Microsoft has begun forcibly upgrading Windows 10 PCs running version 1809 with the latest, the November 2019 Update, aka 1909, which the company launched less than a month ago.
“We will slowly start the phased process to automatically initiate a feature update for devices running the October 2018 Update (Windows 10, version 1809) Home and Pro editions,” Microsoft said in a Dec. 5 message on Windows 10 1909’s page of the Windows Release Health Dashboard. “We are starting this rollout process several months in advance of the end of service date to provide adequate time for a smooth update process.”
Windows 10 1809 officially “launched” Nov. 13, 2018. On Home and Pro, the version will fall off Microsoft’s support list on May 12, 2020.
So, Microsoft started its automatic 1809-to-1909 upgrades more than five months before the former becomes obsolete. That’s a month earlier than the previous forcible refresh, the 1803-to-1903 upgrade Microsoft kicked off July 17, 2019 – four months ahead of 1803’s Nov. 12 retirement.
The announcement marked the second time Microsoft has taken the upgrade reins since upending its servicing model in April. Then, the company said that those running Windows 10 Home, as well as users running unmanaged devices powered by Windows 10 Pro, would be able to decide when to upgrade from one version of the operating system to another using a “Download and install now” option. Previously, Microsoft held tight control over this process.
Yet Microsoft does not let users perpetually avoid an upgrade. Citing security, it said it would intervene when the current feature upgrade neared end of support by forcing an upgrade. It is that intervention Microsoft has now begun on systems running 1809.
It’s unclear why Microsoft jumpstarted the 1809-to-1909 upgrade a month sooner than the 1803-to-1903 predecessor.
The most obvious reason, although not necessarily accurate, is that Microsoft underestimated the time it would take to push the 1803 crowd to the next year’s version, and so had not wrapped up the previous forced refresh by the Nov. 12 expiration of 1803. That would have left an uncertain number of Home- and Pro-powered systems temporarily cut off from updates, security or otherwise. Measurements by analytics company AdDuplex, for instance, estimated the 1803 portion of Windows 10 overall base at around 14% at the end of October, just two weeks before that version was to vanish from the support list.
Because of the scrambled rollout of 1809, the sooner-than-expected launch of forced upgrades to 1909 may result in some users pushed off the former less than a year after they got it.
Windows 10 1809’s launch was a disaster. Initially begun in early October 2018, distribution was almost immediately suspended when reports of lost data multiplied. Microsoft went back to work on 1809. Although it designated Nov. 12, 2018, as 1809’s official debut, few had it prior to mid-January 2019, when the company began automatically installing it on customers’ PCs, making the upgrade at least three months late.
Those Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro users who were at the front of the 1809 distribution line would also be the most likely to get 1909 off the bat. Microsoft starts upgrade rollouts with the systems it believes most likely to accept them without balking; those are typically the newest machines.
Users can retrieve and install Windows 10 1909 on their own schedule at any time – they don’t have to wait for Microsoft to do it for them – by following the steps outlined in this Nov. 12 post to a Microsoft blog.
But you know what? Having lived with the software for a while now, the feature that’s stood out the most to me is something far less conspicuous. It’s not something I ever expected to care about or use myself, in fact, despite its undeniable significance for some people.
It’s a new system-level function called Live Caption. It’s actually designed to be an accessibility feature, built primarily for folks who are hard of hearing. But just like other Android accessibility features, it has the potential to be broadly useful for just about anyone.
What Live Caption does is simple: When you activate it — by tapping a box that appears beneath the volume controls whenever any type of media is playing on your phone — it puts a box on your screen with a live, real-time transcription of everything that’s being said.
The utility for people who have trouble hearing is obvious, and that in and of itself is immeasurable. But the broader benefit for anyone, as I’ve discovered, is that the Live Caption system makes it possible to see what a video’s all about or even to “listen in” to part of a podcast without having to have any actual sound blaring from your phone.
When would that matter, you might be wondering? Well, picture this: You’re sitting somewhere relatively quiet — a place where only a barbarian would be boorish enough to blare audio from their phone with complete disregard for the people around them. Maybe it’s a restaurant, maybe it’s a bus, maybe it’s a lecture, or maybe it’s your own home in the evening whilst someone else is slumbering nearby. And you don’t have any headphones handy or hooked up to your cellular telephone apparatus at the moment.
When you’re in such a situation — and you’re the cordial sort who still has some sense of decency — Live Caption gives you an easy way to consume video- or audio-oriented content without having to impose on everyone around you.
I’ve had this come up when I’m in that very sort of scenario and I encounter a video on Twitter I’m interested in seeing, a video-based news story that doesn’t have any text alongside it, or an audio-only clip of a conversation I’m curious to hear. Being that I’m at least somewhat civilized (even if only a little), I wouldn’t dare just blast the audio out loud from my phone and remain oblivious to the sighs and glares of everyone around me, as so many people seem to do these days. (If you’re one of those people, stop whatever you’re doing and go flick yourself in the nose immediately — then please, for the love of humanity, reevaluate your choices.)
Well, now, I have an answer that doesn’t require me to either toss aside societal norms or avoid playing the clips altogether. Instead, I turn the volume all the way down on my phone, start playing the clip, and then tap the Live Caption button in my volume control.
And just like that, I can read along with the video or audio as if it were a text-based article.
I don’t have to stick with that tiny little box that pops up by default, either. A couple quick taps on it, and bam: It’s expanded into a larger, more-pleasant-to-follow-along-with view.
If you’re able to hear without issue, it’s easy to write a feature like this off as something you don’t need. Heck, you might not even give it a second glance. But lemme tell ya: I’ve been relying on it way more often than I would’ve expected. And it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite Android 10 features — a small-seeming detail that makes a meaningful real-world difference in what my phone’s like to use.
