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Keeping to Microsoft’s twice-a-year Windows 10 feature update schedule, the next version of Windows has arrived for download.
Known as the Windows 10 October 2020 Update, this release should feel familiar when you install it. It is again modest in size and is focused on patching smaller things, like the May 2020 Update from earlier this spring.
I’ve spent the last few weeks beta-testing the October 2020 Update before its public rollout, examining how it delivers changes to the Start Menu, notifications, Microsoft Edge, and more. And, I think it feels quite refined.
Start Menu gets a fresh coat of paint
Among the first changes, you’ll notice in the October 2020 Update is the revamped Start Menu, which has a new look. It isn’t as intense as the major redesign Apple is seeking with MacOS Big Sur, but for longtime Windows users, it’s quite a change.
Microsoft has pushed new iconography in Windows for a while now, including for stock apps like the calculator, weather app, photos, and the Microsoft Store. The new icons have more color and appear more vibrant. The update’s revamped Start Menu look goes along with that change.
Instead of having solid backplates, app icons and logos in the Start Menu are more transparent. This better shows off Microsoft’s new icons and creates a more consistent look throughout the Start Menu. The Start Menu also looks more minimalist and will better match your system theme. Even the app icons in the all-apps list have changed. They’re now a bit more colorful, with Microsoft removing the squares behind the app names on the list. It’s a clean and refined look.
Notifications, now more noticeable
Windows 10 October 2020 Update also tweaks the notifications. Pop up notifications that go to the Action Center (these notifications are officially known as Toast Tiles) for emails, news alerts, and other system items have a new coat of paint.
Here, Microsoft says the goal is to make notifications more noticeable. New app logos at the top of notifications will make it easier to see where your notification is coming from. There’s also a new “X” at the top of notifications to help you dismiss them to Action Center, replacing the right-facing arrow. You’ll even find a new “. . . ” menu inside the notification Toast Tile, which opens notification settings for that specific app.
There are also changes to the Focus Assist feature, which now hides your notifications. It used to be that when you turn the feature on and turn it back off, you’d get a notification saying it was turned on, with a summary of everything you missed. That could be overwhelming as dozens of notifications suddenly flashed to life. Microsoft has removed this by default, but you can turn it back on if you want.
These small changes aren’t insignificant. They look better, and they’re easier to use at a glance. Like the Start Menu, you’ll deal with notifications every day. Improving notifications makes Windows 10 feel more cohesive.
Say hello to the new Microsoft Edge
Microsoft has already rolled out the new Chromium-based Edge browser through Windows Update, but if you didn’t download or install it manually yet, the October 2020 Update will do it for you.
It’s a positive change. The new Edge is powered by the same rendering engine as Google Chrome, which is quite popular. It delivers a new user interface, faster loading times in webpages, support for more extensions, and even has a “Collections” feature which helps you save webpages, or compare prices when shopping.