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Windows 10 October 2018 Update
After three years of feature updates every six months, Windows 10 continues to add new features and improve existing ones. The move to ‘modern’ controls for Settings goes on, but the control panel lives on even as the Fluent Design System is applied to more Windows elements.
There are some long-term changes that haven’t made it into this update (adding tabs to applications with Sets is still in development), and some features like the snipping experience keep changing over and over again with little actual improvement. Also, one of the key features, integration with Android devices to quickly access recent phone photos and see and reply to text messages, is powered by services included in the October 2018 Update but actually delivered via the separate Your Phone app, which needed much more development when ZDNet examined it recently.
Storage Sense cleans up after OneDrive
Tools from the old Disk Cleanup utility have been progressively moving into the Storage Sense section of the Settings app, where they run in the background instead of requiring you to reclaim disk space manually. This now includes freeing up space by deleting the local, cached copies of on-demand files from OneDrive that you’ve viewed or edited but haven’t accessed in the last 30 days–but only when your disk space runs low.
If you want those files deleted more often, even if you’re not low on disk space, choose Settings / System / Storage and click ‘Change how we free up space automatically’, then change the value under Run Storage Sense from ‘During low free disk space’ to daily, weekly or monthly. You can choose how quickly cached files become eligible for deletion by changing the value under ‘OneDrive’ from 30 days to 1, 14 or 60 days or pick ‘Never’ to stop them being removed.
Clipping and snipping
The Windows Timeline feature now powers a new clipboard history: press Windows-V to see the last 25 things you copied (including when you press PrintScreen). You can sync clips to other PCs to reuse them there, delete one or all of your clips, or pin a clip to keep it when you restart Windows (because otherwise you’ll lose it). It’s nice to have this built in, but it has far fewer features than a third-party clipboard manager like ClipMate.
There’s yet another new tool for capturing areas of the screen as ‘snips’, in addition to the Snipping Tool: the Windows-Shift-S key combination now brings up Snip & Sketch, which replaces the Screen Sketch tool in the Windows Ink Workspace. You can use the keyboard shortcut if you want to snip an area or the full screen, or open it from the Ink Workspace if you need a delay before snipping (although it doesn’t always work).
Microsoft is still working on how snipping will work, and has promised not to take the Snipping Tool away for a while — for one thing, it works with third-party clipboard managers, while Snip & Sketch breaks them. This is an experience Microsoft needs to consolidate rather than keep creating multiple new tools for the same purpose.
Turn off Autoplay in Edge and much more
Although the browser engine has been getting updates all along, the user interface of Edge gets a much-needed update. You can finally customise which icons appear on the toolbar, the ‘…’ menu now has flyouts and icons to make it easier to find what you’re looking for, and Settings becomes a dialog box with four tabs. For the new options to limit or block autoplay videos, choose Settings / Advanced / Media autoplay.
There are new Group Policy and MDM options for Edge in this update for blocking or enabling: full-screen mode; printing; saving browser history and the favourites bar; configuring the New tab page, Home and startup options; managing extensions; and preventing certificate error overrides. The XSS filter used in previous versions of Edge is gone. Instead, Edge supports the W3C Content Security Policy standard to protect against cross-site scripting and content injection attacks.
Dark File Explorer and bigger search
Microsoft continues to implement the new Fluent Design System in Windows 10, which now shows grey borders around windows instead of colourful ones and shadows around pop-up menus like the Edge context menu. If you turn on the dark mode for Windows (choose Settings / Personalisation / Colours / Choose your default app mode), File Explorer now has a dark theme, which also turns file dialogs dark as well. This still has some rough edges, like icons with white backgrounds.
When you search from the start screen, the results window is now much wider–oddly, the filters for search results don’t use the full width of the window, so you still have to use the dropdown to see more options. Searches that bring up web results make good use of that width for previews, especially if there’s a web page that Bing has marked as an instant answer. But if your result is a document instead of a preview of the content, which would be very useful, you get the kind of options you’d see on a context menu, like opening the file location and copying the full path. If it’s an app, you can pin it or open it as admin. This is a lot of screen space to give up for so little return.
More usefully, if you’re using the touch keyboard, the Cortana and search results window moves to the top of the screen so it’s not covered by the keyboard and it doesn’t close automatically.
Typing insights and SwiftKey swipes
The Windows 10 touch keyboard now uses the SwiftKey engine (if you type in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian). That gives you the same autocorrections, word suggestions and predictions you’d get on a smartphone keyboard. And if you’re using a small tablet, it’s very convenient to swipe out words with one finger rather than typing letter by letter.
You can see whether SwiftKey is helping you type more accurately by looking at Settings / Devices / Typing / View typing insights.
Search the Calendar app
It’s slightly surprising that it has taken this long to get search in the Windows Calendar app: type what you’re looking for in the search box at the top and press Enter, or click the magnifying glass. You can’t search reminders you’ve created in Cortana (or that Cortana has created for you), and you can’t search the Calendar from the Cortana search box.
Smarter update reboots
Because Windows 10 doesn’t let you skip or postpone updates for very long unless you’re using the Enterprise version, and because Windows 10 gets updates multiple times a month (security and stability updates on the second Tuesday of each month, non-security updates on the fourth Tuesday and urgent updates whenever they come out), it regularly reboots to apply updates.
To prevent restarts while you’re working, you can choose Settings / Update & Security / Windows Update / Change active hours, but that doesn’t meant they always happen at a convenient time. From the October 2018 Update, Windows 10 will check if you’re using the device when a restart is due and use machine learning to predict the best time to restart, based on your working habits and try to avoid restarting when you go away for five minutes to get a cup of tea.
More privacy controls
Only the Enterprise version of Windows 10 lets you completely turn off telemetry. If you want to see what diagnostic data Microsoft collects from your computer, you can see that with the Windows Diagnostic Data Viewer. With the October 2018 Update, the viewer now shows what information was sent in problem reports created after an application (or Windows) crash.
Mixed Reality Flashlight
tWindows 10 isn’t just for PCs: mixed reality headsets get some major improvements this time around. You can send audio to both your PC speakers and a Mixed Reality headset at once. You can use the Windows key or the ‘bloom’ hand gesture to open the new Quick Actions inside an immersive application so you can see the time, go home or launch a capture.
tBut most useful is the new Flashlight that lets you turn on the camera and view the real world in a round portal. This means you can see where your phone or your coffee cup is, or where you can put your controllers down, without having to take off the headset. Flashlight is a voice command and also on the Start menu.
- Windows 10 power tips: Secret shortcuts to your favorite settings (Tech Pro Research)
- How to avoid installing Windows 10 crapware (free PDF) (TechRepublic)