Live Caption is available only on the Pixel 4 as of now, but Google says it’ll be rolling out to the Pixel 3 and 3a phones later this year and then to other Android devices sometime in 2020.
When it shows up on your phone, take my advice: Don’t let its accessibility branding fool you. Make yourself a mental note that it’s there and then remember to tap into it when the right moment arises.
It truly will change the way you use your phone — and maybe, just maybe, also change the level of undetected glaring being aimed in your direction.
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The “Reset This PC” feature has been around since Windows 8, but it’s changed a lot since then. Microsoft keeps making it better and better, and it’s easy to miss all the improvements. Cloud Download is just the latest, most visible one.
How “Reset This PC” Works
The Reset This PC feature makes it “almost like you just opened your PC for the first time,” according to Microsoft’s Aaron Lower, a project manager in charge of Recovery at Microsoft, in a Windows Insider webcast. If you’re selling or giving away your PC, you can erase your files and even wipe your drive so your data can’t be recovered. If you’re experiencing a PC problem or just want a clean Windows system, you’ll get that fresh Windows OS.
When resetting your PC, you can choose to either keep your personal files or have them removed from your PC. Either way, Windows will remove your installed programs and give you a fresh operating system.
To reset a PC, head to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery or choose the Troubleshoot > Reset This PC option in the Advanced Startup Options menu. This menu opens if you have problems booting your PC, but you can also open it by holding the Shift key while you click the “Restart” option in the Windows Start menu or on the login screen.
Under the hood, Windows will gather the files it needs and basically create a new Windows installation. It will migrate your personal files, if you choose, as well as hardware drivers and preinstalled applications to the new system.
Windows Recovery goes a long way back. “Recovery partitions” began in Windows XP and were also used by Windows Vista and Windows 7. These were separate partitions containing a compressed copy of Windows and the manufacturer’s customizations, and you could restart your PC and boot into them to restore.
On Windows 8, the “Reset This PC” feature exposed the recovery feature in a standard way—PC manufacturers didn’t have to build their own recovery features. While Windows 8 didn’t use a recovery partition, it supported “recovery images” that it restored from. You could even replace the recovery image with your own—for example, uninstalling
On Windows 10, the “Reset This PC” feature has always worked differently from how it did on Windows 8. Windows 10 uses “imageless” recovery. Instead of having a recovery image take up space on the drive, Windows 10 creates a fresh copy of Windows by assembling files present in the Windows installation. This means no storage space wasted on a separate recovery partition. Also, any installed security updates are preserved and not discarded, so you don’t have to update everything after going through the recovery process, as you did on Windows 7.
Fresh Start Integration for Removing Bloatware
“Fresh Start” is now integrated into Reset This PC. This lets you restore a Windows 10 PC without restoring all the manufacturer-provided software—some of which might be useful, but much of which is definitely bloatware that clutters and slows down your PC.
Previously, this feature was hidden. You had to go through Windows Security to find it. Lower said this project was a “parallel effort” alongside Reset This PC at Microsoft. It uses the same recovery tech as Reset This PC under the hood but doesn’t restore those manufacturer-provided applications.
To use this, you’ll be able to go through the Reset process, access additional options, and deactivate the “Restore preinstalled apps?” option. This will make Windows perform a “Fresh Start” without the manufacturer provided software—like reinstalling Windows.
Microsoft’s Lower called the Windows Security option a “secret squirrel entry point” and said Microsoft would be discontinuing it. It makes sense for Fresh Start to be integrated into Reset This PC rather than being buried in Windows Security, which is an almost entirely separate application.
For now, the Fresh Start option is still available at Windows Security > Device Performance & Health. Click “Additional Info” under Fresh Start and click the “Get Started” button.
Starting with the October 2018 Update, Windows 10’s recovery environment can now uninstall quality updates. These are the smaller updates Windows installs on Patch Tuesday, for example. If an update caused a problem and your PC can’t reboot, you can use the Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Uninstall Updates option in the Advanced Startup Options menu to restore it rather than digging through a Command Prompt window and looking for the most recent installed KB.
The “Uninstall latest quality update” option will uninstall the last normal Windows Update you installed, while “Uninstall latest feature update” will uninstall the previous major once-every-six-month update like the May 2019 Update or October 2018 Update.
This feature may sound pretty technical, and few people may use it, but there’s some good news: Windows will automatically use it when it detects a problem with an update. So, if an update renders your Windows 10 system unbootable or causes another major issue, Windows 10 will automatically uninstall that quality update when it goes through the restore process. You don’t even need to know this feature exists.
Before this automatic feature, only seasoned administrators who knew what they were doing could uninstall updates from the recovery environment.
Coming Soon: Cloud Download
Cloud Download is the latest exciting feature. As Lower writes on Microsoft’s blog, the standard imageless recovery—now known as “Local Reinstall”—“can take more than 45 minutes and cannot always repair Windows if the installation is in a really bad state or is too corrupted.”
The new Cloud Download feature will let you reinstall Windows from the cloud rather than using your local copies of files. If you have a fast internet connection, it can be faster than using Local Recovery—and it “can be a more reliable way” of recovering Windows, too. It’s just like using the Media Creation Tool to download Windows onto a USB stick and restore your OS, but it’s built right into Windows 10, and you can do it in a few clicks.
To use this feature after Windows 10’s 20H1 update becomes stable, head to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Get Started. After selecting either “Keep my files” or “Remove everything,” you’ll be prompted to choose “Cloud download” or “Local reinstall.”
