The fall Creators Update: Where is your inner creator?
I wanted to title this section appropriately and accurately, for it needs to express my true and tried view of this upcoming Windows release. Unlike the prior Creators update, this one has less specifics geared towards a subset of people or those who create; Many of the new additions here can apply to even the most “everyday” of Windows customers and reflect upon how they use their lives along with their computers. Cloud users will no doubt appreciate features such as One-drive files onDemand, whereby cloud folders can appear in your computer’s storage but not take up actual space until you invoke to download them. Those who rely less on having their lives upon the web could make use of better local features for greater privacy and security, and how could I not forget about the new on-the-fly emoji input panel! Users have better opportunities to make use of Cortana in new transitional ways, as there are changes to how which results are displayed and them being done so inline. Social media enthusiasts will no doubt greatly enjoy the new “my people” experience which will consolodate their contacts all in one place and on their taskbar. Geeks are going to love that the task manager includes GPU performance details, with better task prioritization abilities through a new power throddling feature, some improvements to the terminal, and a large expansion in the Linux on Windows subsystem. All in all, this update scatters features across for many people, and at the very least the privacy and settings improvements really make it worth getting.
If you are still not yet convinced, please do stick around, and you may perhaps discover your reason for wanting to run it. Come on, do it for the emoji. This is the modern age, and emojis are here to stay, our world has established this by now, we all know it deep down in our souls. Here’s a picture from the Windows Insider blog of a tiger and ninjacat to be seen by our future as the icon of this age.
image curtesy Microsoft Windows blog.
Let’s go to the basics: Your core Windows experience
The core of Windows is what we in the technical world call a shell, as it is the part of your experience you come to when you first turn on your machine. In this update, there are subtle but well-defined changes to this, and you can enable features to enhance it even further. Visually, you will notice Microsoft’s new Fluent-design system which is now present in areas such as the start menu. Here, there are less transparency effects and has more of an opaque feel. The context menus have also received changes, placing options for a highlighted app in the more submenu where there are further store-related choices for rating and sharing the item. These are making the Windows Store and the new platforms for sharing content be exposed in the classic familiar places people have used for ages to perform traditional actions.
Image Credit: ComputerWorld. The new start menu is on the right side of the image.
Image Credit: WindowsLatest.com
And this is just the start screen. More changes have come to the action center, Taskbar, and the “My People” toolBar which you can unlock after you have signed into the app and have allowed the sharing of contacts from a supported platform. Microsoft was smart to once again add improvements to the core of Windows, but in doing so, with the notion of understanding where people are the most likely to access features. Later in this review, you will see how this statement applies to other areas of Windows, such as the settings experience.
Has the action center become finally more actionable ?
After having changed the Action center multiple times over the age, I believe Microsoft has finally evolved to create it’s perfect real-level representation of what this part of Windows should be and was thought of in their view. In the past, the tab order of the action center was quite cluttered, with at times individual notifications and their clear buttons getting tab focus. In the Creators update, grouping them was possible, but there existed a severe bug evident only after you cleared all notifications. This was that you could no longer tab to the quick action buttons and had to use the Narrator cursor to navigate to them – screen readers such as JAWS would often state they have “lost focus” after encountering the behavior.
Picture credit: Windows Insider blog
Alas, all of these bugs are now fixed in the latest Windows, and I enjoy the action center for what it is. One feature missing here, but coming already in the next Windows version, is the ability for Cortana notifications to appear in the action center. For now, Cortana has her own feed within her home tab, and will push notifications separate of Action center. This will be changing, but if you are not a huge fan of her, you will probably find this action center even more perfect.
Visually, you will notice that the X icons to close various notifications are now arrows, and the system is also using the new acrilic affects of Fluent design. Screen reader users, you will hear each group of apps in which there are notifications, along with a clear button with each tab press for that app, in the form of “clear all notifications for one drive.” NVDA and some other readers may announce level information depending on verbosity, as though this were a tree view grid. You will find the quick actions buttons, and as you left and right arrow through them, notice that you can go passed a certain number of items, about 3 or 4. To expand all quick action buttons, simply toggle the switch to reveal a larger list. Please note that this is still customizable in the action center section of the settings>personalization area. Again, much is said to be about a good powerful notifications system, and the action center is clearly getting there as it matures. More features to come soon.
Image credit: Windows Insider blog
There are less things to speak of here, although the taskbar does gain a few new improvements. If you may recall, you can right-click the volume icon on the system tray and press “open volume mixer” to show a mixer with all applications listed. Previously, you could not control the volume of apps purchased via the Store or pre-installed with your machine, such as the music app. This meant that playing files in these resulted in a frustrating experience of having to control the volume of other apps around your playback of a song or item, and this became one factor in why I stayed away from music playback through non-windows programs (Or said universal” apps.) This also means the volume of Edge windows can be changed through the flyout.
