Windows 10 October 2018 Update

We’re now on the third Windows 10 feature update after last year’s big Creators Update. I had not bothered writing about the two intervening updates as there wasn’t much to say, but the most recent one brought some nifty new functions you should be aware of. First, here are How-To Geek’s comprehensive feature lists for the three updates:

Beware: the current revision of the October 2018 Update has a nasty bug that can wipe out your documents! Microsoft has stopped the rollout for now, and obviously you shouldn’t try to manually update until that bug is fixed. Fortunately nothing of the sort happened on my system. I did have to reinstall my HP OfficeJet printer as usual, but that may be the fault of HP’s driver.

What Happened Earlier

As mentioned above the two intervening updates brought little I was interested in. Here’s a short rundown of their major new features in case you missed them. First, the 2017 Fall Creators Update:

  • OneDrive got files on demand, i.e. they are usually stored in the cloud and only downloaded on request. That strikes me as both dangerous – no local backup! – and useless, given the size of modern hard disks. I turned off this feature immediately.
  • A new design language called “Fluent Design” that looks to me exactly like before, except with some added transparency in the windows.
  • Improved inking and handwriting support. Probably useful if you’re on a touchscreen, but I’m not.
  • Exploit protection alerts you when an unauthorized application wants to modify files in protected folders. Good for system folders but the optional protection of user folders is way too noisy.

And now for the April 2018 Update:

  • Timeline enhances the task view with a list of earlier activities, on the same and any other device connected to your Microsoft account. I’m not using it as I don’t like being tracked to this extent.
  • Improved BlueTooth support, including quick pairing and nearby sharing with other Windows 10 systems.
  • Support for Progressive Web Apps in Edge and Store, paving the way for Office deprioritizing UWP in favor of Win32 and PWA.

Of course there were laundry lists of minor changes in both updates, in particular to Edge and the Linux subsystem, but overall nothing very exciting (for me anyway).

October 2018 Update

Here it gets interesting again, with many new user-facing features that aren’t huge but very nice:

  • Finally, a built-in system-wide clipboard history! Press Win+V to bring up the new clipboard list and select any previously copied item to paste. The list can also synchronize between devices if you’re logged into a Microsoft account.
  • Better screenshots: press Win+Shift+S for Snip & Sketch which works much like the existing Snipping Tool but with improved editing. It won’t prompt you to save your screenshots because they automatically go into the new clipboard history, by the way.
  • Microsoft Edge can finally block autoplaying videos, and show dictionary definitions for words in reading views and PDF/EPUB documents. It’s becoming a pretty decent browser.
  • After Creators Update had removed text-only scaling from its display scaling settings, it now makes a comeback under Ease of Access. I’m skeptical how well this will work with older Win32 applications, though.
  • Notepad finally supports Unix (LF) and Mac (CR) line endings, as well as a wrap-around option for search & replace among others.
  • The useful Magnifier feature under Ease of Access has additional settings, including adjustable magnification increments.
  • SwiftKey from Android brings improved predictions and autocorrections to the touch keyboard for major European languages.
  • Speaking of Android, you can now pair such phones with Windows to manage text messages and access recent photos from your PC.
  • People who use the new Start menu now get a search preview. Fortunately Classic Shell still works so I just keep using that.

With the exception of the new Start menu (still an abomination), Microsoft has been making great strides in improving the usability of Windows 10. The long migration of Win32 system tools to UWP also continues, by the way, which is somewhat ironic as Office now focuses on Win32 and PWA. Having already rewritten so many Windows tools in UWP, Microsoft likely has no choice but to keep this API alive for its own use, even if nobody else cares anymore.

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