Here are the Best Improvements in Windows 10 Version 1903

Posted on February 11, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 70 Comments

With Windows 10 19H1 development winding down, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate this major new Windows version. Rather than a formal review—Windows 10 is Windows 10 is Windows 10, after all—I figured it would make a bit more sense to sift through the many changes and improvements that Microsoft will bring with this release and focus on the best of the best instead.

Any list like this is, of course, subjective, and you may appreciate some other features more than those I note below. You can certainly find more complete lists of new Windows 10 19H1 features out there: Microsoft, for example, maintains its own list at its Microsoft Docs website. And How-To Geek’s Chris Hoffman has a very complete overview as well. But I will focus just on the very best changes. You know, in my opinion.

Let’s dive in.

1. Improved Light theme (app mode)

Microsoft has long confused matters with its Windows 10 system themes, which, to date, have actually been called app modes because the word “theme” was used earlier to describe bundles of wallpaper images, sounds, mouse cursors, and color schemes. In Windows 10 19H1, the term app mode appears to be going away. But you still access the system themes—not the old-school themes—in the same place in Settings: Personalization > Colors.

As with the previous few Windows 10 releases, Windows 10 19H1 includes both Light and Dark, um, themes. But the Light theme has been dramatically overhauled in this release. It’s much lighter than before, an even comes with a lighter new wallpaper. But more substantively, the new Light theme is dramatically more professional-looking and—spoiler alert—it also happens to hint at the new UI coming in Microsoft’s future Chrome OS competitors. I thought the Light theme was a bit too light when I saw it in images, but it’s just great looking in real use. Unlike the Dark theme, which still looks like it was cobbled-together by unprofessionals.

2. Cortana is cut off at the knees

Like live tiles in Start, Cortana has long been frustrating and mostly pointless in Windows 10. And Microsoft made the grave mistake last year of making its personal digital assistant annoying, too, by forcing all users to endure her scatting and screeching during Windows Setup, a terrible ploy to make it seem like it was addressing some non-existent Accessibility need. But in Windows 10 19H1, Microsoft is taking steps to roll back the madness, finally.

First, and perhaps most dramatically, Microsoft is “decoupling” Windows Search and Cortana, both visually and functionally. That means we’ll now have two things to remove from the default taskbar, a Cortana button and a Search box, instead of just one combo Cortana/Search box. That’s fine because the more substantive change here is that Search and Cortana are now completely different experiences. So instead of being confused by Cortana’s UI when all you want to do is find a file on your PC, you can now safely ignore a technology that makes little sense on a PC anyway. (Again, like live tiles.)

For those who do use Cortana, no worries: The assistant has actually gotten a nice upgrade in 19H1, too, with support for Microsoft To Do (for those in Australia, India, the US, or the UK), new smart home features, and Amazon Alexa integration. (As always, Cortana is currently only available in supported markets, which may also help explain why removing it from Search makes sense.)

The other big change is that Microsoft is disabling the terrible Cortana voice-over in Windows Setup … but only in Windows 10 Pro, Education, and Enterprise. Windows 10 Home users will still have to nervously try to find the Mute button after Cortana scares the shit out of them when setting up that version.

3. Pause updates for 7 days

Windows 10 Pro and higher have always had controls for pausing and deferring Windows 10 updates, though the interface is a bit hidden and quite obtuse. So Microsoft, to make the most common use case more obvious, has added a “Pause updates for 7 days” option right at the top of the list of options in Windows Update Settings in 19H1. More amazingly, this option is now available in Windows 10 Home, making this Windows 10 version the first and only time that Windows 10 Home users could explicitly pause updates in any meaningful way.

Yes, I’d like to see more. But I’m still applauding this first and very important step. Microsoft is finally backing away from the abyss.

