As you all know, Microsoft is now in their third month of testing Redstone 2 the code name for the next Feature Update for Windows 10 that is expected in early 2017. In fact, according to Mary Jo Foley over on ZDNet, it appears that early spring ship date will be in March of 2017 according to some recently posted documentation from Microsoft.
Since August of this year Microsoft has released eight desktop builds and five mobile builds for Redstone 2 and while the early builds were foundational to get everything ready in the development branch, the last couple of builds have started to introduce some of the possible new features that could be included in the March 2017 update.
I say they are possible features because with an unreleased update nothing is guaranteed to make it to the final release. As you might recall, Messaging Everywhere did not make it into Windows 10 Version 1607 (aka the Anniversary Update) and that frustrated a lot of users.
Over the last few weeks there have been three new desktop builds released for Redstone 2 (14936, 14942 and 14946) and there were quite a few new features incorporated into these so let's take a close look at those features.
Microsoft Edge Extensions
Although extensions for Edge are not necessarily new operating system level features, we have regularly seen them released to testers in the Fast Ring before they are made widely available and there were three made available in Build 14936:
- Turn Off the Lights for Microsoft Edge - This extensions fades out the interface around an online video and turns it dark to focus on the video itself.
- Tampermonkey - This extension provides userscript management capabilities.
- Microsoft Personal Shopping Assistant - This extension for Microsoft Edge was actually released back in early September but just got its first official introduction in build 14936.
Hiding App List on Start Menu
In build 14942 we see this tweak added to allow users even more customization options for their Start Menu layout and since I hardly ever use the app list I like being able to hide it from view. It makes for less clutter and saves a nice portion of screen space.
Hide app list setting is located at Settings > Personalization > Start
Windows 10 Redstone 2 Start Menu with App List Displayed
Windows 10 Redstone 2 Start Menu without App List Displayed
Touchpad Gesture Updates
These days many workers are mobile and using laptops and other devices with trackpads on them. Microsoft has always had solid gesture support in Windows 10 since its initial release last July but in builds 14942 and 14946 they are making improvements those options.
They started in build 14942 by improving gesture detection by eliminating false positives, improving pinch and zoom plus better identification of right and left clicks. In build 14946 they took trackpad gestures even further with a new page for customizing trackpad gesture settings at Settings > Devices > Touchpad. The new Other gestures link on this settings pages allows you to customize your three and four finger gestures and tap options.
Other Gestures options for trackpads in Windows 10 Redstone 2 (Image courtesy of Microsoft)
Advanced gesture configuration in Windows 10 Redstone 2 (Image courtesy of Microsoft)
New Wi-Fi Settings
As Microsoft works to make settings more integrated between desktop and mobile devices, the Wi-Fi settings on your Windows 10 Redstone 2 desktops now has an option where you can automatically turn Wi-Fi back after a certain period of time when you are switching Wi-Fi off for any reason.
Windows 10 Redstone 2 Wi-Fi options to turn Wi-Fi back on at a later time
Windows 10 Build to Build Upgrade Changes
These latest builds of Redstone 2 will now keep previously uninstalled in-box apps from re-installing during an update. This is very important for Feature Updates because many users have tailored their default apps and do not want some of those to return because they installed the latest major update to Windows 10.
This will also work in situations where a system administrator has previously marked the app to not be installed.
Service Hosts Management of System Processes Improved on Systems with 3.5GB of RAM or Higher
This is an under the hood improvement that will impact a lot of users because it will take advantage of systems with more than 3.5GB of RAM by splitting up background system processes into multiple collections of services.
Since so many systems these days have much more than 3.5GB of RAM many users will see the following improvements with Windows 10 Redstone 2:
- Increased stability - one service host failure will no longer risk crashing the entire system.
- Increased transparency - now see what resources individual background services are using instead of them being lumped together.
- Reduced servicing costs - easier to find services that might be causing system instability.
- Increased security - by having processes running individually permissions can be tailored to increase overall security of that process.
According to Microsoft, critical system services and some select service hosts will stay grouped together.
Extended Active Hours
Active Hours is a feature that was introduced to give users additional control of the time frame when their systems would restart after system updates. On Windows 10 Home users are limited to a 12 hour window however, with this update users on Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, and Education can now adjust their active hours to a maximum of 18 hours.
Windows 10 Redstone 2 Active Hours for Pro, Enterprise, and Education SKUs
System admins will now have a new policy they can use to set their organizations default Active Hours from between 1 and 18 hours.
Registry Editor Address Bar
If you look at the Registry Editor in Windows 10 you will see it has not changed much since it was introduced many years ago but it has been a key element of the operating system and used by many to tweak their systems.
Although the Registry Editor is not getting a graphical UI overhaul it is gaining one new feature that can help you keep track of where you are as you are in the editor itself - a new address bar.
The new Registry Editor Address Bar
If the recently revealed March 2017 is the timeframe for the release of Redstone 2 that means we still have about four months of new development builds to test and see what other features are planned for the third Feature Update for Windows 10.
Of course, next week on the 26th of October, Microsoft is hosting a Windows 10 event in New York City that may reveal more of the companies plans for Windows 10 Redstone 2 and maybe even some hardware revelations.
The event will be live streamed at 7 AM PST (10 AM EST) on the https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/octoberevent website.