The Windows 10 April 2018 Update: Everything you need to know

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The latest feature update for Windows 10 is available now, bringing the platform up to version 1803. Officially labeled as Windows 10 April 2018 Update, it drops the “creators” branding and focuses on improving general productivity. Two of the biggest new features do just that, while the third main ingredient provides better means of sharing content to nearby devices.

Windows 10 April 2018 Update also delivers a huge lineup of enhancements and improvements to Cortana, Microsoft Edge, Windows Ink, Windows Mixed Reality, and more. 

So how can you get Windows 10 April 2018 Update? You can download and use Microsoft’s online upgrade tool or navigate to Settings > Windows Update to see if the feature update is available for your PC. Given Microsoft’s history with update roll-outs, you could receive Windows 10 April 2018 Update right now or a month after launch. 

Focus Assist

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There’s nothing more annoying than attempting to get something done, only to be bothered by notifications popping up on the screen. The “new” Focus Assist feature is essentially another name for Quiet Hours, which lets you block notifications, sounds, alerts, and other distracting elements while you’re trying to focus on work. You can either right-click on the taskbar’s Action Center icon and toggle on or off Focus Assist or open the Action Center and click the quick action button. 

Outside the name change, you can actually manually set your quiet hours with this update. Previously Microsoft set those hours between 12:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. with no means of changing those times without modifying the registry. But now you can right-click on the display and navigate to Settings > Focus Assist to access a host of new settings to tweak Focus Assist as needed.

For example, you can choose to hide all notifications except for alarms — or see notifications only from apps and people established on your “Priority List.” For instance, if you’re not allowed to ignore notifications from your significant other during working hours, you’d be wise to add that demanding loved one under the Priority List’s “People” section. You can manually add apps too (Xbox is listed by default), and toggle on/off notifications tossed over by Cortana installed on your mobile device. 

In addition to the Priority List, the new Focus Assist feature provides an automatic rules section where you can set the times when Focus Assist automatically kicks in. Three other options target specific activities, such as when you’re playing a game, when you’re at home, and when duplicating a display. All four options have a “focus level” consisting of “alarms only” and “priority only.” 

Nearby Sharing

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This is a neat way to share a file between two Windows 10 PCs with the April 2018 Update installed. To share a file, simply click on the share charm in an appropriate Windows 10 app, or right-click to access the app’s menu and select “Share.” Files can be a video, photo, document, or a webpage currently loaded in Microsoft Edge.  

Once you choose to share a file, the Nearby Sharing component will determine the best connection: Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. If using the Bluetooth method, you can actually see a list of the potential recipient devices for your shared file. The recipient can then choose to accept or reject your file. 

Timeline

windows 10 april 2018 update what you need to know timeline activity settings

To access this new feature, click on Task View on the taskbar or type Windows logo key + Tab. Timeline stores your “events” by up to 30 days using tiles and provides an option to view these tiles by the day — or by the hour. If you choose the “day” mode, simply scroll down to a specific day, and then select “see all activities” next to the date. You’ll then see tiles of every “event” that happened on that day, listed vertically by the hour. 

To search for a specific event, select the Search icon and then type a keyword that best represents that specific event, such as “resort” when you were hunting down vacation resorts using Microsoft Edge. But you can find other events too, such as a document you wrote and emailed two weeks ago, a picture you downloaded from OneDrive, and so on. 

The problem with Timeline is that if you’re sharing the PC with other people, their activities will appear in your timeline. To de-clutter your timeline, navigate to Settings > Privacy > Activity history > Show activities from accounts and toggle off all accounts to hide their activities from your timeline. Here you can also clear your activity history, but there appears to be no tool to block your activities from other timelines on the PC. 

One of the main selling points with Timeline is that it keeps track of your activities beyond the PC. For instance, if you’re browsing with Microsoft Edge on an Android phone, that activity falls on your timeline. This applies to all Microsoft-related apps for PC and phone, but you can easily toggle off this component in two ways: Disable “let Windows collect my activities from this PC,” and/or “let Windows sync my activities from this PC to the cloud.” 

Microsoft Edge

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Microsoft’s built in browser now provides an audio icon on tabs so you can mute annoying audio playing on pages you’re not even viewing. Edge also now “securely” stores your address, credit card, and other information that’s automatically filled on web payment forms provided by Amazon, Walmart, and other top retail sites you frequently shop. Meanwhile, the new clutter-free-printing option simplifies the print dialog for a cleaner experience. 

For customers who read digital books, PDFs, and take advantage of the Reading View mode, Microsoft fine-tuned the full-screen experience by removing all visual distractions. The browser now also supports custom narration and ambient sounds in EPUB books while new grammar tools for EPUB books and Reading View can highlight a noun or verb in a sentence, break words into syllables, and more. 

Cortana

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Microsoft’s built-in assistant can now play your favorite music and playlists on Spotify, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio using voice commands. To enable this feature, launch Cortana and select the Notebook icon on her menu. After that, click on the “Manage Skills” tab and then the “Music” category. From here you connect Cortana to your Spotify, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio accounts. 

But that’s not all. Cortana is compatible with connected homes too, supporting smart thermostats manufactured by ecobee, Honeywell, Nest, and more. To connect Cortana to your smart thermostat, open the assistant, and click on the Notebook icon on her menu bar. After that, click on the “Manage Skills” tab, select the Connected Home panel, toggle on the feature, and sign in to your Microsoft account. 

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From there you’ll see a list of manufacturers. In our case, we chose Nest and signed into our Nest account. Unfortunately, we ran into an “object doesn’t support property or method ‘includes'” error after logging into the account, so we couldn’t test Cortana with our new third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat. According to Nest technical support agents, Nest products currently don’t work with Cortana despite the feature roll-out. When will support arrive? We couldn’t get a confirmation. 

“As of right now, Nest has not announced that as of yet,” a Nest representative told us. “At this time, Nest has not announce anything of that nature.”

That said, not all advertised “smart” thermostats may be on board with Cortana at this present time. The idea is to control your thermostat using voice commands through Cortana much like you can using Google Assistant. With the latter, you can adjust the temperature, switch between cooling and heating, get the current inside temperature, turn off the thermostat, and so on using voice commands. Eventually, Cortana will enable the same control. 

Miscellaneous Updates

There are obviously a ton of minor changes to the breadth of Microsoft’s software offerings, ranging from productivity to gaming. While there are plenty of small software updates within features such as the Start Menu or the Action Center, there are also performance improvements in stylus support, dictation accuracy, and multilingual touch keyboard prediction. In fact, Microsoft says it’s improved digital pen latency by up to 50 percent.

A couple of other highlights worthy of mention include HDR support for a longer list of compatible devices, as well as a new locked, “S Mode” for enhanced security and control available in Windows 10 Home edition.

Check out Microsoft’s full page of updates to see the detailed list of all that’s been changed.

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