Happy anniversary, Windows 10: Here’s what coming in the latest update

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Happy Anniversary

Microsoft’s latest update to Windows 10, dubbed the Anniversary Update, is slated to officially drop on Aug. 2, a year after the initial release of Windows 10 last July 29. Windows 10 has been installed on more than 350 million devices, making it Microsoft’s most successful OS launch. However, there’s always room for improvement and this update introduces several changes, customization options, and new ways to interact with Windows 10. Here are the highlights:

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Start menu simplified

Microsoft has tweaked the Start menu yet again. An alphabetical list of the applications and folders on your Windows 10 system appears in the Start menu when you click the Start button. (In the prior versions, you clicked “All Apps” on the Start menu to bring up this list.) The default-set icons right above the Start button are still the shortcuts to your Windows 10 user account, to the File Explorer, to the Settings app, and to power actions. In prior versions, the full names for these shortcuts appeared on the Start menu, but in the Anniversary Update, their names are hidden in order to provide enough space on the Start menu to show the abovementioned list of applications, apps and folders.

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New “All Apps” layout in full-screen mode

When you set the Start menu to display full screen (which you do through the Settings app, under “Personalization” and then “Start”), there are two shortcut icons at the upper-left corner: “Pinned Tiles” and “All Apps.” Click “All Apps,” and the view switches to an alphabetical list -- spread across columns -- of all the applications, apps and folders that are on your Windows 10 system.

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Cortana available on lock screen

Once you have the Anniversary Update installed, you can use the Cortana personal assistant directly from the lock screen, such as speaking aloud to tell the digital assistant to set an alert or to look up weather information, without needing to sign in to Windows 10. To turn this feature on or off, you need to go to the Cortana app’s settings. The switch for this is under “Lock screen.”

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Edge: New URL functions

The Anniversary Update adds a few minor but handy things to Edge’s UI. Right-clicking the back button on the Edge navigation toolbar now opens a small history menu that lists links you’ve last visited. Pasting a link in the URL box with a right-click offers you with the choice to “paste and go” in a pop-up menu. Pasting plain text by right-clicking in the URL box presents you with “paste and search” in this pop-up menu.

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Edge: Extensions

The Anniversary Update finally brings extensions functionality to Edge. Installing an extension is done through the Windows Store app: search for and pick the extension you want; then from its Windows Store page, click to install it onto Edge. The icon buttons for your extensions are set along the top of the sidebar that appears when you click the “More” button (it’s the one with three dots). To view a list of the extensions you have installed on Edge, and through which you can also adjust each extension’s settings, click “Extensions” on the “More” sidebar.

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Edge: Touch screen navigation

On devices with touch screens, swiping the screen left to right will reload the previously displayed page in the browser’s window. So this works like the browser’s “Back” button. Thus, swiping right to left on the screen works like the “Forward” button (to show the next most recently loaded page).

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Edge: Web notifications

Edge now supports web notification API standards. This means that if a favorite site of yours supports this function, you can permit the site to send you notifications through Edge. (These notifications are shown in the lower-right corner as pop-up cards, which Microsoft calls “Toasts” -- get it?) These notifications sent by a website also appear in the Action Center.

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Badge notices on Windows app taskbar icons

Expect to see certain Windows apps, when they are minimized or pinned to the taskbar, to show a badge notice when the app has updated information to show you. The Mail app uses this function to list the number of unread emails, and the Weather app to denote a local weather alert.

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Calendar app integrated with the notification area

The Anniversary Update makes the Calendar app interoperate with the calendar on the notification tray: when you click the time and date on the notification area, the calendar now appears as a sidebar that lists any notes or reminders you have for the day. Click another day on the calendar to see what is scheduled for it. This information is surfaced from the Calendar app in which you’ve entered notes or reminders on specified days.

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Tally count on the Action Center

When a Windows app sends a notification to the Action Center, the icon of the Action Center (which is now set to the right end of the taskbar) shows a tally of unviewed notifications waiting for you to read on the Action Center panel.

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More robust notifications

A notification sent by a Windows app, which appears both as a pop-up card (a “Toast) over the lower-right corner of the screen, and on the Action Center panel, can now be a little more robust. For example, these notifications may show content from the app’s Live Tile, or an image.

In prior versions of Windows 10, right-clicking on a Toast or notification seen on the Action Center panel brought up a small context menu, which let you go to notification settings or turn off notifications sent by the associated app; the Anniversary Update lets Windows app developers add more options to this context menu.

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Settings app: Easier customizing of the quick action interface

Under “System” and “Notifications & Actions,” you can rearrange the order of the quick action buttons, as they appear on the lower part of the Action Center sidebar, to your liking by dragging-and-dropping.

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Settings app: Taskbar settings

Settings for the taskbar are now accessed in the Settings app under “Personalization” and “Taskbar.” You can also quickly jump right to this menu in the Settings app by right-clicking on a blank area of the taskbar and selecting from the pop-up menu “Settings.”

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Settings app: Dark color theme

Under “Personalization” and “Colors,” there’s a “Dark” setting that inverts the black-text-against-white-background color theme of Windows apps (so you’ll have white text against a black background). This mode is supported by many of the built-in apps that come with Windows 10 (including Calculator, Calendar, Mail, the Settings app itself, and Windows Store), and can be helpful not only for your eyesight comfort level but for extending the battery life of a notebook.

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Windows Ink Workspace: Sidebar tool for digital pens

Windows Ink Workspace is designed for digital pens, but you can still use it with a mouse or touchpad. To activate it, right-click on the taskbar and choose “Show Windows Ink Workspace button” in the context menu. Clicking the Windows Ink Workspace icon on the notification area summons a sidebar that shows large thumbnail shortcuts for three digital pen-friendly tools. Sticky Notes is a note-taking app. (This Windows app replaces the classic desktop application that had the same name.) Sketchpad offers basic freehand drawing. It includes a ruler to help you draw straight lines. Screen Sketch takes a screenshot of what currently appears on the main screen of Windows 10, and then lets you use the Sketchpad drawing tools to doodle over it.