Lower explains how it works in more detail on Microsoft’s blog. It works like you might expect it to. Windows will download the files it needs from Microsoft’s servers, create a new root operating system folder, migrate files like drivers from your current installation, and then swap the operating system’s root folder.
In the future, Microsoft’s Lower said that Microsoft would be simplifying the overall interface by removing those “secret squirrel entry points” like the Fresh Start button in Windows Security.
Also, he said he hoped to do more with Cloud Download—rather than using the machine’s local hardware drivers during the reinstallation, he would like Windows to download the latest, freshest hardware drivers instead. That’s just an aspirational goal, and there’s no guarantee Microsoft will do this.
Lower also said he’d be interested in whether people would want Cloud Download to let them upgrade to newer builds or downgrade to older builds, so that’s another possible feature for the future.
Whatever Microsoft ends up doing, Windows recovery has already come a long way from even the days of Windows 7, when you had to use a manufacturer-provided recovery partition or just reinstall Windows from scratch.
Microsoft announced Calls on stage at a Samsung event in August, but this feature is coming for all phones with Android 7 or newer. Part of the Your Phone app, “Calling” is now rolling out to Windows Insiders.
If you have an Android phone, the Calls feature will let you answer phone calls on your PC, initiate phone calls from your PC, access your call history in the Your Phone app, and seamlessly transfer calls between your PC and Android phone while on a call. You can even decline a call from your PC and send a custom text message in response or just send it to voicemail.
All you’ll need is an Android phone running Android 7.0 or newer and a Windows 10 PC with a Bluetooth radio—no specific Bluetooth version number or hardware features necessary, unlike with phone-to-PC screen mirroring.
Eventually, Microsoft says this feature will just work as long as you’re using Windows 10 19H1 (that’s the current stable May 2019 Update) with an operating system build number of 18362.356 or newer. For now, it’s being rolled out to Windows Insiders using the development builds of Windows 10’s 19H2 update, which will likely become stable sometime in October.
Many consumer SSDs claim to support encryption and BitLocker believed them. But, as we learned last year, those drives often weren’t securely encrypting files. Microsoft just changed Windows 10 to stop trusting those sketchy SSDs and default to software encryption.
In summary, solid-state drives and other hard drives can claim to be “self-encrypting.” If they do, BitLocker wouldn’t perform any encryption, even if you enabled BitLocker manually. In theory, that was good: The drive could perform the encryption itself at the firmware level, speeding up the process, reducing CPU usage, and maybe saving some power. In reality, it was bad: Many drives had empty master passwords and other horrendous security failures. We learned consumer SSDs can’t be trusted to implement encryption.
Now, Microsoft has changed things. By default, BitLocker will ignore drives that claim to be self-encrypting and do the encryption work in software. Even if you have a drive that claims to support encryption, BitLocker won’t believe it.
This change arrived in Windows 10’s KB4516071 update, released on September 24, 2019. It was spotted by SwiftOnSecurity on Twitter:
Microsoft gives up on SSD manufacturers: Windows will no longer trust drives that say they can encrypt themselves, BitLocker will default to CPU-accelerated AES encryption instead. This is after an exposé on broad issues with firmware-powered encryption.https://t.co/6B357jzv46pic.twitter.com/fP7F9BGzdD
Existing systems with BitLocker won’t be automatically migrated and will continue using hardware encryption if they were originally set up that way. If you already have BitLocker encryption enabled on your system, you must decrypt the drive and then encrypt it once again to ensure BitLocker is using software encryption rather than hardware encryption. This Microsoft security bulletin includes a command you can use to check whether your system is using hardware or software-based encryption.
As SwiftOnSecurity notes, modern CPUs can handle performing these actions in software and you shouldn’t see a noticeable slowdown when BitLocker switches to software-based encryption.
BitLocker can still trust hardware encryption, if you like. That option is just disabled by default. For enterprises that have drives with firmware they trust, the “Configure use of hardware-based encryption for fixed data drives” option under Computer ConfigurationAdministrative TemplatesWindows ComponentsBitLocker Drive EncryptionFixed Data Drives in Group Policy will let them reactivate the use of hardware-based encryption. Everyone else should leave it alone.
It’s a shame Microsoft and the rest of us can’t trust disk manufacturers. But it makes sense: Sure, your laptop might be made by Dell, HP, or even Microsoft itself. But do you know what drive is in that laptop and who manufactured it? Do you trust that drive’s manufacturer to handle encryption securely and issue updates if there’s a problem? As we’ve learned, you probably shouldn’t. Now, Windows won’t either.
I’ve been thinking a lot about gestures lately — not friendly gestures, mind you, or even not-so-friendly gestures of the single-fingered variety, but rather the sorts of gestures we swipe onto our screens and use to get around our phones.
Android 10, as you probably know by now, introduces a whole new system of gestures into the operating system. And, well, they’re kind of a mixed bag.
Now, don’t get me wrong: Android 10’s gestures have absolutely gotten better since their awkward debut early on in the development process. And by and large these days, they’re pretty pleasant to use (once you get used to ’em, anyway). But they still have really some vexing elements involved — ways in which using them feels clunky and completely suboptimal. And I’ve finally put my finger on exactly what those issues are.
The good news? They’re flaws that Google could address relatively easily in a future update. The bad news? Until that happens, Android 10’s gestures are gonna remain annoyingly awkward and occasionally irritating. Yes, you can perform some crafty finger-magic to work around these issues — as I suggested in my collection of Android 10 gesture tips earlier this week — but workarounds aren’t long-term solutions. And the vast majority of regular phone-owners are never even gonna know such options exist.
