What’s New in The Fall Creators Update for Windows 10

What has commonly been referred to as the Fall Creators Update is now rolling out to Windows 10 PCs.  The update brings a lot of new features and refinements that reflects Microsoft’s direction for Windows 10 being the underlying platform for everything going forward on new technologies like Augmented Reality.

As you would expect, the Fall Creators Update has a massive number of improvements under-the-hood that in general, improves the overall performance of the Operating System.  Even if all of the new features don’t get you excited, the overall performance improvements will be welcomed.

But the real win with this update are the app improvements, new features and other general user experience additions.  If you compare Windows 10 when it was first released in July 2015 to this update, they are in many ways vastly different.  The Fall Creators Update adds a huge amount of polish to the platform and Windows 10 with it feels far more complete than any previous iteration.

If I tried to cover ever new facet of this update, this already long article would be even more TL;DR.  Instead, I’m going to highlight over a dozen of the top new features of functions in the update.   You’ll see that the updates cover a wide range of the elements of Windows 10, from Microsoft Edge to Photos to how you interact with Contacts.  It is a comprehensive update to the platform and one that I think the vast majority of users will want to upgrade to as soon as possible.

Fluent Design

One of the first things that you will notice about the Fall Creators Update is what Microsoft has dubbed Fluent Design.  Bringing translucent boarders and background, Fluent Design is Microsoft’s equivalent to MacOS’ similar

Fluent Design
Fluent Design

translucent look and feel.  If you have an app that can render in Fluent Design, you will be able to see background colors muted through the front app.  Take the Calculator app for example in the screenshot to the right (and the gallery below).  You can see the purple of OneNote through the translucent boarder of the app.

This isn’t anything earth shattering to be perfectly honest.  This is making Windows 10 look more like a contemporary OS.  The key, as you would expect, is that developers have to support Fluent Design in their app’s design in order for it to be visible.  Microsoft, for the most part in this update, has embraced it but even a few of their apps don’t have the new look.  It’ll come through updates of course but for now, when you run across it, enjoy it.  It actually is pretty good looking.

Revamped Action Center

Action Center, the Windows 10 side bar that gives you updates and information from apps, has been updated to a more segmented view in the

Streamlined Action Center
Streamlined Action Center

Fall Creators Update.  Instead of notifications being somewhat lumped together, now you have discrete blocks from different apps that provide updates.  For individual updates, this isn’t such a big deal.  But if you have an app like Facebook or Twitter that flows multiple updates to you, having them all together in discrete blocks actually makes a lot of sense.

You’ll also note in my screenshot on the right that there is a Fluent Design look to the Action Center now too.

Beyond this new lumping together under banners of notifications, you won’t find any new features in Action Center itself.  However, when I cover the “Continue on PC” feature later on, you will see that option here too.  More and more apps and services are taking advantage of Action Center and that continues in this update.

OneDrive Files on Demand

When Windows 10 was released, one of the features that went away was OneDrive Placeholders.  Essentially this was a shortcut, for lack of a better term, to a file that you had stored in OneDrive but the actual file was not on your PC.  It was in the cloud.  When you clicked on that file to open it, it would be downloaded and opened in the appropriate app for you to edit or use.  The idea behind this was, of course, to save storage space.  If you have a Windows 10 tablet and only 32GB or 64GB of storage, downloading everything you may have in your OneDrive can quickly eat up all of that storage.

With the Fall Creators Update, placeholders return in the form of OneDrive Files on Demand.  Functionally, it is almost identical to how placeholders worked in Windows 8.1 but you have a higher level of control of individual files.  If, for example, you want to assure that a particular Word document is always on your PC, you can set it up so that it is always on your PC.  It isn’t an all or nothing proposition as it was under 8.1 or having to be selective on

OneDrive Files on Demand
OneDrive Files on Demand

folders in Windows 10 to this point.

