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article imageWindows 10's first major update brings UI changes, improved apps

By James Walker     Nov 12, 2015 in Technology
Microsoft has publicly released Windows 10's first major update, containing more than just bugs and security fixes. Users will find refinements in several areas of the interface, improvements to core apps and increased performance.
Microsoft describes the release as the "next milestone" in Windows 10's development. The OS has received several bug-fixing patches since its July launch but today marks the first time new features have been added. The update is being called Windows 10 version 1511 (November 2015) and has the build number 10586.
The most notable changes for users will be the ones visible on the surface. Several improvements have been made to Windows 10's interface to make it more consistent and unified, acting on some of the most common criticism aimed at the OS.
The Start menu can now optionally display four columns of tiles side-by-side, adding extra space to display information in while maintaining a narrow layout. Context (right-click) menus used throughout the OS have moved to a more consistent design where possible, using a dark theme on the Start menu and taskbar and light grey on the desktop. The spacing between items in each list has also been optimised so mouse users won't have to move the cursor so far to select an option from a desktop context menu.
New context menus in Windows 10 Build 10565
New context menus in Windows 10 Build 10565
Microsoft
Changes to the Personalization controls let users enable coloured title bars on the desktop. When turned on, the Start menu accent colour will extend onto the taskbar and Action Centre as with the previous build but will now also appear on window title bars. This revives an option previously available in Windows 8.1 and 7.
Multitasking has been further improved to help power users who regularly work with lots of different open applications. When resizing a window that has been snapped next to another app, the adjacent app will automatically resize to fill the available space so the user doesn't have to resize them both manually. It's a small feature but one that will undoubtedly please many users.
The final major interface changes are centred around tablet mode. Multitasking has also been enhanced here to revive some of Windows 8.1's praised touchscreen window management features. Popular shortcuts such as swiping down to close apps and swiping in to switch between snapped ones are now back, to the delight of Windows tablet owners.
Tab preview in Microsoft Edge
Tab preview in Microsoft Edge
Microsoft
The Microsoft Edge web browser has received several improvements. The tab preview feature is finally publicly available, letting users hover their mouse over any open tab to see an instant live preview of what it contains. Favourites and Reading List items now sync across devices too, an ability that many fans argue should never have been missing from the original build but is good to see nonetheless. People with several Windows 10 devices won't have to manually add their favourites to them all individually anymore and the Reading List is likely to become a lot more useful now an item can be saved on a computer but picked up and read on a phone.
Cortana has also got smarter in the new build. People with tablets that include styluses can now write reminders by hand. Cortana can send SMS messages to contacts too, via a linked Windows 10 phone. The Skype messaging and video apps that weren't ready in time for launch are also available in this build, albeit in a preview form.
Cortana handwriting recognition in Windows 10 Build 10565
Cortana handwriting recognition in Windows 10 Build 10565
Microsoft
The improvements don't end there. Microsoft is also targeting businesses with this release, calling it "the point in the platform's maturity where we can confidently recommend Windows 10 deployment to whole organizations." The company says the OS is already used on 12 million business computers but should now be viewed as a viable upgrade option by all enterprises.
Several new features will let IT administrators take complete control of Windows 10 systems. Windows Update for Business and Windows Store for Business make it possible to restrict app and update downloads, ensuring work devices are used only for work. Additionally, enterprise customers will be able to circumvent one of the most hotly-contested 'features' of Windows 10. Microsoft will make it possible to disable all telemetry collection from business computers running the OS, protecting company privacy.
The Start menu on Windows 10
The Start menu on Windows 10
Microsoft
The release is a healthy update to Windows 10 that brings several anticipated new features and a mixture of welcome improvements. There are also many other smaller changes that users will notice, including updates to several built-in apps to improve stability and functionality. Microsoft is claiming boot time is now nearly 30 percent faster than a Windows 7 install on the same device and says it’s the best-performing build of Windows 10 to date. The next public release is expected sometime early next year before the major "Redstone" update rumoured to be coming in the summer.
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