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Mar 28 2018

Get Your Easter Egg: Windows 10 “Spring Creators Update” Appears in First Half of April (Part 1)

The typically well-informed folks at have learned that Microsoft is adding the finishing touches to Redstone 4 or, as it will likely be known, Windows 10 version 1803. Based on this they're assuming the actual release date may coincide with the upcoming Patch Tuesday on April 10.

Launched in January 2015 by longtime Microsoft specialist Paul Thurrott, the eponymous website has since become a kind of go-to source for 'all things Windows,' that way mirroring the role of his previous endeavors SuperSite for Windows and Windows ITPro. As it stands, Thurrott and his team mates, who are noted for their good connections to Redmond, think they have spotted the "RTM build" of the so-called Spring Creators Update aka Redstone 4, which will add new functions and features to existing installations and is meant to replace the half-year-old Windows 10 version 1709 (or Fall Creators Update). Microsoft itself has kept uncharacteristically quiet about the new release in recent weeks – so far, they've only admitted it's in the preview channel, but have not offered an official rollout date. However, other insiders have been speculating that version 1803 might land as early as next week, as some kind of belated Easter egg or last-minute gift for spring break.

Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that Microsoft has also abstained from aggressively touting one or more of the expected fresh features, either because these might be considered minor tweaks or because the company's PR team thought that most users would welcome a little silence after the hardware-flaw-induced upheaval in recent months. Still that doesn't mean the Spring Creators Update will be a bore: along with the usual laundry list of changes to the Windows GUI, we'll see a couple of interesting improvements and enhancements that should make working with Microsoft's client OS much more comfortable and efficient. For starters, in order to speed up the upgrade process, Redmond has changed the sequence of steps that are necessary to install a new version. More precisely, the phases during which user content is prepared for migration and the new OS is placed into a temporary working directory have been moved from the offline to the online stage of the process. The consequences are massive: when Microsoft launched the initial Creators Update (version 1703) in spring last year, installing the fresh version lasted 82 minutes on average. This time around, the process should be finished within 30 minutes, provided drive C: isn't overcrowded – a 63% reduction within about a year.

Next, we have to talk about Timeline. As the name implies, this is a type of activity log that basically records which specific application one uses to work on a specific piece of content at any given time. All activities are then presented as "snapshots" – or rather, small windows that populate the screen – the next time a user logs in (cf. Fig. 1). The idea here is to make it easier to find specific files and the application they're most likely associated with, so that she or he will no longer have to sift through heaps of folders and/or documents (like in Explorer or Task View) but only has to click the proper Timeline entry instead.


Fig. 1: The new Windows 10 Timeline

Power users who frequently switch between multiple Windows devices were already happy when version 1709 introduced "Shared experiences," a tool that enabled them to open apps on and send notifications to desktops, laptops or tablets with authorized system accounts. Version 1803 further enhances this set of capabilities by adding Near Share, a Bluetooth-/WiFi Direct-based function that allows for ad hoc file transfers to and from computers in the immediate vicinity. In this setup, Bluetooth acts as a crossover between a messenger and a scout, indicating the presence of a sharing-enabled device, detecting other devices and negotiating connections between them, whereas the files themselves are sent over a peer-to-peer WiFi Direct connection. (Users familiar with Apple devices may just have experienced a flashback, since a similar feature named AirDrop first appeared in MacOS X 10.7 Lion some seven years ago.)

Finally, another welcome enhancement is that Windows 10's built-in Photo app will be upgraded to support the High Efficiency File Format or HEIF (ISO/IEC 23008-12). HEIF enables storing still images, image sequences (video), burst photos, sound, metadata etc. into a single ISOBMFF container. The format has two key advantages: on the one hand, the compression algorithms used to generate HEIF files work much more efficiently than those used for JPGs etc., while at the same time retaining more information. Thus, it is possible to create higher-quality (even lossless) image files that eat up far less storage space than classic formats. On the other hand, unlike its predecessors, the new format lets users create so-called derived images by simply including editing instructions within the HEIF file that can then be carried out by any type of rendering software (web browsers, image editors and the like). In other words, it's possible to come up with customized images for a wide variety of use cases without having to tamper with or compromise the quality of the source material. Professional photographers and aspiring amateurs alike will greatly appreciate this addition.

As with every new Windows 10 release, Microsoft may try and apply a couple of changes to the system and security settings. However, so far nothing has leaked – so we'll have to return to this topic in part 2 of this article, which is due out after Easter.


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