Here, then, are the flaws Google needs to focus on and resolve in order to push Android’s gestures forward and smooth out their still-slightly-rough-around-the-edges nature.
The issue: The biggest lingering flaw with Android 10’s gestures is both simple and supremely frustrating: When you swipe your finger on your screen, you often don’t know what result you’re going to get — and the action that ends up happening frequently isn’t the one you were trying to achieve.
Almost all of this revolves around Android 10’s new Back gesture, specifically, which trades the traditional Android Back button for a swipe inward from either the left or the right side of the screen. The problem is that that same gesture overlaps with and directly conflicts with a fair amount of existing actions within the operating system.
The most prominent among those — and one we’ll address in more detail in a moment — is the opening of an app’s main menu, frequently known as a navigation drawer. But that’s far from the only place where this problem appears.
A few examples I’ve encountered numerous times myself over the past several days:
When swiping through images in Google Photos, you swipe in from the right side of the screen to move forward one image and from the left side of the screen to move back. But guess what happens roughly 20 percent of the time on those swipes? The software interprets your gesture as being the system-level Back command — and then, instead of taking you to the next or previous image, it dumps you out of the full-screen photo view entirely and back onto the main Photos home screen. The difference between a back action within the photo view and a Back command at the system level is literally a single millimeter on your screen, and it’s impossible to predict with any consistency which result you’re going to get on any given attempt.
When doing on-device editing in an app like Snapseed, AZ Screen Recorder, or any number of other similar utilities, you frequently move your finger along sliders (either on-screen or invisible) to adjust an image’s or a video’s qualities. And, yes, that horizontal sliding motion is in direct competition with the Android 10 Back gesture. Start your finger just slightly too close to the edge of your screen — even when it’s well within the app’s boundaries for its function — and you end up backing out of the editing screen entirely and potentially even losing your work.
When using an app with a list of items that can be swiped away to be archived — Gmail, Messages, Keep, and countless others — it’s all too easy to try to activate the system-level Back command to exit out of the app and instead find yourself swiping away an item and archiving it inadvertently. I’ve accidentally archived several emails and other items in this manner, and by the time I realize what happened, it’s often too late to figure out what I sent away by mistake.
The answer: Instead of relying on app developers to cook up a magic fix for avoiding these sorts of instances — something that clearly isn’t an effective option, especially considering that Google’s own apps are among the worst offenders — Google needs to come up with clear, consistent rules that make it impossible for apps to interfere with the Android 10 Back gesture. And then, it needs to actually enforce them.
That means the way we’re accustomed to interacting with many of these apps will have to change. Horizontal swiping gestures will have to become much more limited in scope than they are right now — perhaps with actions emanating from the center of the screen instead of the edge — or they’ll have to be phased out entirely in favor of some other less problematic pattern. Either arrangement is better than having two gestures that conflict with each other and result in unpredictability.
And, crucially, it’s up to Google to make this a firm, non-negotiable requirement that app developers have to follow if they want their apps to be compatible with Android 10 phones. That’s the only way consistency will happen — and the only way that using Android 10 gestures will become a reliably good experience.
That leads us right into our second fatal flaw…
The issue: As it stands now, Google’s taking a rather wishy-washy, weak-seeming stance on committing to its new gesture setup. Sure, the new Android 10 Back gesture involves a swipe in from the side of the screen — but what’s that you say? Your app has a menu drawer that also involves a swipe in from that very same area? Well, gosh, all right, then. Let’s find a way to make everyone happy.
Here’s a news flash: Trying to please everyone tends to result in a less-than-ideal experience for everyone — and in the case of Android 10’s Back gesture, that’s absolutely what we’re seeing play out. The software’s method of having two slightly different variations on the same gesture for opening an app’s menu drawer and activating the system-level Back command is clunky and impossible to master. And the inclusion of a buried “Back Sensitivity” setting to (theoretically) allow the user to adjust how often one action or the other occurs is just plain silly.
The answer: Instead of trying to make everyone happy — and creating an awkward compromise on every side of the situation — Google needs to commit wholeheartedly to its new gesture system and adjust the rest of the environment accordingly. In other words, don’t awkwardly try to cram in support for two overlapping and conflicting patterns; just change the damn behavior and then stick with the decision.
That ultimately means getting rid of the swipe-in pattern for app navigation drawers, getting rid of the clunky two-in-one setup and the accompanying setting to support that duality, and reserving the swipe-in-from-the-side action exclusively for the system-level Back function. Force app developers and phone-owners to accept the idea that app drawers are opened by tapping the menu icon instead of sliding inward. Make a decision, take a stance, and treat it as a true platform-wide standard.
Changing basic operating system patterns certainly isn’t easy, but approaching such a shift with consistency and commitment is the only way to make it effective — and that, my fellow screen-swipers, is what we need to see happen if Android 10’s gestures are gonna get any better.
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Look, Google’s Android 10 gestures aren’t perfect — no two ways about that. But for all the negative attention the new navigation system rightfully receives, it’s actually come a long way since its painfully awkward debut in an early Android 10 beta.
And you know what? At this point, warts and all, the Android 10 gestures are actually pretty pleasant to use — once you give yourself the chance to get used to ’em.
Part of that simply boils down to a matter of adjustment, as a change like this is inevitably gonna be a bit of a shock at first. But part of it is also a matter of figuring out some subtle tricks to make the most of Android 10’s gesture setup. Some of the tricks may seem obvious, once you consider them, while others seem almost like unintentional inclusions. But all of them go a long way in making the new gestures faster, smoother, and more effective to use.
I’ve been fiddling around obsessively with Android 10 gestures for far too long now. Here are 10 tricks I’ve uncovered that’ll let you move around your phone like a pro.
