One major update to Windows 10 isn’t enough for Microsoft in 2017. The Creators Update is still in the process of rolling out to Windows 10 devices around the world, but that didn’t stop the company from telling us all about a brand new update at their Build developers conference in Seattle. It’s called the Fall Creators Update, and while it’ll be heavy on behind-the-scenes developer tools, there are quite a few new features users can look forward to, as well.
A common theme running through the new features is Microsoft Graph. This is another one of those behind-the-scenes developer tools, but it’s something that will enable some pretty cool features this fall. Before, it was mostly an Office 365 tool to help facilitate real-time collaboration. Microsoft is widening the scope considerably with their new update, enabling Microsoft Graph to grab data, pull it into the cloud, then share it across devices — and not just Windows device. If all goes well for Microsoft, Windows 10 could become a operating system-neutral hub of sorts. In other words, if you use Android, iOS, or Mac devices, Microsoft is looking to help boost your user experience instead of shoving you into using Windows devices exclusively. Here’s a few ways they’ll do that, along with some other surprises from day two of Microsoft’s Build conference.
Fluent Design isn’t exactly an overhaul of the Windows 10 UI, but there will be some noticeable tweaks. Everything from system apps to simple applications like the touch keyboard will have lighting and depth effects. Looks nice, but in the past, this approach has tended to come at the cost of system resources (see: Windows Vista, iOS 7). There’s a good chance developers will be able to find practical uses for the new design tweaks, but here’s hoping those apps are resource efficient.
Forget about just being able to see a list of apps and programs you have running — the Timeline feature will let you see what you were working on days ago, then immediately let you pick up where you left off. Timeline is a full-screen feature that organizes apps and programs by day, with previews large enough to remind you what you were doing at that time.
Pick Up Where You Left Off
It’ll soon be possible to work on Office documents seamlessly across devices — including iOS and Android devices. This is going to be all on Cortana, though, so you’ll need to have Microsoft’s digital assistant installed on those other operating systems. If you do, you’ll be able to sync your mobile device to your PC — Cortana can then offer to open a file you’re working on when you switch from your PC to your phone or vice versa, saving your progress automatically.
Microsoft quietly acquired the SwiftKey keyboard last year, which was strange, because Microsoft’s own mobile touch keyboard, Word Flow, was pretty good. We found out why today — Microsoft is using SwiftKey in a new cloud clipboard function. If your phone is synced to your PC (and Microsoft will be adding a phone section in settings to help make this easy), anything you copy or cut on Windows 10 will go to the cloud, and can be pasted into mobile devices using SwiftKey and a pop-up menu. This is for anyone who emails themselves documents or photos to access them on other devices — for what it’s worth, Joe Belfiore of Microsoft asked for a show of hands of how many people in the audience did that, and it was pretty much all of us.
OneDrive Files On-Demand
This tweak to OneDrive’s file management makes it much easier to find files stored in the cloud. Not only will you get neat icons telling you if a file is stored locally or in the cloud, OneDrive Files On-Demand can now generate shortcuts to files stored in the cloud in the same place as on the original device. Save a file to the desktop on your laptop, and a shortcut will appear in the desktop folder of your mobile device. The cool part is that the files aren’t actually downloaded onto those other devices until you open the file. If you didn’t care for having to root around OneDrive to find the files you need, this is going to be a great feature.
Here’s a fun feature for all the amateur video editors out there. In the Creators Update, Microsoft put out a lot of tools to help people create their own animated 3D effects and objects. Story Remix puts those new toys to good use. The video editor can be used to cut up clips and create highlight reels, but the awesome part is that notes and 3D objects can be anchored to people and objects in the video. The demo was pretty awesome — by anchoring an animated fireball to a soccer ball, a game-winning goal turned into an actual burner (punctuated by an explosion, of course). Done sloppily it could have looked really cheesy, but the software running behind the scenes does a really good job of cleaning up the image and making the finished result look convincing.
And, here’s the big shocker of the day. It’s not necessarily tied to the Fall Creators Update release, but Microsoft confirmed today that before year’s end, iTunes is expected to be available on the Windows Store. iTunes has always been available as a desktop program on PCs, but getting it on the Windows Store means that Windows 10 S device owners can still use iTunes and Apple Music. It’s a big boost for the Microsoft Store, which is also (finally) adding Spotify this year. Sneakily, getting iTunes also makes Windows 10 even more useful as a platform that can play nice with other operating services, making it a lot easier to get out of that walled garden for anyone who wants to switch to Windows 10.
Disclaimer: Microsoft covered our travel and accommodations for the Microsoft Build developers conference. All thoughts and opinions are 100% our own.