It may be tough to find a library-quiet corner of a bustling office or home to get some work done, but the expanded Quiet Hours feature for Windows 10 can at least help keep the distractions at bay.
Presently users can do little more than turn Quiet Hours on and off, similar to the "do not disturb" mode on smartphones, but that will soon change.
Windows 10 Insider preview build 17074 introduces an improved version of Quiet Hours, a setting that blocks notifications and other concentration-shattering interruptions. Not only does the feature allow users to carve out a couple of focused and productive hours out of a busy day, it can help prevent embarrassing, potentially career-ending notifications from various applications.
In the latest preview build, Quiet Hours is automatically triggered when users mirror a display, ensuring that a presentation in front of a conference room full of colleagues isn't interrupted by a coworker's or loved one's ill-timed messages. Not only can Quiet Hours can be used to tame a busy workday, it can also help gamers stay in the zone.
When a full-screen Direct X game is running, Quiet Hours is switched on automatically, blocking notifications that yank players out of the game, noted Dona Sarkar, a software engineer in the Windows and Devices group at Microsoft and head of the Windows Insider early-access program, in a Jan. 11 announcement. Direct X is a set of 3D, display and audio APIs used by many game developers.
Quiet Hours will also allow users to define a schedule as well as set exceptions for certain contacts or applications. Cortana users looking to strike a healthy work-life balance can configure the feature to turn on automatically when they arrive at home.
Build 17074 also marks the start of international language pack distribution through the Microsoft Store app marketplace and using artificial intelligence to improve on how the operating system is delivered to international users.
"We have also started utilizing Artificial Intelligence and neural network-based Machine Learning for Windows localization," revealed Sarkar. "Having the Local Experience Packs in the Microsoft Store allows us to take advantage of ML improvements and user feedback via Language Community App to release better translations more frequently. This will consistently improve the experience of our international customers with Windows."
The preview build also contains a bevy of Microsoft Edge enhancements, including a revamped Hub interface.
Hub is a pane that collects the browser's favorites (bookmarks), history, downloads, e-books and reading list. According to Sarkar, it has been redesigned with categories that make it easier to find desired content. For avid online shoppers, Edge can now automatically fill out credit card information to speed up the checkout process. To help prevent fraud, CVV (Card Verification Value) numbers are not stored, she noted.
Near Share, an AirDrop-like file transfer feature that debuted in build 17035, has been receiving reliability tweaks and Microsoft continues to streamline Windows Settings for a more intuitive way of configuring the operating system to a user's liking.
More information on the new capabilities and bug fixes is available here.