What’s New in Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update, Arriving September 2017

Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update, codenamed Redstone 3, will be released in September 2017. Here are all the new features you’ll see in the latest version of Windows—and some big, splashy features Microsoft announced that never arrived.

This post was originally written based on features Microsoft announced at its BUILD 2017 event on May 11. It’s been updated with with features added up to Insider Build 16241, released on July 13.

There will be many more new features and small changes that make Windows better to use, just as there were in previous updates. We’ll learn about those through the Insider Previews released between now and September, so check back with this post for more useful, smaller, geeky features.

OneDrive Shows Files in the Cloud, Downloading Them on Demand

Microsoft announced “OneDrive Files on Demand”, which allows some files to be stored in the cloud and available to you without being synced on your local device. An older version of this feature appeared in Windows 8.1, and people have been asking for it since. Dropbox and Google Drive are incorporating a similar feature, too.

Interestingly enough, this works with files in the Desktop and Documents folder, so it isn’t just limited to files in the OneDrive folder.

When you try to open a file that isn’t stored on your PC, Windows will download it and open it for you. This is implemented at a low level in the operating system and works with any application, even command line ones.

If an app tries to access a file only stored in the cloud and causes it to download, you’ll see a notification that the app is downloading a file and you can hide the notification or cancel the download, if you like. You can also block the app from downloading files in the future. If you do, you can manage blocked apps from Settings > Privacy > App-Requested Downloads.

Fluent Design Is Windows 10’s New Design Language (and Includes Inking Improvements)

Microsoft has a new design language named “Fluent Design“. It uses more light, depth, motion, and transparency. It’s more related to “material” objects and incorporates “scale” more, according to Microsoft. This sounds like the final name of Project Neon, a new visual design language Microsoft has been working on, but it’s more than that. It’s a new interaction model, according to Microsoft.

You’re going to see Fluent Design show up in everything from the Windows shell interface to the included apps in Windows over time, according to Microsoft.

As part of implementing Fluent Design, the Start menu (or Start screen) has been improved. It now uses a new acrylic design if you have transparency enabled. You can also resize horizontally and diagonally, and it’s easier to grab the edge of the frame to resize. The transition into the Tablet Mode experience is now smoother, too.

The Action Center has seen a substantial redesign as well. It now more cleanly separates notifications, so it’s easier to read. It also uses the same acrylic design, which you’ll also see in notification popups.

Inking and Handwriting Are Getting Better

Part of the implementing Fluent Design includes integrating better inking support into Windows, allowing you to use a pen to navigate through the entire operating system. This includes being able to more easily write-to-type with a stylus in Edge, scroll by dragging up and down with the stylus, and more quickly select text. The ability to scroll with a pen is currently only available in UWP apps, but Microsoft is working on adding it to classic desktop (Win32) apps as well.

Microsoft referred to Edge as “the best ink-enabled browser”. You can now annotate PDFs with a pen in Edge, too (finally).

The handwriting panel available in Windows 10’s touch keyboard has seen a large number of improvements, too. When you fill the handwriting panel and lift your pen off the screen, the text you wrote will move to the left so you always have more space to write.

The text you write will always appear in the panel so you can select it to change it. You can write the correct letters over the drawn word if the panel interprets your handwriting incorrectly. You can now make corrections using gestures, too. You can cross out words with a strikethrough to remove them, and use join and split gestures to add spaces or join words together.

The handwriting panel offers easier access to emoji and symbols with two new buttons, making it easier to insert these characters. By default, the panel now floats next to what you’re writing. It also disables finger inking by default—although you can change this setting, if you like—which eliminates the chance that you’ll bump the handwriting panel with your finger while writing with a pen and mess things up.

It will also be harder to lose your pen. You can head to Settings > Update & Security > Find My Device and use the new “Where’s my pen?” feature. Windows will tell you the GPS location where you were the last time you used your pen with your device, so it will be easier to find.

Windows My People Is Back

When Microsoft announced the original Creators Update, they made a big deal about the Windows My People feature, also known as the People Bar.

