Update

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update's best new features

Windows 10's next big upgrade brings intriguing features to the OS.

windows 10
Credit: Microsoft
The future of Windows

The feature-packed Windows 10 Creators Update hasn’t even hit every PC yet but Microsoft’s already taken the wraps off of its successor.

Microsoft unveiled the uninspiringly named Windows 10 Fall Creators Update during Build 2017, and it will most likely hit Windows 10 PCs (including Windows 10 S devices) this September. Here’s a look at the most noteworthy new goodies you’ll find in the next massive Windows 10 iteration, including a veritable flood of fresh features found Windows 10 Insider preview builds 16215 and 16226.

windows 10 timeline
Credit: Microsoft
Timeline

Many Windows 10 Fall Creators Update features focus on seamlessly making your work available anywhere. Timeline seems especially handy.

Timeline surfaces a record of all your activity in supported apps in reverse chronological order. Need to pick up where you left off, even if you were working on another device? Just select it from the list and it’s like you never left. Sounds awesome. You’ll be able to access the Timeline in Windows 10’s Task View.

windows 10 pick up
Credit: Microsoft
Pick up where you left off

The closely related “pick up where you left off” feature helps your work travel with you across devices, including iOS and Android devices in supported apps. When you stop working on one device and pick up another, Cortana will pop up a notification offering to plop you back exactly where you were, thanks to the power of the cloud. You’ll obviously need to install Microsoft’s Cortana app for the feature to work on non-Windows devices.

onedrive offline
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OneDrive Files on Demand

OneDrive Files on Demand is reminiscent of Windows 8.1’s beloved, but killed-off OneDrive placeholders. The feature makes all of your OneDrive-stored files visible and accessible from Windows 10’s file system—even the ones that are only stored in the cloud.

Your OneDrive folder will include icons that show if a folder’s stored locally or only online. Opening a file will download it to your machine from the cloud, and you can manually select individual files and folders to save offline if you’d like. 

onedrive files on demand
Credit: Microsoft
OneDrive Files On-Demand, part 2

If an app tries to download and use a file that’s stored only in the cloud, Windows 10 will pop up a notification with all the details, along with options to cancel the download or block the app from downloading your OneDrive files.

windows 10 cloud clipboard
Credit: Microsoft
Cloud clipboard

Yet another cross-device feature, the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update adds a cloud-powered clipboard that lets you copy information on one Windows 10 device and paste it on another. It won’t be limited to text alone, either. Making the utility even more useful, it also carries over to Android and iOS if you use Microsoft’s SwiftKey virtual keyboard. The cloud keyboard functionality’s also being baked into Microsoft’s Office apps in the future.

I can’t wait for this feature to roll out. It sounds incredibly useful, and far less restrictive than Apple’s Universal Clipboard because it supports all major operating systems in some way. Fingers crossed it’s more reliable than Windows 10’s standard copy function though, which isn’t always reliable about actually copying stuff.

action center revamp
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Action Center

Once again, the Action Center’s getting a revamp, “to provide much clearer information separation and hierarchy.” It also works in elements of Microsoft’s vague new Fluent Design.

windows 10 fluent design
Credit: Microsoft
Fluent Design

Speaking of! As Windows 10’s influence grows to span all sorts of devices, and not just Windows devices, Microsoft’s implementing a new design language to create a universal aesthetic across its ecosystem. “Fluent Design,” as it’s called, isn’t a major overhaul of Windows 10’s look, focusing more on subtle touches like window transparency and blur effects to make it feel like Windows is holistically intertwined and moving around while you use it.

Fluent Design’s reveal was sparse on details and big on buzzwords like “light, depth, motion, material, and scale.” “Fluent Design will deliver intuitive, harmonious, responsive and inclusive cross-device experiences and interactions,” Windows boss Terry Myerson says. This video gives you a glimpse of Microsoft’s vision for the ideal, while a new Fluent Design hub can help developers looking to get the nitty-gritty on the visual language.

