Everything New in Windows 10’s Spring Creators Update, Available April 2018

Microsoft is finishing work on Windows 10’s next update, which will probably be named the “Spring Creators Update” and was codenamed “Redstone 4”. This is Windows 10 version “1803”, and it will launch sometime in April 2018.

This article contains features that have arrived through Insider Preview version 17133, which was released on March 27, 2018. This will likely become the final, stable build.

The Timeline Shows a List of Activities From All Your Devices

RELATED: What is Windows 10’s Timeline, and How Do I Use It?

The Timeline feature, which was originally supposed to debut in Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update, is here in the Spring Creators Update.

Timeline enhances the “Task View” with a history of activities you’ve previously performed on your computer. When you click the “Task View” button on your taskbar or press Windows+Tab, you’ll see activities from “Earlier Today” as well as previous days below your currently open application. This might include web pages you had open in Microsoft Edge, articles you were reading in the News app, documents you were working on in Microsoft Word, and places you were viewing in the Maps app.

The point of this feature is to make it easier to resume “activities” you were previously undertaking. These will even sync across your devices, so you can resume activities on a different PC. Cortana will also pop up and provide you with a list of activities to “Resume from your other devices” when you move between two devices with activities enabled.

You can use the scroll bar or search box to scroll back through activities. They’re categorized by day, and if you view all activities from a specific day they’ll be categorized by hour. You can right-click an activity and find options to clear all activities from that day or hour. There are new options for controlling how this feature works under Settings > Privacy > Activity History.

Microsoft plans to integrate this with mobile apps as well, so activities can span across your PC and phone. However, app developers will need to enable support for this feature before it works with their PC or mobile apps.

“Nearby Sharing” Brings Easy Wireless File Sharing

RELATED: How to Use Nearby Sharing on Windows 10

Windows 10 now has a “Nearby Sharing” file sharing feature that works a lot like Apple’s AirDrop. This feature has also been called “Near Share.”

Assuming your PC has Bluetooth enabled, you can click the “Share” button in any app and nearby devices with Nearby Sharing enabled will appear in the list. Click one of the devices, and you’ll share the content with it wirelessly.

This works in any app with Share functionality. You can use it to share photos in the Photos app, share web page links in Microsoft Edge, or even share files wirelessly in File Explorer.

The Diagnostic Data Viewer Shows What Windows Sends to Microsoft

RELATED: What Do Windows 10’s Basic and Full Telemetry Settings Actually Do?

Microsoft is still trying to alleviate the privacy concerns around Windows 10 by being more transparent. To that end, there’s a new “Diagnostic Data Viewer” application. This will show you, in plain text, the exact diagnostic information your Windows 10 PC is sending to Microsoft. It even shows all the information stored in Microsoft’s cloud about your specific hardware device.

To enable this feature, had to Settings > Privacy > Diagnostics & feedback. Toggle the “Diagnostic data viewer” option “On”. This screen notes that this feature can take up to 1GB of disk space to store this data on your PC. Once you’ve enabled it, you can click a “Diagnostic Data Viewer” button to go to the Microsoft Store and download the free Diagnostic Data Viewer application for your PC, which will allow you to view the information. You can use the search box to find specific data or filter by different types of events.

Microsoft now allows you to delete the diagnostic data collected from your device, too. Just click the “Delete” button under Delete diagnostic data on the Settings > Privacy > Diagnostics & feedback screen.

Non-Administrator users now have more control over the diagnostic data they send to Microsoft, too. All Windows users can now head to Settings > Privacy > Diagnostics & feedback and select either Basic or Full diagnostic data. Previously, only system administrators could change this setting.

Microsoft is also enhancing the online Privacy Dashboard with a new “activity history” page, making it easier for people to see the information Microsoft is storing on them. And, when you set up a new PC, there’s a new first-time setup process that offers individual screens for various privacy settings, making them easier to configure.

Quick Pairing for Bluetooth Devices

RELATED: Easier Bluetooth Pairing is Finally Coming to Android and Windows

A “quick pair” feature that will make it easier to pair Bluetooth devices with your PC is arriving in this update. Just place a Bluetooth device in pairing mode near your PC and you’ll see a notification asking you to pair it, so you won’t even have to open the Settings app and navigate to Bluetooth settings.