While the loss of placeholders in Windows 10 was one of the biggest upsets for users, how or if you will benefit from this entire depends on how much data you have in your OneDrive account.  I, for example, have some 200GB of data in OneDrive, most of which is photos (141GB to be exact).  To this point, I’ve simply not sync’d my Photos directory in OneDrive with my Matebook because I only have 256GB of storage.  So for me personally, this is a big deal and I’m glad to have it back.  But if you don’t have a lot of data then it may not be such a big deal as you are syncing everything with your PC anyway.  Your mileage will vary based on the amount of data you use.

Setting up Files on Demand is pretty straightforward.  While in Desktop mode, open up the Notifications area and right-click the OneDrive icon and go to Settings.  Now go to the Settings tab and enable the Files on Demand feature.  Files will then be offloaded to your cloud-only OneDrive but you can right click any file or folder in your OneDrive and move it to the cloud only by clicking the “free up space” option.

Microsoft has a great tutorial on OneDrive Files on Demand that I encourage you to read to understand the ins-and-outs.

Microsoft Edge Grows Up – A Lot

When I returned to Windows 10 full time this month, one of the first things that impressed me was Microsoft Edge.  As I put at the time, I was expecting it to be horrible, much like what I felt Safari was on MacOS.  Indeed my plan was to give Edge a try for a week or so and then return to Chrome, my browser of choice.  So far, Chrome hasn’t been installed on my Matebook and with the updates to Edge in the Fall Creators Update, I don’t see it happening any time

Improved eBook Reading in Microsoft Edge
Improved eBook Reading in Microsoft Edge

soon.  Edge continues to grow up and while it still doesn’t have the number of extension as Chrome (as I also put in my return to Windows 10 post, I don’t use that many so it isn’t a big deal for me), it is fast and stable, two key things for any browser.

The updates to Edge in this overall Windows 10 update bring more of the “what you expect” features to the browser.  First, you can now pin a site that you visit regularly to your task bar and to your Start page.  Start page pinning of sites has been supported for some time now but for those who use Windows 10 in Desktop mode, that isn’t overly helpful as you are still having to navigate your Start page.  Now you have the option for both from the overflow menu in Edge.

Next you have a much improved eBook reading experience in Edge.  Books are formatted more cleanly for easier reading and along with the normal highlighting and other marking up you can do, Cortana is now integrated.  That means if you need to look of the definition of a word, simply highlight it and on the pop-up bar select Cortana.  You’ll get a definition for the word along with other helpful link information.

Tab Previews are now supported in Edge with the Fall Creators Update.  If you work with multiple tabs in the browser, you can now use the down carrot next to your open tabs to open up a preview of each tab.  This visual cue is aimed at making it easier to find the content that you need on your various tabs because, as we all know, names of tabs can be not-so-reliable an indicator of what is actually on that open tab.

Finally, full page browsing is now supported in the browser.  There is a new icon by the Zoom settings in the overflow menu that allows you to make the browser occupy 100% of your display for undistracted viewing of content.  This is particularly handy if you use Edge as your eBook reader.

Microsoft Edge remains one of the faster browsers available and is one of the more battery efficient browsers too.  These updates, while not world altering, do bring polish and nice user touches to it.  Clearly Microsoft wants you using Edge and these types of improvements makes it a viable choice.

Cortana Improvements and Phone Integration

There is little argument that from a total number of users perspective, Microsoft Cortana is far behind Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.  But when it comes to accuracy of answers, it is just behind Google Assistant, far ahead of Alex and Apple’s Siri.  What’s clear with the Fall Creators Update and, to a lesser extent the updates to Cortana on Android, is that Microsoft is still serious about the personal assistant and the AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) behind it.  In this update to Windows 10, much like Edge,

Cortana In-Windows Search Results
Cortana In-Windows Search Results

Cortana has had a lot of improvements and polish added along with being enabled as a bridge between your phone and your PC.

