How to buy and read ebooks in Edge as part of the Windows 10 Creators Update

As part of the blitz of new features in the Windows 10 Creators Update (see our full review here), Microsoft has added e-reading capabilities to its Edge browser. It’s a bit quirky, given its infancy, but with a bit of practice you can be lounging by the pool with an electronic novel in no time.

The first question you’ll ask: Does it surpass Amazon’s Kindle app. Well, sort of: The Kindle app available for Windows tablets rejected my (correct) Amazon password, a bug that numerous other users have reported. (The Kindle for PC app buried within Amazon’s site works, however).

Edge offers pretty much what you want from an e-reader app anyway: a progress bar, the ability to resume where you left off (mostly), and solid text-formatting options. Reading ebooks is also an opportunity to take full advantage of a detachable Surface tablet, as opposed to a traditional notebook PC.

edge bookstore microsoft store

IDG / Mark Hachman

Microsoft’s Store now has a nice collection of ebooks to go along with its movies, music, apps, and more.

 The Windows Store makes buying ebooks easy

Windows’ ebook-buying process begins with Windows 10’s Store app, which as of the Creators Update adds an ebook store alongside its selection of apps, games, music, and movies. All told, the Store app has evolved into a respectable marketplace.

Not surprisingly, the ebook store looks remarkably like the other categories: At the top of the screen are a few “hero” selections, a handy link to some free classics, and some links to “top” and “featured” books. How many books does Microsoft offer? “Hundreds of thousands,” according to a company representative, with plans to offer New York Times bestsellers as well as other top titles across a range of genres.

Scroll down, and you’ll see the handiwork of Microsoft’s curators, with collections of different genres and other featured works. Though there’s a search box, you can’t do something as basic as search for “cookbooks.” That term appears in the genre-based collections at the bottom of the main page, however.

As I was writing this in mid-March, Microsoft had not highlighted any sales or discounts, something the company will need to do if it truly wants to compete. My own poking around revealed some price differences between ebooks sold on Kindle vs. the Microsoft Store: Jim Edwards’ Rookie Cooking was $11.69 on Microsoft and $17.09 on Amazon; more popular ebooks like Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, however, were priced comparably. Amazon competes notoriously hard on price, however, so it’s possible that any discrepancies simply escaped its notice. Disappointingly, some books, like the Harry Potter series, simply weren’t available in the Microsoft Store as of this writing.

Microsoft Store ebooks screen

IDG / Mark Hachman

If you’re the type of person who reads a band’s biographical info in Groove Music, you’ll notice a similarity: massive blocks of summary text.

 Microsoft’s individual descriptions of the books are a bit sparse, lacking previews or any art beyond the illustration on the book jacket. Since Edge’s e-reader only supports DRM-protected books in the EPUB format, that’s all you’ll find inside the Store. (Edge itself includes a PDF reader, too.)

If you choose to buy a book, Microsoft uses any stored payment information you have inside its system to charge you. Unfortunately, there are no refunds or trial periods. What’s nice, though, is that Microsoft defaults to using biometric identification within Windows Hello to streamline the purchase, if your device supports it. (If it doesn’t, you can use a PIN or password instead.)

edge purchase using windows hello edit

IDG / Mark Hachman

Purchasing an ebook is easy-peasy.

 The Edge easy e-reading experience

Once you’ve purchased an ebook, feel free to open it immediately. Otherwise, you’ll be off on a merry little hunt—where is my ebook library, again? Instead of tucking shortcuts to your library all over the place, you’ll need to return to the Store’s main “Books” homepage, and then click the My books link.

Doing so will launch Edge. Unfortunately, Edge opened my “Reading List”—a collection of web pages I stored to read later—and not my collection of ebooks. Even in Edge, “Books” isn’t found intuitively; you’ll need to navigate to the Hub—the icon to the right of the “star” in the URL bar—then navigate to the icon that looks like a collection of books leaning against one another. Microsoft might not force you to open a separate app to read an ebook, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier a process.

Microsoft edge books

IDG / Mark Hachman

The Microsoft Edge Hub, in which your ebooks are stored within the Books section.

 Within the Books sidebar, you’ll see your collection of books, with a progress bar showing how much you’ve read. At the bottom of the sidebar is a link back to the Store.

Once an ebook is opened in Edge, navigating its contents is simple enough. Edge will open the book to the title page, possibly (depending upon how the book itself is organized) with a list of hyperlinked chapters. At the bottom of the screen you’ll see the title of the book, the chapter (if any) and your progress as a percentage of the book.

microsoft edge ebooks recipes

IDG / Mark Hachman

Lush, lavish cookbooks lose a little something in the EPUB format, though traditional text-heavy books look just fine.