This feature is designed to “place people at the center of Windows”, according to Microsoft. You’ll be able to drag and drop people to an area to the right side of your taskbar, giving you quicker, more convenient access to the few key people you regularly communicate with. These people are prioritized when you use the “Share” feature in Windows, and messages from them will be prioritized in apps like Mail, Skype, and Xbox Live. Your priority contacts can also send “shoulder taps”, which are animated emojis that pop up from your taskbar.

Microsoft removed this feature from the final version of the Creators Update because it needed more time. It’s now back and looks set to finally launch with the Fall Creators Update.

The Task Manager Shows GPU Usage

The Windows Task Manager now allows you to see GPU resource usage alongside CPU, memory, disk, and network resource usage. Just open the Task Manager—for example, by right-clicking the taskbar and selecting “Task Manager”—and click the Performance tab in the detailed window.

This feature also shows graphics memory usage. On the Details pane, you can view GPU usage by each process on your system, just as you can see how much CPU an individual process is using.

The New Touch Keyboard Is Based on WordFlow and SwiftKey

Windows 10 now includes a new touch keyboard. It’s build by the team behind Microsoft’s WordFlow keyboard, used on Windows Phone. It also includes some technology from SwiftKey, the popular iPhone and Android keyboard Microsoft purchased in 2016.

The most obvious improvement is support for swipe input, allowing you to touch a letter and swipe to the other letters in a word before lifting your finger to type. It’s just like a variety of popular keyboards for phones, from Microsoft’s own SwiftKey keyboard to the Google Keyboard on Android.

Aside from that, you’ll find enhanced text prediction that automatically completes phrases, an improved emoji experience where you can smoothly scroll through a long list instead of going through emojis page by page, a one-handed touch keyboard, and a new settings menu you can access via the icon at the top left corner of the keyboard.

You can now use dictation to input text, too. Just tap the microphone button on the keyboard or press the new dictation hotkey, which is Windows+H, and start speaking to type. The dictaiton feature also supports voice commands like “press backspace”, “delete last three words”, and “go to the end of paragraph”.

This is reportedly part of the Composable Shell—or CShell—designed to provide a new shell interface that intelligently adapts to the device it’s run on.

Spotify and iTunes Will Be Available in the Windows Store

Microsoft recently announced Windows S, a version of Windows 10 that will only run apps from the Windows Store. It’s targeted at schools, providing a more minimal version of Windows. You can pay an additional $50 to Windows Professional, enabling desktop apps.

Showing that the Windows Store isn’t dead yet, Microsoft announced that Spotify and iTunes will be available in the Windows Store, providing the complete experience of buying media and managing iPhones and iPads. iTunes will use Microsoft’s Project Centennial, which can package desktop apps as UWP Store apps. Microsoft is clearly hoping other developers follow.

Microsoft Edge Is Smoother and Gains New Features

Microsoft is putting a lot of work into the Edge browser. Microsoft promises that opening and closing tabs in Edge will be a much smoother experience, without the current lag. Microsoft plans to include additional smooth animations in Edge as part of the transition to Fluent Design across the entire operating system.

Edge will allow you to bookmark multiple web pages at once. Right-click a tab and you’ll see an “Add tabs to favorites” option, which will create a Favorites folder containing all the sites open in tabs in the current window.

Edge gains a number of useful smaller features, like the ability to right-click a favorite website and edit its URL address, import data from Chrome, and close web pages even when they’re displaying a JavaScript dialog. Edge can now read any website or PDF document aloud to you.

Full-screen mode has been redesigned in Edge, too. Press F11 or click the menu and click the full-screen icon next to the Zoom options and a web page will take up your entire screen. This replaces the current Shift+Windows+Enter shortcut for full-screen mode in Edge, which is awfully hidden.

Microsoft Edge now allows you to pin websites to your taskbar, as Internet Explorer did. Click Settings > Pin this page to the taskbar in Edge to give a web page its own taskbar icon. These pinned sites will always open in Edge, but you can still pin sites using Google Chrome instead if you prefer Chrome.