4. Uninstall more in-box apps

Windows 10 ships with a ton of Store apps and most of them are either useless or are outright crapware. In previous Windows 10 versions, only some of them—Microsoft Solitaire Collection, My Office (renamed to Office in 19H1), OneNote, Print 3D, Skype, Tips, and Weather—could be fully uninstalled without resorting to complicated PowerShell-based trickery. But in 19H1, Microsoft has dramatically expanded the list of in-box apps that the user can uninstall. So the list now includes the following, too: 3D Viewer, Calculator, Calendar, Groove Music, Mail, Movies & TV, Paint 3D, Snip & Sketch, Sticky Notes, and Voice Recorder.

Removing these apps won’t save an appreciable amount of disk space. But it will declutter the Start menu quite a bit, and if you prefer not to even see these entries there, peace of mind will follow. It’s all good.

5. Sign-in with a password-less account

As part of Microsoft’s ongoing effort to eliminate passwords from online accounts, Windows 10 19H1 now supports all of the ways in which you can sign-in to your Microsoft account (MSA). And that includes new, password-less MSAs for which you have an associated phone number. When you first sign-in to Windows 10 19H1 on a new or reset PC, you can optionally do so using only that phone number. Then, you type in the code that was sent via text messaging to complete the sign-in, and you can then configure Windows Hello facial recognition, fingerprint, and/or PIN so that you’ll never once have to type in your password. Amazing. And secure.

6. Simplified Start

Because live tiles are useless on PCs—they were designed for the “at-a-glance” interaction that is typical on smartphones—I usually cull that area of Start on my PCs and then pretty much ignore it completely. So I was interested to see that Microsoft has adopted my trimmed-down tiles area design as the default in Windows 10 19H1. This new layout consists of one column of tiles instead of two, creating a sleeker and thinner default Start menu and is apparently just the first step to further enhancements. (Which I assume will include the complete removal of live tiles in a future release.) This one isn’t rocket science—again, I’ve been configuring my Start menu like this for years—but it does look better. And that’s a good thing.

7. Windows Sandbox

Those with Windows 10 Pro and better and the appropriate hardware chipsets in their PCs have always been able to use Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization platform. And that continues in Windows 10 19H1. But Microsoft has also added a new, more lightweight virtualization solution called Windows Sandbox that can be used to test one-off applications without the overhead and time needed to fire up Hyper-V, create a new virtual machine (VM), and install (and maintain) Windows. Instead, Sandbox comes up quickly, letting you test applications without compromising your real Windows 10 install. And when you’re done testing, it goes away, completely. This one won’t benefit most users, I guess, but it’s a much faster and simpler experience for those who do need it.

8. Clipboard history improvements

Windows 10’s “cloud clipboard” functionality is little-understood and under-used because it’s disabled by default and you have to navigate to Settings > System > Clipboard to even find it. But this feature is pretty amazing: It stores a history of the text, images, files, and other items that you copy to the system clipboard, does so over multiple PCs if desired (and can include your smartphones too, albeit in a more limited fashion), and then presents a visual list of those items when you use the WINKEY + V keyboard shortcut to paste.

That’s pretty excellent. But it’s getting even better in Windows 10 version 1903, with a redesigned user interface that shows more of the items you can paste. Also, I’m mentioning it here because, again, most people don’t even know about this feature.

9. Windows Mail improvements

Windows Mail is the most unprofessional and weakly-featured email application that Microsoft has ever created and the fact that it is included with Windows 10 makes this fact particularly embarrassing: The in-box apps should be showcases for what’s possible in Store apps, not poster children for what’s wrong with the platform. But as is the case with some other items on my list here, Microsoft is again subtly acknowledging the problem by taking some baby steps towards fixing them.

For example, Microsoft is finally addressing my biggest Mail complaint by adding a feature, called Default font, that other email applications have offered since the 1990s: The ability to customize the font face, size, color, and emphasis of text displayed in email messages. For the past three and a half years, Mail has instead relied on your system zoom settings to determine what this text looked like, and while it did offer manual zoom capabilities—which never “stuck” and could not be set—they didn’t respect the mail message container by offering auto-wrap.

