Here’s what you need to know
Microsoft is turning Windows 10 into a SaaS offering, rolling out new features and updates early and often. We’ve seen six major updates to the OS since its initial release in 2015. The latest is the May 2019 Update (aka build 18894), which the general public could download beginning the end of May.
Here’s a highlight reel of the new Windows 10 features you’re be able to access, as well as a few more interesting things Microsoft has coming later this year.
May 2019 Update: What to look for:
- A new Light theme: A nice contrast to 10’s dark theme, this brighter option lightens up the Start Menu and taskbar and offers new icon options that fit with the new scheme. You can also mix and match light and dark elements if you don’t want to make an all-or-nothing switch.
- Windows Sandbox: This looks like the most significant update for Pro and Enterprise users. Basically, Sandbox lets you run .exe downloads and other programs that might not be safe in an isolated virtual environment; the entire sandbox gets deleted once you’re finished running the app. Sandbox is a power user feature that most people won’t need, so it’s turned off by default – you’ll need to go into a legacy control panel applet to enable it and add it to the Start menu.
- Cortana and Search split up: Users didn’t like them together, and Microsoft took that feedback to heart. Now clicking on Search in the taskbar prompts a direct operating system search. If you’re looking for Cortana you can select its separate icon.
- Updates can be paused: This feature was already available for enterprise and pro users; home users will finally get it too.
- Reserved space for updates: The new Reserved Storage feature aims to address the problems users run into when they don’t have enough space to install updates. This update is a little controversial among some pro users, who don’t like that Microsoft is siphoning off 7GB of space automatically.
- Windows Hello earns FID02 certification: The latest version of Hello has earned the industry’s gold standard for secure authentication. Now users will be able to log in to devices, apps and online services using biometrics or PINs instead of passwords—baby steps towards Microsoft’s master vision of a password-free future.
- Kaomojis are here (•‿•): Microsoft has added kaomoji face characters that you can access using the current emoji shortcut (win+period). Never heard of kaomojis? They’re Japanese emojis that form more elaborate patterns ranging from “angry glare” ಠ_ಠto “shrug” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ to the “outraged table flip” (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻. (Use that last one after a frustrating meeting.) This screen will also include quick access to other standard symbols such as currencies.
Coming later this year:
- An updated command line tool: Command Prompt has been trucking along as-is for a while now – Windows’ command line interpreter is nothing fancy, but it’s effective. That isn’t good enough for the folks at Microsoft, though: They’ll soon be rolling out Windows Terminal, which adds new font options, a more customizable appearance, and multi-tab support. It’ll be offered to early adopters this summer with a public rollout planned for this winter; You can check it out on GitHub while you wait.
- Word gets an AI-powered editor: It won’t turn you into Hemingway (probably), but Word is about to get a brain boost from AI. Microsoft is bringing its Ideas tool (which you can already use in PowerPoint) over to Word to take your writing up a notch. Ideas goes beyond correcting your grammar and spelling; it takes a close look at your language, suggesting more appropriate phrases, making sure its gender-inclusive and more. It can also help with your reading, scanning long documents to estimate the read time and summarizing the key points for you. Look for it in preview form this June, with a wide release scheduled for fall.
- Cortana gets business-focused: Cortana fell behind Google Assistant and Alexa last year as an all-around digital assistant; to differentiate itself, Microsoft is now positioning Cortana as the best choice for professionals who are organizing their calendars. Cortana has always had scheduling functionality, but its conversational skills have come a long way – someday soon you’ll be able to have a surprisingly realistic back-and-forth chat as you plan your work week.