The PDF viewer built into Edge has also been improved in a variety of ways. Aside from being able to write with a stylus pen in a PDF, you can now fill in PDF forms, save, and print them. Long PDF documents now offer a table of contents feature, and it’s possible to rotate PDFs and adjust the layout for better viewing. You can now use Ask Cortana in PDFs, and there are also additional highlight colors available.

Edge’s integrated EPUB eBook reader now allows you to annotate EPUB eBooks, too. You can highlight in four colors, underline, and add comments. You can also copy text, ask Cortana about selected text, and draw in an eBook. Your reading progress and annotations are synced between your PCs via your Microsoft account.

Cortana Gets Smarter

There’s a new Cortana section in the Settings app at Settings > Cortana. The settings here were previously only available through the Cortana interface itself.

Cortana also gains some “vision intelligence” features. Cortana now asks for access to your photo library. If you take a photo of an event poster like “Concert at 8pm this Saturday!”, Cortana will now detect those details and prompt you to create a reminder for the time of the event.

Pen users also gain a new Cortana Lasso tool. Circle relevant events on your screen and Cortana will recognize the time and offer suggestions.

Windows Will Throttle Background Tasks to Save Battery Power

Microsoft experimented with “Power Throttling” in the Insider Previews of the original Creators Update. This feature didn’t make it into the final build, but it looks like it will be in the final Fall Creators Update.

This feature allows Windows to automatically put the CPU in an energy efficient state when background work is being performed, saving battery power. Windows identifies applications running in the foreground, music players, and other important tasks and won’t throttle them. Microsoft said this feature can provide up to an 11% reduction in CPU usage when the PC is under heavy load.

You can control this feature from the power slider, which is now available when you click the battery icon. In Battery Saver or Recommended mode, Power Throttling is enabled. In Best Performance mode, it’s disabled.

You can also disable this feature for individual apps by heading to Settings > System > Battery, selecting an application, setting “Managed by Windows” to “Off”, and unchecking the “Reduce work app does when in the background” checkbox.

According to Microsoft’s announcement, this feature is currently only available on computers with processors that include Intel’s Speed Shift technology, which is 6th-generation Skylake (and newer) Core processors. Microsoft plans to roll it out to other processors during the Fall Creators Update development period.

Motion Controllers Are Coming for Windows Mixed Reality Headsets

Microsoft announced motion controllers for Windows Mixed Reality headsets, which Microsoft enabled with the first Creators Update. They don’t need a separate sensor—the sensors are integrated into the headsets themselves. You’ll be able to buy a headset and motion controller set for $399. Acer will be the first manufacturer shipping this combination, but other PC manufacturers are sure to follow.

Microsoft previously announced it would sell these headsets starting at $299, and they’re being released—with and without the motion controllers—in the 2017 holiday season.

While Microsoft largely focused on HoloLens, these less expensive Mixed Reality headsets that can run on a wide range of PCs are much more interesting.

Ransomware Protection, Exploit Guard, and Other Security Improvements

The latest update brings a number of new security improvements.

A new “Controlled folder access” feature in Windows Defender allows you to protect folders from modification by applications. If an unapproved application attempts to modify files in these folders, you’ll see a notification. This is designed to help protect your data from ransomware and other malicious applications.

To enable this feature, head to Windows Defender Security Center > Virus & threat protection settings > Controlled folder access. Set the switch to “On”. Click the “Protected folders” and “Allow an app through Controlled folder access” links to control which apps are approved.

Microsoft has also taken the anti-exploit features from its discontinued EMET software and integrated them into Windows. It’s enabled by default, and should just protect your PC from various types of exploits out of the box, just as tools like Malwarebytes do.

To find this feature, head to Windows Defender Security Center > App & browser control > Exploit protection. You can select “Exploit protection settings” to configure its more advanced options.

The old SMBv1 protocol, which was recently exploited by the WannaCry ransomware, has been removed. The Server Message Block protocol is used for file and printer sharing on local networks, and SMBv2 and SMBv3 are still present. This will protect PCs against further exploits of this outdated software. Microsoft maintains a list of old applications that still require SMBv1.