Also, Microsoft is finally formally supporting the Windows 10 Dark “theme” in Windows Mail (and Calendar), meaning that the app itself, as well as the contents it displays, will be themed according to what the user chooses. Microsoft says that this change means that Mail will now “provide a calmer reading experience for people that work in a low light environment or just prefer screens that are less bright, and helps to reduce eye strain.” I’ll just call it consistent and more mature.

Yes, Mail still needs a lot more work. But again, baby steps.

10. Screen snip improvements

OK, Windows 10 has way too many ways to create screenshots. But the Snipping Tool app that I found so superfluous in previous Windows 10 versions has been updated nicely, and in Windows 10 19H1, it’s become the preferred way to capture all or some of the screen.

First, it’s been renamed to Screen snip, and is also available via a keyboard shortcut (WINKEY + SHIFT + S) and the Action Center’s Quick Settings tile grid for easy access. There’s a full-screen overlay that appears now, too, with a little toolbar offering rectangular, free-form, window, or full-screen snip options. And when you make a snip, you can optionally edit it immediately via the notification banner that appears. Nice.

Still too complicated? Navigate to Settings > Ease of Access > Keyboard, find the option “Use the PrtScn button to open screen snipping,” and enable that. Now, you can just trigger Screen snip with the Print Screen button on your keyboard!

But wait, there’s more

OK, I cut the list off at 10. There’s a lot more coming in Windows 10 version 1903, of course, so I’ll be writing more about this release soon.

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Comments (70)

70 responses to “Here are the Best Improvements in Windows 10 Version 1903”

  1. tbtalbot

    I really don't think live tiles are useless. Using full screen start menu - I keep a full size tile for calendar and each of 4 email accounts as well as with news items like twitter, reddit, etc. It gives me an instant overview of all the 'new' stuff going on during the day without peeking though all those apps. MS does not provide automated ways to set up useful approaches to using live tiles - if they did, many more people would make use of them.

  2. Byron Adams

    The only live tile I like is the weather one. That said, I prefer organized tiles over messy desktop icons.

    Wish MS would provide a Screen snip -> copy text from image to clipboard feature. I requested it but if no one votes for it, it'll never see the light of day.

  3. trekrich

    I really like the live tiles, but Microsoft cannot please everyone. i was able to live with them before, and i am sure i will be able to when they are gone.

  4. karlinhigh

    Windows Sandbox looks great! Microsoft pretty much sold me on 1903 just with that feature.

  5. karlinhigh

    Now that Cortana is separate from Start Menu Search, does search still return web results? That's been a big frustration for me, getting movie-poster content instead of My Documents. Especially as the feature had been previously excellent.

  6. dallasnorth40

    Half the time I use my Surface Pro in tablet mode. Did we forget that is an option for Windows 10?

  7. glenn8878

    I wish they will change live tiles to show information you need. It constantly flips graphics. Also include pin to desktop.


    Stop with asking for another second account to sign-in with. I already signed in with my account, but it asks for a second account from another family member who uses my computer.


    The news window constantly reminds me of the news. It should close permanently after I close it.

  8. mdrapps

    Can someone confirm if the Meltdown and Spectre virus performance improvement is definetly included in Win 10 1903? answer much appreciated.

  9. ph-sth

    1 - Light Mode, nervous about this. It looks horrible.

    6 - Start Menu, I exclusively use Live Tiles on the Start Menu. I turned off the all apps list ages ago. The entire Start Menu needs an overhaul, it's a mess.

    9 - Windows Mail, the feature-free nature of these apps harks back to Microsoft's early forays into the 'apps' market and their determination to make these things terrible so people would still pay for Office. It's a legacy that's cost them dear.

    10 - Screen Snip, needs refining. I was happy enough with Snipping Tool. That Screen Snip opens a new window each time you take a new screen capture gets annoying when you have to close them all.

  10. dxtremebob

    I like being able to change the mouse cursor color. Helps to see it better without making it larger.

