Over a 100 million people have upgraded or purchased machines running Windows 10, Microsoft’s latest operating system upgrade. Microsoft made a lot of promises before the operating system even arrived. The company said that it was committed to improving on the apps the come with Windows 10 directly through its Windows Store. It also said that for now on, Windows would get feature updates and tweaks through the year, instead of the major releases that took the company three years to make before.
Microsoft delivered on the first promise already. Windows 10 apps have improved in some pretty major ways since the free Windows 10 download arrived. Now the company is preparing to make good on that second promise. It’s just released the first big Windows 10 upgrade , called the Windows 10 November Update.
The name is pretty unimaginative, but the benefits that it provides are great. Microsoft isn’t going in and making massive changes to Windows 10 with this upgrade. It’d be silly to do that. Instead, the Windows 10 November Update is a big batch of fixes and changes and a few new apps that didn’t make it into this summer’s Windows 10 launch.
Microsoft Edge is the new browser that’s included with Windows 10. Early on, many hypothesized that the browser really was Internet Explorer with a different name. Using it for a few moments disproved that theory, Microsoft Edge is missing tons of features that Internet Explorer already offers.
Somehow two of these features turned out to be basic functionality that we expect from any device. Microsoft Edge doesn’t sync Favorites in the version of Windows 10 that arrived in July. Users don’t get a preview of what is going on in their different tabs either. Both issues are addressed with the Windows 10 November Update.
Cortana is the benefactor of a lot of improvements with the Windows 10 November Update. The version that users already have is pretty solid, which seems to have given Microsoft’s teams time to fill in crucial gaps and try some nifty ideas.
Really, there are three major ways of interacting with a device. One is touch, the others are a mouse and voice. With the Surface line, Microsoft added Pen input to the mix. Windows 10 users could set reminders or perform searches with their voice or by typing a phrase to Cortana. Now Microsoft is letting users write notes to the personal assistant to get things done. Cortana tries to recognize what users typed, then perform that action
Missed Calls from Windows Phone with Cortana
Cortana is available on Windows phones too. With Windows Phone 8.1. there are no obvious integration points, no real benefits to using both a Windows phone and a Windows PC. Microsoft is way behind Apple in that respect.
Now the company is catching up. The Windows 10 November Update lets users with a Windows 10 PC see any calls they missed from their Windows Phones. She also allows users to compose a text message on their PC and set it to someone else through their Windows phone.
Uber Ordering & Movie Tracking
Once given permission, Cortana will can through emails, looking for plane tickets and things that you might need to track or get reminders for. Microsoft has added tracking movie tickets and events to this list. What’s more, Cortana will ask if users want to order an Uber to get to their event in time.
Windows 10 doesn’t take a really controversial stance on design like Windows 8 did. Users can customize every bit of it, with some key omissions. At the time, both omissions seemed rather strange. It was almost as if Microsoft just didn’t get around to adding any options for customizing those areas.
Colors for Titlebars
Windows 10 November Update lets users choose a theme that adds some color to the white Titlebars that flank apps that haven’t been updated to support Windows 10 just yet.
Remove Windows Background from Login
Microsoft’s default Windows 10 background is cool looking for sure, but no one really wants to see it when they login to their PC. Mercifully, the Window 10 November Update includes a toggle in the settings for turning that login background off. Users still can’t choose their own, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Show More Tiles in Start Screen
A toggle lets users see more or less Live Tiles on their Start Screen or Start Menu than before.
Skype Messaging, Calling and Video Apps
Microsoft hasn’t been able to orient Skype in a way that makes sense for users since it purchased it. Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 both had Skype apps available in the Windows Store. In fact, Windows 10 integrated Skype directly into the Messages app.
Microsoft scrapped all of that for Windows 10, forcing users into download the Desktop version of Skype if they wanted to get messages, video calls or voice calls. The Windows 10 November Update brings with it some relief from the bloated and not very user-friendly Skype Desktop app.
Messaging, Phone and Skype Video are three new apps added to Windows by the Windows 10 November Update. Through these three apps, the entire Skype experience is available. Messages also supports direct replies from the Action Center notification area.
Finally, there are some very general tweaks to the overall Windows experience with Windows 10. They run the gamut from nice to have to major internal feature additions.
Better Contextual menus
Right click or tap and hold anywhere in Windows 10 and you get one of three different looking menus. The Windows 10 November Update cleans this up a bit, finally. The Start Menu/Start Screen right-click menus have adjusted sizes so that they’re easy to select with a finger, but not too big that they make using a mouse a pain. Icons for each setting add some much-needed context for some options. For example, the new menu for Start gives an example of different Live Tile sizes in the menu, instead of users having to guess.
Memory Manager Upgrades
Changes to Memory Manager sparked a lot of talk earlier this year. In Windows 10, the Memory Manager keeps recent apps and things stored in memory, before offloading them to the hard drive when things get to busy. The Windows 10 November Update adds a third tool to the Memory Manager’s options.
Before writing things to the hard drive for safe keeping, Memory Manager will now try to compress things, squeezing in space for more things when it’s necessary. A post on the Windows Experience Blog notes that Windows 10 November Update users might notice that the System in the Task Manager may appear to hog more memory than it did in older versions of Windows.
Default Printer Changes
Microsoft recently added an option for letting really sophisticated users set a default printer based on the network connection they had available. The idea was that users would have a different default printers for home and office automatically, instead of having to manually switch.
Windows 10 November Update removes that feature entirely. In it’s place Windows 10 simply sets the last printer someone used as their default printer.
Install Apps & Games on External Storage
Early versions of Windows 10 allowed users to store apps and games on SD cards to save internal space. The feature was very handy, many Windows 10 tablets don’t come with a lot of built-in storage. Being able to offload extras was excellent. Unfortunately, the feature never made it to the Windows 10 launch.
Windows 10 November Update brings the feature back, thankfully. Users can store all of their apps and games downloaded from the Windows Store on external storage by default.
Input/Keyboard stays hidden when not in tablet mode and a keyboard is connected
When a hardware keyboard is attached Windows 10 bring up its Touch Keyboard and Pen Input panel, even in Tablet Mode. This appears aimed at devices like Surface, with hardware keyboards and users that switch between different input methods.
App Snapping & Multitasking
Windows 8 offered a pretty robust tablet experience, an experience some would argue that Microsoft ruined with Windows 10. That’s up for debate, but one of the coolest features from that early release was being able to drag apps to different sides of your screen and then drop a third or fourth app in the middle. The Windows 10 Fall Update brings this feature back.
The Windows 10 November Update doesn’t add a lot of exciting new things, but it is Microsoft making proving that it can continuously improve Windows 10 instead of letting it languish for years until the next upgrade. The Windows 10 November Update is free for everyone that already has Windows 10 installed.