Microsoft no longer releases major overhauls to its operating system. Windows 10 is the “last” version of Windows, and Redmond now releases upgrades to it on a semi-annual basis instead of one huge upgrade every few years.
The latest, out today, lacks a descriptive name; it’s just the April 2018 Update. But while it’s smaller than previous releases, there are several noteworthy goodies available to Windows users, many of which aim to save you ti me or help your manage time better.
Speaking of time, the update will roll out slowly, first to the most compatible PCs. The whole roll-out process can take months, but you can install the April 2018 Update manually via the Update Assistant utility from Microsoft’s website.
But unless you’re super-stoked to get the new features, you’re actually better off waiting for the normal Windows Update process, as your machine may not be ready to run the new software reliably. In fact, if you’d rather put off the update, you can go into Settings > Windows Update > Advanced Settings and defer the update for up to 365 days. You’ll still receive security and reliability updates.
The biggest feature of the April 2018 Update, Timeline was originally planned for the Fall Creators Update. It takes over the OS’s multiple virtual desktop button to add the element of time. For me, usurping the multiple virtual desktop feature for Timeline cluttered up the interface, but your desktops still appear across the top clearly. Only activity from the last 30 days is included.
A plus is that Timeline includes activities you performed on your iOS or Android smartphone if you’ve installed Office or Edge there. It will take time to build up some history with Timeline to see whether the feature really delivers. For it to work between devices, Timeline must store your activity in the Microsoft Cloud; if you don’t want that, you can disable it in Settings or set it only to work on the local machine.
2. Nearby Sharing
Apple devices like Mac computers and iPhones have long included the nifty though underused AirDrop feature. This lets you send a photo or document to someone nearby who’s also using an Apple device. It doesn’t require internet connectivity, just Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (though you don’t even need to be connected to a Wi-Fi router).
As with AirDrop, you need to turn on Nearby Sharing, in this case in the Action Center right-sidebar. And as with Apple’s feature, when you tap an app’s Share icon, nearby recipients with the feature turned on appear as targets. It’s a convenient way to get pictures, websites, and documents to someone nearby without having to email or message.
3. Focus Assist
With all the constant bombardments hitting knowledge workers these days—from Slack, email, social networks, and more—the new Focus Assist feature can help you get things done and take control of your time use. Windows 10 already had a “quiet hours” feature accessible from the Action Center, but the new feature adds the ability to schedule focus times, provides a summary of what you missed when you return from focus, and lets you designate contacts who can still reach you during focus time. You can also allow alarms during focus if you choose.
4. Dictation Anywhere
Microsoft has long been strong in speech technology, with dictation an option for over a decade, and Cortana listening for her name and your command. But now you can enter text with your voice in any text entry area you see, simply by hitting the Windows Key-H hotkey combination. This feature has already made it into some pre-April 2018 versions of Windows, so give the key combo a try. One shortcoming is that it doesn’t punctuate what you say—something I’d expect in this day of speech AI.
5. Edge Browser Improvements
Edge already lets you see which site tabs are making noise on your PC, but with the update, you can now silence them by clicking the mouse cursor on the small speaker icon that appears in the offending tabs. With the update, Edge also gets full-screen capability for PDF and ebook viewing (What? You didn’t know that Edge also had ebook capability, and even a bookstore?).
The April 2018 Update adds the ability to store payment information to speed up online transactions. Printing webpages also gets better with a new clutter-free option. And finally, a Grammar tool shows learners syllable breaks in words as well as parts of speech, such as adjective or noun.
6. Cortana Smart Home Control
Don’t feel like buying another gadget to control your smart home? The Windows 10 April 2018 Update lets you do it from your PC, using Cortana. Just say, “Hey Cortana, set the lights to 25 percent” and your Philips Hue bulbs respond appropriately. Ditto for ecobee, Nest, or Honeywell smart thermostats. Of course, if you don’t want to leave your PC on all the time, you could also do this through the Harman Kardon Invoke smart speaker.
Muchmore, Micheal. “6 Cool Things in the Windows 10 April 2018 Update” PC Magazine, April 2018