Microsoft is releasing a new test version of Windows 10, today and there’s a lot of changes on the way. If you’re a Windows Insider on the Fast Ring then it’s available immediately, for everyone else all of the new features will arrive in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update later this year.
The first big change is a new look for the notification center (Action Center), which has been redesigned with separate sections for apps. It certainly looks a lot better, and groups notifications together in a more coherent way from devices, apps, and elsewhere.
You’ll now be able to pin your favorite websites to the taskbar in this latest Windows 10 update. Of course, once they’re pinned they’ll open in Microsoft’s Edge browser, but the pinned sites feature is returning after feedback from Windows 10 users. Microsoft is also improving the animations for new tabs in Edge, making things a little faster. Cortana will also see some changes, with the ability for the digital assistant to prompt for reminders by scanning images (with your permission) for things like events. If you’ve taken a photo of a poster, Cortana can then create that reminder. Cortana also has a new lasso feature that lets stylus users circle content to create reminders for things like movies.
Perhaps the biggest changes Microsoft is focusing on are with Windows 10 stylus support. The handwriting panel has been overhauled with more gestures, better editing, emoji, and automatic handwriting detection. As you write with a pen words are automatically converted to text, and words will shift along so you can simply keep writing. You can also select text to edit it, and make corrections to converted text using ink gestures. You can strikethrough, scratch, join, or split with the gestures, and the handwriting panel also includes quick access to emoji and symbols. The handwriting panel will float by default now next to where you’re writing, and you can even use the stylus to scroll in apps and websites now. Microsoft has even added a “find my pen” option, that will show where you were with your device when you last used the pen.
Elsewhere, Microsoft is finally making it easy to insert emoji into emails or social media messages. A new winkey + period / semicolon keyboard shortcut will trigger a new emoji panel where you can pick the most appropriate emoji for your messages. Microsoft is also adding a new touch keyboard for Windows 10 desktop and tablet users, with prediction, emoji suggestions, one-handed input, and shape writing with your fingers or a stylus. Dictation has also been added to the keyboard, so you can dictate text or use it for basic editing commands. Dictation has been in Windows for years, but it’s encouraging to see Microsoft move this to an area that makes more sense.
Alongside these bigger changes there are some smaller tweaks to Windows 10 overall. A new copy link feature in the new share page makes it easy to share links, and there’s improved support for HDR monitors and the ability to easily switch between public and private for network connections. There’s a lot of other minor changes and fixes listed in Microsoft's huge blog post, and all will be welcomed by regular Windows 10 users. This is one of the bigger feature additions to Windows 10 preview builds for a few months now as Microsoft heads towards a September release for the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.