Microsoft Windows updates shouldn’t really be stressful, but they often are. If you’ve been around computers for most of your life, you’re probably old enough to remember when Windows updates weren’t as reliable as they are now. You were never quite sure if your aging machine would be able to cope with the size of the download or whether your drivers would still work after the update was done. At the back of your mind, you also tended to wonder how much beta testing Microsoft had done before setting the update live and whether you were going to run into issues.
Those concerns are now largely a thing of the past. Windows 10 updates tend to be smooth, easy to schedule, and tailored for your individual machine. Unless your hardware is ancient, it shouldn’t bite off more than it can chew, and all your software and devices should still work the same way they did before once the update is complete. You still get sensationalist headlines telling you that the update might give you the dreaded “blue screen of death,” but that’s the exception rather than the rule.
The latest ‘big’ Windows update happened a few days ago, so your machine should have downloaded and processed it already. If it has, here are the big changes you need to know about.
Every Tab Can Be Opened At Once In Edge
This is long overdue. If you’re someone who works with multiple tabs open when you’re browsing the internet – which is pretty much all of us these days – it can be annoying constantly having to click through the active tabs one at a time. It’s even more annoying if you have so many tabs open that you can no longer read their titles, and you’re not sure where you left the one you really need. Fortunately, that’s now a thing of the past.
By pressing Alt & Tab together, you can now see all of your active tabs at once. This is something that Chrome and Firefox users have taken for granted for years, and we’re not sure why Microsoft is so late to the party, but we’re glad they’ve finally made it. For times when you have ten or more tabs open, you may not actually want to see all of them at once, but Windows has a fix for that. Enter your settings menu and configure the command to show you only the three or five tabs you’ve looked at most recently if that would suit you better. When you’re flitting between the same few tabs rapidly, this is a time and labor saver.
There Are Huge Browser Privacy Upgrades
Microsoft’s default browser is no longer the runt of the internet litter. Internet Explorer might have died the death that its long history of failure and poor design deserved, but Microsoft Edge is a different animal – and a very safe one. Google memorably issued a security warning to all Microsoft Edge users last year – much to Microsoft’s displeasure – about perceived security flaws, but Microsoft always maintained the risks were overstated. Now they’ve been eliminated altogether.
The cleverest thing Microsoft has done here is make it very difficult for Google to criticize them without also criticizing themselves. In what we can only describe as an example of the bare-faced cheek, Microsoft used Chromium – the open-source version of the Google Chrome browser – as a foundation for the redesigned Edge. When Google decided to make its flagship browser open-source, the company wouldn’t have imagined in a million years that its biggest rival would take them up on the offer, but here we are. Edge now has all the best bits of Chrome with a few Microsoft-built enhancements. Website compatibility has never been better, and the new tracking blocker means that nobody – not even Facebook – can track your movements around the internet if you don’t want them to.
In a neat new side-feature, you can also group interesting websites together to assist you with projects. “Edge Collections” allows you to save whole web pages if you wish, or even just images or blocks of text from the site you’re looking at if that’s all you want. There’s space to add your own notes, and entire “Collections” can be exported in a Word or Excel-ready format for your own use. We can’t imagine how copyright holders feel about this, but the feature is there anyway.
The Start Menu Has Had A Big Upgrade
Microsoft has had issues when making changes to the Start menu in the past. Every time they attempt to modernize it, they face a strong backlash from people who liked the way it looked and worked in the days of Windows 95 or Windows 98 and never want to move on from that format. Attempting to replace the whole menu with a more touchscreen-friendly interface has backfired on them before, so the new Start menu is a fine compromise between the old and the new.
The first thing you’ll notice about the new Start menu is the striking layout. There’s no getting away from the fact that it looks more than a little like a modern online slots website. We half expect to find a link for the Enchanted Prince slot somewhere within the layout. There isn’t, of course, but there are enough changes here to make Windows 10 feel like the enchanted prince of operating systems. It could even be the case that Microsoft has taken a pinch of inspiration from the design of online slots websites in putting this together; they’re very good at putting customers in touch with content quickly, and that’s precisely what the Start menu is there to do.
Most of the changes are cosmetic. The Start menu now “knows” whether you’re running in dark mode or light mode and will adjust its color palette to suit. Eye strain is reduced by toning down the color palette, streamlining the number of options, and making the individual icons stand out more by doing away with solid color backgrounds in favor of a transparent theme. It looks a little retro, but as retro tends to be what most people want from the Start menu, it’s likely to be a well-received change.
Microsoft is always likely to be a big target for critics because it makes most of the software that the world operates on. Nevertheless, Windows 10 and Microsoft Edge are better and more user-friendly than they’ve ever been, and this latest update is the most painless and practical we’ve seen in a long while. Don’t resist the update if you’re holding it off – welcome in the future instead!