disables multitasking. Or how about snapping in portrait mode?</p><p><br></p><p>Even for desktop, people hated the corner mouse gestures in Win8 cuz it was new and different (and not very discoverable or explained well), but I find myself wishing I could use them to open the Action Center and Task View/Timeline when using a mouse. It's Windows! Just make it an option that's disabled by default if people really don't want to learn new things.</p>

  • UK User

    Premium Member
    13 August, 2018 - 6:42 am

    <p>Mmm, I see that all my pleading in the Feedback section has gone to waste, yet again, I won't bother anymore as no one listens. My gripe concerns the Calendar app, each entry can be allotted to a certain time, but I don't use that, everyone of my entries is logged under the All Day tag. Now I may have multiple entries for a given day but if I want to view a particualr days entries I can't as the stupid hourly overlay blocks them out. All I asked for, in Feedback, was the option to disable the overlay and just have all of my All Day entries on show, but no, in the Monthly view I have to click some little dots and then I still don't get all of my entries. Thankfully there are alternatives that do just as I ask, Feedback? Forget it.</p>

  • Tony Barrett

    13 August, 2018 - 11:15 am

    <p>Windows 10 is still an inconsistent mess with major broken components (Windows Update!). Three years in, and this behemoth still doesn't know what it wants to be, but is still treated like a touch first, mobile OS. UWP has failed. Feature bloat is rife. Bugs and stability issues abound. Tablet mode is still broken. The bi-annual update is just pointless and should be dropped immediately.</p><p>Take a year out MS, forget new features and just double down on fixing bugs and stability. Streamline the UI and focus on consistency and not eye candy. Anyone who wanted Win10 by now has it, anyone who didn't probably still doesn't see any reason to upgrade.</p>

  • bikemanI72018

    13 August, 2018 - 1:51 pm

    <p>is Defender fast enough for gamers in the upcoming Windows 10 1809 Release? Still felt a little slow on my Intel I7 7700 and Intel I7 7700HQ Laptop Machines when gaming, and also during general tasks, Previous Antivirus was Avast free for years, Laptop recently clean installed so I figured i'd give Defender another shot, didn't seem as fast though</p><p><br></p><p>Guess i'll see how it is in 1809 When Released</p><p><br></p>

  • sbsbsb

    13 August, 2018 - 2:22 pm

    <p>That's not how leap seconds work. They don't happen on a regular schedule.</p>

  • madthinus

    Premium Member
    13 August, 2018 - 2:59 pm

    <p>That dark theme support in File explorer looks like an abomination. It represents everything that is wrong with Windows 10 development. </p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      14 August, 2018 - 10:03 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#301296">In reply to madthinus:</a></em></blockquote><p>Agreed.</p>

  • Gedisoft

    Premium Member
    14 August, 2018 - 2:32 pm

    <p>I think that before Edge really get's a change of serious use in the enterprise, (at least) two things should change: </p><ol><li>You should be allowed to trust self-signed certificates and edge should remember this setting</li><li>It should use the windows printing engine, not it's own</li></ol>

  • NT6.1

    18 August, 2018 - 5:28 pm

    <p>Nothing really useful but the regedit improvements.</p>

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