You will also notice a new “spacial audio” option in the context menu for the volume icon. This allows you to configure a form of sound processing, and by default there is a “windows Sonic for headphones” – which to me did not make a huge difference in songs, but it may improve things on 3-D tracks. The interesting bit here is that 3rd-parties will be able to plug into the system, as there is a Dolby one listed for me which you can actually buy from the store or try a demo of sounds through the option in this menu. This is very interesting and could add a realistic dimension to audio in the future, so let’s see where it evolves.
One minor change on laptops is a quick ability to adjust your power plan on the fly by left-clicking the battery charge icon. This brings up a slider where the lowest (left) setting places your computer on battery saver mode, and the right-most option is a high-performance state. This is very useful especially if you quickly want to use your computer in different scenarios and can’t bother to open the power settings area.
There is but one major change, and I saved it for last. The new people experience. You will notice the people bar if you look at the TaskBar, and hear it as you tab across the options around your desktop there. Do not fear, this is able to be hidden if you do not wish to have people mixed in with your programs, through the TaskBar portion of Personalization settings. Untoggle the “Show contacts on the taskbar” option and completely disable the experience through the unchecking of the two other options related to My People. However, if you care to be social in a new way, then the next section is for you.
Why are there people on my Taskbar? What to do about them
Image credit: Windows insider blog.
The people button (and small circular head icon) will appear on the TaskBar, inviting you to press and open the so called “people flyout.” Go ahead, press it, nothing bad will happen anyway. If you have mail, Skype, and messaging accounts connected, they will be pulled into the People app where you can add them to the TaskBar. Once you press the “get started” button, you are asked to choose from a list of “my People capable apps.” Skype and Mail are there by default, but the nice thing about this will be that other companies such as Facebook could expand their Messenger service to hook into this one.
Image credit: Microsoft Windows blog
Once you have configured contacts that are within your app, you can pin three of them to your Taskbar. The nice experience here is that once you have done so, you can just press their icon and use your preferred message of contacting them right from that platform of your choice. If the same names are found in multiple accounts, they will appear as usable choices for your contact. It really is a nice way to reach people easier than ever before without launching actual apps for these tasks and using a familiar interface to do so. I do feel like Microsoft got this one right, once we c an pin more people or group them in the future. Mark my word, that feature will come sometime. This has potential.
Finally, the One Drive Feature we all were waiting for
I have finally begun using One-drive as my own personal always-available storage, simply because the choice to sync and see specific folders is completely on me and mine to make alone. The cloud icon is used to denote online files. Image credit: Microsoft.
For all the folders in your one-drive, you can right click and choose to either “free up space” or “always keep on this device.” Once you have opted to keep an item always available, a green circle with a white checkmark denotes the change. Local-only files are available and change to being local once you have downloaded them. The latest versions may not always be available offline though, so making items “always available” could be of use.
What’s new for security?
Much needed work is going to keeping Windows ever secure, as we learn of greater and greater threats which are appearing almost daily. Have you heard of the new WPA2-Crack exploit where people can insert random data into wi-fi network traffic? We’re talking your neighborhood bullies who use these tools are their disposal unless they are patched. Lucky for Windows, Microsoft can use Windows Update to negate these types of attacks, and they are giving you more tools in this release to protect your own files and folders. For users running on enterprise additions of Windows, you have the fortune of now running Microsoft Edge in so called “windows defender guard” mode, allowing you to load Edge sites in a “virtual space” inaccessible to other system resources. That’s pretty cool and something to geek out over for you! For business though, this is a very important and much-needed choice especially if they want to see Windows as a viable one for their customers and data.
Still, Windows Defender does feature a new “exploit protection” engine which is meant to assist with protecting your machine against any web threats. Let’s take a stroll to the new Windows defender security center introduced in the creators update, still yet in shadows of the actual settings app. Don’t worry, if you did go to settings > Update and Security > Windows Defender, you can open it from there, otherwise just search for the word “defender” and it will appear somewhere in your list.
What is this Controled Folder access thing, anyway?
This will be a great feature for those who just want to lock some files away from changes which they have not approved or to be alerted to these being made if attempted by a program they did not authorize. Once you opened your security center, click on the virus protection item and subsequently the settings item there to locate it.
Photo credit: Microsoft insider Windows blog. /img>
Once you turn the toggle on, you can choose to add specific folders. under each folder, once added, there is also an option to allow an app through folder access. This may make it less useful for some, as you cannot specify which folder that app will access, only which apps can modify the content in them. Still, if you have sensitive data which only your text editor should modify, by all means add the folder and program here.
