This is the big one, ‘Lisbeth.
Microsoft today is shipping new Windows Insider builds of Windows 10 for PCs and Mobile, providing our first look at new Anniversary Update features for the first time. Key among them is Windows Ink, which Microsoft says puts the power of Windows in the tip of your pen.
“It’s only been three weeks since Microsoft announced new innovations coming with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update later this summer,” a Microsoft representative told me, “like native support for Bash on Ubuntu, Cortana cross-device functionality and Virtual Desktop improvements. [But now] Windows Insiders will be the first to try out Windows Ink for themselves.”
On that note, Microsoft is making Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 14328 available today, for both PC and Mobile, to testers on the Fast ring. This build comes just two days after the previous Fast ring build for Mobile, and as such most of the new functionality is found on the PC side. But as you may know, Microsoft is trying to align the development of Windows 10 for PC and Mobile going forward.
As Microsoft’s Gabe Aul notes in a blog post announcing the releases, these additions are coming in hot, and if you’re not interested in running potentially unstable code, you should switch now to the Slow ring.
“What you see in this build represents a lot of new code that has been checked into builds only recently with very little stabilization,” he notes. “So this build is going to have some rough edges so be sure to read the known issues below. Windows Insiders have told us they want are OK with rough edges if it means getting to check out new features sooner. But if this makes you uncomfortable, you should consider switching to the Slow ring and waiting for a more stable build there with these new features.”
Still with us? Great. Here’s what’s new in Windows 10 Insider Preview build 14328 for PCs. It is a long list.
Windows Ink. With this build, Windows Ink is finally available for Insiders to test. This includes Ink integration with apps like Maps, Sticky Notes, Microsoft Edge, and Office, Microsoft says, plus the Windows Ink Workspace and its Pen button in the taskbar, which will appear on devices with an active pen, like Surface Pro and Surface Book, and the SketchPad app (above). I’ll be writing a lot more about Windows Ink as soon as I can use it for myself.
Start improvements. After experimenting with potential changes to the Start experience—and letting Insiders vote on which changes they prefer—Microsoft is finally putting the result into the actual product. So in this build, Start has been updated to be more consistent across PC/tablet and Mobile, with the Most Used Apps, Recently Added, and All Apps lists merged into a single view at the left of Start. And key functionality like Power, Settings, and File Explorer have been moved so they are always visible on the left.
Tablet mode improvements. Tablet mode has been improved to better take advantage of onscreen space onscreen and to make the environment more immersive, Microsoft says. So the Start experience picks up a full-screen All Apps view (again, it was previously dropped), and the taskbar will now auto-hide in Tablet mode (though you can disable that, of course). To display it, swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
Cortana and Search improvements. As promised, Cortana is now available from the lock screen so you can use the device’s personal digital assistant without unlocking it first. There are two new ways to set Cortana reminders: Photo reminders and via the Share contract in UWP apps. The cross-device functionality—like your phone’s battery life displayed on the PC—now works. Cortana now now search OneDrive for files, in addition to the local PC. And for the first time on PC, Cortana will be immediately available without any need for a first-time setup wizard. (You will still need to sign in for certain features, of course.)
Action Center and notifications improvements. The icon for the Action Center is moving to the far right-corner of the taskbar (and to the right of Clock) so that’s no longer buried in icons. Notifications for apps in Action Center are now grouped together with a single icon, and it now displays “Insights from Cortana” so that you are not missing anything important, “such as a meeting conflict or anything she needs to remind you about,” Microsoft says. You can now fully customize the Quick Actions area, and an improved Wi-Fi Quick Action now displays the View Available Networks fly-out instead of stupidly just toggling Wi-Fi on and off.
Taskbar improvements. The Clock in the taskbar is now integrated with the calendar accounts you configured with Outlook Calendar, so you can see all of your coming events with one click: When you select an event in this new flyout, that event opens in the Calendar app. The Clock also appears on all screens in a multi-display setup. UWP apps can now display notification badges (number of unread emails, etc.). Taskbar settings are now available in the Settings app (instead of the old-school floating Properties window). And the Volume flyout has been updated to let you to switch between multiple audio output devices.
Settings app improvements. All of the pages in Settings now have their own icons associated with them, in keeping with a recent change to Mobile. The Pen settings page has been significantly updated for Windows Ink. Apps & Features now provides an App Reset feature that lets you fix broken apps. And Windows Insider Program settings now gets its own page in Settings.
Virtual desktop improvements. For those with a precision touchpad, Windows 10 will now support a four-finger swipe (left or right) for switching between virtual desktops. (macOS works similarly, but not identically.)
Lock screen improvements. For privacy reasons, the lock screen no longer displays your email address, though you can re-enable this if you’d like. And media controls will now appear on the bottom right of the lock screen, complete with album art.
User credential/UAC improvements. The dialogs that appear when you need to enter your user credentials have been restyled to be more consistent with the Windows 10/UWP look and feel. Or as Microsoft puts it, “a fresh and modern UI to align with the design language in use across Windows 10.”
Skype UWP app improvements. Skype’s new all-in-one messaging app picks up group audio and video call functionality.
File Explorer improvements. OK, File Explorer isn’t actually changing (yet?) but it picks up a new icon in this build that “aligns with the monochrome design language used for the icons across Windows 10.” As Microsoft notes, it still provides a bit of (yellow) color because the design team felt that yellow has become such a familiar part of the File Explorer branding. Additionally, the File Explorer icon is no longer pinned to the taskbar by default, though that could change based on feedback. (I always use WINKEY + E anyway.)
Connected Standby improvements. For Surface and other devices that utilize modern Connected Standby power management functionality, Windows 10 is going to be more efficient going forward, and you should see an increase in battery life. This is an interesting topic that I’ll be writing about more in the near future.
Japanese IME improvements. The Japanese IME has been updated with on-the-fly writing prediction choices, improved typing history management, and improved cloud suggestions.
For all the bad news around the PC market and Microsoft’s phone efforts, we really do live in a time of plenty