  11. solomonrex

    I had a real disappointment when trying to use the new smartphone integration in Windows 10 - it's WiFi only. Many of us with gaming PCs, a key user base for MS, hit that limitation and I don't understand it. Chromecast works over the local network, not just wireless on both ends. Same with many other connection type functions in modern software (iTunes sync over WiFi didn't need WiFi on both ends, for example).

  12. MutualCore

    So Paul, is Siri on macOS 'cut off at the knees' because it doesn't have a search interface? Now Windows 10 is at least in line with Mac having separate search & digital assistant UIs. But you don't criticize them, I wonder why.

  13. ryrynz

    How did I know you'd miss the kernel improvements basically negating the performance impacts of Spectre and Meltdown..

    Piss poor.

  14. siv

    I think like others here Microsoft should just bin the start menu and go back to the adult version that was in Windows 7 maybe update it's look to suit the new flatter theme in Windows 10. The Windows 7 menu was far more versatile and logical than anything since. I would love to know the percentage of users who actually use live tiles.

  15. Jedi Dwight

    Windows Mail was I'm sure just included for handling the mail functionality in a modern UI, tablet friendly app, while leaving room for ISVs to release much better apps on their own. If Microsoft WordPad were too nice, people wouldn't care to pay for a more full featured app. That is their way of enabling the Windows ecosystem by not being ultra-competitive in that field.

  16. mrdrwest

    NOT 6...SIX...0110?!!!!!!!

  17. brettscoast

    Thanks for that unpacking Paul. There does seem to be some good improvements coming up. Is is possible windows mail is worse than outlook express? Any improvements in that regard are appreciated.

  18. blackcomb

    Windows Sandbox is the only improvement. Anything else is useless or ruins the original .exe version of the app.

  19. Tony Barrett

    Here we go again. Another release, more pointless 'features', more bugs, more problems.. Will Microsoft ever learn? I'd take a clean, stable OS over a bloated, unreliable, bug ridden, data slurping monstrosity like Win10 any day of the week.


    Cue downvotes!

  20. SYNERDATA

    I am really upset that you are hammering Live Tiles which are really important and useful and critical to my work. Clearly you have no idea how to use them, being someone who uses a "pop-up" menu instead a full screen of live readouts from all one's systems.


    Back off!

    • CaedenV

      In reply to SYNERDATA:

      first thing I do on every install is import an xml that reduces the tile menu to 0 so only the app list remains. Really wish this would be a built in feature. Not against the feature being thee for others, but for goodness sake let us turn it off.

    • generalprotectionfault

      In reply to SYNERDATA:

      Live Tiles would have made sense as a replacement for the Desktop Gadgets they inexplicably removed midway through Windows 8's development. (Indeed Microsoft at one point claimed they were in fact the direct replacement). But they never have let them be pinned on the desktop. Without that feature they are pretty useless on most traditional PCs.

  21. Lordbaal

    How about spot deleting out signature in the email app when we reinstall Windows. And stop turning on focused inbox.


    I want 2 rows on my start screen.

  22. mikiem

    RE: Windows Sandbox, & just FWIW...


    As with Hyper-V itself, it's unfortunately incompatible with VirtualBox -- V/Box won't work if Hyper-V is installed. It's a shame IMHO, as the Sandbox seems to me a more elegant solution than using virtualization tools like Shadow Defender to route all disk writes to a file. And since the Sandbox [like Shadow Defender] won't survive a re-boot, it's not a full replacement for testing in a VM.


    As to: "Well just use Hyper-V VMs"... for me in a non-biz environ, V/Box just works all sorts of better, & yes, I've used Hyper-V.

  23. lodmot

    They better not remove live tiles completely in the future-- I use those on my work computer quite a bit.

  24. JacobTheDev

    Really looking forward to Screen Snip, I've been using a program called ShareX for this for a while now, but it'd be awesome if it was just natively integrated. The only remaining featured I'd need is the ability to record GIFs or MP4s using the tool.

  25. rogerc

    > The ability to customize the font face, size, color, and emphasis of text displayed in email messages.


    This misconception was also present in the last article. This setting doesn't change how an email is displayed, it changes how an email is formatted.