The Application Guard feature is unfortunately just for Enterprise editions of Windows. When an employee browses to a website that an organization doesn’t trust, Application Guard uses Hyper-V virtualization to create a new Windows operating system instance at the hardware level, running the website in Microsoft Edge in a separate instance of Windows. Even if the browser were completely compromised, the main Windows operating system would still be safe.

Ubuntu Is Easier to Install, and openSUSE and Fedora Will Be Available

Microsoft is making it easier to set up Ubuntu for Windows 10 by bringing Ubuntu to the Windows Store. This is the same Ubuntu Bash environment you can install on current versions of Windows 10, but easier to install.

Fedora and openSUSE are also coming to the Store, so it’s easier to set up different Linux environments. You can have multiple different environments installed at the same time, too.

Delayed: Microsoft Graph Tracks Your Activities, and the Timeline Helps You Resume Them Anywhere

According to Microsoft, “the Windows PC will help you roam from device to device using the Microsoft Graph”. Windows knows whether you were working on a document, playing music, browsing the web, reading news, or watching a video through the Microsoft Graph. There was supposed to be a new Timeline feature that shows the activities you perform on your PC over time, and it was going to be searchable.

Cortana’s “Pick up where you left off” feature would suggest activities you might want to resume when you switch to another PC. This feature was supposed to work on iPhones and Android phones, too. If you install the Cortana app, Cortana would prompt you to pick up where you left off on your phone when you leave your PC. Cortana would be aware of your timeline, so you could choose to resume activities you were working on. Perform an activity on your phone and it would appear in the timeline on your PC later, too.

To make this easier to set up, there’d be a new “Phone” icon on the main Settings app screen that will guide users through setting this up. This would also enable syncing notifications with Android devices and syncing reminders to iPhones and Android phones.

Microsoft pitched app developers on enabling “Connected Experiences” across devices with Project Rome. Microsoft is clearly hoping more developers enable Shared Experiences, as few apps—not even Microsoft’s own apps—use them today in the Creators Update.

That’s what Microsoft announced, anyway. While the underlying Microsoft Graph features may be present, the Timeline will not arrive this time around, and there’s no Phone icon in Settings. This feature is delayed until the next update.

Delayed: Windows Syncs Your Clipboard Between Your PCs and Phones

At BUILD, Microsoft announced a cloud-based clipboard that allows you to copy and paste data between your devices. This would work in Windows without developers having to do anything. Copy something on one of your Windows PCs, and it’d be available on the clipboard on your other Windows PCs. It’d also work with Microsoft’s SwiftKey keyboard on iPhone and Android.

The Microsoft Office team is working on a clipboard history feature, allowing you to paste things you’ve copied to your clipboard in the past. That’s just one example of what app developers could do with this feature, and Microsoft hopes other app developers take further advantage of it.

However, this feature has never appeared in an Insider Preview build of Windows 10 and Microsoft hasn’t said anything about it since. It may arrive alongside the Timeline in the next update.

Watered Down: Windows Story Remix Is a User-Friendly Video Editor With Smart Features

Microsoft announced a new “Windows Story Remix” application that allows you to edit videos, add a soundtrack, and add text. You can capture videos on your phone and send them to the app. The capture app supports Android and iPhone as well as Windows Phone. Multiple people could contribute to a Story Remix and it will automatically combine the videos to create a video.

Story Remix would also work with photos, allowing you to search for people in photos, photos that contain “dogs”, and other advanced AI-powered types of searches. When creating a video, you could choose a specific person in the video to be the “star” and Story Remix would automatically create a new video focusing on that person from the footage it has.

While Microsoft focused on all the cool automatic features, you could still drill down and customize your video, changing filters, adding text, adding motion, removing clips, rearranging video clips, and choosing different soundtracks. The automatic and manual features were designed to work in tandem with each other. Add a new soundtrack and Story Remix would automatically rearrange the footage to match the beats of the song.

The Windows Story Remix app could  import 3D models from the Remix 3D Community, also used for Paint 3D. You could integrate animated 3D models into your videos. Microsoft said they would release APIs that allow other developers to integrate the Remix 3D community into their apps.

