What’s new with Microsoft's Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Microsoft's Windows 10 Anniversary Update promises to be one of the most stable and fluid Windows experiences to date.

By Abhishek Baxi

On July 29, 2015, Microsoft released what is now known as the final version of Windows – Windows 10. One year later, the Windows as a Service paradigm is reflected with the release of the free Anniversary Update.

As we go along, Windows will be available with forever updates and improvements, based on an integrated feedback loop with enthusiast customers, the Windows Insiders. To get to the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (Build 14393), Microsoft released a staggering 25 builds over the last year!

Unlike the upgrade to Windows 10, the Anniversary Update wouldn’t be a jarring experience. It’s the same, yet it’s different. Remember the good ol’ Service Packs?

Windows 10 Anniversary Update promises to be one of the most stable and fluid Windows experiences to date. There are some major improvements to the Start Menu, Action Center, Windows Ink, and Tablet Mode, that makes Windows 10 AU shine, and of course, there are thousands of bug fixes, battery optimizations, and stability improvements that don’t get the fanfare.

Windows UI

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update does not drastically alter the Start menu or the Lock Screen, but they are refined based on user feedback. For example, Cortana is now available above the lock screen allowing users to ask questions about the weather or set reminders without having to unlock the PC.

One of the biggest features is the Chase-able Live Tiles. Till now, while the Live Tiles displayed information like the latest mail, a news story, or a tweet, clicking on the Tile opened the app and not the specific content reflected on the Live Tile. Windows 10 AU finally brings chase-able Live Tiles, and it is up to the developers now to enable it in their apps before we see it in action. You’d wonder why didn’t Live Tiles behave like this right from the start.

 What’s new with Microsofts Windows 10 Anniversary Update

My favorite UI change in Windows 10 AU is the ‘Dark Mode’. Like the optional dark mode offered by several apps individually, you can now have your Windows in dark theme which is quite cool.

Action Center

The AU improves the overall Action Center experience, along with making the Action Center button a little more interactive. Every time there’s a new notification for a specific app, the Action Center icon in the taskbar briefly changes to that app’s icon. There’s also a badge to indicate the number of missed notifications.

The individual notifications too are now richer with images and profile icons and more interactiveand functional. You can customize what apps take priority in the Action Center when a notification comes through to form a hierarchy of notifications starting with ‘Top Priority’ to ‘High Priority’ to normal/unspecified notifications as well as configure how many notifications from a particular app appear in the Action Center.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update action-center

At the bottom, the Quick Actions too have been improved now allowing you to customize them to your liking by adding, removing, and changing the position of all the actions.

The best bit about the new Action Center experience is the synced notifications. With the help of Cortana, your notifications will sync across PC and phone (Android and Windows only) along with the ability to Universal Dismiss – clear notification on one device, and it gets cleared across the board. It’s a pain and waste of time to dismiss the notification for the same Facebook reply on different devices, and this new feature is a welcome addition.

Windows Ink

If you don’t own a Windows 2-in-1 convertible or a tablet, you might not be as excited about this one as I am, but if you’ve been all in on touch like me, Windows Ink is arguably the most exciting additions to the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Again, the enhancements to the pen experience will truly shine when developers take advantage of the same in their apps, but Microsoft offers a great start.

While the new inking capabilities are ingrained in Windows, the all-new ‘Windows Ink Workspace’ serves as one-point destination for everything pen-related, including primary apps like Sticky Notes, Sketchpad, and Screen sketch. Of course, what makes the Windows Ink Workspace even more awesome is that it is integrated with other Windows apps like Maps, Microsoft Edge, OneNote, et al as well as third-party apps like Adobe Photoshop or Drawboard PDF. For example, with the Windows 10 AU, you can draw directly on the Maps app to find the distance of a route or mark points to find directions between them.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update windows-ink-workspace

Sticky Notes have been around since Windows Vista, but the decade-old digital post-its have gotten an intelligent refresh with Windows 10 AU. Apart from supporting pen-input now, Sticky Notes now integrate Cortana to convert those To-Dos into reminders automatically or the flight numbers that you’ve jotted into tracked flights.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update sketchpad

Another great addition is a brand new Sketchpad app that allows you to use your pen or finger to take notes or sketch images. There’s the ability to change the type or the size of the pen or modify the color of the ink. And there’s a super handy built-in ruler! The virtual ruler allows one to draw straight lines easily, and is pretty neat. Microsoft may bring more such virtual stencils to Sketchpad in the future which could be quite useful.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update screen-sketch

The Screen Sketch is a handy tool to annotate your screen. Essentially, it throws the screenshot into Sketchpad giving you the access to all the pen tools to annotate, highlight, and draw whatever you want on it, and share it as an image.

Microsoft Edge

Windows 10 Anniversary Update microsoft-edge

Microsoft Edge is constantly improving, and while not ‘there’ yet, it is going from strength to strength. It offers much better and smoother experience, and the clean and minimal UI shines with dark mode. Small improvements like 'Paste and Go' or swipe to go back or forward are handy additions.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update edge-extensions

There are, of course, some big banner improvements as well. The biggest one of course is the support for browser extensions that are now available on the Windows Store. And then there’s the much improved battery usage for better power efficiency.

There’s also the support for biometric authentication allowing you to log into websites with Windows Hello. It’s impressive, really, but you won’t find it mainstream just as yet.

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