    It's the same difference as in writing a letter in Word and have it displayed at 200% zoom or formatted with 24 pt size font. It may look the same, but these are fundamentally different things. I don't think it's your intention to send emails - or letters - with 24 pt font size.

  26. BoItmanLives

    Good riddance to the awful metro tiles and useless cortana. Only took them 4 years to figure out nobody uses that shit.


    Maybe they'll eventually realize the windows 10 store is also complete garbage and get rid of it. And give us a telemetry off switch. Let's a lean and mean OS again.

  27. ebnador

    One note's screen capture is also Shift+winkey+S.

    If you have One note installed which version is launched windows screen snip or one note?


    I've been using one notes screen capture for years, but the new screen snip looks better because you can edit and annotate the clip before pasting it into a document or email.

  28. mikes_infl

    These all sound pretty good and I might actually let updates start again. They might make Win10 almost as functional and malleable as the old WFW 3.11 back in the day. I had nearly my complete set of daily responsibilities set out in "scripts" that were able to reach out to various analog sensors around the county and keep me informed about troubles in what is now referred to as "real time" but used to be called "NEAR" real time. That was only 30 years ago.

  29. red.radar

    In general, I am excited about update 1903. Probably the most excited I have been since the initial launch of Windows 10.


    But I am not certain I like the trend the industry is moving in #5) with password-less accounts


    I like to become less reliant on my phone not more. I am not certain I like the solution to the problem. I was just discussing with my spouse...what happens if I die in a plane crash with my phone? How would you get access to all the critical services you need to keep things functioning in my absence. Its made that problem even harder to keep straight. I already have an encrypted database with some 300+ unique user names and passwords for all the blessed websites/ forums /services i have encountered over that last 20 years. dear lord if they all want to move to 2factor... insanity..


    Not to mention the data security issue. I feel like this is going to push attacks on my cellphone carrier to hijack my identity. And we all know carriers are the most efficient customer friendly organizations on the planet. Also everyone has relized that 2Factor is great because they get to harvest my phone number, another piece of critical identifiable information about me. Yet another piece of information to get hacked and distributed ... And its like my email address...what happens if I change my phone number.... All the two factor codes to reset and information to update It becomes more difficult to manage for the theater of a little more security.


    I know I can still log in with a old fashion username and password, but I wonder if people are thinking through all the implications ... I am not certain this problem is getting any easier.... maybe yubikey?

    • RonH

      In reply to red.radar:


      there are option when you log into the MS account... Security key, authentication app or password. I have my passwords saved to my wife's Enpass, and have added my MS account to her Authentication app. I have also shared important files via OneDrive.

    • Jeff Jones

      In reply to red.radar:

      When you set up two factor authentication on the big websites they give you a recovery option like a printable list of one time passwords that you can stick in a safe, or other options like a USB keys, etc. I would imagine Windows will have something similar.

    • srfritsche

      In reply to red.radar:


      The comment about dying in a plane crash is important, regardless of issues with Windows 10. I strongly recommend that partners make sure that they both have (1) password managers/apps and (2) both accounts (or a joint account) have ALL crucial and/or financial logins and URLs. This problem is probably going to arise with increasing frequency going forward.

  30. aioriagold

    It's a really bad situation that Microsoft keeps giving us (pardon the word) pure crap in terms of Windows 10 Builds


    Instead of concentrating in the OS itself which is really broken since the beginning it keeps feeding us crap

    improvements like

    search, cortana, tiles, date options, light & dark themes, emojis, shadows, new icons, windows hello, crappy notepad changes instead of adding a new and full notepad++ like program, drag and drop, sync clocks, etc etc etc


    Pure Crap, instead of making kernel and core OS true improvements. Because in reality Windows 10 has been broken since the very start and that has been by now clearly shown. With Windows 7 never were such messes like with Windows 10.


    Microsoft should sit down and start working about the """Operating System""" not about the fairy dust.


    Hope Paul can talk about it with his Microsoft friends.

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