That’s what Microsoft announced, anyway. The actual improvements are much smaller. Instead of a new Windows Story Remix app, there’s a new “Remix” feature in the Photos app. It’s much less powerful than what Microsoft demonstrated, but Microsoft may continue adding features over time.

Other New Features

Like all Windows 10 updates, there are also a large number of new features and substantial changes throughout the operating system:

  • An Emoji Panel: You can press Windows+. (period) or Windows+; (semicolon) to open a new emoji panel in any application. You must have a text box selected while pressing these keys. You can use your mouse to pick an emoji, or use the arrow, Tab, Enter, and Esc keys to navigate the interface. After opening it, you can type to search. For example, type “flow” and you’ll see a flower emoji appaer.
  • More Emojis: Microsoft has updated Windows 10 to the “Emoji 5.0” standard, and it now includes many new emojis.
  • Share and Copy a Link: Open the Share dialog from any app and you’ll see a new “Copy link” icon. This will copy a link to your clipboard so you can paste it into any application.
  • Volume Control for UWP Apps: You can now control the volume of individual Universal Windows Platform (Windows Store) apps through the volume mixer, accessible by right-clicking the speaker icon in your notification area. Previously, you could only control the volume level of desktop apps here.
  • Local Media Folder Detection: Apps like Photos, Groove Music, and Movies & TV will now have easier access to your media, even if it’s stored in other folders where these apps can’t see it. Windows will detect relevant media folders you might want to include and suggest them. For example, if you have a bunch of photos at C:\MyPhotos, Windows will now suggest you add this folder to your Photos library when you launch the Photos app.
  • Quick Actions for Wi-Fi Networks: In the Wi-Fi connection panel, you can now right-click a network to open a quick action menu with options like Connect, Disconnect, View Properties, and Forget Network. Previously, nothing happened when you right-clicked a network in this panel.
  • Video Playback Settings: There’s a new Settings > Personalization > Video playback pane where you can adjust video playback settings for apps that use the Windows video playback platform. For example, you can currently toggle HDR on or off from here if you have an HDR monitor.
  • HDR Settings: There’s also a new Settings > System > Display > HDR and advanced color settings option that’s visible if you have an HDR display connected to your PC. It will provide you with more details about the HDR setting son your display.
  • Set Defaults by App: The “set defaults by app” experience that was formerly only available in the Control Panel is now available in Settings. Head to Settings > Apps > Default apps > Set defaults by app and select an app. Click “Manage” to see the file types associated for an app.
  • Windows Update Improvements: The Windows Update page in Settings now lists individual updates and their status so you can see the status of each individual update rather than a single progress bar. For example, Windows may be installing a new build, a driver, and a virus definition update. The Windows Update page will now clearly display and list any group policies applied that affect its settings.
  • Game Mode Improvements: When you press Windows+G to open the Game Bar, you’ll now see a button to enable ore disable Game Mode for the current game. The Game Bar can now take screenshots of HDR games, and Game Mode has been tweaked to improve performance on 6-core and 8-core computers.

  • Color Filters: Windows 10 includes color filters designed to allow people with color blindness to easily distinguish between colors. These can also improve the experience for people with light sensitivity. You’ll find this feature at Settings > Ease of Access > Color and High Contrast.
  • Redesigned Magnifier Settings: The Magnifier settings page at at Settings > Ease of Access > Magnifier has been redesigned. It also includes a few other improvements, such as the ability to open Magnifier settings from anywhere in Windows by pressing Windows+Ctrl+M.
  • Narrator Improvements: Scan Mode is now enabled by default. Narrator no longer has to explain how to initiate Scan Mode when you launch it. Use the up and down arrow keys to move through the content in your application and press Space to interact.
  • Multi-Step Interactive Notifications: App developers can now use “multi-step interactive notifications”. A notification can continue a button, and you could click the button to view more information or options—right in the notification itself.
  • Easier Forgotten Password Recovery: There’s now a convenient option to recover a forgotten Microsoft account password from the login screen. You’ll see a “Reset password” or “I forgot my PIN” link below the password box, and it will guide you through using an email address or phone number associated with your Microsoft account to reset your password and regain access to your account. It was previously possible to regain access to a Microsoft account on the web, but it’s now possible right on the login screen without any need for a web browser. This also works for organizations using Azure Active Directory, not just Microsoft accounts.
  • No More Logging Out to Fix Blurry Desktop Apps: If desktop apps are blurry after you change DPI settings, you can generally just close them and launch them again to fix this. You shouldn’t have to sign out of Windows and sign back in again, for most apps.

