Windows 10 Creators Update Preview

Posted on January 21, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 25 Comments

Windows 10 Creators Update Preview

In the coming months, Microsoft will deliver its third major update to Windows 10. It’s called the Creators Update, and it will provide a nice feedback-focused push forward.

I’ve been testing the Creators Update via the Windows Insider program, of course, but thanks to a variety of issues, I’ve gone back and forth on using these pre-release versions of Windows 10 on my daily use PCs. The biggest issue was the book, the Windows 10 Field Guide: I needed to stay on the production version of Windows 10, version 1607 (achieved via the Anniversary Update) to ensure that that the book was accurate to what readers would see out in the world.

But with Microsoft set to finalize the Creators Update soon, it’s time for me to move on to the next version of Windows 10. Both on my daily use PCs and for the book, which I will now start updating for this next release. (I’d like to get ahead of this one, unlike with the Anniversary Update.) Point being, anyone who purchased the Windows 10 Field Guide will get updated with the Creators Update content for free.

Microsoft has of course been working on the Creators Update since last year. And while there were some pretty big builds in late 2016 from a new features and functionality perspective, the software giant has really turned up the speed here in early 2017. In fact, the past three builds, in particular—builds 15002, 15007, and 15014—have each arrived with monumental changes. Will future builds offer the same level of change? I can’t say, but I do believe that what we’re looking at today is a pretty good representation of what to expect in the final shipping product. So let’s take a quick drive-by and see what the world can expect when they upgrade Windows 10 to this new version in March or April.

Update: This article has been updated to accommodate more new features that debuted in builds 15019, 15025, and 15031. –Paul

The most important new areas

At its Creators Update announcement event in October 2016, Microsoft’s Terry Myerson outlined the thee most important areas of improvement in this release:

3D and mixed reality. With the Creators Update, Microsoft is expanding its vision for mixed reality—which Myerson defined as “virtual reality, augmented reality, and holographic computing—to include 3D, and is bringing it to the masses courtesy of a range of mixed reality headsets that will work with Windows 10-based PCs. Now, Windows 10 will include tools that help users create, share and experience 3D and mixed reality. More specifically, Windows 10 now includes a Paint 3D tool for creating 3D models, a Remix3D.com online community for sharing 3D models, and a View 3D tool for viewing 3D models. (Windows 10 already included a 3D Builder app for printing 3D models as well, so there’s a complete workflow available now, in-box.)

Games. Continuing its push last year to integrate its Xbox gaming platform with Windows 10, the Creators Update will enable in-game broadcasting of games to the Beam live streaming platform. (Which Microsoft owns.) Now, you can connect your Xbox Live account to Beam and then start broadcasting game sessions live directly from the Game bar. (WINKEY + G). Windows 10 games can also offer 4K graphics, which is not dependent on the Creators Update, and it will offer a new Game Mode in which the system is optimized on the fly to provide the best-possible performance for video games.

Easier connections with the people you care about the most. In October, Microsoft announced a new Share interface that will replace the Windows 8-based Share pane that exists in the product today, and a My People feature that would provide quick access to the people you care about the most, right from the Windows 10 taskbar. Unfortunately, My People has been delayed to the “Redstone 3” update, which is expected in late 2017. So it will not be part of the Creators Update as originally expected.

Of course, the Creators Update is also shipping with a ton of other improvements that we’ve seen in the pre-release builds over the past few months. These include…

Setup

OOBE improvements. The Out Of Box Experience, or OOBE, has been simplified yet again and made more accessible with Cortana-based voice commands.

Privacy settings changes. Microsoft has removed the Express Setup option from Windows 10 Setup and is replacing it with a new “Choose privacy settings for your device” screen in which you can make specific privacy settings-related choices.

Updating

Pause updates. In Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, and Education, you can now pause updates for up to 35 days.

Driver updates. You can now choose not to install driver updates automatically.

Delivery Optimization improvements. Delivery Optimization debuted in Windows 10 version 1511, giving users the ability to download OS and app updates from other PCs on their local network. With the Creators Update, this capability is being expanded so that you can also download OS and app updates from other PCs on the Internet as well, and to allow updates to come from multiple sources, further speeding the delivery. It’s on by default, but you can disable this.

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge is a tough sell for many because of its lack of mobile favorites and settings integration on popular platforms like Android and iOS. But credit Microsoft for forging ahead with big improvements in each of the major updates to Windows 10. The Creators Update, in particular, brings a massive set of updates and enhancements to this web browser, which is being recast as a digital reading hub.

