Microsoft is ready to release Windows 10’s “April 2018 Update.” It was originally going to be called the “Spring Creators Update” and was codenamed “Redstone 4.” This is Windows 10 version “1803”, and it launches today, April 30, 2018.
You can download the April 2018 Update today, even if Microsoft isn’t providing it to you via Windows Update yet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Windows 10’s April 2018 Update has some features the geeks will appreciate, too:
Wslpathcommand allows you to convert a Linux path to its Windows equivalent.
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 April 2018 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.
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.