Anirudh RegidiOct 18, 2017 13:48:22 IST
It’s been a little over two years since Microsoft shifted tracks and went for an iterative update process for Windows rather than focus on a major release every few years. For all intents and purposes, Windows 10 is the last major release of Windows for the foreseeable future.
The initial launch was rocky, and there are still several kinks to be ironed out — the most notable being the ads in Windows 10. Overall, Microsoft has done a good job with supporting the OS with incremental feature updates. Compared side-by-side, the Windows 10 of today is very different from the Windows 10 at launch.
It’s still not a perfect system, however, and one of the defining features of this incrementally updated Windows 10 is the inconsistency with the design language. The introduction of the Fluent Design System, a follow up to Metro, in the recently released Fall Creators Update has once again resulted in a messed-up aesthetic.
Design inconsistencies aside, the Creator’s update brings in some fantastic new features and updates.
Preparing for a 3D future
The biggest new feature of the new OS is support for the Remix Store and support for OS-wide, native, 3D object manipulation. Basically, you can edit simple 3D objects in Paint, download 3D models from the Remix Store and insert them into documents and presentations, add 3D objects to photos, etc. You get the idea.
All the above works better with the Surface Pen and Surface Dial.
Things get even more interesting when you get the Mixed Reality Viewer, an AR viewer for your Windows device. Why? The Mixed Reality Viewer lets you take your 3D creations and place them in the real world via any Windows-powered device with a camera.
Mixed Reality headsets
Mixed Reality (MR) headsets are now natively supported in Windows 10. Unlike dedicated VR headsets like the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift, Mixed Reality headsets don’t require a complex setup, fancy hardware or deep pockets. According to Microsoft, these headsets will happily run on integrated graphics. That said, not all integrated graphics are supported and many Skylake systems (6th generation Intel) are not supported.
The minimum system requirements are an Intel Core i5 7200U CPU with Intel HD Graphics 620, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and of course, the Windows 10 Creators update. Bluetooth 4.0 support is needed for MR controllers. You can check your PCs compatibility via this link.
Headsets are available at the Microsoft Store and prices start at $399. Bear in mind that given the recent price drop, the Oculus Rift with Touch controllers is also available for $399.
New design language, now with transparencies
The Fluent Design System follows up on the design changes we first saw in Windows Phone 7 and later experienced as ‘Metro’ in Windows 8.
The flat design remains, but now you get translucency effects and new transition animations. Developers also get a more comprehensive toolkit to work with.
As with the introduction of the original Metro UI, however, Fluent doesn’t pervade the OS. The implementation is scattered and haphazard. You’ll find it in the Groove and Calculator apps, for example, but not in the Settings window.
From the screenshots we’ve seen, the design, where implemented, gives Windows a fresh look, but we just wish that Microsoft took the trouble to implement it everywhere rather than at random.
On the Edge of awesome
Edge, unlike Internet Explorer, is a fast, modern, powerful and relatively secure browser that deserves more attention than it gets. Microsoft’s unsolicited attempts to force the browser on its users notwithstanding, it’s actually a great browser now. However, it’s simply not as useful as Google Chrome or even Safari, for that matter. Microsoft isn’t going to tempt users over to their side unless this is sorted out.
Fixing that issue, at least partially, are the new features that have arrived for Edge. Edge now lets you pin your favourite pages to the taskbar. You can already pin pages to the Start menu, so it’s not an incredibly useful new feature, but it’s an improvement, and we’re happy about that.
More importantly, you can finally share a web page from your phone directly to your PC. It’s still not as simple a process as it is via hand-off and Safari or on Google Chrome, but it’s a big step towards making the browser more useful.
Several other updates include the ability to edit the URLs of your ‘favourites’ (Yes, this wasn’t there earlier), a better full-screen browsing mode, enhanced security features (especially for Enterprise users) and the option to have Cortana read pages aloud to you. You can also fill PDF forms using Edge’s in-built PDF viewer. eBooks and PDFs can now be annotated within the browser as well.
Cortana jumps ship, in a good way
If you’re using Cortana on Android and your PC, the Creators Update will let you receive notifications and respond to messages and calls on your PC, just like you could for so many years on iOS and macOS. Cortana can also control more aspects of your PC with voice commands now.
As far as I’m concerned, the People Hub is among the least useful features in Windows 10. I use apps to contact people and on a PC, why wouldn’t I just open Outlook, Mail, Skype or even my browser to do that?
The new People Hub makes itself more useful by now allowing users to pin contacts to the taskbar. These shortcuts can be used to contact them directly via Skype. Better yet, you can drag and drop content onto these pinned contacts to share something with them directly.
Unlike iCloud, which is useful and just sort of exists in the background, Microsoft went to a lot of trouble to bring it front and centre in the Windows experience. It’s integrated into Photos and Office applications and sits semi-permanently in your File Explorer window.
For something so prominently placed, its implementation did turn out to be a bit daft. The original OneDrive app had an incredibly useful OneDrive placeholder feature that simply placed an icon in your OneDrive where a file or folder should be. This was useful when dealing with data that wasn’t stored locally on your PC. For example, my photos folder on OneDrive is over 600 GB in size. I don’t want to download that on every PC I own, but at the same time, I still want to quickly access it to add files to that folder or browse a certain set of images.
First, Microsoft messed up this original implementation by not fully supporting third-party apps and developers, then it removed this feature. Now, if I want to add images to an existing OneDrive folder that’s not locally mapped, I have no option but to do this in a web browser.
Thankfully, placeholders make a comeback with the Creators Update, and hopefully, so do more APIs for developers.
Faster Emoji access 😀
Emojis are now easier to access with a regular keyboard. A dedicated shortcut key now enables quick access. The included touch keyboard also has a swipe gesture for accessing these emojis.
Pen input has apparently been improved and some features have been added. The clicker on your Pen can be used to move through slides and a ‘Where’s my Pen?’ feature helps you find lost pens. Eye tracking support for input and a screen reader that can even describe images have been added to improve accessibility. Of course, voice dictation is still an option.
Teased in April this year and finally making an appearance in the Creators Update, Microsoft is supposed to have improved DPI scaling on high-resolution displays. This has been my pet peeve with Windows 10 and is the only reason I don’t recommend Windows laptops with high-resolution screens to anyone. Windows simply can’t scale either its UI or apps appropriately on high-resolution displays.
With this update, Microsoft fixes some of these issues by giving developers better control over DPI scaling.
Task Manager updates
The new task manager can now give you GPU usage information in the performance tab. With this update, you’ll have a better understanding of the apps that use your GPU. On mobile devices, where battery life comes at a premium, this feature can be very useful.
And there you have it, the more prominent changes that you can expect in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.
The improvements and changes certainly seem haphazard on the surface (Was that a pun?), but added together, it’s clear that there’s a lot that’s new in Windows 10.
If you’re looking to upgrade to the Fall Creators Update, head here.
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