Smarter Cortana, Bluetooth Enhancements Coming to Windows 10

Microsoft's Cortana virtual assistant helps users pick right up where they left off and new Bluetooth features puts the OS in touch with the latest smart devices.

Cortana Upgrades 2

Microsoft's latest Windows 10 test build (15007) contains updates that will help users quickly resume tasks when switching PCs in the upcoming Creators Update.

Like any helpful assistant, Cortana will point users in the right direction when they pick up a Windows laptop or tablet.

"When you switch computers, Cortana will display quick links in the Action Center to help you easily get back into the Microsoft Edge websites and SharePoint (or other cloud-based documents) you used most recently," explained Microsoft software engineer and head of the Windows Insider early access program, Dona Sarkar, in a blog post. "For example, if you were working on a PowerPoint deck on your laptop, when you later return to your desktop, a link to that deck appears in Action Center."

Additionally, Cortana will now use new notification grouping capabilities to organize alerts by type. On Windows 10 Mobile, Cortana gains more recurring reminders, allowing users to get a notification of their choosing each month or year.

To help users switch to its Edge browser, Microsoft is introducing one-stop data import capabilities that transfer saved passwords, browsing history, bookmarks and other data from another browser. Users can now share sets of browser tabs and elect to run downloads from the start instead of selecting a download location. The company also added a new "Save As" option, allowing users to change a download's file name.

The Edge browser on Windows 10 Mobile allows users to zoom into web pages up to 500 percent despite a website's zoom settings. As a result, the text resizing option in the Ease of Access settings no longer scales text automatically.

Bluetooth gets a boost in Build 15007 and its companion (SDK) software development kit. The company has added a handful of new features aimed at helping Windows connect to more devices and enable developers to open up new ways of interacting with wearables, smart home equipment and other Bluetooth-enabled gear.

Among them is the GATT (Generic ATTribute) Server functionality that works with Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) devices, which allows developers to extend the app experience to compatible smartwatches and other electronics.

"For example, a Windows Phone (Client) reads data from a heart rate monitor (Server) to track that a user is working out optimally," wrote Microsoft Program manager Kiran Pathakota, in a separate blog post. "Windows has traditionally been a GATT Client but with the Windows 10 Creators Update, Windows can operate as the Server as well."

Windows 10 also gains unpaired device connectivity capabilities and a Generic Access Profile (GAP) peripheral role that enable in-app pairing and a variety of new interaction models with devices and apps that don't require users to switch to the Settings page to manually pair with Bluetooth devices.

Windows Hello, Microsoft's biometric login technology, now includes features such as improved face-tracking guidance and feed-back to help users set up the feature faster and smooth out the sign-in process.

Once logged in, users will notice that their scroll bars, at least in Universal Windows Platform apps, perform differently. A slim bar representing the current viewable region turns into a full blown clickable scroll bar when users hover a mouse over it.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...