The future of Windows
The next generation of Windows is already here, and the massive Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is overflowing with great new features. It starts hitting Windows 10 PCs on October 17, mere months after the release of this spring’s Windows 10’s first Creators Update. Even more interesting: The Fall Creators Update brings new hardware along too, in the form of a legion of Windows Mixed Reality headsets ready to battle the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
The big update adds more than just Windows Mixed Reality support though. You’ll find goodies ranging from powerful ransomware protection to fresh power user tools to capabilities that let you shift files and websites from your phone to your PC and back again. These are the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update’s best new features.
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, paired with new “6 degrees of freedom” (6DOF) Windows 10 Mixed Reality motion controllers and no need for external base stations whatsoever. Check out our hands-on with Dell's Visor Windows Mixed Reality headset.
Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo will all launch Windows Mixed Reality headsets alongside the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update on October 17, and some will offer bundles with the controllers included as well. Here’s how they compare against the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Microsoft is working with partners to certify Windows Mixed Reality-ready PCs as well.
Mixed Reality Viewer
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. The new Mixed Reality Viewer app 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.
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.
Check out PCWorld's My People overview to see how it works in action.
Controlled folder access “protects your files and folders from unauthorized changes by unfriendly applications.” In other words, it's ransomware protection in an age where ransomware’s running amok.
You enable controlled folder access via the Virus & threat protection settings in Windows Defender. If unauthorized software tries to tinker with protected folders, it’ll be blocked and you’ll be notified about the attempt. Documents, Pictures, Movies, and Desktop are protected by default and can’t be removed, but you can manually protect other folders, and whitelist individual programs to access controlled folders.
Deep phone/PC integration
The Windows 10 Creators Update taps into the cloud to make your PC and phone better together.
After you’ve installed the dedicated mobile Edge browser and/or Microsoft Launcher apps and linked your phone to your Windows account, they’ll let you push webpages and even files to your Windows 10 computer via a “Continue on PC” option. You can also respond to texts or see missed calls from your linked phones, and for you multi-PC types, a new “I’ve got more for you” section in Cortana will show the apps, docs, and websites you were recently working in on other devices, allowing you to pick up where you left off. The list of supported software is somewhat limited.
For more details, read 3 ways Windows 10 uses Android and iOS phones to make a better PC.
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, 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.
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.
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.
Check out PCWorld's hands-on with Story Remix to see the awesome tricks it's capable of.
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.
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.
Delivery Optimization Advanced Options
The Fall Creators Update’s “Delivery Optimization Advanced Options” gives you more granular control over how Windows 10 handles updates. You can command the OS to limit how much of your network bandwidth is used to download and upload Windows updates. A new Activity Monitor also shows how much data you’ve used on Windows updates this month, and where it went.
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 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.
Cortana’s ears have gotten stronger, too. In the Fall Creators Update you’ll be able to tell the assistant to restart, turn off, lock, or sign out of your PC.
Cortana opens her arms
Cortana’s also making it easier to see results from web searches. In current versions of Windows 10, Cortana summons web search results by opening the Edge browser. In the Fall Creators Update, Cortana will instead expand, revealing the answer in a new pane to the right of the assistant’s usual interface.
The nifty trick is only compatible with quick answers, Microsoft cautions, though the company says “it works with movies, celebrities, stock prices, weather, flight status – you name it!” If no quick answer is available you’ll still need to click through Cortana’s results to open the answer in Edge.
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.) Check out PCWorld’s guide to typing emoji in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update to wrap your head around the process.
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
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.
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 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 graphs for real-time tracking of all the major uses of your GPU. Finally.
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
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.
UWP volume controls
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.
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
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.
These aren’t even all of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update’s new features—just some highlights. It’ll also improve Windows Ink, Edge’s PDF reading capabilities, the Windows Photos app, occasional in-game stuttering, and more. This is a big update!
For more information, be sure to check out PCWorld’s exhaustive Windows 10 Fall Creators Update review, or if you want to dive deep into the operating system in general, our guide to the best Windows 10 tips, tricks, and tweaks.