Windows 10 Anniversary Update Due in July & These Are Its Best Features

Microsoft thinks you will freak out over the Anniversary Upgrade of Windows 10, expected in July this year. It’s the second big upgrade since the launch of Windows 10 in July 2015.

Both the RTM build and the subsequent November Upgrade, aka build 1511, carried the codename Threshold. The codename for the current run is Redstone and the upcoming release will likely be build 1607.

As we learned during the Build keynote this week, the Anniversary Update will introduce new features to core applications of Windows 10, including Microsoft Edge, Cortana, and Skype. It will also improve the integration of apps via the Universal App Platform and expand the role of the Windows Store.

Here we highlight the most exciting features of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, which you will be able to get your hands on this summer.

1. Microsoft Edge Extensions

Edge is Microsoft’s Windows 10 exclusive browser. While Edge is a great browser overall, its biggest weakness has been the lack of extensions. This changed with build 14291 of the Windows 10 Insider Preview, which introduced the much desired Edge Extensions.

Edge Extensions Pane

Presently, three extensions can be downloaded from the Windows Developer website and many more are being released and tested by third-party developers. In Windows 10 Redstone, extensions will be available through the Windows Store and you can expect to see a wide selection of officially supported Edge extensions.

2. Cortana Becomes Smarter

Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant, is one of Windows 10’s most attractive features and she is receiving a number of serious updates.

Language Support

In the Anniversary Update, she masters additional languages: Spanish (Mexico), Portuguese (Brazil), and French (Canada), bringing the total of supported languages up to 13.

Each language setting comes with a regional customization:

In Brazil, Cortana is fond of pasteis which is a common food found in many regions across Brazil. And in Mexico, we added local flavor to reflect the accent and language of the country.

Timeless Reminders

A more subtle change concerns Cortana’s reminder function. She will be able to save reminders without a specific due date. For example, you could ask Cortana to remember a name or remind you of a task and she won’t insist on setting a due date to complete the reminder. You can always append further details like location or time later on. In the Anniversary Update, you will also be able to request Cortana to retrieve your saved reminders.

Cross-Device Notifications and Reminders

Good assistants have an overview of what’s happening across your devices. Starting with the Anniversary Update, Cortana will gain the power to check in with your phone or tablet, notify you of missed calls, messages, or notifications, and alert you when your mobile’s battery is running out.

While Microsoft didn’t highlight these features specifically, it seems like whatever superpowers are coming to Cortana, they will be available across devices, i.e. for Cortana on Android, iOS, and Windows 10 Mobile.

Cortana Intelligence Suite

We will continue to see Cortana getting more deeply integrated into the operating system. Earlier in March, unnamed sources at Microsoft said that developers are “experimenting with having Cortana float around Windows 10,” offering her services inside documents and applications whenever needed.

During the Build keynote, Microsoft highlighted how Cortana will plug into Outlook and Skype. And we’re relieved to see that it won’t be anything like a supercharged Clippy. Cortana is much more subtle and useful.

Cortana Outlook

Not only will Cortana be available directly inside other apps, she will also collaborate with bots, basically plugins from third-party service providers that can enrich Cortana’s intelligent offerings. For example, Cortana could enlist the help of these bots to track packages, reserve seats at a restaurant, order a pizza, or book a hotel room.

Cortana Skype Bot

3. Ink Receives Improvements

Apparently, roughly 3 out of 4 people are using paper for an hour or more per day. Microsoft wants you to work with its touch devices as if they were paper.

To make the use of a digital pen as seamless and easy as old school pen and paper, they have worked on their Windows Ink features, including a sketchpad (similar to a drawing board; pictured below), which will be available from the lock screen, a digital ruler to make more precise sketches and draw straight lines, and digital sticky notes.

Windows Ink Stats

Cortana will automatically process your notes and highlight what she interprets as calls to action. In the example shown below, she recognized the world tomorrow and upon clicking it, she suggested a reminder.

Windows Ink Cortana

The Windows Ink platform will initially be supported by Adobe apps, Microsoft Office, Maps, and more applications in the future.

Other Notable Changes

BASH shell, the Linux command line, is coming to Windows 10. And not just that, it will be a full implementation of a Linux / Ubuntu sub-system into Windows, as Matthew Hughes explains in his in-depth post.

User Interface changes won’t be breathtaking, but they will add some consistency. You will be able to see the same image on the lock screen and the sign-in screen. Animations for resizing live tiles in the Start Menu will be smoother and tiles will be available in additional sizes.

File Explorer will eventually receive tabs. Finally!

Continuum will blur the lines between your desktop and mobile devices. Apps will roam, Cortana will manage reminders, notifications, and status updates across devices, and you will be able to make phone calls or send SMS text messages from your desktop, using Cortana. This was also demonstrated during the Build keynote.

Cortana SMS

Windows Update will allow you to set active hours and restart times, so you won’t be bothered with installations and restart requests while you’re busy working.

Maps will let you “view several searches on a single map view at the same time,” writes Kushal Kapoor, Product Marketing Manager for the Windows Maps team. Other updates include labels for search results directly on the map, offline favorites, turn-by-turn directions in Cortana’s voice, even for public transit routes.

What they demonstrated during the Build keynote were new ink features that seamlessly adapt to 3D maps, like the one of Mount St. Helens.

Windows 10 Maps Ink

Photos, the universal photo viewer app, will receive intelligent search, similar to what’s already available on the OneDrive website. You will be able to search photos based on faces or places and teach Photos how to manage photos with specific people or taken in certain places.

Get Immediate Access to New Features

Can’t wait to get your hands onto new Windows 10 features? Why not join the Windows Insider program and help Microsoft test new Windows 10 builds. You can choose between the slow and fast release ring, depending on how adventurous you are. New builds are released to the slow ring once sufficient data from Insiders in the fast ring were collected to exclude major issues.

Windows Technical Preview Progression Model

If the slow ring still sounds too risky, Microsoft has recently introduced a third ring:

Release Preview – Best for Insiders who enjoy getting early access to updates for the Current Branch, Microsoft applications, and drivers, with minimal risk to their devices, and still want to provide feedback to make Windows devices great.

To join the Insider Preview, sign up for the program, then enter the Settings app via the Start Menu or they keyboard shortcut Windows key + I. Head to Update & Security > Advanced options and click Get started under the Get Insider builds header. Should this option not be available, double-check whether you’re logged into Windows with your Microsoft account (Settings > Accounts > Your emails and account) and whether you permitted Full or Enhanced collection of Diagnostic and usage data (Settings > Privacy > Feedback & diagnostics).

What’s Next for Windows 10?

Several features we expected for the Anniversary Update, like the return of smart folders for OneDrive, might get rolled into a second Redstone upgrade (RS2), currently scheduled for spring 2017. RS2 is believed to be synchronized with the release of new Windows 10 hardware from Microsoft. As of now, it remains unclear which features Microsoft will focus on for the third major upgrade of Windows 10.

Which upcoming Windows 10 features are you most looking forward to? Are there any features we haven’t mentioned that you think are essential? Please share your thoughts in the comments and lets discuss!

Image Credits: First Birthday by SpeedKingz via Shutterstock

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