Windows 10 Anniversary

It’s almost been a full year after Windows 10 has been released and Microsoft is looking to make some pretty big changes to the UI that Microsoft, forcefully, made us upgrade to with the constant pop-ups telling us to ‘upgrade now!’

While Microsoft hasn’t officially announced a release date of the aforementioned update it’s safe to assume it’ll be released July 29th, 2016, which is the one-year anniversary of Windows 10’s release.

The biggest update will come to Cortana. Microsoft continues to expand what Cortana can do, clearly trying to make it the most powerful assistant in an increasingly growing pool of competition (Siri, Google Now, Alexa, etc.). Now we will see Cortana comes to the Windows 10 lock screen, so you can invoke her at any time. And she can push stuff to and from your mobile device, including notifications and text messages, and you don’t need a Windows phone to take advantage.

More interestingly, though, Cortana will become much more intelligent with stuff she thinks you may need. For example, you can say, “Send Dave the PowerPoint I worked on last night”, or “What hotel did we stay at in Florida last year?” The people who have always wanted their own personal stalker will finally be happy! Needless to say, this feature is still pretty awesome. Cortana can also make proactive suggestions for you. If you receive email confirmation of flight details, it’ll add them to your calendar. If you promised Dave you’d send him that PowerPoint in an email, Cortana will know, and remind you to fulfill that commitment later on. Cortana can also now set and control timers, which is convenient. Say things like “Hey Cortana, set a timer”, “Hey Cortana, set a timer for 10 minutes”, “Hey Cortana, how much time is left?” and “Hey Cortana, cancel my timer” to work with timers.

This isn’t finished in the Insider Preview yet, but after the Build keynote, Microsoft also announced that Cortana will now integrate with the Cortana application on your Android or Windows smartphone. You’ll just need to install the Cortana Android app and sign in with the same Microsoft account on both devices. iPhone users are out of luck, as iOS is too locked down for Microsoft to integrate with it as deeply. As of build 14328, this should be working between Windows 10 PCs and Windows Mobile 10 phones running the latest builds. It now works between Android phones and Windows 10 PCs, too–just be sure you have the latest Cortana app installed from Google Play. Cortana can mirror all your Android phone’s notifications to your PC, giving you all your notifications in Windows 10’s Action Center. You’ll also see a notification on your PC when your smartphone has low battery power, so you’ll know when to charge it.

Cortana will offer a “find my phone” feature that uses geolocation to find your phone on a map or ring it if you lose it nearby. Ask Cortana for “directions to [place]” on your PC, and you’ll see those same directions on your phone. These are just the current features, too, so you can expect Microsoft to add more.

Touch screen laptops are more useful than they seem, and Microsoft is pushing that forward even more with Windows Ink: the ability to draw and annotate with a pen in all kinds of useful ways. For example, you can jot down notes in the Sticky Notes app, which on its own is mildly convenient. But Windows 10 is smart enough to recognize words like “tomorrow”, turn them into links that Cortana can use to set reminders or perform other tasks. This works with other words too, including places that Bing can point to on a map. Windows Ink is built into plenty of other apps, too, like Maps (which lets you measure distances between two points by drawing a line) and Microsoft Office (which lets you highlight text with your pen or delete words by striking them out). And, of course, it’s built for artists as well, which can use a pen for digital drawing in plenty of different apps. There’s a virtual ruler complete with a compass to help you draw straight lines at the correct angles.

Something I’m not really looking forward to; Windows 10’s Anniversary Update makes more room for advertisements in the Start menu on new installations. The amount of Microsoft app tiles pinned to the Start menu by default will be reduced from 17 to 12. The amount of “suggested apps” that appear here will increase from 5 to 10. Uninstall the app, or unpin the tile if it’s not downloaded yet, and that advertisement will be gone forever. But, as easy as these advertisements are to remove, new PCs will have a more cluttered Start menu with more ads.

Microsoft has changed the way Windows 10’s Start menu works. The “All Apps” option is now gone–you’ll just see a full list of installed applications at the left side of your Start menu. Your most frequently used and recently added applications will appear at the top of this list. It’ll show the three most recently added applications instead of a single one, and you can expand this list to see more applications sorted by when you installed them. Important buttons like the File Explorer, Settings, and Shut Down buttons are now always located at the left side of the Start menu. OneDrive users will be happy to know that they can now search all their files–both files on the PC and files stored online in OneDrive–from the Start menu.

Those have just been a few updates available on the Anniversary Update of Windows 10; Microsoft is still making changes and adding more features. Some of them I’d be happy to see and others not so much.