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Credit: Microsoft
Linux love grows

The Windows 10 Anniversary update brought the beloved Bash shell to Microsoft’s OS thanks to a collaboration with Ubuntu, and now the Windows subsystem for Linux is expanding to other distros. SUSE and Fedora are being added with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. It’ll be easier to start using Linux on Windows too, as all three distros will be installable via the Windows Store, rather than the arcane activation method required today. You won't need to configure Windows 10 to Developer Mode to use Bash anymore, either.

windows 10 my people
Credit: Microsoft
My People

Originally announced as a key feature in this April’s Creators Update, My People will now launch in the Fall Creators Update. The feature revolves around the idea that a small handful of people are crucial to your digital life. My People lets you pin a select number of connections to your taskbar—three, in the current Insider preview builds—and stay in constant touch with them. It defaults to Skype, though you can choose an alternative.

story remix edit
Credit: Microsoft
Story Remix

The star of the show at Build, Story Remix is an “evolution of the Photos app” that leans on machine learning and mixed reality to automatically create kick-ass highlight reels of your pictures and videos, complete with editable soundtracks and the ability to pull in 3D objects and animations from Microsoft’s Remix 3D database.

PCWorld’s Story Remix coverage details what we know about the app with illustrative photos galore. Even better, if you’re a Windows 10 Insider you can try Story Remix in preview today.

keyboard emoji
Credit: Microsoft
Easy emoji on your keyboard

Emoji have taken over the mobile world, and now they’re infiltrating Windows 10. When you have a text field selected, press Windows + period to summon Microsoft’s emoji panel. The initial version currently available in Windows 10 Insider builds is limited to the English language, though.

Microsoft’s also revamped Windows 10’s virtual keyboard, essentially bringing Windows 10 Mobile’s beloved Word Flow keyboard over to the PC. The virtual keyboard also includes a microphone icon because Microsoft’s adding voice dictation to its arsenal. (Pressing Win + H also kicks off dictation.)

windows 10 mixed reality vr controllers
Credit: Microsoft
Mixed-reality headsets

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will finally make Microsoft’s ambitious “mixed reality” efforts ready for prime time. Hardware makers are prepping Windows Mixed Reality headsets to support the launch, and they’re a lot more affordable than the likes of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, even when paired with new “6 degrees of freedom” (6DOF) Windows 10 Mixed Reality motion controllers revealed by Microsoft at Build 2017.

Acer’s Mixed Reality Developers Edition headset will cost $299 by its lonesome, or $399 with the motion controllers. HP’s also working on a $329 mixed-reality headset of its own. Look for several models to become available before the holidays roll around.

windows 10 view 3d
Credit: Microsoft
View 3D

You’ll be able to see mixed-reality images in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update even if you can’t splurge on a swanky headset. A View 3D app destined for the OS lets you use any device with a webcam to merge digital objects with the real world. Paired with Microsoft’s Paint 3D app and the Remix 3D service, this could wind up being fun indeed.  

ebook annotation cortana
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E-books beef up

This April’s Windows 10 Creators Update added e-books and an e-book marketplace to the operating system, and the Fall Creators Update will bolster it with fresh annotation. When you open an EPUB file in Edge, select some text and right-click to find multiple options for highlighting, underlining, copying and commenting.

You can also select Ask Cortana if you need some quick research on a particular passage.

cortana camera roll
Credit: Microsoft
Cortana opens her eyes

Cortana’s gaining some new vision tricks, too. If you take a picture of an event poster, Microsoft’s digital assistant will notice it in your camera roll and ask whether you want to create a reminder for the event.

The vision extends to your PC, too. If you use a stylus, you’ll be able to select a lasso tool and circle on-screen dates to bring them to Cortana’s attention.

pin website edge
Credit: Microsoft
Pin websites to the taskbar

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will let you pin websites directly to your taskbar with Edge, using the site’s icon as its taskbar image. Look for the new “Pin this page to the taskbar” option in the browser’s settings.