Initially, this feature only works with the Surface Precision Mouse, and device manufacturers will have to add support for it. But it’s the Windows version of a feature that’s coming to every modern platform, including Fast Pair on Android and the easy pairing process of Apple’s AirPods or a W1 chip-enabled set of Beats headphones on an iPhone. Along with Bluetooth 5.0, this should make using Bluetooth devices easier to use and more powerful on every platform.

Progressive Web Apps in the Windows Store

RELATED: What Are Progressive Web Apps?

The Microsoft Edge browser gains a number of new features that allow running Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) on Windows 10. This is basically a new standard for web apps that behave like desktop apps. Each app gets its own window and taskbar shortcut, can run offline, and can send notifications. Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft are all supporting PWAs, and even Apple is adding some support for this technology.

Microsoft will index PWAs and offer them via the Microsoft Store app, allowing you to install them like any other Windows 10 app. In the future, you’ll also be able to install them directly from Microsoft Edge, according to the Microsoft employees in this Twitter thread.

In the future, this means that Windows 10 may get solid versions of Google apps like Gmail and Google Calendar as Progressive Web Apps available in the Microsoft Store. It also means that developers can design one app that works practically everywhere rather than having to make separate apps for different platforms. As Microsoft’s UWP platform isn’t attracting as much developer interest as Android and iOS, this is a way Windows 10 could get many more high-quality apps in the future.

Faster Update Installation

Even if you don’t care about Windows 10’s updates—or especially if you don’t care about Windows 10’s updates—you’ll like this one. This update will speed up the installation of these twice-a-year updates in the future. More of the update process is done in the background while you’re using your PC, which means the time you have to sit and wait for the update to install is decreased. This online update process is run at a low priority, so it shouldn’t slow your PC down while using it.

According to Microsoft’s tests, the “offline” update time—that is, the time you have to wait while staring at an “Updating” screen after rebooting your computer—has gone from an average of 82 minutes to 30 minutes.

You Can Now Manage Fonts in Settings and Install Them From the Store

As part of the process of retiring the old Control Panel and moving everything to the new Settings app, there’s now a Fonts screen at Settings > Personalization > Fonts that will allow you to view, install, and uninstall fonts.

Fonts are also available in the Microsoft Store for easier installation. Click the “Get more fonts in the Store” link on this screen and you’ll open the Fonts collection in the Microsoft Store, allowing you to download and install fonts in an easier, more convenient way.

Microsoft Edge Improvements

Edge now has a redesigned “hub”—the popup that shows your bookmarks, history, downloads, and even eBooks from the Microsoft Store. When right-clicking a book in the library view, you can now choose to pin it to your start screen. Edge’s favorites bar now automatically appears on the new tab screen assuming you have at least one favorite. There’s also a redesigned dark theme with darker blacks and more contrast, as well as more acrylic-style fluent design throughout Edge’s interface.

Microsoft’s web browser can now remember information like your name and address and automatically fill in forms on websites, something competing browsers have been doing for years. It can sync this information across your devices an even automatically fill your credit card information on websites, if you like. It doesn’t remember the CVV code, so you still have to enter that at checkout.

You can now right-click a tab and select “Mute Tab” to silence it. When browsing in InPrivate mode, you can choose to allow certain extensions to run and optionally fill in passwords, if you like. You can choose to never save a password for a specific website and Edge will never ask you to save your password on that site again.

The full-screen mode you can access by pressing F11 has been improved. You can now hover your mouse cursor near the top of the screen or swipe down from the top of the screen with a finger to access the navigation bar without first leaving full-screen mode.

There’s also a new “Clutter-free printing” option. When printing in Edge, set the Clutter-free printing option to “On” and Edge will print the web page without ads and other unnecessary clutter. This won’t work on every website, however.

