Microsoft is on the cusp of launching Windows 10 19H1, version 1903. It was previously anticipated that the firm would launch this new update in March 2019, and then later in April, but the update has been delayed until May.

Unlike the Windows 10 Creators or Anniversary update, there’s really nothing big in this update. No new standout wow features. You’ll probably not even nothing much change in your workflow. What there is in this update is refinement, lots and lots of refinement to existing features.

Windows Shell Updates

The largest update to the Windows Shell is the light theme. Sure, Microsoft has featured a light theme on Windows since its inception but much of the work done recently has been on the relatively newer dark theme. With that done, Microsoft is working on reshaping the light theme so that it is more comprehensive.  Sure, Microsoft’s Windows 10 has highlighted its dark theme for months, and Google and Apple are implementing dark themes on all their operating systems, light themes still have their value. It’s easier for the human eye to make out dark on light than the other way round, despite current aesthetic preferences.

With the new Windows 10 light theme, the taskbar, Start menu, Action Centre are now lightened up. Cortana remains dark, though Search also takes on a light theme.

The Fluent Design system has been implemented on more parts of the general UI, so you’ll see more of the reveal effect in the task bar, Start menu and context menus. The Windows login screen for one is also now acrylic and now features a blurred effect like macOS and Chrome OS.

Finally, Microsoft has added a few small updates to the Start Menu, users on this will be able to unpin groups of apps from the menu. This is helpful in cases where users may want to unpin the apps Microsoft recommends on clean installs of Windows (like Candy Crush because its 2019).

With the Action Center, aside from the new light theme, Microsoft has added a brightness slider there and a shortcut to let you customise all the quick actions there without needing to head to the main Settings app.  

Of course, with Microsoft taking a step back from the UI, users should be aware that the firm is taking a more minimal approach to Start. Just saying that if you do like it now, don’t get too attached.


Cortana and Search

Cortana on the Windows 10 19H1 is taking a step away from the forefront of the UI. Microsoft is splitting up Cortana and Search to take up two different slots. If you want Cortana, you’ll get Cortana. If you want Search, you’ll get Search.

“When it rolls out to you, you’ll find clicking the search box in the taskbar now launches our experience focused on giving you the best in house search experience and clicking the Cortana icon will launch you straight into our voice-first digital assistant experience,” Microsoft’s Dona Sarkar said.

The new Search Experience with Windows 10 19H1 has been improved in this release. Aside from the new UX, Microsoft has also added a new feature that allowed Windows to search all your drives with ‘Enhanced’ Search. Current versions of Windows limit it to the default folders like Documents, Pictures and Desktop. A one-time indexing will make your searches almost instant, and with the demarcation of Email, Web, Apps and FIles, you won’t get the mixed up results that plagued Windows users for years. Though the web search still leaves a little to be desired (yes, I meant the animal tiger.)

Microsoft Chrome

This isn’t technically part of the Windowsn10 19H1 release, but its an important part of Windows going forward. Microsoft has built a new version of Edge that works with the Chromium engine. If that sounds familiar, it’s because its the same thing that powers Google Chrome.

In essence, this version of Microsoft Edge is Microsoft Chrome, with all the Google bits swapped out for Microsoft bits. And not only does it have much of the same features that Chrome does, but the things it doesn’t have –like extensions and themes — can be added without much hassle by the user.

Microsoft is still working on this browser, and we’re not quite sure when it will be ready, but its almost there.

Windows Sandbox

Windows Sandbox is an isolated, temporary, desktop environment where you can run untrusted software without the fear of the lasting impact on your PC. Any software installed in Windows Sandbox stays only in the sandbox and cannot affect your host. Once Windows Sandbox is closed, all the software with all its files and state are permanently deleted. If you’re someone who installs apps from untrusted sources regularly then Sandbox might be the perfect solution for you. Read more about it here.

Miscellaneous Additions

Remember how we said this was the refinement update? We’ve gone over the most interesting bits of 1903 here, and now all we have are the buts that you’ll only notice if you really really pay attention to the nuts and bolts of using your PC.

For instance, Windows will now reserve 7GB of storage on your PC to help installing updates. Will you miss this much on a 128GB or 256GB PC? Probably not, but it’ll help make your PC updates less likely to fail. The Settings app has been tweaked so you can jump right into your Microsoft Account and/or manage your OneDrive files easily. Is it something you’ll be using frequently Again, probably not, but its something that can be done faster for when you need to do it.

There’s a whole bunch of other bitty features like this, so I’ll just bullet point them:

  • Game Bar has been overhauled with Spotify integration, easier meme creation, and more.
  • Microsoft will scale legacy apps properly by default instead of making you dig through the settings menu.
  • You can now uninstall UWP system apps like: 3D viewer, Calculator, Calendar, Groove Music, Mail, Movies/Films & TV, Paint 3D, Snip & Sketch, Sticky Notes, and Voice Recorder because you were probably never using them anyway.
  • Users can now manually sync the system clock with Microsoft’s own time servers if they feel its drifting out og sync.
  • For Windows Insiders, an option has been added to opt out of the Insider Preview when a new version of the in-development software is completed.
  • Speaking of updates, Windows Update’s new UI makes things like pausing updates and active hours more immediately obvious to the user.
  • You’ll now know whenever your microphone is being used by the presence of a microphone icon in the system tray.
  • The mouse cursor can be resized with a slider.

The Bottom Line

Microsoft’s Windows 10 19H1 may be boring, but that’s partly because a) there’s only so much you can add to a system before you start adding things for their own sake, and b) it’s being more honest to how people use their PCs People don’t use the in-store apps, so Microsoft is making it easy to jettison them. People don’t like the app-ads on the Start Menu, so you can now get rid of them in one fell swoop. Edge is falling behind Chrome, so here’s a new version of Edge that’s just like Chrome.

We’re not there yet, and in an ever-evolving world where needs and requirements change day by day, we’ll never be. But the Windows 10 19H1 shows us that Microsoft is, in fact, paying attention to what its users want.

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