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Windows 10 Creators Update: Microsoft's best just got better

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (image: dpa)

One of the key reasons Apple’s (AAPL) Mac became so popular was that, in addition to its good looks and powerful performance, it catered to creative types. And in creative circles, consumers still think of Apple as the go-to computer.

But Microsoft (MSFT) wants to change that with the latest update to its Windows 10 operating system: the Windows 10 Creators Update. Available April 11, the Creators Update is designed to serve as the backbone of Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality capabilities. Originally called Windows Holographic, Windows Mixed Reality will allow developers to create mixed reality devices like Microsoft’s Hololens for the consumer market.

You won’t see much from those updates in the near term, though. What you will see, however, are improvements to things like Microsoft’s Edge browser, enhancements for playing and streaming video games and a new 3D version of paint called, appropriately enough, Paint3D.

I’ve been using the update for the past week, and its improvements to Edge and gaming alone are worth the download.

Push it to the Edge

Google’s Chrome might be the most widely used web browser on the internet, but Microsoft is doing everything it can to topple Google from its perch with its Edge browser. For the Creators Update, that means adding a new way to manage the litany of tabs you open each day.

As a journalist, I generally have between 5 and 50 tabs open in my browser at once. And at the end of the day I end up struggling with whether I should just close them all or permanently bookmark them. To solve this problem, Microsoft has added a “set aside” feature for your tabs.

With Tabs You’ve Set Aside, you don’t have to worry about losing all of those web pages you had open.

Available by clicking a small button in the top left corner of the Edge browser window, set aside lets you literally set your tabs aside so you can open and use them later. That’s a huge help for people, like me, who do a lot of research online and don’t want to lose their work when it’s time to call it quits. It’s also helpful if you’re doing research and need to hold on to a few tabs for later.

When you want to recall your old tabs, you just click the “Tabs you’ve set aside” button and a panel will slide out from the left side of the screen showing all of the tabs you’ve previously set aside.

In addition to being able to set aside your tabs, the Creators Update brings tab previews to the Edge browser. Normally when I’ve got 20 tabs open, they end up running together and become hard to tell apart. With tab previews, you can mouse over a tab and see a visual preview of the page. It’s a small improvement, but should prove incredibly helpful, especially if your tabs have a good deal of images. Text-heavy pages, on the other hand, can be a bit difficult to tell apart.

The new Tab Preview in the Windows 10 Creators Update makes browsing multiple tabs far easier.

Gaming for the masses

If you’re a PC gamer, you’re running Windows. That’s just how it goes. Naturally, Microsoft is keenly aware of this fact, so it’s working to improve the gaming experience in Windows 10 with two new features: Game Mode and Beam.

Game Mode is designed to optimize your Windows PC for gaming, ensuring that system resources are going towards your game rather than other programs. The idea is to provide gamers with more regular framerates, so you don’t experience any annoying screen tearing or hiccups that happen when your computer doesn’t have enough resources to handle a certain aspect of a game at the moment.

To enable Game Mode, you’ll have to open the Game Bar by pressing the Windows and G keys at the same time. From the Game Bar you’ll need to click the settings button. Click the box next to “Use Game Mode for this game,” and you’re set.

Windows 10’s new Game Mode ensures your game always run as smoothly as possible.

Don’t expect Game Mode to let you play high-end games on an underpowered system from 5 years ago, though. The feature only helps manage the resources your computer already has available. If your PC can’t run a game out of the box, Game Mode won’t do anything to help.

Outside of Game Mode, the Creators Update brings Microsoft’s Beam game streaming service to both Windows 10 PCs and Xbox One. Beam is Microsoft’s version of Amazon’s Twitch streaming service and allows gamers to not only watch and comment on other people’s games, but stream their own games out to the world, as well.

Streaming is a big business and is only expected to grow in the coming years, so adding Beam to PCs and Xbox One is a wise decision. What’s more, unlike Twitch, Beam doesn’t require an additional download outside of updating your operating system, which gives Microsoft an enormous install base right out of the box.

3D art for all

Microsoft’s Paint is the program everyone used to draw swear words to pass the time in typing class. At least I did. But except for a few updates, Paint is still, well, Paint. With Windows Creator Update, though, we’re finally getting a whole new version of Paint called Paint 3D.

Windows 10’s new Paint 3D gives everyone the ability to create 3D art.

As its name implies, Paint 3D lets you create and manipulate 3D objects in real time. The program is surprisingly easy to use considering you’re working with 3D models and allows you to create entire 3D landscapes. Beyond just creating a 3D work of art that you can show off to your mildly impressed friends, Paint 3D lets you print your art via your own 3D printer or by sending it out to a printing service. Now you can finally make objects out of the terrible abominations you consider art. Isn’t the future great?

The best part of the Creators Update, though, is that it lets you better schedule your software updates. So instead of your computer restarting to install updates at the least opportune time, like when you’re in the middle of filing your taxes, you can defer updates for up to 35 days.

Stay tuned for our full review of the Creators Update in the coming weeks.

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Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.