A major update to Microsoft's Windows 10 system will start reaching consumers and businesses on April 11, offering 3-D drawing tools, game-broadcasting capabilities and better ways to manage your web browsing.
This "Creators Update" also aims to make future updates less disruptive.
Microsoft said Wednesday that it will roll out the Creators Update to some 400 million Windows 10 devices worldwide over time. Though there's no set schedule, devices that came with Windows 10 installed will likely get the update first. That will make it easier for Microsoft to work out kinks for older devices, which are potentially more problematic.
Once you get it, here are five things to check out.
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Throughout the day, you're likely using your web browser for a variety of tasks — researching a trip, checking the news and, gasp, doing actual work. Having all those websites open at once could prove cumbersome.
Windows 10's Edge browser now has a small icon on the upper left corner for setting aside a group of websites. Say, your deadline on a work project is rapidly approaching. Just hit the button to clear out website tabs for your Caribbean getaway. When you're ready to return to trip planning, hit an adjacent icon to restore those tabs you've set aside.
You can set aside multiple groups; the most recent ones appear on top. When things get rough, you can scroll down to check the set of job search sites you set aside weeks ago.
Though browsers let you bookmark sites, you probably don't want permanence for trips and short-term projects. Once you restore tabs using the new feature, you'll need to set them aside again when you're done for future access. And tabs won't sync across devices.
Last year's "Anniversary Update" introduced Windows Ink, the ability to highlight, mark and otherwise doodle on documents with a finger or stylus, provided you have a touch-screen computer.
Updated Windows apps for Microsoft's Maps and Photos will let you do more. Though the apps are available separately, getting the Creators Update ensures you have them.
In Photos, you can draw on photos and videos with virtual markers and share your creations with friends. For example, you can circle that guy in the background and call attention to how goofy he looks.
For maps, you can mark a specific spot in a park for friends to meet. Technically, you can already do that with web versions of Google, Bing and other maps, so long as you're using the Edge browser and its doodling function. Microsoft's Maps app offers extras. For instance, you can have the app calculate the distance of the bike route you're tracing; be sure to first hit the "measure distance" icon (the one with the red diagonal).
Ink would have been great for a new e-book feature coming to Windows. Microsoft is now selling e-books through its online store, and books open as a tab in Edge, with no separate app needed. But Microsoft says Ink is disabled on e-books because of publisher restrictions.
Paint, a graphics app Microsoft first shipped with Windows 1.0 in 1985, is getting a major refresh. You can now create images in 3-D .
Start by pressing the cube icon at the top. You can create 3-D images from scratch or choose an object, such as a cylinder, a fish or a person. You can get additional models from a 3-D online community called Remix and even share your creations there. You can add stickers, such as eyes, by tapping the icon to the right of the cube.
Play around to get a feel for all the capabilities. Expect lots of trial and error — and frequent use of the "undo" button.
3-D images created through paint will be compatible with 3-D printers and printing services.
A game mode optimizes the computer for gaming. Other tasks can still run in the background but won't consume as much of the system resources. Game mode is on by default; you can turn it off through a new central location for system-wide game settings (individual games might still have their own settings).
Windows 10 also gets a broadcasting service called Beam, which Microsoft bought last year. Before, to share live streaming of game play, gamers had to install and activate Beam or a competing service separately.
Although Creators Update is only the second major update since Windows 10's release in 2015, Microsoft has issued many smaller ones along the way. They often require a restart and can come at inopportune times — such as the start of an important meeting. Users with the Home edition of Windows 10 had no options for postponing updates.
Microsoft says it has listened and will give all users the ability to schedule a time or defer updates for three days. This doesn't mean you can avoid updates forever, but it gives you more say over when.