From a pure Windows 10 perspective, there are not a huge number of changes for Cortana in this update.  Remember, most of the cool stuff behind the personal assistant are in the cloud, leveraging AI and ML to truly assist you.  But there are a couple of nice improvements.  First, if you do a text search within Cortana, the content of that search now shows up in Cortana itself.  For example, if I want to look up the current weather conditions, I can type in, “What’s the temperature?” and Cortana will expand out to give me the results there instead of opening up Edge to show me the results.  It doesn’t work on all searches but it does on a lot of the basic questions you can ask Cortana.

Cortana also has a new full screen results page when you ask it a question using “Hey Cortana”.  If you ask for the temperature, you will get a full screen display of the temperature and forecast.

The biggest new feature however is the “Continue on PC” feature that is in Cortana for Android and iOS and links to your PC.  This is all tied in with the ability to link your phone to your PC with Cortana serving as a bridge app between the two.  When you are doing an activity such as surfing the web in Chrome on your phone, you can share that to “Continue on PC” and either pick that activity up immediately or have it sent to the Action Center on your PC.  Cortana is the app that facilitates this feature, meaning that you have to have it installed on your phone (although it doesn’t necessarily have to be your personal assistant app).

Tied closely to this is the Phone Integration.  This feature, which is now in Settings in Windows 10, allows you to link your phone so you can start a task there and then move that task to your PC.  In many ways, this is the promise of Windows Phone realized:   Seamless and easy movement of activities between devices.

People Bar – Quick Contact List on Your Taskbar

A new feature in the Fall Creators Update is the People Bar (sometimes referred to as My People).  The new bar sits on your taskbar and allows you to quickly communicate with your most frequently contacted people with just a few clicks.  You can, for example, email them, reach them on Skype, or open up their contact card information in the People app for other contact methods.

If you have a contact that you are in regular communication with, you can pin that contact to your taskbar directly.  This allows you with one click to open up the ways to contact that person and start an app to do so.  The idea is to save you time by providing you contact information a click away instead of having to wade through another app to do it.

If you are familiar with pinning contacts to your home screen on an Android device, this will feel very similar to you.

Like other taskbar features, you can disable to People Bar if you want to do so in the settings of Windows 10.  However, I do encourage readers to give it a try.  I didn’t think I’d find it overly helpful but over the course of the past week, I’m finding I use it more and more.

Mixed Reality and 3D

One of the big new features and underlying improvements to Windows 10 in this update is support for Mixed Reality.  A number of manufactures have released headsets that can be used with Windows 10 for both productivity and gaming.  The latest, and the flagship Mixed Reality headset, is from

Paint 3D
Paint 3D

Samsung but others make them too.

With these headsets and the Fall Creators Update installed, all of this AR (Augmented Reality) features light up and you can use them.  The implications and long term value of AR is still to be determined but clearly all of the major companies out there are developing for it just as they are with Artificial Intelligence.  While we tend to look at AR as being game-centric, there are some very practical business applications and education opportunities.

Along with Mixed Reality coming to Windows 10, a new Paint 3D app has been introduced that allows you to create 3D images.

Story Remix

If you have been a long time Windows user, then you remember Movie Maker.  It was a great little app that unfortunately went away with Windows 10.  Now it is coming back as Story Remix and it is pretty awesome.  Built into the Photos app, you can add photos and videos to a video creation, set it to music and easily share it with others.  There are a huge number of filters and animations in it too, so this won’t be a generic looking video creation.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a huge number of updates coming to your Windows 10 device in the Fall Creators Update and frankly, this just the highlights.  There are significant improvements around security such as being able to deny permission to folders to prevent ransomware.  There is the all new Story Remix which gives you great movie editing functionality.  There are greater controls around when updates get delivered to your PC.  Finally, there are hundreds of tweaks, security improvements and performance improvements under the hood.

The bottom line:  This update is one you will want on your Windows 10 machine today.