Photo credit: Microsoft Insider Windows blog.
Using exploit protection
Jump to the 5th item in the navigation list for the Windows Defender security center called “app and Browser control,” and notice a new item there called “exploit protection.
image credit: Microsoft.
You can control some very deep functions here. In the system tab, you can change how various memory randomization features are and whether to use Intel-based processor functions such as DEP. The apps tab allows you to configure advanced protection on a per-app basis. Apps added to this list are given extra monitoring and maybe more sandboxed from the system. This level of customization is a good sign for system and security administrators who use such features every day both in the enterprise and with respective clients.
Other changes in security
Windows store downloads will begin to feel a little different starting today for you. Previously, the notion of which apps used which resource was more vague and only discoverable once the specific app was running. Now, a permissions page will explain that an app may use specific privacy features, and their use is still just as ever configurable in the privacy section within settings. With almost 20 categories there, what’s there to not like?
Image credit: Microsoft Insider Windows Blog
To get this Window, you will first have to check the “Defender application guard” feature in “turn Windows Features on and off” portion of settings. This requires an enterprise version of Windows with hyper-v, as it isolates the website in a virtual machine complete with own ram and memory workspace. NVDA 2017.4 is slated to work with the feature as well. Once enabled, the “open application guard” window will be present in the Edge menu.
Cortana, oh Cortana, do you copy?
We can’t skip a Windows review without talking about Cortana, so let’s see how she is better and here to improve your life. Microsoft is building it to becoming an assistant which is smart and has abilities for tapping into various resources you use. This of course requires that you also buy-in and use Microsoft’s products to perform those tasks, such as Edge to read books or use while shopping. The tight Edge-Cortana-Bing partnership makes this one very solid. So how has this improved?
- Image credit: Microsoft Insider Windows blog. You can now show Cortana results in-line, rather than opening your default browser with them. This will confuse some at first as you have to tab or navigate to the results pane. Narrator users should automatically expect to gain focus after clicking on a query when in-line results appear, however we have not found this as good or consistent with other readers. This has made the assistant more useful for me for finding quick results such as currency conversions.
- Cortana has more system control: Though not quite root access, she can shut down and lock your computer all through voice commands. This is a boost to internet-connected headless devices and allows for greater management through voice.
- Speaking of the lock screen, you can also use Cortana to bring up a notes panel, whereby you can write notes and access more functionality of hers from your lock screen. Even when your device is locked, she is still your smart personal assistant.
- If you have a tablet device or one with a camera, importing pictures of events will intelligently allow Cortana to understand event information from the picture.
- Image credit: Computerworld. New Cortana settings experience , now in her own section. Many of the options here could be adjusted before, however now they are grouped and easier to locate. Changing how the assistant is on your lock screen and whether it hears the wake-word are all possible here.
- Image Credit: Windows Insider blog. She will allow you to annotate books as well as PDF documents in edge, which could be useful especially as these will push to all your devices.
Where edges get sharpened, they are but minor
Microsoft Edge has probably only a few new features to boast about, but that in no way makes it a less contender for making it into this giant review. Here are the top 10 new features to offer up for you.
- Image Credit: Insider Windows blog. You can now open a list of favorites in edge, and see them sorted here. Here you can also adjust where the locations of favorites are, and new today, the URL for a specific one.
- If you right-click the tabs button to open the menu, there is a new function which adds all your tabs to the favorites with its own folder. This is useful if you wish to mark multiple sites as favorites.
- A new icon on the right side of pages with a lock will allow you to manage permissions for a website, such as allowing push notifications or location access.
- For the more technically minded, the settings in the about:flags page, which allow you to configure development features, are now organized and simplified. This thankfully does not mean removed, as the developer options still are there, but less are available for the standard mode. And in the regular edge settings, the import wizard will let you import cookies from Chrome as well. Just a few new touches to various configuration choices.
- Image credit: Windows blog. You can now make Edge windows full-screen by pressing f11, and get this beautiful new look.
- <img src="https://winblogs.azureedge.net/win/2017/06/14b697bb015deb910a6e24a7e0fc740a-1024×849.png" alt="Handwriting on notes screenshot." Image Credit: Insider Windows blog. You can annotate pdf and Epub books through handwriting or your own notes by right-clicking the section. This also plays in a little with Cortana, as she can help you recall various annotations also.
- You will see a share button on the top right of pages now as part of the interface.
- There is a new read-aloud feature which will help many with reading difficulties read pages and their text within books. This button is on the top-right of any book and also tracks along as the book’s text is read.
- You can now press f3 and shift+f3 to move between next and previous search results, a feature I have been wanting for quite a while now.
- Non-active tabs are now more distinguished with a different icon.
The new Emoji bar, are you ready to dance?
