Windows 10 Spring Update Arriving on April 30
Microsoft's next semiannual channel release of the Windows 10 client is bringing new operating system features and will be available starting on Monday, April 30, Microsoft announced Friday.
Many of the new features in this spring Windows 10 release are time management-related capabilities for end users, but Microsoft has elected to give it a somewhat prosaic name, calling it the "April 2018 Update." In accordance with Microsoft's semiannual channel update model, major Windows 10 feature updates typically arrive in the spring and fall each year, alongside Microsoft's regular monthly updates.
This spring major update release was expected earlier, on April 10 ("update Tuesday"), by pundits and Windows watchers. However, Microsoft delayed it for some unstated reason.
While this release lacks an exciting name, it does appear to have useful features for end users. Timeline is one of them. It lets users rediscover what they worked on throughout the past 30 days, with a "card"-like text and graphics user interface. Timeline doesn't just produce a user's browser history; it also tracks file and application use. It appears to only track the use of Microsoft applications, though.
Timeline can help users resume what they were previously doing, even when they switch from mobile devices to their home desktop device. However, to do that, users need to be "signed into your Microsoft account while using Microsoft Edge or Office 365 on your iOS or Android device when you return to your Windows 10 PC," Microsoft's announcement explained.
Timeline is a potential privacy hole, as noted in a Redmond review by Brien Posey, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, although Timeline can be turned on or off using the "Activity History" item under the Windows 10 Settings menu. Posey had reviewed an earlier version of Timeline, noting back then that Timeline didn't seem to recall documents that weren't saved, so that may be a restriction.
The Focus Assist feature aims to reduce distractions from things like "social media or other notifications," according to Microsoft. Users can carve out periods of the day to not get interrupted. It's possible to create exceptions so that notifications from certain people will get through.
After the Focus Assist hours end, users get a summary of the notifications that they've missed. Focus Assist can be turned on or off using a toggle button in the Windows 10 Action Center.
The Windows 10 April 2018 Update has a new Dictation feature. It will transcribe a user's voice on any Microsoft text-based application. Transcription gets turned on in those applications using the "Win + H" shortcut key combination.
For those using Cortana, Microsoft's voice-activated "digital assistant," the April update permits users tell smart devices what to do. It currently works with thermostats from "ecobee, Honeywell, Nest Learning" and more, according to the announcement.
Microsoft Edge Improvements
The Windows 10 April 2018 Update lights up some Microsoft Edge browser features that are designed to reduce distractions. The Edge browser already has a Reading View feature that simplifies Web pages for reading purposes, but now the Edge browser can display those pages in full-screen mode. Users also can use Edge to display PDFs and e-books in full-screen view.
Users also can optionally activate a new Grammar Tools feature, which will break the words on a Web page into syllables and highlight the parts of speech (nouns, adjectives and verbs). In addition, Microsoft added a "clutter-free printing option" for printing Web pages, although it only works for "certain types of Web pages."
In this release, the Edge browser's audio icon that appears on browser tabs has been turned into a toggle switch. Users who have a bunch of browser tabs open can just click on the audio icon to turn off unwanted sound.
Edge also now includes an "autofill on Web payment forms" feature. It will automatically complete the information requested in the form's fields, except for Card Verification Value digits.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.