After a couple of operating system updates aimed at "creators," Microsoft is turning its attention to helping Windows 10 users make the most of their time.
On April 30, the software maker officially released the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, which contains some new features aimed at helping users stay focused on their work. Although Microsoft typically rolls out major feature updates like this in stages, folks who want to take it for a spin now can manually trigger an update using Windows Update under the operating system's Update & Security settings.
Turn back time
Windows 10 April 2018 Update has a feature called Timeline that allows users to jump back into tasks they were working on during the past 30 days.
Clicking on the new Task View icon, which appears just to the right of the Cortana search bar in the taskbar, or pressing the Windows and Tab keys, will sprout a new view filled with cards representing the apps you were using and the content you were working on. You have the option of using a scroll bar or a search box to find specific items.
For those who use Microsoft's Office apps and Edge browser on their iPhones, iPads or Android devices, Timeline allows them to continue browsing the Web or writing a document in Word when they return to their PCs. It's a handy feature, but it's worth noting that it's a Microsoft-focused affair, at least for now.
If you spend your days immersed in Microsoft's software ecosystem, then timeline may prove invaluable and save you countless hours of searching your Outlook inbox trying to piece together a forgotten project. Time will tell if third-party apps jump on the bandwagon.
Your attention, please
Another big feature is Focus Assist, formerly known as Quiet Hours.
Focus Assist allows users to set aside some time without distracting alerts from email and other apps breaking your concentration. Here's how it works, according to Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft.
"Turn on Focus Assist whenever you want to get things done without distractions, like social media or other notifications. Or set it to turn on automatically at certain times during the day when you want focused time," blogged the Microsoft executive. "When you finish, you receive a summary of what came through, whether notifications, emails or updates, while you were heads down."
As an added bonus, Focus Assist will turn on automatically when you are mirroring your screen, that way your presentations and meetings don't wind up derailed by an inopportune social media status update, chat request or other potentially embarrassing interruption.
After the selected time has expired or the option is toggled off, Focus Assist will generate a summary of what you may have missed. Of course, there may be some notifications that you don't want to miss. In that case, you can set some select contacts, like your boss, whose notifications area allowed to bypass the feature.
Have you given up on Windows' Dictation feature? In the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, Dictation has been improved, allowing users to capture ideas or record information quickly without typing up a storm.
Dictation works within applications like Word or any text field. Hit the Windows and H keys to get started and start turning fleeting thoughts into on-screen notes or documents.
Cortana, Microsoft's virtual assistant technology, has also learned some new skills that allow users to control their smart homes with verbal commands. You can now control compatible ecobee, Honeywell or Nest thermostats, plus other home automation devices.