A little while back, during the 2017 Build conference, Microsoft talked up the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (FCU). The company made a fair amount of noise about the upcoming enhancements in this
service pack update, and today Windows Insiders can get a good look at the new shiny: the Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 16215 has now hit the Fast ring, and it's a whopper. Grab a knife and a fork, and let's dig in.
During Build, Microsoft talked about an improved design language in the FCU. The first visible applications of those concepts are a tweaked Start menu, and a redesigned Action Center. Both now use "acrylic" design, and the Start menu is also now resizable. Meanwhile, the Action Center has "clearer information separation and hierarchy."
Microsoft has been pushing users towards, er, using its Edge browser, but some would argue that the software is still lacking a handful of features. Those who prefer to browse with no distractions can now enjoy the return of the F11 shortcut for activating full-screen mode. Frequently-visited sites can now be pinned directly to the main Windows taskbar, too. Edge's annotation functionality also underwent some improvements: there's now support for highlighting EPUB documents, and a wider selection of colors for annotating PDFs.
Cortana's already a pretty smart girl, and her IQ is climbing. The assistant can now prompt the user to create a scheduled reminder of events when it notices their posters in the camera roll (with the users' permission). An arguably more useful feature is the new Cortana Lasso: circle relevant information about an event on the screen with an Ink-enabled pen, and Cortana will offer to keep track of it.
Speaking of pen support, the FCU has a Kardashian buttload of improvements on that front. The pen writing panel will now shift away recognized words so that you have room to continue writing. You can now select recognized text to edit it, which was one of the biggest shortcomings I personally found. If Windows doesn't recognize a word, you can correct single letters by just writing on top of them, too. Four new gestures further help with correction: join two words with an arch, split them with a vertical bar, scratch a word, or strike it through.
The features above are only half the story about the pen improvements. Drawing with your finger now has to be explicitly enabled so that there are fewer chances of your palm mistakenly scribbling something while you're using the pen (another pet peeve of mine). The on-screen ink shortcuts also offer easier access to symbols and emojis, and the writing panel will now be in floating mode by default, appearing next to where you start writing. Oh, right, and you can now scroll with the pen—no more "where's that darn scrollbar?" Finally, there's a Find my Pen feature that hopefully does what it says on the tin, and new visual handles when selecting text with the pen.
The soft keyboard also gets a number of improvements. Text autocomplete should be better now, and has some pre-baked selections to help complete commonly-used sentences. There's a new one-handed touch keyboard for tablet mode which supports SwiftKey-like gesture typing, even with a pen. Users who prefer or can't move their hands at all will be happy to hear that they'll actually be heard by Windows—Microsoft finally added dictation support for desktop devices, much to the glee of TR's baby-wrangling writers.
The FCU also has a number of improvements to the Shell and settings menu. The higlights are a new Video playback settings page, a page for "HDR and advanced color settings," and the ability to select file type handling on a per-app instead of per-type basis. Changing a network type from public to private no longer means travelling through the Minotaur's labyrinth, and there's finally a context menu available for Wi-Fi networks.
Other betterments include touch-ups to the Game Bar, Hyper-V, Registry Editor, and Ease-of-Access functionality. In a nod to burgeoning markets, Chinese and Japanese language support are also enhanced.
Windows Insiders with their PCs set to the Fast Ring should have access to the 16215 build any moment now. The list of known issues is fairly lengthy, so daredevils might want to read through Microsoft's blog post on the subject.