  • Delivery Optimization Options: You’ll find new options for limiting background downloads and uploads at Settings > Update & security > Windows Update > Advanced options > Delivery Optimization. There’s also an “Activity Monitor” that displays information about the bandwidth currently being used to download and upload updates and Store apps.
  • File History Is Not Being Removed: There were some reports that the File History backup feature might be removed, but that’s not happening. File History is still present on the Fall Creators Update.
  • Easily Enable Spatial Sound: Plug in headphones, right-click the sound icon in the notificaiton area, and you can select “Spatial sound” to choose your preferred spatial sound format. Enabling Dolby Atmos or Windows Sonic previously required using a control panel.
  • New Xbox Networking Options: There’s a Settings > Gaming > Xbox Networking screen that will help you identify and fix problems with multiplayer Xbox Live games and online voice chat.
  • Currency Conversion in the Calculator: You can now perform currency conversions in the Calculator app.
  • Share From File Explorer: You can now share a file using the new share dialog by right-clicking it and selecting “Share”. The old “Share with” menu that allows you to perform other actions has been renamed “Give access to”.
  • Storage Sense Improvements: The Storage Sense tool at Settings > System > Storage > Storage Sense now allows you to remove Windows.old folders.

The Really Geeky Stuff

Many of the features will only be used by geeky users, developers, and system administrators:

  • Ninja Cat Now Represents The Windows Insider Program: The Insider Program page at Settings > Update & security > Insider Program is now represented by a ninja cat icon.
  • Remote Desktop Settings: There’s a new Settings > System > Remote Desktop screen that allows you to configure Remote Desktop, replacing the old Control Panel tool.
  • File System Improvements for the Windows Subsystem for Linux: You can now manually mount Windows drives using the DrvFs file system in Windows 10’s Bash environment. This allows you to make removable drives and network locations available.
  • Developer Mode No Longer Required for WSL: Using the Windows Subsystem for Linux no longer requires you put your PC into Developer Mode, as the feature is now considered stable. However, you do still have to install the feature from the Windows Features dialog.
  • Revert VM in Hyper-V: The Hyper-V virtual machine tool has a new “Revert VM” feature. Hyper-V now automatically creates snapshots of your virtual machines. If you make a mistake or want to undo a change, you can now revert your virtual machine’s state to the last time you started it.
  • Hyper-V Sharing: There’s a new VM sharing feature that makes it easier to compress a virtual machine and move it to another PC. You’ll find a new icon on the Virtual Machine Connection window’s toolbar. It will compress the virtual machine into a .vmcz file. You can double-click it on another Windows 10 PC to start importing the virtual machine.
  • Virtual Battery Support for Hyper-V: Hyper-V can now expose a virtual battery to virtual machines, so you can see your computer’s battery power inside your virtual machines.
  • Insider Program for Windows Server: While it’s not about Windows 10 itself, you’ll now be able to join the Insider Program on the Windows Server operating system to get preview builds of Microsoft’s server operating system, just as you can get Insider builds of Windows 10 for PCs, phones, and Xbox One consoles today. Microsoft is also adding the Windows Subsystem for Linux to Windows Server.
  • Command Line Support for UWP Apps: You can now launch UWP apps from the command line and even pass them command-line options.

Microsoft also announced a larger number of features that make it easier for developers to develop applications. Microsoft’s BUILD event is a conference intended for developers, after all—but we’re sure to see lots more user-focused features appear in the Insider Previews in the coming months.

There are also a variety of smaller bug improvements that we haven’t listed. For example, Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update includes small fixes for everything from Miracast wireless display connections to high DPI support and the Night Light feature.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.