The reading experience has been redesigned, so there’s a more consistent experience whether you’re reading PDF documents, web pages in Reading View, or EPUB books from the Windows Store. There’s also a better bookmark management feature for creating and working with bookmarks inside documents. There’s a new full-screen reading experience too, and any notes and bookmarks you create will sync across all your devices. Microsoft made a variety of improvements to EPUB layout and now supports EPUB Media Overlays for audio narrated books.

Under the hood, Edge now supports Service Workers and the Push and Cache APIs. This means that websites can send notifications that appear in your action center, even when they’re not open in your web browser. And certain websites can use the local cache to work offline or boost performance. The Web Media Extensions package is now installed by default, too, so Edge now supports the open OGG Vorbis audio and Theora video formats. For example, these formats are used on Wikipedia. Edge also supports CSS extensions for OpenType Font Variations, allowing single font files like multiple fonts with different attributes. Developers can now dock the DevTools vertically for more screen space.

Touchpad gestures are now available, too—assuming your laptop has a Precision Touchpad. Gestures like pinch-to-zoom and two-finger-panning work on your laptop’s touchpad just like they work on a touchscreen.

New Cortana Features

Cortana has a new “Organizer” interface under the Notebook, making it easy to view your lists and reminders. Skills like smarthome controls are separated onto a separate Manage Skills tab, providing a single place to configure Cortana and discover new skills.

The new Cortana Collections feature has been merged with Cortana’s Lists feature, so you’ll get a rich interface for configuring whatever kind of list you’re making. Click the “Lists” option under the Notebook to work on lists.

Once you’ve installed the latest Spotify app and signed into Spotify under Notebook > Manage Skills, you can use Cortana to control Spotify with natural language. For example, commands like “Play Christmas music on Spotify”, “Play [artist]”, and “Play rock music” all work.

Cortana’s web search features can no longer be disabled via Group Policy on Windows 10 Professional. Only Windows 10 Enterprise and Education users can disable web search in Cortana using policies like “Disable web search.”

My People Settings

RELATED: How to Use “My People” on Windows 10’s Taskbar

The My People feature that debuted in Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update has a number of improvements, too. My People now supports drag and drop, so you can drag and drop contacts in the My People popup to reprioritize them or drag and drop the people icons on your taskbar.

In the Fall Creators Update, My People only allowed you to pin three people to your taskbar, but you can now choose how many you want to pin—from one to ten. Head to Settings > Personalization > Taskbar to find this option. People pinned to the My People popup can now send you animated emoji notifications, too.

Windows will now suggest apps you may be interested in that integrate with My People. You can disable this from Settings > Personalization > Taskbar, if you like.

HDR Video on More PCs

Microsoft is expanding HDR video support to more devices. Many new devices are capable of playing HDR video, but were not calibrated for it in the factory. To check whether your device can play HDR video, head to Settings > Apps > Video playback. If you can set the “Stream HDR video” option to On, your device is capable of playing HDR video, if properly calibrated first.

To use Microsoft’s new experimental calibration tool, click the “Change calibration settings for HDR video on my built-in display” option here.

Graphics Settings for Multi-GPU Systems

There’s now a new Graphics settings page that allows you to choose which GPU you want applications to use if you have a multi-GPU system. Both NVIDIA and AMD have their own control panels for this, but this is a new standard way to do it in Windows, no matter what graphics hardware you’re using. The options you set on this screen will override any settings in the NVIDIA or AMD control panels.

To find this option, head to Settings > System > Display > Graphics settings. You can browse for an .exe file on your system and choose which GPU Windows should use for it from here. The “Power saving” option will be your integrated graphics, while “High performance” will be the discrete or external GPU that uses more power. If your PC has both an internal discrete GPU and an external GPU connected, Windows will use the external GPU when you select High performance.

App Permission Options

RELATED: How to Disable Your Webcam (and Why You Should)

When you toggle “Let apps use my camera hardware” under Settings > Privacy > Camera to “Off”, legacy desktop apps will not be able to use your webcam. Previously, this only applied to new Windows Store apps. This means Windows now has an easy software option that will disable access to your webcam for all applications. However, because what’s done in software can be overridden by software, you may still want to cover your webcam or unplug it when you’re not using it.