Key updates include:

E-books support. Microsoft Edge can display E-PUB and PDF documents in a nice reading view, and it supports e-books purchased from the Windows Store. You can view your library in Edge via the Books view in the Hub, and then download and read books, including while offline.

Tabs improvements. Tabs management is getting a dizzying array of changes, from the ability to “set aside” tabs and declutter the application to a tab preview bar in which inset tab previews can be toggled on or off. (This is in addition to mouseover tab previews.) You can also share tabs using the new Share interface, though it’s really well-hidden in the “tabs you’ve set aside” UI.

Import your info. In previous versions, Edge allowed you to import favorites from other installed browsers. But now it’s a full experience, and you can import favorites, browsing history, and other data from IE, Chrome, or Firefox. You can also export favorites to HTML so they can be used elsewhere.

Smarter downloads. Now, when you download a file from the Internet—like an application installer—you can simply choose “Run” to run it directly (without placing it in the Downloads folder). Save As is now available as a choice under the Save button.

Partial Flash blocking. Microsoft Edge now blocks untrusted Flash content by default. You can manually enable this content by clicking the little puzzle piece icon you’ll see in the right of the address bar.

Jump list support. Now, Edge supports a basic Jump list—with New InPrivate window and New window choices—from its taskbar icon, just like a real application.

Windows Store

E-books support. Thanks to a new Books area in the Windows Store app—which sits alongside previous areas like Apps, Games, Music, and Movies & TV—you can now browse for e-books too. The Books area looks and works like the other top-level areas in the Store, and provides collections such as Top Books, New Books, category views, and the like.

Themes support. The Store now supports a library of Windows desktop themes.

Mail

It’s on the taskbar by default. The Mail app will be pinned to the Windows 10 taskbar by default starting with the Creators Update.

Photos

Ink support. You can now add Ink drawings or text on top of photos and save it as a still image or a video that shows the ink being drawn. The Windows Ink toolbar that appears includes a new calligraphy pen too.

Updated crop. The cropping tool has been updated.

Filters update. The number of available filters has been expanded.

Maps

Quick traffic check. Now, you can quickly check the traffic to work or home at any time by selecting the Traffic icon in the app bar.

App modes. The Maps app now respects your system theme setting and lets you manually choose between light and dark apps modes too.

Camera

Completely redesigned. The Camera app has been completely redesigned in this release. It also supports living images—previously available only on Mobile—and you can even press the spacebar to take a picture.

UI/Shell

Start improvements. Start now supports tile folders so you can organize app tiles as you like.

Per-app high-DPI support. You can now configure high-DPI settings for desktop applications, on a per app basis, using the property sheet for that app. To do so, find the application’s EXE file, right-click it and choose Properties, and then navigate to the Compatibility tab. Select “Override high DPI scaling behavior” and then choose System (Enhanced). Your mileage will vary.

Improved icon placement and scaling with multi-monitor setups. Desktop icons are now scaled properly and move predictably when you change your multi-monitor configuration, dock/undock your PC, project your display, add or remove monitors, or make other similar changes.

New scrollbars for UWP apps. Universal Windows Platform apps like Settings can take advantage of a new, visually less jarring scrollbar. By default, the scrollbar will be hidden, but a thin line will appear if you move the mouse over the window. When you move the mouse towards the scrollbar, it expands into the normal, full-sized version so you can select it. You can see these three states, from left to right, below.

Compact Overlay. Some apps—like Movies & TV and Skype Preview—now support a new pictiure-in-picture (PIP) mode called Compact Overlay that lets you continue to display content in a small on-screen window while you do other things.

Action Center and notifications

Notification grouping. Action Center now supports notification grouping so that apps can place notifications logically into separate groups. For example, Cortana can group notifications for things like future commitments, event reminders, and flights.

Inline progress bar in notifications. Pop-up notifications can now display a progress slider indicating things like download progress. Windows Store is among the apps that support this new feature.

Cortana

Microsoft’s personal digital assistant picks up a number of updates in this release.

Cross-PC support. Cortana will now help you pick up where you left off if you move between different PCs. (Perhaps you started researching something on a work PC and want to finish it up at home, for example.) So when you switch PCs, Cortana will display quick links in Action Center to the (Edge only) and cloud-based (OneDrive, SharePoint) documents you were using.

App command suggestions. With its growing third party app support, Cortana can now do much more than before. So it will bubble up suggested app commands as you type, helping you find new capabilities that you might not otherwise know even existed. You can find Cortana-capable apps in the Windows Store.

Reminder improvements. Time-based recurring reminders can now use “Every Month” and “Every Year” options.

