Late this week, Microsoft released Windows 10 Insider Build 15025, a significant milestone on the way to the release of the Windows 10 Creators Update, which should be out by April 1.
At this point, the company has for all intents and purposes reached feature lock for the functions that will be appearing in the new OS update and is turning its attention to bug fixes. This Bug Bash process kicked off Friday with a series of Quests for Insiders to try out, hopefully uncovering and reporting potential issues in the process.
I was planning to test and write a review for a new low cost pen display from Yiynova this weekend, but the UPS shipment was delayed. This gave me time to seriously explore the bug bash quests.
Although I’ve been using Insider Builds since the Creators Update was first announced in November, following these quests unearthed a series of new pen and Windows Ink uses that I hadn’t noticed until yesterday. Some are definitely fresh from the oven, others may have been hiding in plain sight for months. But all should be useful to creative users.
Windows Ink Workspace – Sketchpad
The eraser tool now has four options: stroke eraser, small eraser, large eraser and erase all ink. The new small and large erasers behave like traditional tools found in paint programs like Photoshop.
The Protractor tool is now a circular ruler that displays the angle as you draw. It can be positioned and resized with gestures. I’m hoping that Microsoft will allow users to pin its center for drawing concentric circles and reduce the smallest size, which is currently too big.
The straight edge ruler now displays angle of rotation.
Selecting the share tool now brings up a window with compatible programs, all Windows Store apps. Now it’s very easy to share notes and sketches via Twitter, Facebook Messenger, Mail and many others.
Microsoft is getting a lot of grief from users of MS Paint who fear their old-time favorite will soon be abandoned. (See below for more on its controversial replacement Paint 3D.) The fact is that Sketchpad will handle nearly all of the functions previously performed in Paint. It only needs text support, some basic shapes and a grid display to fit the bill.
Windows Ink Workspace – Screen sketch
The most common use I ever had for Paint was when I needed to clip, copy and paste something from a screengrab.
The Screen sketch app found in the Windows Ink Workspace makes this common task much easier. The app now contains all of the enhancements listed above and adds a new “resume previous sketch” function.
Until now, if you did a screengrab, began an annotation but needed to return to your desktop, you’d lose your work unless you saved it. To resume annotations on the saved image, you’d have to move to another application.
Now, if you leave your screen sketch unsaved, one previous screen sketch is always available for you to reload. This is a real timesaver!
Screen sketch is still lacking the text and shape functions I mentioned above that would make it truly feature complete vis a vis MS Paint.
Edge browser web note UI refinements
No major new ink functionality has been added to the browser, except for minor changes to the UI.
The web note icon is now more obvious: a pen with trailing ink stroke and the web note tools have all been moved to the right side of the menu bar.
I like this new icon and think Microsoft should consider replacing the current Windows Ink Workspace icon on the desktop. The pen with figure 8 stroke behind it is difficult to decipher, I think.
Unfortunately, the web note snipping tool is not copying to the clipboard on my SP4 running 15025, but this bug will hopefully be squashed soon. The function works fine on previous versions.
Photos app allows video playback and annotations
I’ll admit that I don’t often use many of the standard Windows 10 apps, so I only began to explore the Photos app because of the Bug Bash challenges.
I’ve always assumed that it was only a photo viewer, but the program has evolved into an interesting image editor with ink capabilities of its own.
You don’t need an Insider Build to test these out. The app runs perfectly on Windows 10 1607, which was released in July.
What I never would have noticed without the bug bash prompt was that Photos is also a video player and its ink features allow you to annotate video on the fly. When you save your video, the ink layer is rendered into the final file and it will draw on and off during playback.
Playback controls are a little wonky in Insider Build 15025 on my Surface Pro 4. On my Surface Book running the current release version of Windows 10, I can pause, make a note at a precise point and resume playback. I can see incorporating this feature into a variety of workflows.
As I wrote above, many users are complaining vociferously about the pending deprecation of venerable Microsoft Paint. As a 3D guy, I was delighted by the focus on 3D during the unveiling of the Creators Update. I played with the Paint3D Preview as soon as it became available and found it to be very easy to use for simple 3D illustration and doodling.
I haven’t circled back to it for over a month and I’m sorry to report that it’s not working nearly as easily as I remember. The integration with Remix3D, Microsoft’s new 3d mesh sharing community, is no longer obvious. There are still no transformation tools for scaling objects and the interface for translating meshes in 3d space only works in the 2D view. The top down 3d view has been rendered useless.
In the meantime, straight forward functions that many people (not me) relied upon with tried and true Microsoft Paint are not available or difficult to find. It's possible many mouse users aren't exploring the Ink Workspace apps and are unaware they handle 80% of Paint's tasks. But if you need to add text or shapes to your image, Paint 3D may soon be the only standard app available for the task.
I hope the company walks back its plans to abandon the legacy app with the new release. Paint 3D developers need to bring back earlier functionality and the Windows Ink Sketchpad and Screen Sketch tools need to be brought to feature parity with MS Paint. Then and only then should the old program be retired.
That’s all that I’ve found for now. With the possible exception of Paint 3D, the new update will indeed live up to its name and be a welcome gift for all creative users.
If you spot a new enhancement that I’ve missed, please leave a comment below.