1. Learn a new app menu gesture
One of the most glaring flaws with Android 10’s gesture setup is the way the new Back gesture — where you swipe in from the left side of the screen — overlaps with other actions already present throughout the operating system.
The most common of those is the gesture for opening a drawer-style menu within an app, like you see within Gmail or Google Photos. Google created an awkward mechanism for differentiating between swipes meant for going back and swipes meant for opening an app menu, but it’s clunky, inconsistent, and generally just too unpredictable to rely on.
Here’s the better way: When you want to open an app’s menu drawer, swipe in upward from the left side of the screen at a 45-degree angle. That’ll consistently pull up the app’s menu instead of activating the Back command, as frequently happens when you swipe in a more straight-across, horizontal line.
Another option worth remembering: You can also swipe in with two fingers to open an app’s menu every time. Or, of course, you can simply tap the three-line menu icon in the app’s upper-right corner instead of swiping at all.
2. Remember that the Back gesture actually works in two places
If you’re anything like me, you probably think of the Android 10 Back gesture as living on the left side of your screen — but don’t forget: You can swipe your finger in from the right side of the screen, too, and accomplish the exact same result.
Strange as that redundancy may seem on the surface, the idea was to make the Back gesture convenient and comfortable to access no matter how you like to hold your phone. So if you’re more of a right-hand-holder, stop stretching and try swiping in from the right side of the screen for an easier and more natural-feeling experience.
3. Don’t forget about the universal Assistant gestures
One of Android 10’s most easily overlooked gestures is its Assistant-opening command, which actually works from anywhere in the operating system — regardless of whether you’re on your home screen or using an app.
This gesture, too, works in two different ways: by swiping upward at a diagonal from the lower-left corner of the screen or by doing the same thing from the lower-right corner. The lower-left corner seems to be the spot I veer to by default, but I’ve found the Assistant-opening command is actually much more consistent and easy to access via the lower-right corner swipe-up option.
Unlike its left-living equivalent, the right-dwelling Assistant gesture doesn’t overlap with other common system actions (like that pesky app-menu opening command) and is basically guaranteed to work on your first try every time.
4. Master the Overview-opening timing
Android 10’s gestures make the Overview screen — that area of the software where you can see all of your recently used apps and move quickly between ’em — a little less accessible than it used to be. But the Overview screen is actually still pretty easy to pull up, if you take the time to practice and master the associated gesture.
The trick is to swipe up in a straight line from the bottom of the screen and then stop and lift your finger quickly after about an inch — right where the top of the shaded card with the search box and app suggestions appears.
If you do that enough times, you’ll get a feel for exactly where you need to stop, and you’ll be able to open your Overview area quickly and consistently, almost without fail.
5. Tap into Overview’s hidden swipe option
Once you’re in the Overview area, you can tap on any app’s card to open it — or, in what I find to be a faster and more natural-feeling move, you can swipe down on the card to accomplish the same thing. That way, you go from a quick swipe up to open Overview (and perhaps a short swipe over to find the card you want) to another similar swipe-oriented gesture.
6. Swipe through apps in Overview the secret way
Another hidden Overview trick: While looking at your list of recently used apps, in addition to swiping directly along the cards themselves, you can swipe on the bottom navigation bar to move through your apps and find the one you want. A gentle, short swipe will move left or right one app at a time while a harder, longer swipe (ooh, baby) will quickly move you from the start of the list to the end.
7. Head home from Overview in a hurry
If you open your Overview screen and then decide not to move to another app, there’s a hidden shortcut for going back to your home screen in a jiff: Just swipe down on the shaded card with the search bar and suggested apps.
If you’re in more of a tapping sort of mood, a quick tap of the upward-facing arrow in that same shaded area will accomplish the same thing.
8. Swipe between apps in a non-blind manner
One of Android 10’s most frustrating gestures, if you ask me, is the command to swipe in either direction on that bottom-of-screen bar and move backwards or forwards in some sort of hypothetical “app continuum.” It’s a concept borrowed directly from iOS, and it’s one of the worst parts of Google’s setup.
The problem is that no normal person is ever going to remember exactly what order their recently opened apps appear in — and so more often than not, you end up flipping blindly and hoping you eventually land on the app you want. It just isn’t an effective way of getting around, and it usually ends up requiring you to go through several recent programs before actually stumbling onto the right one.
Here’s a smarter way to use that gesture: Instead of just swiping left or right on that bottom bar, swipe and move your finger up at the same time. That’ll let you see previews of the apps in either direction and then intelligently decide if the one you want is there before just automatically opening it — kind of like a hybrid of fast-swiping and going into Overview. The higher you move your finger, the smaller the previews will appear and the move of them you can see at once.
When you find the app you want in the list, just slide your finger back down to the bottom of the screen, in a single motion, to open it.
9. Embrace the new ‘Alt-Tab’ shortcut
The one time that bottom-bar-swiping gesture can be handy is when you want to jump directly back to the last app you used — something that, unlike an entire continuum, typically is pretty easy to remember. And Android 10 has a useful function built in for that very purpose.
Just like in the Pie gesture setup (and similar to the old double-tap-the-Overview-key command in earlier Android versions), you can quickly flick the bottom-of-screen bar to the right to open your most recently used app — whether you’re in another app or on your home screen.
Here’s where things get slightly funky, though: You’d think you could then flick the bar to the left to go back to where you came from, right? Kind of like a back-and-forward sort of command? Well, you can — but only for a very limited amount of time. If you fast-flip to your most recently app and then want to go back where you came from within about five seconds, you can flick the bottom-of-screen bar to the left to go back.
