With just hours before Microsoft turns off the taps to the free Windows 10 upgrade, there is a major update just around the corner. Watch for the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, expected within the first few days of August. Officially releasing on August 2nd, it may take a few days to roll out to your machines.
What is the Windows 10 Anniversary Update and what features does it bring? Let’s find out.
Do you recall the Windows versions in days past, the ones that would receive a major Service Pack update from time to time? In its simplest form, I would have you consider the Windows 10 Anniversary Update to be one of these service patches, including bug fixes, new features and security improvements all bundled together in a single, free Windows Update package.
Now, let’s actually look at what’s coming.
This will not be an exhaustive list, let’s just run through some of the key features. First up, you’ll notice a handful of smaller changes and updates to things like the Start Menu and other system resources, just a few tweaks to enhance your experience. Windows Hello, a biometric authentication feature that many are not using to log into their devices now, will see expansion to protect you across apps and within the Edge browser.
Cortana is seeing a similar productivity bump as well. The Surface Pen will be as valuable as ever with enhancements to Windows Ink handwriting input, and Microsoft Edge has some exciting browser news. Finally, your Xbox One is your new computing friend.
Windows Ink – sticky notes like never before
Introduced as a productivity feature for the Microsoft Edge browser, which we’ll talk more about soon, Windows Ink is a tool to capture screen shots and apply custom markup to add notes, highlight portions of the screen and more. Sounds like a cool feature, but those that prefer other web browsers have been missing out on the fun. No more, Windows Ink is bringing this functionality to more apps across the OS.
You can still markup screenshots, but that can be any screenshot now, not just of the browser. Starting with a select few other apps, you’ll be able to use your Surface Pen or other stylus to handwrite notes and doodles into apps like Microsoft Office.
Finally, the new Smart Sticky Notes, just like those little yellow slabs of paper you’re familiar with, return with new smarts. You can still write them up and sort them out on your Desktop, but this time around the notes can be integrated with Cortana inspired smarts. Mathematical equations, timed reminders, directions with maps and more all available through the stylus.
Tweaks to the system, including the Start Menu
In addition to new and improved security measures, found mostly in the Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, you can expect some adjustments to the live tiles in your Start Menu. As the Start Menu continues to evolve, you might say that it is slowly reverting back to what it once was. Reducing app discovery by a click, you’ll be greeted by a drop down list of all of your installed apps.
As is usually the case, you’ll see little adjustments here and there, and new functions that ease your use of your machine. For example, the new Live Tiles will include what Google calls Deep Linking, that is, instead of the weather app simply opening up when you click the tile, it can open into the exact details that were on the tile at the time. Perhaps this is more useful in the News tile, opening to the story instead of simply opening the News app and making you go searching.
Finally, Microsoft is showing Linux users some love. You may have heard of this already, but support for the Bash command line will be available in Windows. Ubuntu Linux fans and developers rejoice. The rest of us, well, just remember that ‘ipconfig’ and ifconfig’ are pretty close to the same thing, and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry about it, if these tools were important to you, you’d have stumbled across them by now.
Let’s keep things simple here, the Windows Hello feature that requires your device to have requisite front facing camera and a fingerprint scanner, is expanding beyond simply unlocking your account. Coming soon to an app near you, watch for Windows Hello biometric security to operate in certain apps and even as an authentication tool across websites, at least if you use the Edge browser.
These are very convenient security measures, allowing you, and only you, to see that spreadsheet. Better yet, in the browser it is a little like having a fingerprint enabled LastPass running. Sounds great to me.
If nothing else makes a difference for you, we suspect that the ability for Cortana to better search through your apps and files to provide you results on your local searches will be a huge benefit to your day-to-day operations. Cortana can read from your documents, look at your notes and more to help you find or recall your own information. We won’t speak of Cortana’s ability to search the internet for info, that’s an entirely different beast.
While I played off Cortana as only being helpful with your own files, I hope I haven’t buried the lead now that I tell you better integration with mobile devices is here as well. Windows Phone and Android devices, iOS later, can seamlessly interact with your PC, allowing your Cortana on your phone to recall information stored in notes on your desktop, or less impressively, allow you to see phone notifications on your PC.
Microsoft’s Edge browser was a welcome replacement for the old and often bloated Internet Explorer. Keeping things extremely simple, Edge offered little more than a tabbed interface with the ability to hand write notes and doodle on the screen. In line with competing browsers, Microsoft is now adding support for browser extensions.
Continuing to promise power efficiency, you will soon be able to add on features from a few major extension developers to start, with the development community on the hook for creating more. Providers like LastPass, if you still use them after the Hello update, will now have to build their extensions for yet another browser, good thing Edge is built on more familiar and common architecture.
There are few people that do not like video games, if you are one of them, please just skip on, there’s nothing for you here… But wait, maybe there is. I don’t mean top hype this up more than necessary, but Xbox One is capable of becoming a developer’s developer kit, but I suppose you’d still be a game fan if you are eager to use a console for development.
What really matters here is that the Xbox app on your Windows 10 device will have a few new tricks – like the ability to play your Xbox games on your PC. It’s not exactly that simple, but the goal remains true, allowing you to seamlessly swap between your PC and your console, playing the same game from the same save points with the same achievements acquired.
Watch for a new integrated Windows app store and Xbox store. Only certain new titles will support cross-device play, but Microsoft sounds fairly committed to the project.
We are excited that this update is only a few days away. Windows 10 has been – without question -one of the most successful Windows releases ever, and has been one of our favorites. Speaking strictly for myself, I gave up on Microsoft a few years back, I used Ubuntu Linux (primarily) throughout the latter half of the Windows 7 reign, and entirely through the Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 days.
Windows 10 was compelling enough to bring me back to the Windows side. The Windows 10 Anniversary Update supporting Bash is a huge deal for me, at least in concept. Bash has been a long time friend, particularly since it is a tool for my Chromebook as well. Anyone Crouton?
We are very excited for the improvements planned for the Windows 10 anniversary update, be sure to stay tuned for more coverage as the update goes live.
For now, be sure to use this last day to get your free upgrade to Windows 10. Need to upgrade to an SSD, do it now. Been holding out because you love Windows 8 so much, well, you’ll have another excuse not to upgrade when the price jumps to $129.
Stay tuned for more Windows 10 Anniversary Update coverage. Be sure to hit the comments below to let us know what updates to Windows 10 you are most looking forward to.