Another tweak: The ability to edit the URLs of your bookmarked “favorite” pages.

full screen edge
Credit: Microsoft
Full screen Edge

Edge is also gaining the ability to enter a full-screen mode, either via a button in the browser’s settings or simply by pressing F11. It’s a good quality-of-life improvement, sure, but how the heck wasn’t this supported before? It’s been in other browsers for ages.

xbox networking
Credit: Microsoft
Xbox Networking

Bad networking connections and NAT incompatibility are the bane of online gaming. Windows 10 is adding new “Xbox Networking” information to the Gaming section of the Settings app, designed to “help you attempt to identify and resolve issues preventing you from using voice chatting and playing multiplayer games with other Xbox Live users.”

It sounds like you should only expect this tool to help you play Xbox Live-enabled games from the Windows Store. Your Rainbow Six Siege NAT woes remain your own problem.

gpu utilization
Credit: Microsoft
GPU utilization in Task Manager

Task Manager’s always been able to show you how much of your system resources are in use, with one crucial exception: graphics. No more. The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update adds a new GPU field to the Task Manager’s performance tab, complete with driver information and separate fields for 3D graphics usage and graphics memory usage. Finally.

(An interesting note: This Microsoft-supplied image shows the GeForce GTX 950 with 8GB of GPU memory, but that card topped out at 4GB.)

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Credit: Microsoft
Sharing via the context menu

Another nice touch: The right-click context menu now includes a Share option so you can quickly pass along a file to someone else.

find my pen
Credit: Microsoft
Find my Pen

Yesssssssss. If you have a habit of leaving your pricey digital pen in weird places, head over to Settings > Update & Security > Find My Device to have Windows start tracking where you last used it.

You’ll be able to scroll with your pen in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update as well. Microsoft also tweaked the text selection process to make it smoother.

windows 10 preview power throttling
Credit: Microsoft
Power Throttling

Now let’s dig into some features that haven’t explicitly been announced for the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, but have found their way into recent Windows 10 Insider preview builds.

A new Power Throttling feature does exactly what you’d expect, dialing back the resources available to apps running in the background to improve battery life by around 11 percent, according to Microsoft. It sounds similar to the Windows 10 Creators Update’s Game Mode, which can help boost performance in resource-constrained PC games.

The one fly in the ointment? It leverages Intel’s Speed Shift technology, which debuted in the company’s Skylake chips. That means older PCs and AMD-powered rigs can’t take advantage of Power Throttling, though Microsoft says the company’s “working on expanding support to other processors as well over the next few months.”

windows 10 preview sound
Credit: Microsoft
UWP volume controls

Finally, in a niche but nice touch, the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update adds the ability to individually control the volume of universal Windows apps without affecting the overall system audio using the Windows Volume Mixer. It’s somewhat shocking that it’s taken this long, as traditional desktop apps have offered the ability for years, but Microsoft’s adding a cool perk to make up for the tardiness. You’ll be able to use the Volume Mixer to control the volume of individual Edge browser tabs as well, not just Edge as a whole. You can’t do that with Chrome or Firefox.

media folder
Credit: Microsoft
Enhanced UWP media detection

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will be smarter at finding media-stuffed folders to keep its default Universal Windows apps stocked. If you create a folder with 30 or more pictures, songs, or videos, apps like Photos and Groove Music will automatically suggest them the next time you attempt to add a folder to your library.

calculator currency converter
Credit: Microsoft
Calculator currency converter

Windows 10’s Calculator is gaining the ability to convert currencies, which Microsoft says is “one of the top customer feedback requests.” The function obviously pings the web for the latest currency information, but it also includes an offline mode just in case you’re puzzling over the price of a train ticket as you roll through a tunnel deep inside a European mountain.