Windows 10: Here are the big new features to look out for in 2018

Due to the public way in which Windows is tested, we already know about many of the new features headed to Windows 10 next year.

Windows 10 never stops changing, with Microsoft sprinkling new features onto the OS twice a year.

Due to the public way in which Windows is tested, we already know about many of the new features headed to Windows 10 next year.

Here's what you should look out for, with most of these features due to be rolled out with the Redstone 4 update in March/April 2018.

Timeline

Ever wanted a browser history for your Windows desktop? That's basically what the Timeline feature will provide, allowing you to search through files, apps and sites you've previously had open.

This ability to jump back and pick up what you were doing will extend to PCs, Android handsets and iPhones running Microsoft's Cortana.

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The Windows 10 Timeline feature shown off at Build 2017.

Image: Microsoft

Cloud clipboard

Also geared towards making it easier to work across different devices is cloud clipboard, which will allow users to copy images, links, text and even documents between a Windows 10 PC and phones running Android, iOS or Windows 10 and that use Microsoft's Swiftkey keyboard.

A hands-on with an early version of the clipboard showed it being accessible by hitting the Windows key + V to bring up the cloud clipboard in Windows 10.

Story Remix 3D features

Windows 10's new Story Remix feature is a tool that makes it easy to create quick video clips, but when it arrived with the Fall Creators Update it was missing its most impressive aspect—the ability to blend 3D and 2D images in a believable fashion.

In a demo of Story Remix earlier this year, a video of a free kick on goal during a soccer game saw the ball transformed into a 3D fireball, with the flaming projectile accurately following the curved trajectory of the ball and leaving a trail of smoke in its wake.

To create believable-looking scenes, Microsoft says the feature, which now looks likely to be added next year, relies on a variety of surface detection and tracking technology.

Sets

Sets will mark quite a departure for Windows, introducing the concept of tabbed windows. The feature will allow users to group together related apps, documents, files and websites into separate tabs in a single desktop window. By doing so, users will be able to group together everything related to a specific task inside one window, regardless of whether that content is an Office document or a website.

Microsoft says content from a wide variety of apps will be able to be grouped together using the feature, including from legacy Windows software.

Unlike most of the other features mentioned there's no indication that Sets will be rolled out with the Redstone 4 update in Spring 2018.

Windows 10 Near Share

Basically Windows' equivalent of Apple's AirDrop feature, allowing nearby Windows 10 devices to share files and URLs via Bluetooth.

Apps like Photos, Microsoft Edge and File Explorer will have a Share icon, which when clicked will allow users to share content with nearby PCs. The recipient will get a notification via the Action Center and when they accept, the transfer will take place.

Cortana upgrades

New to Windows 10 is the Cortana Collection, which allows the virtual assistant to track what you're browsing online using Microsoft Edge and automatically create lists of related content, for example, of books that you might want to buy.

Other examples of collections might be movies, recipes, restaurants and shopping. Cortana will suggest new entries before adding items to each list and you can also customize these lists, as well as sorting them by name or date.

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An example of Cortana Collections.

Image: Microsoft

The way Cortana works has been simplified, with Cortana's suggestions for the action you might like to take next moved to the Action Center and removed from Cortana's user interface.

Later in the year Cortana is expected to get a broader revamp, with the addition of a new chat-based UI.

A new look

Microsoft continues to tweak the look of the OS, with the Start Menu's 'All apps' list gaining support for the Reveal effect, which is the name given to the glow given off by the cursor that highlights borders and other elements of the interface as the cursor moves over them. The same Reveal effect is also now used on the Calendar fly-out on the taskbar.

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The Reveal effect in the All apps section of the Start Menu.

Image: Microsoft

Reveal is part of Microsoft's Fluent Design System, aimed at overhauling the OS to not only to be more visually appealing, but also to make its interfaces more intuitive to use. The overhaul will create a distinctive look, adding light, depth, motion, and the quality of physical materials to the Windows' UI and apps.

The Fluent Design System will be rolled out more widely across the OS with the Redstone 4 release. The My People hub on the taskbar is in particular expect to have a design update, with one known change being that Contacts pinned to the taskbar now show a list of connected apps rather than tiles.

Lockscreen personalization

Your personalization options will be more visible, with the Lock Screen displaying your Cortana, Calendar, Mail and Windows Spotlight images, even if you don't sign in straight away.

Settings shake-up

The Settings app continues to take over responsibility for more features, with the addition of a page to toggle on and off apps that load at startup, with sound settings also moving into the Settings app.

There are also new options for customizing dots-per-inch settings, language, My People and the Start menu for different monitors in multi-monitor setups.

There are some new options in the Ease of Access settings, with the ability to select the a channel for speech output and a new color wheel on the Color Filters page.

Fewer resets

Microsoft is making more of an effort not to reset your settings to default after upgrading Windows 10, with hibernate and Fast Startup settings maintained between updates.

Edge browser improvements

Similar to other major browsers, Edge users will now be able to mute specific tabs.

Other improvements include the ability to save free EPUB books, and to limit the bandwidth used for foreground downloads, for example, when a user clicks to download an app from the Windows Store. Edge will now also automatically fill out preferred information in address and related forms.

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Image: Microsoft

Keyboards, writing and gestures

The touch keyboard will be redesigned to have the Windows Fluent Design System's Acrylic background and support over 190 more keyboard layouts, with options for nearly every language in the world. Handwriting recognition is improved, with support for shape-writing on the keyboard, and US users typing on a hardware keyboard now have the option of seeing text suggestions. Updates to the emoji data should also mean more emoji are suggested as you type.

The Action Center will be updated to allow two-finger swipe gestures to be used to dismiss all notifications on touch-enabled devices.

Start Menu

You will now be able to access the Settings for an app by right clicking on its live tile.

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Image: Microsoft

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About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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