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Windows 10 October 2018 Update review: Many small improvements make a better experience

Your Phone, Edge, and the surprisingly super-powered Clipboard highlight a minor update.

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Font installation for everyone: Windows previously treated adding fonts as a protected function, suitable only for administrators. Now, anyone can go to the Fonts section within the Microsoft Store app and download away.

Mixed-reality “flashlight:” From what we can see, Windows Mixed Reality has been a bust. But for those who have bought into Microsoft’s vision of virtual reality, Microsoft offers you a lifeline: Instead of wandering around your living room fearful you’ll trip on your cat, Windows Mixed Reality now offers a “flashlight view” that shows you what’s going on in the real world in front of you (which would normally be blocked by your headset.) A YouTube user named Cappaholic has a brief video showing the “flashlight” in action. 

What’s missing, and what’s next

Some of the new additions that Microsoft tested out within its Insider previews were held back for a future release. The tabbed version of Windows, known as Sets, holds promise as an alternate UI for single-screen experiences like laptops, whose windows can get lost among all of the clutter—but it’s not here yet. Planned updates to include detailed geekier details like frame rates and CPU utilization in the Game Bar were scrapped, though it’s still been overhauled to add volume controls.

Microsoft indicated that it would migrate an enterprise technology, called Windows Defender Exploit Guard, to help Windows 10 block “suspicious behaviors”—but didn’t. We also were eagerly anticipating a Smart Updater or Update AI feature to help eliminate the pain of unexpected Windows updates, but it appears to have been pulled. The Timeline feature was supposed to extend to phones; it doesn’t.

windows 10 sets Microsoft

Eventually, we’ll see the tabbed Sets interface within Windows 10.

Microsoft now shifts gears to the next feature update to Windows 10, which has a new nomenclature: “19H1,” referring to the first-half update for 2019. (Microsoft’s Xbox team has begin using that terminology with Xbox Insiders.) Expect to see the fruits of those labors around April, the same timeframe as the earlier April 2018 Update.

There’s a definite feel that Windows 10 development is slowing, and some believe that they know why: a re-spin of Windows, known as Core OS. We recently received our best hint that Core OS (or WCOS) is real: the announcement of a brand new Windows “experience” inside the Surface Hub 2, and possibly other devices, in 2020. A major future debut of a revamped Windows would justify what today is a rather ho-hum release.

Updated at 10:28 AM on Oct. 8, 2018 to note that Microsoft has put the Windows 10 Oct. 2018 Update on hold pending user reports of data loss. 

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At a Glance
  • Microsoft's' Windows 10 October 2018 Update contains numerous improvements, like the "cloud" Clipboard and Your Phone. Neither any individual feature nor the whole appears to that significant.

    Pros

    • The cloud-based Clipboard is a simple, useful tool
    • Font Maker, Your Phone are basic, effective utilities
    • Under-the-hood conveniences add value
    • Microsoft Edge is now worth using, everyday

    Cons

    • No particular feature justifies the upgrade
    • Sets, Update AI, other features left out
    • Snip & Sketch replaces Snipping Tool. Why?
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