The first thing desktop users will notice when they open the new Start Menu is easier access to the “All apps” list on the left side of the menu. It appears immediately upon opening the Start Menu, instead of being hidden behind a button in the lower corner. The “Most used” apps list remains in the top left corner. Any programs pinned to Start will be immediately visible at the opening of the Start menu—no extra click-through is required.
In tablet mode, the Start Menu still opens to full screen, but the “All apps” list appears as a full-screen menu. Pinned tiles are moved to a separate menu—also full screen. The redesign facilitates easy and quick toggling between the pinned-tiles screen and the “all apps” list—the button to toggle between those views is on the left rail of the tablet OS. This change makes the most of the available tablet screen space. On desktop, both menus are visible side-by-side.
All of these design changes are intended to reduce the amount of clicking and scrolling necessary to access apps from the Start Menu.
In the anticipated update, Microsoft will continue to expand the capability of its onboard personal assistant; Cortana will be able to process more complex requests and information, either returning answers to questions, creating events in your calendar based on verbal reminders, checking for overlaps in your schedule, reminding you if a regular event deviates from its usual time slot, and also pushing information back and forth between your PC and mobile device.
The update will also increase Cortana’s functionality for mobile users. Cortana will be semi-navigable from the lockscreen—mobile users will be able to search, add calendar items or set reminders without unlocking the phone. Cortana will also feature photo reminders (e.g. take a picture of something, and set it as a reminder) and reminders created from other Windows 10 apps (e.g. a user can flag something they see in Edge and remind themselves about it later).
The most controversial aspect of the Anniversary update is Microsoft locking Cortana into Microsoft-based apps. Moving forward, all searches conducted through Cortana will go through Bing, and links and other information will be opened in Microsoft Edge. Microsoft promises that locking Cortana to Microsoft apps will enable the app to deliver the most effective and personalized functionality to the user. Some may view this as a departure from the customizable appeal that Microsoft has long held, but the change has precedence: both Apple and Android lock the search engines and web browsers that their voice-search apps operate with. Google and other non-Microsoft search engines will still be available through any web browser within Windows 10, and default apps are still customizable for everything else.
Cortana will also be available to all Windows 10 users—there is no longer a sign-in prompt to use the digital personal assistant. Any Windows 10 user can use Cortana for simple searches and requests. However, Cortana’s full capacity and usefulness will only be accessible once the user signs in and personalizes their account.
A completely new feature of the Anniversary update is the operating system’s digital pen capabilities—Microsoft Ink. Accessible from the Start Menu, Ink Workspace is a menu of pen-compatible apps and features that provides one-click access to an updated Sticky Notes and native stylus-based apps—Screen Sketch and Sketchpad. It also connects directly to the Windows Store so users can search for more ink-capable apps. Although not many effective apps currently exist, Microsoft is hoping to encourage developers to create ink-compatible apps to add to the in-house offerings included in the update.
Those in-house apps are Screen Sketch and Sketchpad. Both of these are accessible by one click with a stylus or through the Ink Workspace. Screen Sketch looks like a pen-based version of Snip, which allows you to take full or partial screen captures and then write notes over the images. Those notes can be shared with other Windows 10 users. From Insider testing, Screen Sketch appears to lack some of the functionality and ease-of-use of Snip, but those issues may be addressed in the final release. Sketchpad is a pen-based note-taking app. The Insider release doesn’t have file management, which takes away from Sketchpad’s ability to compete with preexisting pen-compatible programs like OneNote or Bamboo Paper from Wacom. Both Ink apps share a similar set of standard drawing tools, which is easy to navigate and use.
Other changes to expect in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update include: four-finger swipe left and right between virtual desktops on the touchpad or touchscreen, auto-hide for the taskbar in tablet mode, and improved battery life for connected standby PC’s.
As of yet, there is no set release date, but based on the timing of the Insider release, end users can likely expect to see the Anniversary update roll out sometime in early summer.
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