Windows Insiders get better narration and console colors in build 18298

Despite some missteps, there's little argument that Windows 10 is improving with time (some would say, like fine wine). Microsoft just published the Windows Insider Preview build 18298, and there are more than a few goodies in store.

Although not all relevant in the grand scheme of things, the most obvious outward-looking change is a new icon for Explorer, now with bolder colors and a slightly adjusted design. The Downloads folder is now sorted by date by default, since Microsoft found that the existing name sorting wasn't much help in helping users find something they just saved.

One of the most interesting behind-the-scenes changes is an improvement to the on-screen touch keyboard. Where before each key had its own hitbox, Windows will now dynamically adjust the hitbox of each individual key according to to the user's typing habits. This should help reduce the number of typos and indirectly improve text prediction. The size of the keys themselves doesn't change, though. The diagram below should make it quite clear.

Fellow coders and sysadmins will also find a lot to like in this Insider build. Microsoft's Console team wrote an entire blog post dedicated to some changes present in this update, and color work is at the front and center. You can now select a cursor's shape and color, as well as disable automatic forwards scroll, mimicking the behavior or Unix terminals. The console now understands the concept of foreground and background colors (selectable, of course), adding up to the constantly improving VT code support.

You may recall that Notepad also saw a handful of handy tweaks in the October update. Users can now choose to save files in UTF-8 encoding without the BOM (Byte Order Mark). If you have no idea what that is, perhaps you remember when some websites or text files had a couple squiggly characters in the top-left corner for no apparent reason. There's now an asterisk on the title bar marking a file that's modified (finally!), and support for long path names when saving files.

Frequent or constant users of Windows' accessibility tools will be happy to know that the Narrator is now a bit more clever than before. There are a ton of small improvements to it, but here are the main ones. The Narrator's settings now live in a single dedicated page, obviating hunts through different menus. You can adjust its verbosity level, and it can read URLs back to you. It can also now nudge the text cursor along as it reads something, and you can hear when you're pressing certain keys. Finally, the Narrator will stay enabled if you need to reset a PIN or a password.

Interested users should check out Microsoft's blog post on the 18298 preview build. Those with their machines configured to receive Insider builds should see it pop up at any point now. If you're interested in checking out Windows 10 features before they make it to the public in general, check out the Windows Insider Program in your Settings app.

Tip: You can use the A/Z keys to walk threads.
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