After about five seconds, though, that app will change positions in that confusing-as-hell continuum and move from the right of your current app to its left — meaning that if more than five seconds have passed, you’ll need to flick the bottom-of-screen bar to the right to go back.
Like I said, this bar-swiping system in general is by far the worst and most ineffective part of the Android 10 gesture setup. But once you figure out that little distinction, this part of it is reasonably easy to get around.
10. Don’t overlook universal access to your app drawer
Perhaps the best part of Android 10’s gestures is also a part that’s all too easy to forget about: the way the setup makes it possible for you to access your entire app drawer from anywhere in the operating system. That means you can easily open any app without having to first return to your home screen, thus saving yourself extra steps and making the act meaningfully more efficient.
To get to your app drawer from anywhere, first swipe up once from the bottom of the screen — using that same one-inch-stop rule we talked about in item #5 — then lift your finger off the screen and swipe up a second time.
Android 10 doesn’t have a similar sort of gesture for opening the notification panel from anywhere, unfortunately — but if you have a phone with a physical fingerprint scanner, you may be able to set your phone up to open both the Quick Settings panel and the full notification panel with one or two swipes on the sensor. Look for the “Gestures” menu within the System section of your system settings to see if the option is available for your device.
And with that, my friend, congratulations are in order: You’re officially now an Android 10 gesture master. Well-done, you nimble little mammal. You deserve a swipe on the back.
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Well, gang, it’s here. In case you’ve been hibernating over the past week (or maybe just, ahem, on an unfortunately timed week off), Google brought Android 10 into this wacky ol’ world of ours this past Tuesday.
There’s really only so much to say about the Android 10 basics at this point — because, quite frankly, it’s the same software we’ve seen evolving in plain view over the past several months.
Yes, Android 10 has new gestures for getting around your phone. Yes, it has a new system-wide switch for making the entire operating system dark. And yes, it has a nifty new Focus Mode for limiting distractions on an app-by-app basis.
Those are the most prominent features of the Android version formerly known as “Q” — but y’know what? An Android release’s headlining features are rarely the full story. And that’s never been more true than it is with this latest Google-made effort.
Android 10 has quite a few quietly important improvements — under-the-hood changes that enhance your phone’s privacy, security, and performance as well as the ways apps are able to interact with your device and your data. They’re arguably among Android 10’s most significant additions, in fact — the real reasons, as I’ve noted approximately 7.2 bajillion times before, why Android upgrades absolutely matter and why it’s a cryin’ shame that it takes most phone-makers so damn long to deliver ’em.
Most of those improvements will just be there and operational whenever Android 10 makes its way to your phone, whether you’re aware of ’em or not, but one change — a particularly important one — will bring you its full benefit only if you seek it out and take a few minutes to configure it.
It’s Android 10’s ability to let you take control over exactly how and when apps are able to access your physical location — something that’s been a yes-or-no, all-or-nothing-style switch up til now. As of Android 10, you can allow an app to access your location only when you’re actively using it, which makes an awful lot of sense for a lot of scenarios and keeps you from having to let an app log your location around the clock for no apparent reason, just because it occasionally needs access to that info.
Why allow an app like Lyft, for instance, to have access to your location all the time? Or an app from a grocery, a pharmacy, or your favorite meat-on-bun-serving destination (pickles optional)? Giving those sorts of entities perpetual access to your whereabouts can certainly benefit them, if they choose to use that data in any number of ways we’d rather not dwell on too closely, but it doesn’t have much of any advantage for you — and now, you can say “no thanks” while still allowing the app to see your info when it’s genuinely needed.
Here’s the catch, though: If an app was able to access your location at all prior to Android 10, it’ll already have permission to do so all the time when Android 10 arrives — because you granted it that permission previously, back when it was a binary, yes-or-no kind of option. That means for any apps you had installed prior to the update, it’s up to you to go back and revisit the permission and then tighten it up as needed.
Luckily, the process is pretty simple; you just have to know to seek it out and do it. And by golly, wouldya look at that? Now you do.
Just follow these four steps, and you’ll be as golden as a curiously gold-colored goose (who, if we’re being completely honest, probably needs to seek out immediate medical attention):
Enlightened human step #1: Go to the Privacy section of your system settings and tap the “Permission manager” option.
Enlightened human step #2: Find and tap the line labeled “Location.”
Enlightened human step #3: At the top of the screen that appears next, you’ll see a section showing the apps on your phone that are allowed to access your location all the time — meaning whether you’re actively using them or not. You’ll know you’re looking at this section because it’ll have a header that says “ALLOWED ALL THE TIME.” (Sensible, no?)
Look through the apps in that list and carefully consider whether each one really, truly needs access to your location all of the time, even when you aren’t actively using it. In some cases, that may well be warranted — like, for instance, with a weather app, which updates its information regularly based on where you are, or with something like the Google app or Google Keep, both of which deliver location-based reminders and thus need to know where you are at any given moment. But for most apps, your location should really be relevant only when you’re actively using the thing.
Enlightened human step #4 (the last one — look at you!): For any apps that you determine don’t need your location all the time, tap the app’s title and then change its setting from “Allow all the time” to “Allow only while using the app.” (Or, alternatively, if you see something in the list that you conclude doesn’t need access to your location at all, change it to “Deny.”) Then hit the back arrow in the upper-left corner of the screen, and you’ll see the app move down to the appropriate section.
Once you’ve made your way through all the apps in the list, give yourself a hearty thud on the vertebrae and celebrate — for you’re officially all caught up. Huzzah! (Thud, thud, thud.) If you ask me, you’ve earned yourself a meat-on-bun treat from that favorite meat-on-bunnery of yours.