There’s no way to control which legacy desktop apps can access your webcam. If access is on, all desktop apps can view it. If access is off, no desktop apps can view it.

Windows now allows you to control which UWP (Store) applications have access to your full file system, or your Pictures, Videos, and Documents folders. When an application wants access, it has to ask you for permission. Under Settings > Privacy, you’ll find four new tabs for controlling access to your File System, Pictures, Videos, and Documents.

Focus Assist Replaces Quiet Hours

The “Quiet Hours” feature that allowed you to mute notifications during specific time periods has been renamed to “Focus Assist”.

Focus Assist will automatically turn on in specific situations, such as when you’re duplicating your display or playing DirectX games in full-screen exclusive mode. It also supports different notification priorities, so you can allow high-priority notifications through and temporarily block low-priority notifications. You’ll see a summary of any notifications you missed when you disable Focus Assist.

To customize exactly how this works, head to Settings > System > Focus Assist. The options here allow you to set your own notification priority and hours when Focus Assist should automatically enable itself. You can also toggle Focus Assist on or off by right-clicking the notification icon at the right corner of your taskbar and using one of the “Set focus assist” options.

Language Packs in the Windows Store

Language packs are now delivered via the Windows Store, and you can install them by heading to the Windows Store or using the Settings > Time & Language > Region and language screen, which has been redesigned.

Microsoft says they’ve started using artificial intelligence and machine learning for their translations, and that having language packs in the Store means they can be updated with improvements more frequently.

Display and DPI Scaling Options

RELATED: How to Make Windows Work Better on High-DPI Displays and Fix Blurry Fonts

Information about your display hardware is now available under Settings > System > Display > Advanced display settings.

Windows 10 still struggles to get older apps looking good on high DPI displays, but there’s a new “Fix scaling for apps” option under Settings > System > Display > Advanced scaling. When you enable it, Windows will try to automatically adjust apps so they don’t look blurry. Even if you don’t have this setting enabled, Windows will display a “Fix apps that are blurry?” popup if it detects there may be blurry apps on your screen.

More per-app settings to override system DPI scaling behavior for an individual program are also available by right-clicking an .exe file or desktop shortcut, selecting “Properties”, selecting “Compatibility”, and then clicking the “Change high DPI settings” button.

HomeGroup Is Now Discontinued

We hope you’re no longer using the HomeGroup feature on your home network, as it’s now been disabled. Microsoft encourages you to use modern solutions like OneDrive file sharing, or the Windows 10 Share functionality for folders and printers.

HEIF Image Support

RELATED: What is the HEIF (or HEIC) Image Format?

Windows 10 now supports viewing images in the High Efficiency Image Format without any third-party software. This image format is used by the Camera app when taking photos on modern iPhones, and Google is also adding support for it to Android.

The first time you try to open an HEIF or HEIC file, it will open in the Photos app and the app will guide you through installing the required codecs from the Microsoft Store. After you install them, these images will display normally in the Photos app, and thumbnails and metadata will also appear in File Explorer.

Password-Free Login on Windows 10 in S Mode

RELATED: What Is Windows 10 S, and How Is It Different?

Microsoft now allows you to sign into your PC without entering a password at all—but only if you use Windows 10 in S Mode, for some reason. If you do, you can download the Microsoft Authenticator app for your Android phone or iPhone and set up Windows Hello to use it as a sign-in method.

You won’t see a password anywhere in the Windows settings screen or sign-in options if you set this up. You will still have a PIN you can use to sign in if you don’t have your phone.

