Windows 10 19H1 (1903) update: Top 5 new features

Photo by @stadsa / Unsplash.com

I’ve loved – and yes, I really mean it – Windows 10 since it became available back in 2015. I run Windows 10 on all three of my main machines – two laptops and one beefy workstation, and use this setup for rotating updates when major releases become available. You can check out my thoughts from the 2018 update exactly one year ago here.

The next major release for Windows 10 is called 19H1. Internally, it’s still using the old naming model thus it’s called 1903 (Year: 19, Month: 03). Perhaps someone realized that it’s better to aim for one half of a year than the exact month, so 19H1 works fine. It has nothing to do with H1N1, though.

This release has been in the works for quite some time, and Windows Insiders have had the opportunity to try out the new bits for months now. I’ve been reluctant to hop into that wagon, as there’s often small and large issues that might block me from actually getting work done. And testing in a clean virtual machine is rarely useful, but quite boring; “clicking Start.. oh, it works” style.

19H1 update is being made publicly available for non-Insiders in May. Before this, I’ve needed to enroll back to Windows Insider but only for Release Preview. This allows me to just get the latest stable bits, but not the experimental parts for the next (19H2 or whatever it will eventually be when it’s out) release.

Windows Insider settings in 19H1

The Insider menu is also reworked slightly with 19H1 and it’s more approachable now.

Having used 19H1 for a few days now, I’ve found these 5 features to be my favorites, meaning that I’ll use these on a daily basis now and feel they’re quickly becoming an integral part of using Windows 10 as an IT Pro and developer.

Windows Sandbox

This is so simple it’s simply great. A Windows Containers-based solution for spinning up – rather quickly, I might add – a fresh and clean copy of stock Windows 10 19H1 for testing. I find this very useful for a number of scenarios. I first used Windows Sandbox when Microsoft announced the very first Chromium-based Edge bits. Someone said it’s Edge with Chromium heart, elsewhere I said it’s Edgium. For me, it’s just living on the Edge.

I spun up Windows Sandbox, downloaded the browser and checked out if it works and how. This wasn’t because I wouldn’t trust Microsoft to make quality preview bits but to not mess up with my existing setup with Firefox and Chrome.

To enable Windows Sandbox, simply add the feature in Windows Features. A quick and somewhat neat way to access this view via Windows Run (Win + R) dialog is to type the following:

control appwiz.cpl,,2
Enabling Windows Sandbox in Windows Features on Windows 10 19H1

A fresh Windows 10 container spins up in about 20 seconds on my main workstation (i7 with NVMe SSD and 64 GB RAM). Task Manager shows that only 100 MB of RAM is consumed for this, but that might be a misread because of multiple processes involved. I’m also happy to see that Windows Sandbox does not interfere with Docker-based containers, or Hyper-V in the same host.

Windows Sandbox

There isn’t anything to configure. You run Windows Sandbox and a Remote Desktop-style view opens. The window auto-scales nicely and it’s very, very smooth to use. By default, the container gets 3.9 GB of RAM, and it sees all CPUs and Cores. It won’t see your disks though, but just a local container C: -drive. Note however that you cannot run multiple instances side-by-side.

If you close it, the container is shutdown and changes are discarded. The next time you run it, it’s fresh again. The image the container uses is what Microsoft calls dynamically generated, thus it reuses some system files from disk and generates a compressed image on disk for this. For more information, check out the details here. And for an even deeper technical look and some configuration files you can tweak, see here.

Emoji panel supports Kaomoji

The emoji panel, which was introduced in an earlier update of Windows 10 and is accessible through Win + . now has kaomoji support. And more emojis!

Kaomojis are the esoteric ASCII and non-ASCII characters that make up these useful actions:

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

I’m not sure I really needed kaomoji support but it’s nice it’s there. The emoji panel also has a lot more to offer now. Deal with it (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Sooo many to choose from

Ability to uninstall default apps

I might be the only person on this planet who has zero need for Paint 3D, Sticky Notes, Groove Music, Mail, Calendar, 3D Viewer and other default apps Windows 10 ships with. With 19H1 Microsoft grants the ability to simply uninstall these. Right click > Uninstall and *poof* they’re gone.

I don’t like the forced localization here – “3D-katseluohjelma” = 3D viewer (in Finnish)

I’m sure I won’t save any disk space by doing this, but at least I won’t accidentally run Mail when I needed to run something else that I’m searching through Start.

Light Theme

I forced myself to like the Dark Theme in everything I use. Once you get used to it, it’s quite nice. Until Light Theme was made available in 19H1. It’s.. nicer and designed with a careful consideration I’d say.

You can enable it through Settings > Personalization by selecting Light.

Come to the light side – we have cookies, too

It’s pleasing to the eye, and maybe a little bit less distracting than the Dark Theme which I felt lacked the final touches.

Light Theme in action with 19H1

Default Tab in Task Manager

Admittedly this is a tiny new feature but something I’ve wanted and needed for such a long time. Setting a default tab in Task Manager allows me to set it to Performanceso I don’t have to move my hand away from the keyboard to click the tab.

Default Tab is set to Performance in Task Manager

To set the default tab, select Options | Set Default Tab in Task Manager.

In summary

Windows Sandbox, by far, is the major new capability with 19H1. The four other features I’ve added are admittedly quite small but very useful and I use them daily. 19H1 seems very solid and robust, perhaps also due to not introducing that many new features but polishing and tweaking existing features.

There are of course numerous other additions with 19H1, such as Password-less authentication using Microsoft Accounts, a simplified Start layout, Office app included by default, and many updates to Notepad. See the full list here.