Windows Insiders should be very pleased that Microsoft has rolled out another update in the Fast Ring today — and this one actually has some meat on its bones. Sure there are the usual bug fixes and minor tweaks, but Windows 10 Build 16215 has a couple new features to make your Windows experience a little more fluent.
See, that’s the name of the new design language Microsoft is using, and it’s clever. Like Google’s “Material Design” Microsoft now has “Fluent Design” — it’s more than just a breezy buzzword though. In Build 16215 we get a sneak peek at the new design language, and how it indeed makes Windows 10 a bit more fluid — it should be dreamy on that sleek new Surface Laptop.
The new UI introduces a flat-color design to the familiar old notification center, that builds on the existing Windows 10 UI. It’s not a radical departure, but an elegant refinement that spices Windows up a bit (if it was boring before, that was by design) by adding panes to the notification panel and smoothing out the taskbar a bit.
Build 16215 incorporates elements of Microsoft’s new “Acrylic” UI design, which you should see right off the bat if you have transparency enabled.
Moving on to other tangible updates in the latest Insider Build, Microsoft Edge continues to improve. Now users can pin individual websites to their taskbars, which can be helpful for accessing web apps or other essential and frequently used services — like the r/sneks subreddit.
Now you can pin all your favorite subreddits right to your taskbar. It’s a shortcut to your shortcuts, but of course to use it you’ll have to actually use Microsoft Edge, a proposition which may or may not be worth the trouble.
Edge received a number of smaller updates. For instance, now users have the ability to highlight and annotate books right in the browser window, and smoothed out animations for opening new tabs. (We’re still not sure it’s the best web browser available, however.)
Cortana also received some attention in Windows 10 Build 16215, and she has a few new capabilities to fill out her repertoire. Now she’s able to provide insights to photos in your camera roll, by processing the images for relevant information — like a photo of an event poster, for instance.
It takes a little digging to actually enable this feature, though. Specifically, you’ll have to go to Settings > Cortana > Permissions & History > “Manage the information Cortana can access on this device,” to let Cortana peer through your camera roll.
Building on that feature set, you can also use a lasso tool to select portions of images on your device that you want Cortana to process for information — like a movie’s opening night. Again to enable this feature, you’ll have to dig through a lot of menus. First you’ll need to go to Settings > Device > Pen & Windows Ink > Press and hold > Cortana Lasso.
And finally, Microsoft lavished some attention on the handwriting recognition native to Windows 10. It’s an important set of improvements given the emphasis on the Surface Pen lately.
Introduced in today’s Build is the new XAML-based handwriting panel, which turns your handwriting into text directly on the screen. Just scribble down words into the panel using a Surface Pen, and once you lift the pen off the screen it will translate your handwriting into usable text.
You can also make corrections to your handwritten inputs using Windows Ink gestures, like slashing through a word to delete it, or slicing two words apart with a single stroke. Additionally, Microsoft has expanded the palm rejection capabilities of Windows Ink, so your hands shouldn’t provide as much interference as they used to if you happen to graze the screen by accident.
There’s a lot to unpack in today’s build, including a ton of behind-the-scenes improvements. So, for a full list of every tiny feature and tweak in Windows 10 Build 16215 — and a host of bug fixes — head over to the Windows Insider blog.