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Windows 10 Fall Creators Update: 7 Things to Check Out

SEATTLE—At Microsoft's annual developer conference here, we got a first look at the next major update of the Windows 10 operating system.

Windows 10 Bug ArtOne surprising theme is how intent Microsoft is on having its desktop OS work in concert with non-Microsoft devices like iPhones and Androids, but a visual design refresh also looms large.

Average users should probably wait until the OS launches later this year, though tech-savvy enthusiasts can sign up for the Windows Insiders program to see a preliminary version. Whichever camp you're in, here's a quick take on the top new features that will show up in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.

Fluent Design System

This interface refresh not only adds a bit of transparency to windows, but also refreshes lighting, depth, motion, materials, scale, and typography. The point is not just to pretty up the interface, but to help you use the computer more effectively. For example, the depth effect, similar to bokeh in photography, lets you focus on the task at hand. And some elements will make it clear they support touch or pen input.

Timeline

This feature will present on-screen cards showing recent and past activity, and, like several new features in Fall Creators, will work across your devices. Any Android or iOS device can include apps that talk to the Microsoft Graph, which then informs your PC about an activity to which you may want to return.

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Timeline

Cloud-Powered Clipboard

Similar to Timeline, the new Clipboard lets you work among Windows and non-Windows devices. For example, the SwiftKey and Word Flow keyboards are Microsoft Graph-aware, so if you're entering text on your PC, you can simply paste it inside wherever you're typing on the phone. Office apps, too, will get a smarter Clipboard panel that can even show previously copied images.

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Cloud-Powered Clipboard

Pick Up Where You Left Off

The name says it all. But note that this is also cross-platform and makes use of Cortana. For example, if you were working on a Word document on your iPhone or Android device or browsing a site, Cortana can pop up a notification asking if you want to continue on your PC—and vice versa. The feature also works with apps and websites. Microsoft even added a top-level icon in the Settings app to help you get this mobile integration working.

My People

This one was first announced for the original Creators Update that launched last summer, but didn't make it into the final version. It will finally make its debut in the Fall Creators Update, letting you pin icons for your favorite contacts for easy sharing and communicating via multiple channels and apps.

Windows 10 Creators Update

OneDrive Files on Demand

This addresses one of the more contentious topics among Microsoft watchers. In earlier Windows versions, OneDrive presented what were known as placeholders, in File Explorer, for every single file you had stored in OneDrive. In more recent versions, you have to choose exactly which folders you wanted synced. With Fall Creators Update, Microsoft has sort of brought back placeholders, but in a more powerful and integrated way.

OneDrive Files on Demand

OneDrive Files on Demand will show all your files in File Explorer, but they'll be marked with status icons indicating where they live. So a file that's only in the cloud will, logically, show a cloud icon, while one that's been synced will show a green check mark. It's similar to some online backup services, but more integrated into the system.

Story Remix

This isn't actually a built-in Windows feature but rather a new app that shows off some Fall Creators Update capabilities. Story Remix can intelligently craft a video show for you using the Microsoft Graph. It lets you do things like changing the video to be about one of your contacts or adding 3D objects from Remix3D.com. Microsoft showed a very cool demo of a 3D fireball object actually following a soccer ball and exploding at the goal. Story Remix also lets you write on top of video, and your writing can follow an object in the movie. For more, see my hands on with Story Remix at Build.

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Yahoo Mail aims at emerging markets and casual users, launches versions for mobile web and Android Go

The days for Yahoo Messenger are now numbered, but Yahoo and its parent Oath (which also owns TC) are still counting on growth for other communications services, specifically Yahoo Mail. Today, the company announced two new versions of Yahoo Mail, optimised for mobile web and an app for Android Go, a version of Android specifically tailored for cheaper handsets. The launch comes at a time when Yahoo Mail has stagnated in its growth: the company says that it now has 227.8 million monthly active users with some 26 billion emails sent daily, but that user size is only about two million more than it had a year ago. It’s a small number also relatively speaking: as a comparison, Google’s Gmail reported 1.4 billion users this past April. In other words, one very clear aim of enhancing the mobile web and Android One experience is to try to grow use of Yahoo Mail among new categories of users, specifically among people who are using lower-end devices, either in emerging markets or as more casual mobile users in more mature markets. And given that Yahoo Mail is already available in 46 languages and 70 markets, it’s probably overdue that Yahoo has decided to revamp some features specifically for a large part of those markets. For the mobile web service specifically, Yahoo’s hoping to ease people into using Yahoo Mail more regularly. “We’ve heard loud and clear from users that they’re not always ready to make the big leap to downloading an app that takes up any storage space on their phone,” said Joshua Jacobson, senior director of product management for Yahoo Mail. “People with high-capacity phones may want to save that space for photos or videos, while others with entry-level smartphones may just have limited space from the get-go. Further, some folks share devices or borrow a family member’s to access their email. This is all especially true in developing markets.” Yahoo is not the only company to focus on how to cater more to emerging markets: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google and many others have developed versions of their platforms and apps tailored for users in these countries (sometimes controversially, when their actions are deemed to be too anticompetitive). Part of the reason for this is because emerging market consumers have been proven to be very enthusiastic users of mobile phones: they use handsets as their primary communications device, often forgoing landlines and computers in the process; but not only do they generally have less money to spend on things like mobile data and devices, but often mobile data represents a higher relative cost overall. On top of this, as growth has levelled off in mature markets, emerging economies are the drivers of all new adoption: usage outside of the US and other mature markets will grow by over 50 percent by 2025, according to the GSMA. Creating apps and sites that consume less data is a no-brainer if you want to grow your usage in these markets, which is what Yahoo is now trying to do. Yahoo last year introduced a new version of its Mail app (along with a paid, ad-free option), which it updated earlier this year with faster load times and other features. Today’s new web version and Android Go app are aiming to create more parity with the standard that it set there. Features include “swipe through your inbox”, a Tinder-style gesture to either to mark a mail a ‘read’ or to delete it (if you swipe left); a new option to personalise your inbox with color themes; an enhanced sidebar to create and use folders; autosuggestion on names (a big one that would have felt very onerous to do without, I’d guess); infinite scroll on the inbox (with no need to click on ‘next’). One issue that I’ve noticed a lot with web apps is that they often don’t seem to work as fast as native apps, and this too seems to be something that Yahoo wants to address: built on React and Redux (similar to the native apps), the responsiveness is much faster now. Yahoo says that Android Go, meanwhile, will take up only about 10 megabytes of space to install, and is optimised to reduce RAM usage if your device is below 50MB.

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