By this point you have read over 3000 words, but you’re still trucking on with this review. Good for you! It wouldn’t be a complete one if I didn’t mention a handy new keyboard shortcut for you. This one? Windows and the semicolon key, or the one directly to the right of the letter l on qwerty layouts. This key, if pressed, will magically open up the new emoji panel even in older programs such as Notepad.
image credit: Microsoft Insider Windows blog.
In our testing, only Narrator announced that this window even appeared, so screen reader users may have difficulties accessing the new panel until your vendor implements support. Nevertheless, you can press the tab key to move among sections of emoji, an
Image credit: Insider Windows blog.
Just a few noteworthy settings to discuss
Settings is becoming more modern than ever, and many improvements were made to old parts of Windows relying on the new screens within this experience. For example, the Windows+X context menu can no longer launch “network connections” but will open the network section of settings instead. The flyout for networks has also improved, with options to forget and disconnect from a network once you have expanded its wi-fi name.
Image Credit: Insider Windows blog
Storage sense has a new facelift, listing all drives and a breakdown of unused files once you click on the individual drives. This is far more advanced and closer to what disk- cleanup used to be, so definitely highly welcome. For example, it can delete the previous version of Windows, so you no longer have to dig around for the old disk clean up to perform the same opeartion.
You will also notice that “remote desktop” is now in System settings, or at least if you are using Windows 10 pro. This is simply another area which just made the cut to being part of the new settings family, so please welcome it with care.
Finally, if you check the gaming section, new Xbox networking and True Play options have been added. The Networking section will allow you to check the server status of the XBox network and diagnose it if problems are shown.
Why would I want to link my Android or iPhone to a Windows computer? Are you crazy?
As of this September, no, I’m actually not crazy. This feature is now a part of Windows, having been promised almost a year ago and now making a slight appearance, or at least to that of a basic level. So far, you can link your phone and use a “continue on PC” app from the App Store or Play Store to send websites and links between your phone and computer. Content you send from your phone will appear in Action center, and then can be opened with an app of your choice. On iPhones, you can “share” content with the continue on PC app to then have it appear. Its quite revolutionary and one which will expand to clipboard and other cross-platform sharing. The nice upside of Microsoft here is that being part of the Windows ecosystem is not a requirement to enjoying this feature.
Image credit: Microsoft Insider Windows blog.
Other major but uncategorizable improvements.
As always, we have a host of features which do not make it in to specific sections either because of their size or because their step-by-step use would require that this review jump to even larger of a size. As we still have a section dedicated to accessibility,, new functions around the color filters and that completely redesigned magnifier page were not discussed. Microsoft has once again paid attention to many groups of users, and the list here just shows how much more there is to using this new version of Windows for such a cascading range of people.
- Image credit: Microsoft Insider Windows blog. A new one-handed keyboard is now available for those using touch, one which is smaller and more useful on Tablets or docked to the side of your screen.
- Similarly, a shape-writing panel, similar to Swipe on phones, is now useful for those wanting to write only by creating gestures for words.
- Windows update can now show updates on a per-percentage basis, allowing you to hear or see each update download as it progresses individually, rather than as one update download state.
- Delivery optimization in Windows update has also been expanded, where you can now see how much the feature has downloaded in your data and use.
- The photos app lets you create Video clips in the new story remix area.
- A clear effort has been placed into distinguishing “share” and “give access to…” in the Windows explorer right-click context menu. Here’s proof that wording does matter!
- Those who used the Linux subsystem in Windows will love that it is more expanded by supporting a direct seral device map within Linux. Now that these linux distributions are in the Windows Store and are easier to install ever not requiring developer mode, there is a great advantage to running various geeky compiler tools and commandline utilities more natively in this compatibility layer.
- If you disable nightlight, it will be disabled immediately rather than on schedule.
- There is a new power throddling feature in Task manager which can be set on a per-process basis, allowing you to ensure that a specific app does not utilize full system processing power.
- GPU information is now indicated in the Performance section of Task manager.
- Microsoft introduced TruePlay, a protection mechanism against cheating in games through process isolation. True Play titles ensure that game play is always done fairly and the same way by all players, or that is, according to game rules and no hacks.
- Expected to see more virtual reality headsets coming at better price points, come this update. This will include wireless VR headsets and capabilities. The foundation of this was laid down in version 1703 through the new VR shell, but this adds more device compatibility.
- In the Mail and Calendar apps, the G-mail account experiences have been updated.
- You will probably notice that Windows update is giving you friendlier notifications when updates need to be installed and types which are coming to be a part of your system. I for one welcome our new updating overlords.
- There is a new Japanese font, along with a Japanese and Chinese Input Method Editor.
- The modern calculator app includes a newer currrency converter.