Windows 10 Anniversary Update Review

Windows 10 Anniversary Update

On Aug 2nd Microsoft released its biggest update to Windows 10 yet. While they have been issuing update rollups and the 1511 Update last fall- this update is their first major one. You might even use the term, *gasp* service pack. For those of you who want to relate it to the old way of shipping Operating Systems as opposed to this new OS as a Service– it is a service pack, but a feature adding one — kind of like XP SP2 back in the day.

With the Windows Insider program I have been running the bits as a beta for several months on a couple different devices. Now that it has been out for a little over a month and some of the early issues fixed here’s my take on it.

Whats New?

Available for the first time in the Anniversary Update, Windows Ink brings the power of Windows to the tip of your pen.

Windows Ink Workspace

There are many new features included in the new update that are hidden, under the hood improvements. Some of this is aimed at businesses but the improvements will benefit consumers as well. The User Interface has become more polished (for the most part) and the Settings Menu continues to improve to wean people off of the legacy Control Panel {which is still superior}.

Cortana has been improved with the ability to access “her” from the lock screen and further integration with third party and first party apps.

For Tablet fans, and this is my favorite “new” feature of this release, there is Windows Ink. Windows Ink includes built in drawing toos, sticky notes, and screen annotations to complement the drawing that was already present in Edge.

Speaking of Edge – the runt of the Big 4 Browsers – it received several nice updates in this new version. Although since it really is an “application” one would think they could update it separately a la Firefox or Chrome.

There are also updates for gamers — Xbox Play Anywhere will allow players to play on either their Xbox One or Windows 10 PC. Their progress and achievements will sync regardless of device. Since they share the same core the Xbox One receives its own Anniversary Update as well.

I am going to go over a couple of those new features in detail but if you prefer a more extensive, in-depth one, head on over to Paul Thurrott’s Windows 10 Review to see more.

Microsoft Edge

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A sampling of the add-ons available in Edge

As I wrote in Microsoft taking it to the Edge, one of the biggest features missing from it was extensions. Finally Edge gains the ability in this update! Now the extension library isn’t as vast as Chrome or Firefox, but it is a start. The biggest one for me is LastPass. I can’t use a browser without it– unless its just to look something up. Now I actually can consider using Edge as my daily driver. To access extensions for Edge you need to click the ellipsis button on the right and go down to Extensions. The Extensions are purchased through the Windows Store (don’t worry they actually don’t have any paid extensions yet, just free). Since the extensions are installed via the Windows Store, they are also updated via the Windows Store and are done so automatically if you choose. In the initial release of the Anniversary Update there were issues with the LastPass plugin and stability. I have not seen those issues since an update a couple weeks ago.

Not only did Edge receive the Add-On update but it received a few functional updates as well. The biggest being improvements to CPU/Memory usage. With these improvements Edge has become much more power efficient – in fact it beats out Chrome & Firefox in this regard.

Edge is growing up, and catching up with every build. I am not quite ready to replace Firefox yet but for most users Edge is going to work just fine. As more extensions come on board it will appeal more to power users (and if they ever get web page pinning back). I really want to use Edge daily, especially with my 1080p monitor where the text looks especially crisp. We will see what 2017 brings.

Windows Ink

As I mentioned Windows Ink is my favorite brand new feature of the update. If you have a tablet this one is for you. I use a Surface Pro 3 for work and once I put the 1607 preview on it, it became much more powerful. Yes, there is OneNote, and several other tablet oriented programs but this is baked right into Windows. It allows you to turn your tablet into a piece of paper with a couple taps of the pen. From the Windows Ink Workspace you can create sticky notes and actually jot things down on them and pin them to your desktop. With Cortana insights enabled you can make the notes smarter (Flight Information, phone numbers, addresses that pull information from Bing directly on the note). Even if you aren’t a sticky note fan, there is a sketchpad option where you can unleash your inner creativity– or just doodle in one of those meetings you wish you weren’t in (I can’t tell you how many TIE Fighters I’ve sketched). If they are especially good doodles you can save them as an image, or share them directly in your email. I have used the sketchpad for drawing quick network diagrams, mind maps, work flows.

Final Thoughts

Windows 10 Anniversary Update shows what Microsoft means by Windows as a Service. In the past these updates may have come via separate Feature packs, or wait until the next OS release. With the rapid release schedule of today, they show what Microsoft can accomplish in about 8 months. This version was also heavily, heavily tested via the Windows Insider community not just for bugs but for recommendations on UI polish. The group was involved in helping Microsoft decide how to present the new Action Center as well as the update to the Start Menu (I didn’t vote for the latest changes of the Start Menu- I’m hoping that gets more refined in Redstone 2).

As we know Windows 10 is never done, this is just a current snapshot of Windows 10 today at the last half of 2016. This particular snapshot is a success and while anyone on Windows 10 will eventually get it, there are those that still have not moved to Windows 10. This update is just more reason to upgrade. I look forward to seeing what Microsoft has in store next.

 

Chris

I have been a System Administrator for 10 years now. I have been an avid Microsoft fan for over 20. From my first 486 with Windows 3.0 to my latest custom rig with Windows 10. I have gone from tinkering, to programming, to managing servers, and virtualization.

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1 Response

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