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What’s New in Windows 10’s Anniversary Update, Coming This Summer

April 11th, 2016 by Mark Daly in Industry News No Comments »
What’s New in Windows 10’s Anniversary Update, Coming This Summer ilicomm Technology Solutions

Windows 10’s next big update, dubbed the “Anniversary Update”, comes out this summer, and we’re starting to see some features in the Insider Preview builds today. Here’s what’s been announced so far, along with a few goodies we’ve discovered in the first preview.

Cortana Becomes a Whole Lot Smarter

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Arguably the biggest update is Cortana. Microsoft continues to expand on what Cortana can do, clearly trying to make it the most powerful assistant in an increasingly growing pool of competition (Siri, Google Now, Alexa, and the whole gang). This time around, 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 remember, sinceCortana is available on Android too, that doesn’t mean you need a Windows Phone to take advantage.)

More interestingly, though, Cortana can parse even more information about stuff it thinks you might need. For example, the on-stage demo showed us that Cortana can respond to things like “Send Chuck the PowerPoint I worked on last night”, or “What toy store did I visit at Build last year?” That’s pretty crazy. Of course, if you’re more privacy-conscious, that’s crazy in all the wrong ways–but it’s a pretty tempting set of features.

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 Chuck you’d send him that PowerPoint in an email, Cortana will know, and remind you to fulfill that commitment later on.

Furthermore, if you add an appointment to your calendar, it’ll know if that appointment overlaps with another, and ask you if you want to re-schedule one of the overlapping events. Or, if you have a meeting during lunch it’ll ask if you want to book a table, or make a to-go order, based on the apps you have available. In short, Cortana is getting more proactive, so you don’t have to be on top of your own stuff–and isn’t that what having an assistant is all about?

Windows 10 Interacts with Your Android Phone (or Windows Phone)

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This isn’t 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.

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 can remotely geolocate your phone on a map or ring it if you lose it in 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.

Cortana will also support something called “Messaging Everywhere,” although it wasn’t yet enabled when build 14316 was released. Receive an SMS message on your phone and it’ll pop up on your Windows 10 PC. You can respond from your computer and the message will be sent through your phone. The various features are already integrated into the Messaging app on Windows 10.

More Desktop Apps and Games Come to the Windows Store

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The Windows Store is caught in a tough place right now. We want it to get more desktop apps and games, but we don’t want them limited by the Universal Windows Platform (UWP). Microsoft is trying to fix that disconnect in the Anniversary Update.

Regular desktop apps are finally coming to the Windows Store–at least, as long as developers “convert” them to the UWP. This allows for the easy discovery and installation of the Windows Store, but supposedly comes without all the limitations UWP apps traditionally have. We still aren’t quite sure what this means, and which apps might be candidates for a clean conversion without limitations, but it’s an intriguing proposition.

Microsoft will soon release a tool that allows anyone to convert any desktop application on their computer to a sandboxed UWP application. The tool will watch the desktop application run and create a sandboxed application with the appropriate permissions. Developers can use this to convert their own apps for uploading to the Windows Store. You could use it to convert an old desktop application to a UWP application and sideload the application, installing it from outside the Store, if you wanted to.

Games are a big part of this. We’ve already seen that games bought from the Windows Store are missing certain features, like SLI and crossfire support, or the ability to toggle Vsync and borderless full screen. Microsoft says they’re addressing these issues, adding the ability to disable Vsync, better support for multiple GPUs, and more–including support for modding, overlays, and G-Sync and Freesync. That’s in addition to the UWP-exclusive features they have, like live tile support and notifications. Microsoft also says they’ll soon support bundles and season passes in the Windows Store. But only time will tell if games get feature parity with their regular desktop counterparts.

Windows 10 Gets a Dark Theme (and More Theme Options)

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When Windows 10 was released, it included a hidden dark theme you could enable by changing a registry setting or by pressing a secret keyboard shortcut in the Store app. You could also change your theme in the Edge browser–but just for Edge. This theme was incomplete. With the Anniversary Update, you can now choose between light and dark modes in Settings > Personalization > Colors. Its designed for Windows Store apps, but not every app will listen to this setting and obey it–some apps, especially those from third-party developers, control their own theme settings. This also means File Explorer will remain as blindingly white as ever.

There’s also now a separate “Show color on title bar” option here, allowing you to only apply your color of choice to the window titlebars and continue using a black Start menu, taskbar, and action center.

Microsoft Edge Finally Supports Browser Extensions

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Microsoft Edge was originally supposed to launch with browser extensions when Windows 10 was released, but it didn’t happen. This is a big reason MIcrosoft Edge felt so half-baked and lost so many users. With the Anniversary Update, Edge will finally support browser extensions.

Edge uses Chrome-style extensions, and Microsoft will provide a tool that helps developers quickly convert Chrome extensions to Edge extensions. (Firefox is also moving to Chrome-style extensions, too.) These Edge extensions will eventually be available in the Windows Store, which is where you’ll install them.

Extensions are currently available for the Reddit Enhancement Suite, Microsoft Translator, Pinterest, and OneNote. Popular extensions like LastPass and Adblock Plus are on the way.

Microsoft Edge Adds Click-to-Play for Flash

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Setting the Flash plug-in to click-to-play can help you avoid Flash’s security holes and battery-draining behavior. Edge currently doesn’t offer much control over Flash, with only a single browser-wide “Use Adobe Flash Player” option in its settings.