Keyboard shortcut changes. The WIN + C keyboard shortcut was removed in the Anniversary Update, but you can now use that to launch Cortana in listening mode. (Also, the new WIN + SHIFT + C shortcut is used to launch the App Charms menu in Windows 8.x apps.)

Notification grouping support. Cortana can now take advantage of the notification grouping feature that was added to Action Center in this release.

UX tweaks. Cortana also picks up a tweaked UI with a more visually-prominent light-gray search box.

Windows Ink

Windows Ink has been subtly improved all over the place in the Creators Update.

Tools improvements. The Windows Ink pen, pencil, and highlighter controls now visually indicate which color is selected in supported apps.

Taskbar icon improvements. The Windows Ink Workspace icon on the taskbar now displays on the taskbar on every monitor, not just the primary monitor as before.

Sketchpad improvements. Sketchpad picks up a new point erase control. It also now features stencils, which combine the protractor and compass tools into a single tool that lets you easily draw an arc or circle of any size: You can resize it with a two-finger pinch gesture. The ruler is also updated so that the degree readout shows a numerical value of the angle.

Screen Sketch improvements. Screen Sketch picks up a new point erase control.

Windows accessories and other tools

Hyper-V improvements. Hyper-V Manager sports a new Quick Create link that launches a simple new wizard that makes creating a virtual machine (VM) quicker and easier than before.

Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). WSL has been updated to support Ubuntu version 16.04 (Xenial). And you can now launch Windows applications directly from a WSL command prompt.

OneNote mobile improvements. There’s a new WIN + SHIFT + S keyboard shortcut for capturing a region of the screen. (This used to work with OneNote 2016, if that desktop application was installed.)

Snipping Tool improvements. The Snipping Tool has been updated with a new menu layout and the ability to capture the screen using only the keyboard.

Accounts and security

Dynamic Lock. Windows finally offers a common sense security feature that’s been available on other platforms for quite some time: The abillity to auto-lock the PC when you walk away from it with a Bluetoooth-connected device like your smartphone.

Windows Defender Security Center. This new interface, which is separate from the Windows Defender application, works as a front-end for all of the security features on your PC. It provides control and visibility for the PC’s security, health and online safety experiences.

Windows Hello improvements. Windows Hello features a friendlier new enrollment interface with visual guides.

Improved PIN entry. The PIN entry pad you see at sign-in will now let the number keys on your keyboard work even if the NUM LOCK key is disabled at the time.

Personalization

Microsoft has nicely enhanced the personalization capabilities in Windows 10.

Custom accent color support. In previous versions of Windows 10, you could let the system pick an accent color from your desktop wallpaper or choose from a grid of colors. Now, you can also specify a custom color of your own and—finally—it can literally be any color. The Colors settings interface also provides a small grid of recent colors, which is a nice touch.

Themes improvements. Microsoft now offers a much nicer interface for Themes settings, and you can get more themes from the Windows Store, rather than having to hunt around for them on the web.

Networking

Network authentication changes. Windows 10 configures networks as public by default, which can disrupt connectivity with other devices on your network, including NAS storage. To fix this, be sure to change the network type to private.

Updated Wi-Fi Settings. Now, when you disable Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Settings now lets you configure a time when it will automatically be turned back on. You can choose between Manually, In 1 Hour, In 4 Hours, and In 1 Day. Manually is the default.

Storage

Storage Sense improvements. Like modern mobile systems, Windows 10 can now automatically free up local disk space when it’s running low courtesy of new Storage Sense functionality. By default, Windows 10 will delete unused files that have been in the Recycle Bin for 30 days, and there’s a new “Clean now” tool that will free up space on the fly, sort of like a very basic version of the legacy Disk Cleanup tool.

Settings

Aside from some of the other Settings changes noted above, the Settings app has been changed thoroughly, with a new layout, new top-level items and more. Some of the bigger changes include:

Updated device settings. The previously-separate Connected Devices and Bluetooth settings have been combined into a single, more logical, Bluetooth & other devices settings.

Display settings. The Display settings interface has been consolidated so that commonly-needed options from the old Control Panel UI—like the screen resolution—are now more readily available. There’s also a nice new blue light settings interface that will make the display warmer at nice, helping your eyes adjust and helping you sleep better.

And I’m sure there’s more

I’m using this document as a to-do list, of sorts, for both the Windows 10 Field Guide and the Windows 10 Creators Update content I’ll be publishing here on Thurrott.com. But I’m sure I’ve left out some important features, given the sheer volume of improvements that Microsoft is adding with this release. Let me know if you spot anything important that’s missing.

 

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