Celebratory beef or not, though, from here on out, you should be set for smooth sailing: With any app you install from this point forward, the system will ask you to choose its level of location access the very first time you use it (or the first time it tries to sense your location in any way). It was just the updating of preferences for existing apps that took the extra set of steps and was advisable to tackle proactively.
So whether you have Android 10 on your phone already or are looking forward to getting your musty paws on it one day in the near (to, uh, maybe-not-so-near) future, make a mental note of this process — and be sure to take full advantage of the new privacy-reclaiming powers Android 10 grants you.
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Microsoft is already working on Windows 10’s 20H1 update. Expected sometime around April 2020, this will likely be Windows 10 version 2003. It’s much bigger than the upcoming 19H2 update but still feels like a collection of useful improvements.
Microsoft is advertising a “new Cortana experience” with a “brand-new chat-based UI.” You can now type queries to Cortana rather than say them out loud. The history of your conversation with Cortana will appear as if it was a chat window, so you can see the results of recent queries just by opening Cortana from the taskbar.
Beyond the new design, Microsoft says it has “updated Cortana with new speech and language models” as well as “significantly improved performance” of the voice assistant. It supports both Windows 10’s light and dark themes, too.
Cloud Download for Reinstalling Windows
Windows 10 has a new “Cloud Download” option you can use when resetting your PC to a default Windows system. When you head to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery and choose to reset your PC and remove everything, you can now tell Windows to use “Cloud Download.” Rather than reinstalling Windows 10 from the files on your local system, Windows will download the most up-to-date version of Windows 10 and install it on your system.
File Explorer has a new search experience. When you type in the search box, you’ll see a dropdown menu with a list of suggested files. It will also search for files in your OneDrive account online—not just files on your local PC.
You can still access the more powerful, classic search experience by pressing Enter. This will allow you to search non-indexed locations, for example.
Bandwidth Limits for Windows Update
The Settings app now gives you more control over how much bandwidth is used for downloading Windows updates. In current versions of Windows, you can set a bandwidth limit as a percentage of your bandwidth. Windows 10 20H1 will let you set a precise “Absolute bandwidth” limit in Mbps for more accurate throttling of downloaded updates. This option was previously available in Group Policy but is now available to everyone in Settings.
To find the update bandwidth limiting options on any version of Windows 10, head to Settings > Update & Security > Delivery Optimization > Advanced options.
Microsoft will build its own Linux kernel and ship it with WSL 2, and that Linux kernel will be updated through Windows Update. You can also build your own Linux kernel and make Windows 10 use it. You don’t have to think about any of this, though—WSL 2 has the same user experience as WSL 1 and will “just work” without any extra configuration.
WSL 2 promises “dramatic file system performance increases” and “full system call compatibility.” That compatibility means support for technologies like Docker that wouldn’t run on the original WSL 1.
Windows 10’s Task Manager now displays your disk type—SSD or HDD. This makes it easier to see what hardware is in your computer, and it can help you tell which disk is which if you have multiple disks in your system.
This information is displayed on the Performance tab. Open the Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc) and click “More Details” to find it.
GPU Temperature in the Task Manager
That’s not the only new feature the Task Manager is getting. The Task Manager’s performance tab will also display your GPU temperature, too. Assuming you have a graphics card with a new enough driver—it must support the WDDM 2.4 driver model—you’ll find this information on your GPU’s status page under the Performance tab, too. This also only works with dedicated graphics cards, not integrated or onboard GPUs.
This is just the latest GPU-monitoring feature in the Task Manager. Previous updates added features like per-process GPU usage, overall GPU usage display, graphics driver version information, graphics memory usage, and hardware details.
When you’re using a 2-in-1 PC with a touch screen, and you have no keyboard or mouse connected, it can make the traditional desktop interface a bit easier to use. For example, the taskbar icons will be further apart, File Explorer will be optimized for touch, and you can use windows on your desktop.
Microsoft says this isn’t a replacement for Tablet Mode, but convertible PCs will no longer automatically enter Tablet Mode when you remove the keyboard or flip them around. Instead, they’ll enter this new touch-optimized experience. Microsoft is backing off on Tablet Mode on 2-in-1 devices and making the classic Windows desktop easier to use on a touch screen.
In a surprising change, Microsoft has moved Notepad to the Store. It will now be automatically updated through the Store, allowing Microsoft to update Notepad more frequently than once every six months. You can uninstall Notepad, too.
Microsoft new lets you “Make your device passwordless” with a new option on the Settings > Accounts > Sign-in page. It sounds awesome and futuristic, but really it’s just a new setting that requires everyone on your PC sign in with a PIN or another Windows Hello sign-in method like face or fingerprint unlock.
Renaming Virtual Desktops
Windows 10’s virtual desktops, available in the Task View interface that appears when you press Windows+Tab on your keyboard or click the Task View icon on the taskbar, are getting more configurable.
Rather than being stuck with the default names of “Desktop 1,” “Desktop 2,” and so on, you can now rename them. Microsoft says you can simply click the name of each virtual desktop at the top of the Task View interface, but this didn’t work for us yet. Maybe it’s still in development.
As Microsoft points out, you can even use emojis in the names. Just press Windows+. (period) to open the emoji picker and enter an emoji. This emoji panel works in nearly any text field in Windows 10.
Improved Network Status Information
The network status page at Settings > Network & Internet > Status has been redesigned. It now shows all the network interfaces you have available at the top of the page. For example, both Wi-Fi and Ethernet will be shown here if you have a PC with both.
Microsoft says this new interface will “provide more information at a glance about your device’s connectivity, combining several pages to give you one clear view of how you are connected to the internet.”
