Microsoft dubs the latest update to Windows the “Creator’s Update,” but don’t let the name fool you. Yes, it offers some goodies to craftsy types, but the update is clearly aimed at getting you to move from third-party apps like Twitch and Chrome by packing more functionality into Windows itself.
Most of the new tools are subtle additions to MS Paint, browsing, maps, and gaming. But they’ll be a core part of Windows going forward, building on the standard code base of Windows 10. Here’s a preview of what you’ll see once Creators Update comes to Windows 10 machines as a free update on April 11.
Paint 3D has been available as a downloadable beta app since October, but Creators Update adds it to Windows 10’s standard set of apps. Think of it as a 3-D clip-art generator with better editing tools: You click a 3-D cube at the top of the program to summon a selection of canned 3-D objects, models, and freeform drawing tools. You can drop in a 3-D model of a man, a dog, or a donut, rotate it 360 degrees on all axes, and go to town with details using standard 2-D drawing tools or “stickers.” Paint’s drawing tools also take on 3-D characteristics when you touch up a 3-D object, so if you place a sticker on a 3-D model, it wraps around the shape like it would in real life.
Building, rotating, and painting a basic 3-D object is exceptionally easy with the new software. I had no trouble “painting” things as I normally would in plain old Paint, and the software automatically turns them into 3-D shapes you can rotate, enlarge, and view from different angles.
That said, it’s still Paint—not a Photoshop replacement. At best, it seems like a fun feature to keep kids occupied. If you have a compatible 3-D printer, though, you can turn those 3-D Paint creations into real-world objects.
Living on the Edge
Creators Update also provides a few reasons to actually use Edge, Microsoft’s not-so-popular internet browser. (You may know it from those annoying “Hey, please use Edge instead” pop-ups you see when using any other browser.) Consider the cool way Edge now handles tabs: Tapping a drop-down arrow at the top of an Edge window opens a thumbnail preview of every open tab. Just the thing when you’ve got 13 of them open.
Edge still stops short of OneTab’s tab-sharing features, but it does let you save groups of tabs you can visit later. It’s a potential time-saver when you need to fire up a specific group of pages for work, research, comparing flight prices, shopping, or whatever else you do online. It still may not make Edge your default browser, but it does scratch a few itches for open-tab junkies.
Why bother gaming if you can’t broadcast your skillz? Microsoft clearly wants to offer a built-in alternative to Twitch by adding a live-broadcasting service called Beam to Windows 10 with this update. Beam also bridges the gap between Xbox One and PC gamers by letting fans of both platforms easily livestream and watch gameplay.
Microsoft says Beam has a few advantages over Twitch, including the fact that it has practically no lag time. That means a better real-time experience for viewers. Depending upon the game, Beam also offers viewer-controllable features like the ability to spawn enemies in the feed they’re watching.
There’s also the new “Game Mode,” which automatically optimizes a system when you’re playing games, devoting more processing power to the games while taking cycles away from background system processes. Like maybe those 47 tabs you’ve got open in Edge.
“As the Crow Flies” Killer
Everyone has a stubborn friend who insists he knows a “shortcut” to wherever you’re going, even though he’s clearly wrong. Creators Update brings a clever tool to the built-in Maps app that can settle those scores for good. If you’ve got a computer with a touchscreen, you can draw a route and get an instant calculation of the distance between two points.
It doesn’t need to be a straight line either. You can meander down alleyways, through parks, whatever. Just tap the pen icon at the top of Maps, select the “Measure Distance” tool, and draw away. After you chart a course, a pop-up flag indicates how far you’ll walk.
As for the distance between the Windows 10 Creators Update and the Windows 10 you know? It’ll be largely imperceptible for most users. Artists and gamers will get the most out of the new tools, especially if they want to 3-D print those chess pieces they just designed. The additions to Edge are sort of handy, and getting instant distance info in Maps is cool. But ultimately, the additions show Microsoft wasn’t kidding about making Windows 10 a constantly evolving platform.