Microsoft

Windows 10: Some of 2018's biggest new features are now available to try

New features that promise to make meaningful changes to Windows have been rolled out to PCs testing early builds of Windows 10 under the Insider program.

Some of the biggest new features coming to Windows 10 next year are available to test out.

New features that promise to make meaningful changes to Windows have been rolled out to PCs running early builds of Windows 10 under the Insider program.

Key among these new features is Timeline, which basically provides a browser history for your Windows desktop, and is an extension of Windows' existing Task View.

The feature allows users to search through cards showing files, apps and sites they'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.

SEE: Windows 10: Streamline your work with these power tips (free TechRepublic PDF)

The Windows Insider preview build, version 17063, will allow users to use Timeline to resume activity within the Microsoft Edge browser, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) versions of Maps, News, Money, Sports, and Weather.

Microsoft is also enabling Cortana to suggest Timeline activities that users might want to resume across devices.

A select group of Windows Insider users, to be chosen by Microsoft, will also be able to try out Windows 10 Sets in the latest build.

Sets will mark quite a departure for Windows, introducing support for tabbed windows. The feature will allow users to group together related apps, documents, files and websites, by keeping them in 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. Apps that will initially support Sets' tabbed interface will be Mail & Calendar, OneNote and the Edge browser.

While Timeline is expected to be rolled out to all Windows 10 users with the Redstone 4 update from Spring 2018, there is no current estimate for when Sets will be added.

Microsoft has also taken another step towards allow Windows developers to build Progressive Web Apps (PWA) — written using web languages such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript — that function almost identically to native apps, for instance, able to work offline and be installed on your PC. The latest Insider build adds support for Service Workers to Microsoft Edge, allowing web apps and sites to more easily switch between working offline and online. Also new is support for the Push and Cache APIs, bringing support for push notifications to web apps.

New features for business

There's good news for smaller businesses, as Microsoft is adding its Windows Defender Application Guard (WDAG) tech to Windows 10 Pro editions. Windows Defender Application Guard is designed to help protect firms against online threats by adding container-based isolation to Windows 10's Edge browser, allowing it to safely contain malware so it can't spread within a company's network.

There's also new options for IT admins, with Microsoft adding Group Policies and MDM Policies to give administrators more precise control over bandwidth use, to let them restrict peer selection to the same subnet, and to make it easier to join devices to peer groups.

Users will also be able to choose to have Windows always use a cellular connection instead of Wi-Fi, or when Wi-Fi signal strength is poor.

The Windows Subsystem for Linux is updated to allow it to run background tasks, to run elevated and non-elevated WSL instances simultaneously, and to run WSL when using Windows via remote-connection tools such as OpenSSH, VPN and Enter-PSSession. Meanwhile the new Wslpath converts Linux file paths to Windows-friendly paths.

Ongoing redesign

Other changes in the release will overhaul Cortana's Notebook, with the addition of a tabbed view option and a new Organizer for accessing lists and reminders. Cortana will also be able to control a wider range of music services, starting with Spotify in US English.

Various parts of the OS are given a fresh coat of paint, with the Settings app being redesigned and aspects of Microsoft new Fluent design language added to the Clock, Calendar, Settings, Share UI and the taskbar. The My People contact center also gains support for more contacts and users can now drag-and-drop contacts to rearrange them.

One feature that is removed in the new build is Windows HomeGroup service, which Microsoft says is no longer required in an age where connecting multiple devices and sharing digital content is "streamlined and simple".

You can find out more about the other fixes and improvements in the latest Windows Insider build, available to Windows Insiders in the Fast ring and those who opted in to Skip Ahead, here.

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The Windows 10 Timeline feature.

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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