Windows will also display your data usage for each interface right on this page, so you don’t have to go elsewhere in Settings to see how much data you’re using.
To find this option, head to Settings > Accounts > Sign-in options. Under Restart apps, toggle “Automatically save my restartable apps when I sign out and restart them after I sign in” if you’d like to turn this off.
Previously, this option was somewhat hidden and merged with the “Use my sign-in info to automatically finish my device” option, which read “Use my sign-in info to automatically finish setting up my device and reopen my apps after an update or restart.” These are now two separate options.
A Header in Windows 10’s Settings App
Microsoft has been experimenting with a banner in the Settings application for a while, and it’s back in 20H1 Insider builds. The new banner appears at the top of the home screen in the Settings window, showing your picture, name, and a link to manage your Microsoft account online. It offers quick links to your OneDrive and Windows Update settings and information about their status.
Thankfully, Microsoft hasn’t included advertising for Microsoft Rewards (formerly Bing Rewards) here this time.
Text Cursor Indicator
You can now adjust the size and color of Windows 10’s text cursor indicator—that little line that appears to show you where you’re typing in an application.
To find this option, head to Settings > Ease of Access > Text Cursor. Enable the new “Text Cursor Indicator,” choose a size, and pick a color that’s easy for you to see. You can select any custom color you want.
Windows 10’s Language settings page at Settings > Time & Language > Language has been reorganized to be easier to use and understand. For example, it now shows you the default selected languages for Windows, apps and websites, your keyboard, speech, and regional settings right at the top of the screen.
Dictation also gets better. Microsoft now supports more languages when using dictation—to use it, press Windows+H while typing in any text field.
Microsoft has done a lot of work on the East Asian Microsoft Input Method Editors (IMEs). There’s a new Japanese IME and improvements to the Chinese and Korean IMEs.
As usual, Windows 10’s 20H1 update is packed with smaller tweaks and bug fixes. Here are a few:
Mouse Cursor Speed in Settings: Windows 10 now lets you set your mouse cursor speed from within the Settings app at Settings > Devices > Mouse. Previously, this option was only available in the Control Panel.
Better Account Picture Settings: Windows 10 now makes it easier to set your account picture in Windows and across various Microsoft services. Head to Settings > Accounts > Your Info to set an account picture. When you set a picture here, Windows will now quickly update it both on your local Windows computer and across various Microsoft services—assuming you’re signed into Windows 10 with a Microsoft account.
Optional Features Gets Better: The Optional Features page under Settings > Apps & Features > Optional Features is getting a better interface. You can now select and install multiple features at once, search available features, and sort them in different ways. You can see the date each feature was installed and view the status of feature installation at the top of this page.
Wi-Fi Warning Redesign: Microsoft also says it’s changing how open Wi-Fi networks appear in the Wi-Fi list. Windows 10 will no longer display an “Other people might be able to see info you send over this network” warning message before connecting to an open Wi-FI network, which Microsoft says is confusing. Instead, there’s a new icon for secured Wi-Fi networks to more clearly emphasize you should connect to those.
Windows Search Speedup: Windows search will get faster on developer PCs by default, too. The Windows search indexer will now “exclude common developer folders, such as .git, .hg, .svn, .Nuget, and more by default.” Performance will improve while compiling and synchronizing code.
Accessibility Improvements: Microsoft has also updated the accessibility features with more new options and improvements. For example, there’s a new command in Narrator to give a web page summary (Narrator+S).
Install MSIX Files Without Sideloading: System administrators will find that installing an MSIX file no longer requires enabling Sideloading in Settings or via Group Policy. Previously, installing these required enabling sideloading—just like on Android. Now, as long as the MSIX file is signed, a Windows 10 system can install it like any other application. Enterprises can still disable this type of sideloading via policy settings, but that’s no longer the default mode.
With so many months left to go, more features will certainly appear in future Windows Insider previews. We’ll update this article as they do.
Microsoft is now rolling out “a new tablet experience” for convertible PCs. This is a beta, but it looks like that Windows 8-style Tablet Mode is being replaced with a more touch-friendly desktop environment.
Tablet Mode on Windows 10 PCs today is a full-screen experience. When you switch to tablet mode—either manually by clicking the tile in the Action Center or automatically by converting your PC into a laptop—your applications become full-screen. You can use apps side-by-side, but you can’t use windowed applications or interact with the desktop anymore.
Your Start menu is also replaced with a full-screen Windows 8-style Start screen. Taskbar icons vanish and you have to use Task View to move between open windows. Even the notification area icons on your taskbar vanish.
In the latest beta, which is part of Insider build 18970 for Windows 10’s 20H1 update, expected to be stable in the first half of 2020, Microsoft says it’s changing all this.
Microsoft says people who enable Tablet Mode will “stay in the familiar desktop experience without interruption.” Rather than a whole different way of using Windows, the desktop is just made a bit more touch-friendly. To make the desktop easier to use with touch, the taskbar icons become farther apart, the search box on the taskbar becomes a button, and File Explorer switches to a more touch-optimized layout. It’s like using Touch Mode in Microsoft Office.
The touch keyboard will automatically appear when you tap a text field, making it fast and easy to type with the touch screen.
Microsoft says this is only for convertible 2-in-1 PCs, so Windows 10 tablets that can’t transform into PCs may still have the old Windows 8-style touch interface. It may also change as Microsoft gets feedback and experiments with this new mode.
If all goes to plan, this new Tablet Mode will be polished up and released with Windows 10 20H1 sometime around April 2020.
This latest build also features the new Cloud Download feature for restoring your PC. Windows 10 can now automatically download the latest version of Windows 10 from Microsoft and install it as part of the restore process, saving you some download time later.