Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Windows 10 in 2017. The changes you need to know about

Windows 10 in 2017. The changes you need to know about

Microsoft has laid out its plans for yet more major updates next year. Mike Plant explains what they are and how you’ll be affected

There are few certainties in life. Taxes, death, and as one year ends another will begin, which leads us to another sure-fire certainty: Microsoft will update Windows 10 again in 2017. We’re not talking about a little polishing and tweaking either, rather a major overhaul as the so-called Creators Update sees the light of day.

Muscling its way on to your PC in Spring, it’s likely to cause the same level of upheaval as the Anniversary Update. But hopefully it’ll all be worth it. We examine the changes, both confirmed by Microsoft and strongly rumoured (see below).

Paint 3D

The headline feature of the Creators Update is a rethink of Windows’ staple creative software Paint. The new Paint 3D app is capable of building 3D models… if you have sufficient skill, patience and time. The idea is that you can either start a 3D sketch from scratch, or take photos of objects using your phone and import them into Paint 3D.

Participants of the Windows Insiders Program (see below) can already try the Paint 3D Preview. Just sign up for the Insider Program, then search for Paint 3D in the Windows 10 Store to install it. As it stands Paint 3D will replace the traditional Paint, but you can restore it by uninstalling Paint 3D.

How useful will it be?
We don’t use Paint, preferring instead the superior editing features of ( when editing the images used in Computeractive. That said, if you use your PC to draw, you’ll probably want to give it a try. You can watch Microsoft’s video at in which the company outlines the creative potential of Paint 3D.

‘Pick up where you left off’

This new feature seems so obvious that we wonder why Microsoft hasn’t introduced it before. The idea is that all your devices – PCs, phones and tablets – monitor the device you’re using at any given moment. Then, if you move to another device, you see the option to continue what you were doing previously (to pick up where you left off, which is the actual name of the feature). For example, if you’ve been writing a letter in Word on your laptop, that same letter will appear on your desktop PC, with the cursor positioned exactly where you left it. The same practice could be applied to software, browsers and games.

How useful will it be?
It could be very useful, but it really depends on how many PCs, tablets and phones you own. The process is also heavily reliant on Cortana, so if you have disabled Microsoft’s digital assistant you’ll need to re-enable it to make use of the feature. Microsoft has also been cagey about its compatibility with Android  and Apple devices. For it to be of much use it will need to work with non-Microsoft tablets and phones.


If your taskbar is already cluttered, look away now, because it will soon have to make room for photo thumbnails of your friends. MyPeople will make the friends and family you contact most readily accessible, so that – with only a couple of clicks – you can text or call them via Skype, email them or collaborate with them on an Office document.

MyPeople’s most useful feature is likely to be the ability to drag and drop a photo or video file on to a contact’s thumbnail to share it with them. Thankfully, you will be able to restrict how many contacts appear by right-clicking the MyPeople icon on the taskbar to customise your contacts, or disable MyPeople altogether.

How useful will it be?
Sharing files with friends should become easier. The big unknown is how MyPeople works with non-Microsoft programs. If it can’t work with email software made by other developers – eM Client and Thunderbird, for example – then this could be a missed opportunity.

Mail app

The Microsoft Community PC help site is weighed down by complaints about the Mail app (see, for an example). Microsoft will look to resolve some of these in 2017 by adding new ways of managing emails – you’ll finally be able to forward an email without having to open it first, for example.

How useful will it be?
The full list of improvements has yet to be confirmed, but it will have to be extensive for the Mail app to replace the likes of eM Client or even Windows Live Mail. The jury’s out until we know more.

Action Center

We’ve got used to having easy access to brightness, volume and other settings on tablets and phones for years. The same kind of access is heading to a PC near you soon. Windows 10’s new Action Center adds volume and brightness sliders, shrinks the Quick Action icons to a sensible size and displays maps and other information based on your upcoming calendar appointments.

How useful will it be?
You can already adjust your PC’s volume by clicking the speaker icon on the taskbar, and adjust screen brightness by clicking Start, Settings and Display, so there’s little new here besides a tad more convenience.

Edge tabs

One small but intriguing change promises to be how Edge handles tabs. You’ll be able to set aside any open tabs then access them using the ‘Tabs I’ve set aside’ option. This lets you scroll back through previous weeks and restore any tabs you set aside during that time. This doesn’t replace the time-honoured method of adding web pages to your favourites, but could be a welcome alternative.

How useful will it be?
We can’t see this replacing the favourites tab, so it’s unlikely to amount to anything more than a handy option.

Groove Music Maker

If you’ve ever wanted to compose your own music, this brand new app is for you. Though not officially announced, it was featured in a video shown at Microsoft’s Creators Update press event in late October.

How useful will it be?
The blink-and-you-miss-it clip showed an app that looks similar to Apple’s GarageBand, which could be good news for Windows owners who have long looked at this simple but powerful app with envy. Much will depend on your own musical talent, of course.


With no no major facelift since 2012, Movie Maker, Microsoft’s easy-to-use video-editing tool, is starting to show its age. Rumour has it ( that the 2017 update will have a new Movie Maker app – and the update’s creative theme would certainly back that up.

Microsoft, Apple and Google are looking to release tools that dim your screen during the evening, helping you to get a good night’s sleep. Apple currently has a head start having already released Night Shift for iOS, and now Microsoft is believed to be working on similar software.

The Office Hub is meant to put Office’s programs and your recent documents front and centre on the Start menu, or perhaps in the Action Center – we await official confirmation. This will add yet another way to access Word and Excel, and probably your email and calendar (as if there weren’t enough already).


Register for the Windows Insider Program and you’ll get a sneak preview of 2017’s updates. Click Start, Settings, ‘Update & security’, Windows Insider Program, then ‘Get started’ Microsoft provides instructions. You’ll need a Microsoft account to take part and you may have to wait 24 hours to receive the initial Insider update on your PC.

While it’s great for trying the latest features, the Insider Program means you’ll get even more Microsoft updates. And, because they’re largely untested and potentially unstable, they can slow or crash your PC. If this happens to you, you’re probably on the ‘Fast’ version of the Insider Program. To change this, return to the settings and select Slow from the ‘Choose your Insider level’ dropdown menu to receive fewer updates. This means you’ll only receive Insider features that have been tested for longer, meaning they’re likely to be more reliable.