New Settings and Other Changes

Microsoft always makes a number of small changes, adding little features throughout Windows 10 and redesigning bits of the interface. Here are a few of them:

  • OneDrive Status in the Navigation Pane: Information about the syncing status of folders stored in OneDrive now appears in the File Explorer’s left navigation pane. To toggle this feature on or off, click the “View” button on the ribbon and click “Options”. Click the “View” tab, scroll down, and toggle the “Always show availability status” option under Navigation pane on or off.
  • Windows Update System Tray Icon: A system tray icon now appears when there’s a warning or alert message you’d see under Settings > Update & security > Windows Update.
  • Windows Update Will Now Block Sleep: If you have your computer connected to AC power, Windows Update will now prevent the PC from going to sleep for up to two hours to update it, if an update is required. This increases the chances that an update completes while you aren’t using your PC instead of while you are.
  • Password Recovery for Local Accounts: You can set security questions for local user accounts, and you can answer these questions from the sign-in screen to regain access to your computer if you ever forget your local account’s password. To set security questions, head to Settings > Accounts > Sign-in Options > Update your security questions.
  • More Fluent Design: Windows 10’s interface uses the new acrylic-style fluent design in more places, from the Settings app and touch keyboard to the taskbar, share interface, and clock popup.
  • A Redesigned Game Bar: The Game Bar that appears when you press Windows+G has also been redesigned for streamlined access to its various options. You can now select a Game Bar theme: Dark, Light, or your current Windows theme.
  • Emoji Typing Improvements: The emoji keyboard, accessible by pressing Windows+. or Windows+; , won’t automatically close after you select an emoji, so you can more easily type multiple emojis at once. Press the Esc key or click the “x” to close it. The touch keyboard will also suggest emojis when you type words like “unicorn”.

  • Startup App Management: Startup apps can now be managed from Settings > Apps > Startup. Previously, this option was hidden in the Task Manager.
  • Redesigned Windows Defender Settings: The Settings > Update & security > Windows Defender screen is now named “Windows Security” instead, and it’s been redesigned to provide quick access to various security options, including account and device security.
  • Categories in Privacy Settings: The Settings > Privacy screen now has categories in its navigation pane, splitting Windows privacy settings from the app permission management pages.
  • Quick Access to App Settings: You can now right-click an app tile or shortcut in the Start menu and select More > App Settings to quickly open its settings page, where you can customize the app’s permissions, reset it, uninstall it, or delete its data. This screen is also accessible by heading to Settings > Apps & features, clicking an app’s name, and clicking “Advanced options”. This screen now also shows an app’s version number, startup tasks, and command line alias.
  • Snipping Tool and Paint 3D: The Snipping Tool for capturing screenshots now has an “Edit in Paint 3D” button.
  • Modern Keyboard Settings: A new keyboard settings page is available at Settings > Time & language > Keyboard. It allows you to switch between layouts, toggle settings like key sounds and autocorrect, and tweak advanced keyboard settings. Some settings have been removed from the Control Panel now that these options are available here.
  • Prefer Cellular Data: You can now tell Windows to prefer cellular data over Wi-Fi—either all the time, or only when Wi-Fi connectivity is poor. This option is available under Settings > Network & Internet > Cellular, if you have cellular hardware in your computer.
  • Narrator in Safe Mode: Windows now allows you to use the text-to-speech Narrator feature even while booted into Safe Mode.

  • Data Usage for Wi-Fi and Ethernet: The Settings > Network & Internet > Data Usage screen now allows you to set data limits, enforce background data restrictions, and view data usage on Wi-Fi and wired Ethernet connections in addition to cellular data connections. You can right-click the “Data usage” tab on the Settings screen and select “Pin to Start” to see your data usage as a live tile on your Start menu.
  • Choose Your Handwriting Font: You can choose the font your handwriting converts to from Settings > Devices > Pen & Windows Ink > Change the font of the handwriting experience.
  • Embedded Handwriting Panel: You can now tap modern text fields—like those in the Settings app—with a pen and hand write text directly into the text field from an expanded handwriting panel that appears.
  • Handwriting Panel Improvements: The handwriting panel is better at re-recognizing words if recognized incorrectly when you draw over your existing handwriting to correct it. The buttons on the handwriting input panel have also been rearranged.
  • Reset Game Mode Settings: You can reset all your Game Mode settings to their default values by heading to Settings > Gaming > Game Mode > Reset Game Mode Settings.
  • Easier Windows Hello Setup: You can set up Windows Hello Face, Fingerprint, or PIN sign-in straight from the sign-in screen by clicking the “Windows Hello” button under Sign-in options.
  • Control Automatically Hiding Scrollbars: Windows automatically hides scrollbars in new UWP apps, but you can now disable this from Settings > Ease of Access > Display > Automatically hide scroll bars in Windows.
  • Disable or Enable the Color Filters Hotkey: The Color Filters hotkey is now disabled by default, but you can toggle it on or off from Settings > Ease of Access > Color filters.
  • View and Clear Your Dictionary: You can head to Settings > Privacy > Speech, Inking, & Typing to view words you’ve added to your user dictionary and clear it, if you like.

