Fall is almost here. That means that soon leaves are going to change color, apples will be picked and social media shall once again be dominated by people with very strong opinions about pumpkin spice lattes (which are delicious). It also means that Microsoft is preparing to roll out the next major update to Windows 10, which is why it released Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 18234 this week to Skip Ahead members of its Windows Insider Program.
The last few builds sent to Windows Insider Program members have primarily focused on performance improvements, bug fixes and other refinements. This indicates that Microsoft is largely content with the additions it has prepared for the fall update to Windows 10 and is worried more about stability than whiz-bang features. Preview Build 18234 is different, however, because it finally brings some new features along for the ride.
Several of the updates in Preview Build 18234 are basically quality-of-life improvements. Microsoft To-Do now offers Ink support, for example, to let you write down your tasks and complete them by drawing a line through them or putting a check mark in their adjacent circle. An updated version of Snip & Sketch also lets you decide to "Snip Now," "Snip in 3 seconds," or "Snip in 10 seconds" to make it easier to capture exactly what you want.
The biggest change arrives via the Sticky Notes 3.0 update. The utility will now sync your notes across devices, offer a new "home" for your notes so they don't clutter your desktop and let you use a new formatting bar and "Charcoal Note" background. Microsoft said it also improved Sticky Notes' performance, "applied so much polish that the app is starting to look like a shiny pony" and enabled more assistive technologies and input methods.
Skype and Outlook Updates Too
Microsoft hasn't only been working on getting new features to Windows Insider Program members. The company also recently updated Skype and Outlook with some big changes, and unlike Preview Build 18234, you don't have to futz around with a pre-release OS to see them yourself.
Skype's update finally introduces native call recording (opens in new tab) for both voice and video conversations for its mobile app. Now you won't have to use third-party software to record your calls; all you have to do is hit the "start recording" button. A banner will then let everyone in the call know it's being recorded. The recording is saved to the relevant chat when it's done, at which point everyone has 30 days to download it.
The addition of native call recording to Skype should make life much easier for podcasters, journalists and anyone else who needs to keep records of some of their conversations. Microsoft said it will roll out to the desktop version of Skype "in the coming weeks."
Outlook's update is far more comprehensive (opens in new tab). Microsoft overhauled many aspects of the email tool, from its basic design to support for third-party utilities, and it's soon going to start rolling out to Targeted Release customers. Those who opt-in to using this update will notice improved search tools, a new file directory and other features that are supposed to make it much easier to get things done with Outlook.
Many of the changes appear to be motivated by a desire to better compete with Gmail. The new Outlook will use AI to suggest responses to an email, for example, which is something Google's service has done for a while now. It also makes it easier to add events to your calendar, manage groups and "find the best room for your meetings based on the attendees, time, availability and your preferences." Outlook's getting prettier and smarter.
All of these changes, from those arriving with Preview Build 18234 to those in Skype and Outlook, show that Microsoft has a lot planned for this fall. So if you use any of these services, you can add these refinements to your list of things to look forward to during the annual transition between summer and winter. Maybe that'll be enough to distract from the early arrival of Halloween decorations and the vitriol surrounding a coffee flavoring.