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Friday, May 25, 2018
On April 30, Microsoft released another major update to Windows 10, the April 2018 Update. This is the fifth major update, called a feature update by Microsoft, since Windows 10 was originally released on July 29, 2015. The previous four updates were the November Update (November 2015), Anniversary Update (August 2016), Creators Update (April 2017), and Fall Creators Update (October 2017).
As with earlier major updates, it may take several months before everyone's computer is updated, although this update appears to be rolling out to home users faster. You can go to Microsoft's web site (http://bit.ly/mcg_wdl) and update immediately or you can wait for Windows Update on your computer to get around to you.
Before Windows 10, Microsoft released a major version upgrade about every 3 years: Vista in 2007, 7 in 2009, 8 in 2012, and 10 in 2015. Microsoft announced that Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows and would be updated "as a service." The intent is to keep Windows 10 up to date almost continuously through frequent feature and security updates. Most security updates occur on "Patch Tuesday," the second Tuesday of each month (although they can occur at any time). The major feature updates, such as the April 2018 Update, occur in the spring and fall.
The "Patch Tuesday" updates change a small part of the code for Windows 10. Consequently, they are small downloads. The feature updates are essentially a re-publication of the entire code. That results in a download of 3 to 4 gigabytes (GB), a big download that takes a long time, usually hours, to download and install. Last year, Microsoft began to change the way feature updates are downloaded and installed on your computer to speed up the process. The April 2018 update enhances those changes, so you should be able to get back to work on your computer even faster than before.
So what are the changes in the April 2018 update? For home users, the most visible change is Timeline. This is an addition to Task View, the current feature that displays thumbnails of all the open windows and allows you to pick the window you want to make active. Timeline adds a history of all the actions you have taken on your computer, all the web pages you have visited, all the files you have edited, all the pictures and videos you have looked at. By default, Timeline shows you what you did during the past 7 days. You can change that to 30 days.
You invoke Timeline by clicking the Task View taskbar icon (looks like a rectangle with a smaller rectangle attached to each side), or by pressing the Windows key and the Tab key together. Currently, Timeline only shows the actions you took using Microsoft programs such as Edge, Word, Excel, Wordpad, etc. It will be up to other program developers to modify their applications to provide input to Timeline. Whether developers will do so depends on consumers. If consumers are enthusiastic about Timeline, developers will update their programs to use it.
If you use Cortana on iOS or Android, Timeline will even show your activities on those devices as well. This will allow you to start looking at something on your phone while you're out and about and continue on your PC when you get home.
Focus Assist is an enhanced, renamed feather which allows you to quickly shut off notifications and other interruptions while you're working on a project on your PC that requires your undivided attention. Focus Assist was called Quiet Hours in earlier versions of Windows 10.
Window 10's default browser, Edge, has been improved. One of the best additions allows you to quickly silence audio from a video automatically played on a web page when you go to it. Edge will show an icon on the page tab to allow you to see which page is producing sound. You can quickly silence the audio by right clicking the tab and clicking "Mute tab." No more frantically searching the web page for the video that is making all that noise that you do not want. You can print web pages from Edge with less clutter. The "hub" where your browsing history and favorites are displayed also received changes to the interface to make navigating cleaner and faster.
Microsoft continues to enhance Cortana, the talking personal assistant, expanding the areas it can help you with.
The April 2018 update includes a feature to share files with nearby devices, similar to Apple's AirDrop. The sharing is done using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and is relatively easy to set up. The update includes improvements in pairing devices with your PC using Bluetooth. There are many other minor improvements to the user interface of Windows 10 and lots of stuff "under the hood" to make your PC experience more secure.