  • Disk Cleanup in Storage Settings: The Windows Disk Cleanup functionality has been added to the new Settings app under Settings > System > Storage > Free up space now.
  • More Modern Sound Options: Many sound options, such as switching devices and troubleshooting your audio, have moved to Settings > System > Sound. There’s also new page at Settings > System > Sound > App volume and device preferences where you can choose your preferred sound output and input devices system-wide and for individual apps.
  • Word Suggestions With a Hardware Keyboard: When typing with a hardware keyboard, you can now enable word suggestions and use the arrow keys and Enter or Space keys to select them. This feature is disabled by default, only available for English (United States), and targets English language learners, education, and accessibility, according to Microsoft. This option is available under Settings > Devices > Typing > Show text suggestions as I type on hardware keyboard.
  • Work Folders On-Demand: The “Work Folders” feature that allows companies to make files available on their employees’ PCs now has a new “On-demand file access” option. When this is enabled, Work Folders will function like OneDrive in File Explorer, making all the files visible but only downloading them when you open them.
  • Eye Control Improvements: Microsoft added integrated eye control features to the Fall Creators Update. Improving on it, they’ve now added easier scrolling and clicking options, as well as links to common tasks and a pause button on the eye control launchpad. This is still considered a “preview” feature, and only works if you have a specialized eye-tracking peripheral.
  • Multilingual Text Prediction: When typing multiple languages with the touch keyboard, you no longer have to manually switch languages. Windows will automatically show word predictions from the three languages you use most frequently. You can disable this feature from Settings > Devices > typing > Multilingual Text Prediction, if you like.

Features for Developers and System Administrators

Windows 10’s Spring Creators Update has some features the geeks will appreciate, too:

  • Curl and Tar Commands: The curl and tar utilities for downloading files and extracting .tar archives, commonly used on Linux, are now built into Windows. You’ll find them at C:\Windows\System32\curl.exe and C:\Windows\System32\tar.exe. Windows 10 already has a built-in SSH client, too.
  • Native UNIX Sockets: Windows 10 now natively supports UNIX sockets (AF_UNIX) thanks to the new afunix.sys kernel driver. This will make it easier to port software to Windows from Linux and other UNIX-like systems, and developers used to UNIX sockets can just use them when creating Windows software.
  • Windows Defender Application Guard: The Windows Defender Application Guard feature for securing Microsoft Edge, which was introduced in the Fall Creators Update, was originally only for Windows 10 Enterprise users. This feature is now available to Windows 10 Pro users, but is still disabled by default. It now has a new optional feature that allows users to download files from within the protected Edge browser to the host operating system, too.

  • A Registry Process: If you look at the Task Manager, you’ll now see a new process named “Registry”. This is a minimal process is designed to hold registry hive data for the Windows kernel. Since the data was previously stored in the kernel anyway, the total system memory usage stays the same. Microsoft says this will allow them to optimize the amount of memory used by the registry in the future.
  • New Delivery Optimization Policies: New policies (both for Group Policy and Mobile Device Management) are available to control the Delivery Optimization feature used for Windows Update and Store app updates. Administrators can throttle bandwidth based on the time of day, for example. These policies are available under Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Delivery Optimization in the Group Policy Editor.
  • Windows Hypervisor Platform API: There’s a new extended user-mode API allowing third-party applications to create and manage partitions, configure memory mappings, and control execution of virtual processors.
  • Custom Scripts During Feature Updates: Enterprises can now configure their PCs to run custom scripts during a Windows feature update.

