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In honour of Windows 10’s first birthday, Microsoft is releasing an anniversary update to the software this week.
Available from August 2, the update is free and features a number of upgrades to Microsoft’s PC software, including selfie login for websites and apps, and an unlocked Cortana.
Windows 10 was offered as a free upgrade to customers running Windows 7 and above for its first year. It now costs £99.99 for the home edition and £189.99 for the professional one.
That payment buys you Microsoft’s ” last version” of the operating system. From now on, the company will introduce new features through software updates, the first of which is the anniversary upgrade, rather than product launches.
Here are some of the best features of the anniversary update:
Adding use to the Surface Book ‘s stylus, the Windows 10 anniversary update includes a hub for apps that support ink, including Sticky Notes, Sketchpad and a Screen Sketch, a Snapchat-style app that lets you sketch on a screenshot. It also works with Maps, Microsoft Edge and Office.
Cortana can understand things that you hand write on a sticky note and add them to your Calendar for you. For example, if you wrote “Call Mum tomorrow”, Cortana will highlight the word “tomorrow”, which you can tap and add to your Calendar.
In the update to its virtual assistant Cortana, Microsoft has added the ability to call for help without having to log in to your device. That means if you’re on the opposite side of the room to your computer or have your hands tied, you can ask for help without having to move and unlock the screen.
For example, if you’re in the middle of cooking a complicated recipe and can’t remember what the next step is, you can call Cortana to read it to you. Call out “Hey Cortana” and it’ll light up without you needing to log in, and you can ask what the next step is.
A more helpful assistant
Cortana gains a lot more functionality in Windows 10 as well. It can now speak more languages, including Spanish, Portuguese and French, in addition to the 11 it could already understand. And it can scan your email and calendar to prompt you if you need to do something or organise meetings for you, as well as send text messages to Android and iOS devices.
The upgraded Cortana will prompt you throughout the day with questions such as “What time would you like your alarm”, offering to buy you lunch or send information for you. It can also remember things that aren’t time related, such as “Remember that I parked my car on Church Street”. You can then later ask Cortana to remind you where your car is.
There isn’t a way to turn Cortana off in the Windows 10 update, so those who are worried about Microsoft storing their data will have to make sure they periodically wipe the assistant’s memory.
Apps for Cortana
A new “Cortana Collection” in the Windows Store makes it easy to find apps that work with the intelligent assistant.
No more passwords
Microsoft is expanding Windows Hello, the biometric login that lets you sign into your computer with a selfie or fingerprint scan, to include supporting websites on the Edge browser and some apps. That means no more typing out endless passwords when you want to check your social media accounts and bank balance while doing some online shopping.
You can mirror the contents on a phone, tablet or other computer to a PC running Windows 10 using “Project to PC”.
The update comes with the option to use your PC in a dark mode, which features a black background with white text.
To get more people using its new web browser, Microsoft is also opening support for extensions and improving the tabs. Add-ons already available include LastPass, 1Password and EverNote, and Microsoft is reportedly working on a tool that can convert Chrome extensions to Edge ones. The update also means Edge syncs with the cloud, works with Cortana and with Hello.
Minor new features in the Edge browser, which Microsoft claims is 70 per cent more battery efficient than competitors, make it more intuitive, including right clicking the back button to see the history of pages visited on it and “paste and go” or “paste and search” for copied text. It also has an option to clear all browsing data every time you close Edge.
See notifications on multiple devices
Windows 10 lets you receive notifications from Windows, Android and iOS devices straight to your PC.
Better for tablet
A refresh of the Start menu combines the tiles from Windows 8 with the original Start bar that makes for better usability on tablet, and means you don’t need to go an extra step to see all of the apps on PC.