New Windows 10 build brings smarter Cortana, messaging experiences

Cortana on Windows 10

Microsoft just released a new build of Windows 10 to consumer testers in the Fast ring. Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 10565 brings a number of features that are expected to arrive in next month's anticipated Threshold 2 update, and it appears that Microsoft is beginning to publicly test these feature enhancements through its Windows Insider program.

The biggest feature of the release is a unified messaging app for Windows 10 that integrates Skype messaging, calling and video. The app also brings message notifications to the Action Center, and to help you multitask, you can even quickly respond to messages using Quick Reply.

The universal Skype messaging experience is Microsoft's answer to Apple's FaceTime and Messages app on OS X. In addition to Windows 10 for the desktop, Microsoft will also be bringing this universal and integrated Skype experience to Windows 10 Mobile, which will debut on the company's new Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL flagship smartphones.

Cortana gets smarter

If take handwritten notes, Cortana's overhaul aims to please. Now, Cortana can understand your handwritten notes, and the digital assistant can set reminders based on the context of your scribbled notes. She'll be able to understand location, dates and phone numbers, said Gabe Aul, Vice President of WDG Engineering Systems team at Microsoft, in a blog post.

The feature is similar to Samsung's Action Memo on the company's S Pen-enabled Galaxy Note series.

Cortana also does a better job with helping you manage your personal time by monitoring your emails for movies and ticketed events. It will set a reminder two hours prior to showtime, give you an option to book an Uber ride and provide you with map and travel information.

Edge improvements

Additionally, the Edge browser was also updated with new improvements and features. Once you open multiple browser tabs in the Edge app, you can hover over each tab to get a preview of the webpage. This allows you to glimpse the content of your tab without actually having to click into the tab and switch to that view.

Microsoft is also working on synchronization improvements with Edge, bringing a better sync experience to Favorites and Reading list items.

Visual improvements and more

There are some subtle visual improvements with the new Windows 10 build. Title bars are more vibrant, there are now new icons and contextual menus on Start have new tile adjustment icons.

Additionally, a new mode aims to simplify printer selection by making the last used printer your default printer.

Windows activation is now also easier. If you perform a clean install of Windows 10, you'll be able to activate Windows by entering the product key from the version of Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 you're activating from.

Crossing the "Threshold"

Microsoft is rumored to have already commenced work on Windows 10's successor, code named Redstone, which will arrive after the Threshold 2 update. Details about Redstone's features are not known at this time.

"I understand the first Redstone builds have been compiled within the 11xxx range, giving Microsoft plenty of room to finalise and sign off on Threshold 2 soon," Winbeta reported. "It also appears Build-Feed has spotted the first of redstone development branches, rs1_onecore_mqbase1."