  • Ultimate Performance Mode for Workstations: PCs running Windows 10 Pro for Workstations can now choose an “Ultimate Performance” power plan. This works like the current High Performance power plan, but “goes a step further to eliminate micro-latencies associated with fine grained power management techniques”. This is only available on desktop PCs, and may increase power consumption.
  • Productivity-Focused Applications for Workstations: PCs running Windows 10 Pro for Workstations will also see productivity-focused applications instead of consumer apps and games like Candy Crush. We wish Microsoft would make the same change for standard Windows 10 Pro PCs!
  • Windows AI Platform and Other New APIs: Microsoft announced a number of new APIs for developers at Windows Developer Day, including a Windows AI Platform. Developers can import existing pre-trained machine learning models from different AI platforms and run them locally on Windows 10 PCs.

Linux Application Improvements

RELATED: How to Install and Use the Linux Bash Shell on Windows 10

Microsoft keeps on improving the Windows Subsystem for Linux, which allows you to run Linux distributions like Ubuntu and openSUSE directly on Windows 10.

  • Native UNIX Sockets: The new UNIX sockets support isn’t just for Windows applications. Linux applications running under the Windows Subsystem for Linux can communicate with the native Windows UNIX sockets too.
  • Serial Device Support: Linux applications now have access to serial devices (COM ports).
  • Background Tasks: Linux applications can now run in the background. This means applications like sshd, tmux, and screen will now work properly.
  • Elevation Improvements: You can now run both elevated (as administrator) and non-elevated (as a standard user) Windows Subsystem for Linux sessions at the same time.
  • Scheduled Task Support: You can launch Linux applications from scheduled tasks.
  • Remote Connection Support: You can now launch the Windows Subsystem for Linux while connected via OpenSSH, VPN, PowerShell Remoting, or another remote connection tool.
  • Quickly Convert Linux to Windows Paths: The Wslpath command allows you to convert a Linux path to its Windows equivalent.
  • Customize Launch Settings: You can now change some launch settings for Linux distributions running under the Windows Subsystem for Linux. Each Linux distribution has a configuration file at /etc/wsl.conf. You can edit this file to change some automount and network settings, and more settings will likely be exposed here in the future.
  • Share Environment Variables: A new WSLENV environment variable is shared between Windows and Linux distributions running under WSL. You can format variables so they’ll work properly under both Windows and Linux.
  • Case Sensitivity for Windows: There’s now an NTFS option you can set to enable case sensitivity for a directory. If you enable this, even Windows applications will treat the files in that folder with case sensitivity. This would allow you to have files named two different files named “example” and “Example”, and even Windows applications would see them as different files.

Sets Are Gone, But Should Appear in Redstone 5

Microsoft is also working on an interesting “Sets” feature. It’s been removed from the Spring Creators Update previews, but it’s now back in the Redstone 5 previews.

This feature will provide tabs in every Windows 10 window. You can click the “+” button in a window’s title bar to open a new tab. These tabs can either be “app tabs” that contain universal Windows 10 apps, or “web tabs” that embed a Microsoft Edge web page.

For example, you could be working on a document in Microsoft Word, and open two new tabs, one for a OneNote notebook and one for a web page in Microsoft Edge. This window would then be a “set” of three different activities in three different applications, but they’d all be in the same window. You could quickly switch through tabs and have your reference material close at hand while working on the document.

Sets will return to Insider Preview builds after the Spring Creators Update is released as a stable product, so it will likely be a part of the next Redstone 5 release instead. Microsoft is still experimenting with this feature and figuring out exactly how it will work.

The Cloud Clipboard Is Gone, But Should Appear in Redstone 5

Microsoft originally announced a “Cloud Clipboard” feature as part of the Timeline, and it was originally supposed to arrive in the previous Fall Creators Update. This feature would synchronize text and other data you copy-pasted between your PCs and devices, giving you seamless copy-and-paste everywhere. You’d be able to copy something from your PC and paste it on your iPhone, with Windows+V opening up the cloud clipboard window on a PC.

This feature did show up in some early versions of the Redstone 4 preview builds, but it was removed. Microsoft clearly wants to take more time with it, but we’d expect to see the cloud clipboard feature pop up in the next update.

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 Twitter.