On Monday, Microsoft will start to push out the April 2018 Update to Windows 10. It’s a free upgrade to the operating system that makes lots of small tweaks and adds a bunch of new features.
The flagship new features in the Windows 10 update includes Timeline – a nifty way to keep track of what files you were working on, when you were working on them, and from what devices – and Focus Assist, which makes it so you see only the notifications you want to see while you’re working.
If that’s all you need to hear, you can manually download the update straight from Microsoft through the Windows Update tool on Monday. Otherwise, Windows 10 will start bugging you to upgrade beginning on May 8 and pushing it out as part of the regular update process.
Microsoft releases these big updates twice a year. This time, though, one thing is a little different: the nomenclature.
In the past, the updates have had flowery names like “Anniversary Update” or “Creators Update.” Microsoft says the more straightforward “April 2018 Update” is to help people keep track of them.
The April 2018 Update was widely expected to launch earlier this month, but Microsoft delayed it for a few weeks after some members of the Windows Insider preview program discovered the update had a glitch that caused the dreaded “blue screen of death” on some PCs.
Now, Microsoft is confident that it has stamped out the bugs and that the update is ready for primetime.
So what’s new in the Windows 10 April 2018 Update?
The flagship new feature is Timeline. As you may guess from the name, it lets you go back as far as 30 days to see what file you were working on and when you were working on it.
A neat feature is that it also works with Microsoft’s mobile apps. If you read a website on the Microsoft Edge browser on iOS or Android, it will appear in your Windows 10 Timeline. Of course, that means you’d need to use Microsoft Edge.
On that note, I’ve found that Timeline works best with Microsoft’s own apps. For instance, Google Chrome shows up in Timeline, but it’s kind of a mess. The feature is promising, but it needs a little work.
The other big new feature in the April 2018 Update for Windows 10 is Focus Assist, which gives you lots of settings to customise your notifications — you know, so you can focus. I found Focus Assist very helpful.
Other features are a little more subtle, like Nearby Sharing, which lets you quickly share photos and videos to other Windows 10 computers that are, <em>ahem</em>, nearby.
Another new feature lets you shoot a webpage to Edge on a Windows 10 PC from Edge for iOS or Android so you can pick back up what you were doing.
While we’re on the subject, the Edge browser on Windows 10 is getting a handful of upgrades too:
• You can now mute and unmute sound coming from browser tabs, as you can with Google Chrome.
• Books and PDFs in Edge can now be viewed in full-screen mode.
• For online shopping, Edge can save your address to quickly fill out forms.
• Most intriguingly, a new grammar tool will help younger readers – or anybody who just needs a little help – make sense of the web by breaking the words into syllables and highlighting nouns and other parts of speech.
Two other features are reminiscent of Apple’s Airdrop and Continuity, respectively — integrations that make it easy to share files and webpage links between an iPhone and a Mac.
Otherwise, there’s a laundry list of other additions. Updates to Windows Ink let you write with a stylus in any text field, as you see here. Microsoft says that latency when using a stylus is down by 30% to 50% with this update too.
Other little input additions include a new dictation mode – the Windows button + H on your keyboard will let you type away with your voice.
On the subject of voice, the Cortana virtual assistant on Windows 10 is getting an upgrade to control select smart-home equipment with your voice. Microsoft touts its integrations with smart thermostats from Ecobee, Nest (which rejoined Google), and other brands.
Finally, Microsoft is still betting on augmented reality and virtual reality. For instance, with the April 2018 Update, you can place AR models — like this one of a rocket — into a PowerPoint presentation so you can inspect it in 3D.
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