All the Big Things Microsoft Announced Today at Build 2015

Microsoft hosted its (mostly boring!) Developer Keynote today at Build 2015. If you’re not a developer, your eyes might get blurry during a presentation, but there are still some cool features that regular users might be interested in. Here’s the best they’ve announced.

Cortana brings powerful voice commands to your desktop

We’ve talked about how Cortana will get into Windows 10 , but demos keep getting better. Microsoft today demonstrated how to launch applications or perform actions using natural language commands. For example: Cortana can not only open the Viber app, but also send a message directly without opening the app at all. Microsoft is committed to making Cortana a key way to interact with applications without launching them.

Microsoft Edge is a great browser (replacing Internet Explorer)

We’ve seen bits and pieces of Microsoft’s new browser ( formerly called Project Spartan ), but now the browser is starting to take shape. Microsoft Edge will be the default browser with Windows 10. It includes support for extensions that developers can easily port from their Chrome counterparts, which means it will likely have a much better extension library. It also has deep integration with Cortana, so you can more easily search and add information to your Cortana profile. It also includes a built-in note-taking mode so you can save and comment on web pages, as well as a reading mode that removes all extraneous nonsense so you can only read text.

Microsoft Office will have third-party plugins that work across platforms

Microsoft Office has had plugins for a long time. However, Microsoft today showed off plugins for the Office suite that work on all of their platforms. For example, the company demonstrated how you can request Uber from Outlook and pick it up on your phone (even iPhone) to find out when your car arrives, or check LinkedIn profiles from Outlook (a la Rapportive ) without leaving the app. The plugins work across platforms, so when you open Outlook on the web or even your tablet, the same plugins you used on your desktop will work there as well.

Developers can easily port Android or iOS apps to Windows

The Microsoft Windows Store is having trouble getting apps because developers don’t want to rewrite their apps multiple times. The company announced developer tools that will make it easy to reuse code from Android or iOS apps to build Windows apps. It might sound boring, but it means you can expect to see more Windows versions of existing iOS and Android apps, which means the Windows Store won’t feel so meager.

Continuum will bridge the gap between all your Windows devices

Microsoft is very active in promoting Universal Apps. Developers will be able to write Windows apps on the desktop, and the same software will run on Windows phones and tablets. Continuum will allow these apps to adapt to different screens on the fly, and content can be synced or streamed between devices. This means that if you use multiple Windows devices, you can maintain a consistent experience, as Continuity does in OS X. They even demonstrated that a phone connects to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse that work just like a desktop computer. No new applications were required. Phone apps are inherently scaled up to a more spacious interface.

Windows Store desktop apps will be isolated to keep your system clean

One of the biggest problems with Windows programs is that .NET and Win32 applications have always been allowed to modify a lot of things on your computer that they can leave without cleaning. They are also among the most susceptible to security issues and vulnerabilities that can wreak havoc on your machine in operation. Since the new Windows Store is used on all Windows devices, these apps will be sandboxed to prevent polluting your system.

Windows Store will support carrier billing on all platforms

Carrier billing allows you to charge your carrier for purchases you make on your phone. This eliminates the need for a debit / credit card, which is especially useful in emerging markets or for people without credit. Microsoft will support this in the Windows Store, but this will specifically include desktops as well as phones.

Visual Studio is coming to OS X and Linux for the first time for free

Microsoft Visual Studio has long been the backbone of Windows application development. However, the company today announced that they will be bringing Visual Studio Code – a smaller but still robust version of Visual Studio – to OS X and Linux users for the first time. The app will be available for free on all platforms on which it is available.

Don’t forget that Windows 10 is still in technical preview. If you’d like to try it out on your computer, you can follow our guide here to enter the Microsoft Insider Program and download the latest version of Windows.

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