Windows 10: Microsoft's monster Insider update is packed full of new features

Microsoft has doubled down on new features and improvements in the latest preview of the upcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.

Microsoft has released a huge Windows 10 Insider Preview update with improvements to Edge, new emoji, and swipe gesture typing.

Microsoft's Windows 10 Fall Creators Update gains momentum in the Windows 10 Insider Preview build 16226, which fills out recent updates to Edge, ink and its new look Fluent Design System Action Center. The latest preview is now available to insiders in the fast ring.

Some of the highlights are listed in this post, but there are many more, detailed by Microsoft's software engineer for Windows and Devices Group, Dona Sarker.

Microsoft clearly wants Windows users to switch from Chrome to Edge and has delivered several updates to make this more convenient, including allowing users to migrate cookies and Settings from Google's browser to Edge.

A minor but useful new control is the availability of X to close a tab, even when a JavaScript dialog is open in Edge.

For those taking advantage of Edge's support of the e-book file format EPUB, there's now an option to copy text and ask Cortana to research the word or subject. Microsoft has also introduced Ink Notes, which lets you hand-write notes and tag them to a section of the e-book.

Hovering the mouse over the note button will display the note without requiring you to open it. Windows now also syncs e-book bookmarks, notes and reading progress across devices.

Edge gains a new favorites feature that lets you view saved favorites in a directory tree, as well as collapse or expand folders from within the 'Add to favorites' dialog. Users can also edit the URL of saved favorites in the Favorites menu or Favorites bar. Admins now also have the bailout to manage favorites via group policy and mobile-device management.

Windows 10 emoji selection gains new face spew, mind-blown, zombie and other characters thanks to the latest Unicode Emoji 5.0 updates. Emoji can be accessed from the touch keyboard and the new hardware keyboard Emoji Panel.

The hotkeys to access the emoji panel are Win + period (.) or Win + semicolon (;), which now has text-based search. It only works when the US English keyboard is active. There's also a dark theme for those keen on that look.

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The introduction of Ink Notes lets you hand-write notes and tag them to a section of an e-book.

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft has enabled additional controls to its new OneDrive Files On-Demand, a feature for accessing files in the cloud without actually downloading them to the device. It also lets you open files from within a desktop app.

The control feature displays what's being downloaded and which app has requested the download. Users can dismiss the message, cancel the download, or block the app from downloading.

The touch keyboard now has shape writing support for more languages other than English, spanning most European languages, Russian, Persian and Vietnamese. Users of supported languages will need to download language packs. The touch keyboard also supports simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Japanese and Korean. There are a host of other UI changes to the keyboard.

Handwriting and pen interactions have also been upgraded with the ability to erase words with the back of a pen. You can also use the pen to scroll in File Explorer and other win32 apps.

The native Windows calculator app, which is now in Fluent Design, has gained a currency converter feature. This was a top request among Windows fans, so there should be plenty of people who appreciate this.

If you want to inspect GPU performance, there's now the beginnings of a feature in Task Manager to do just that.

"The Performance tab shows GPU utilization information for each separate GPU component, such as 3D and video encode/decode, as well as graphics memory-usage stats. The Details tab shows you GPU utilization info for each process," explains Sarker.

Among the many other improvements available in this preview, Sarker notes a significant security one for IT Pros given the recent WannaCry ransomware attack that exploited the Windows implementation of the SMB1 networking protocol.

Even before this attack, Microsoft discouraged people from using the 30-year-old protocol, but Microsoft is now removing it from Windows by default.

"All Home and Professional editions now have the SMB1 server component uninstalled by default. The SMB1 client remains installed. This means you can connect to devices from Windows 10 using SMB1, but nothing can connect to Windows 10 using SMB1," notes Sarker.

Enterprise and Education editions have SMB1 totally uninstalled by default.

The update also includes a long list of bug fixes for Insider builds to address stalled upgrades, PDFs, Hyper-V not connecting to VMs, broken Start issues and more transparency for the new Fluent Design Action Centre.

Finally, Windows 10 Narrator now uses artificial intelligence to generate descriptions for images where there is no existing text, and it uses OCR to extract available text from images.

More on Windows 10

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