Microsoft has announced that, with the Anniversary Update, Edge will automatically pause Flash content that isn’t integral to the page and you’ll have to click it to play. Games and videos on web pages should work normally, but Flash advertisements won’t automatically play. Google Chrome already made this change, so Edge is following in Chrome’s footsteps here, too. This isn’t in the Insider Preview just yet, but hopefully it will be soon.

Windows Hello Brings Fingerprint Authentication to Apps and Websites

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Fingerprint sensors have been a huge convenience on phones and tablets, and Windows currently supports it for logging into your laptop too via Windows Hello–provided it has the necessary hardware. But in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Windows Hello will support Windows apps and Microsoft Edge, so you can securely log into apps and web sites using your fingerprint as well–not just Windows itself.

This actually uses the Fido U2F standard, which various other sites and browsers are implementing in different ways. For example, you can use a physical USB key to log into your Google account in Chrome.

Windows Ink Improves Digital Drawing and Annotation in Lots of Apps

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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.

A new “Ink Workspace” will also come to Windows 10. You’ll be able to press a button on your pen–if your pen has a button–and see a list of apps that support ink input so you can quickly start writing or drawing without fumbling through desktop windows. More Windows 10 apps will gain inking support, too.

The Combined Skype Universal App is Back

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Microsoft has changed its mind about Skype…again.

With Windows 8 and 8.1, Microsoft offered both “Skype for Windows” and “Skype for Windows desktop” applications. The “Modern” Skype for Windows application ran in the full-screen interface and was pretty flaky. Microsoft abruptly discontinued the Modern version of Skype a month before Windows 10 was released, announcing it was refocusing development attention on the desktop version of Skype Windows users actually used.

Windows 10 launched with a Get Skype application that encouraged you to download the desktop application. Windows 10’s first big update, the November update, added a few beta applications–Messaging, Phone, and Video–apps that worked with Skype. These are separate applications for text messages, audio calls, and video calls.

Microsoft has now changed its mind again and will discontinue those three separate Skype applications on the desktop. Instead, Microsoft will create a new universal Windows app version of Skype that will eventually replace the traditional desktop application when it has enough features. The Skype Preview application is now available.

Windows Gets Its Own Linux Command Line

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In between all the developer talk, Microsoft announced something pretty huge: A true Bash shell in Windows 10. This is not a port like Cygwin, or a virtualization. It’s a full Ubuntu command line running natively right in Windows, built in partnership with Canonical. It comes with apt-get to download command line binaries, and all the built-in tools you’d expect from a Linux shell, like ls to browse your filesystem. This is mostly a tool for developers, but cross-platform power users may find this particularly useful as well.

This is actually the full Ubuntu userspace running on Windows. Think of it like the reverse of Wine–Windows is gaining the ability to run Linux binaries natively on Windows. This is big news for developers, but it won’t support server software or graphical applications. It’s just a Bash shell, complete with support for the exact same binaries you’d run in a Bash shell on Ubuntu Linux, on Windows.

Task View Gets Some Improvements

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You can now pin windows in the Task View interface, making them always appear on every virtual desktop instead of a single virtual desktop. Right-click a window in the Task View interface and select “Show this window on all desktops” to pin it. For example, you may want to pin a messaging or music application to all desktops for easy access.

Battery Options Become More Powerful

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The Battery Saver screen under Settings > System was renamed Battery.

Its detailed screen now offers easy per-application settings for controlling whether an application can run in the background. Aside from “Always allow in background” and “Never allow in background,” there’s a new “Managed by Windows” option. Windows will try to be smarter, temporarily turning off applications if they’re using a lot of resources in the background and you don’t appear to be using the applications.

Windows Update Is More Respectful of Your Time

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Under Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update, you can now set your “active hours,” which are the hours when you’re most actively using your computer. Windows Update will avoid restarting to automatically install updates during those hours.

You Can Set Notification Priorities and Limits

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The Action Center is now more customizable. Under Settings > System > Notifications & Actions, you can now choose whether an application’s notifications are considered “Normal,” “High,” or “Priority” in the Action Center. You can also choose how many notifications can appear at once for each application. Each application can display three notifications at a time by default.

The Xbox One Becomes More Windows-Like

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Microsoft is also making a big push for a unified app store across platforms. That means developers can easily make their Windows Store apps work on the Xbox. The Xbox is also getting Cortana, which comes with some new gaming-related features, like game recommendations and tips. The Xbox will support background music, multiple GPUs, and the ability to turn off Vsync as well.

Emojis Get an Overhaul

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Microsoft is updating the entire set of emojis included in Windows 10. As Microsoft puts it: “We are updating the entire set of font-based emoji in Windows 10 that aligns with the Microsoft Design Language with a distinct visual style as well as the Unicode standard. These new emoji are designed to be detailed, expressive, and playful. Their larger size takes full advantage of every pixel and the two-pixel outline allows for emoji to appear on any color background without loss of fidelity.” You can also choose different skin tones across the emojis that represent people.

Connect Improves on Windows Phones with Continuum

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There’s a new “Connect” application designed for use with Windows 10 phones that supportContinuum. It allows you to connect your phone to your PC without a dock, cable, or Miracastadapter. PCs with Miracast can also use the Connect application to mirror their displays on other PCs.

Continuum, which allows you to power a Windows desktop experience from a Windows Phone (but only with universal apps), is the big, unique feature Windows 10 Mobile offers. We’re not surprised to see Microsoft focusing on it.


This likely isn’t a complete list yet. These are the features Microsoft showed off at Build 2016 and the ones that have arrived in Insider Preview build 14316. We’ll continue updating this post over the next few months, as we play with the insider builds and when the final version gets ready to drop in the summer.

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