 More options open up if you simply tap the screen, which reveals a black border at the top of the page. At the upper left there’s an icon that displays the table of contents, which slides out from the left. Click the icon next to that and any bookmarks you’ve saved will appear. Edge also includes a search function to look for specific terms.

In the right-hand corner, the Options icon (alternatively Ctrl + Shift + O) lets you adjust text font, size, color, and spacing. There’s also an icon to “read aloud” via text-to-speech, which also lets you adjust pacing, evidence of Microsoft’s commitment to assisting those with vision problems (although there doesn’t seem to be a hands-free Cortana command to “read my ebook”—hopefully that’s forthcoming).  There’s also an icon to set bookmarks within your ebook, one per page.

Unfortunately, features you might expect in an e-reader app, and which are available elsewhere in Windows—inking, highlighting, sticky notes, titled bookmarks—haven’t yet made it to Edge’s e-reading experience.

microsoft edge ebooks options

IDG / Mark Hachman

There aren’t many options within Edge’s Books e-reader, but you don’t need many, either.

 If you stop reading an ebook—say, because Windows 10 unexpectedly reboots your PC—your progress will be saved. That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway. As I was evaluating Edge using a build of the Windows 10 Creators Update that Microsoft provided to journalists, the OS updated to a new build—forcing me to redownload all of my books, and losing my progress. That needs to be fixed.

Unfortunately, Microsoft’s mobile ebook experience is limited to the small number of Windows phones in existence, as Microsoft doesn’t make a version of Edge for Android or iOS. That’s a serious and unfortunate handicap for train or bus commuters. Since Microsoft does include a browser inside its Bing app for both mobile platforms, it’s at least theoretically possible that this capability could be added later.

How successful will Microsoft’s ebooks gambit be? Microsoft’s real advantage is that its Store app is just a click away in your Windows 10 Start menu, versus opening a browser to hunt down a similar book on Amazon. What’s more, Amazon doesn’t sell books in EPUB but rather than in its own proprietary Kindle format, which requires the dedicated (and for now, buggy) Windows app. Truer competition comes from sites like eBooks.com, which includes EPUB among its formats.

For now, you’ve probably already settled on an ebook format and reader. If Microsoft launches its ebook store with a splashy sale, however, you could be lured in. And aside from the obvious mobile limitations, reading ebooks within Edge isn’t half bad.

Missing pieces: What Microsoft failed to deliver in the Windows 10 Creators Update

If the Windows 10 Creators Update had worked out as Microsoft had promised, we all would be taking 3D selfies, importing them to Windows, and then sharing them among our closest friends and coworkers via Office presentations and mixed-reality headsets.

Microsoft sold us that vision as part of the Creators Update launch last fall. But somewhere between then and the Creators Update rollout announcement April 29, key pieces went missing. Microsoft previously said that its My People experience would be left for the “Redstone 3” update in the fall. The company never warned us, however, that we wouldn’t see the Windows Capture app, which creates 3D objects simply by tapping your smartphone. If there’s a way to share 3D objects within the Holotour app within the HoloLens, I haven’t seen it. And, of course, neither the HoloLens nor the third-party mixed-reality devices are commercially available yet.

The ironic thing about the Windows 10 Creators Update is that, even lacking all that, it’s arguably the most significant update since the launch of Windows 10. Those features that made it into the shipping code, including game streaming, e-reading, Game Mode, Beam streaming, Game Mode, and dozens more, collectively elevate the Creators Update.

But it could have been so much more.

Over the last few weeks, I found myself obsessing over one simple statement. The very first feature that Microsoft introduced at its reveal of the Creators Update last fall was this concept of 3D content. Microsoft’s Megan Saunders walked on stage and declared that, in the Creators Update, “3D is for everyone.”

“If we truly want to make 3D for everyone,” Saunders said,” then we need to make 3D creation as simple as taking a photo or a video on your phone.”

windows capture video

Youtube / Microsoft

3D content capture with Windows Capture 3D looks so easy.

 Saunders then whipped out an HP Elite x3 Windows phone, launched what she called the Windows Capture 3D experience, and walked around a small model of a sand castle as the app seemingly constructed the 3D model, live, on her phone, in seconds. Voila: real-world object, Microsoft app, 3D construct. Cue the applause.

Watch the video  for yourself to see how simple Saunders made it look. Tell me that app doesn’t look ready to ship, especially as she seemingly uses it live on stage. But no, it’s not available. Was Saunders’ performance sleight of hand? A movie? Did Microsoft hold back Capture 3D until it could be ready on Android and iOS as well? Microsoft hasn’t said.

3D scan fiasco

IDG / Mark Hachman

Trying to scan this wooden horse’s head took hours to set up and configure a Kinect with the Windows 10 3D Scan app…

 What makes that statement so important is that, Paint 3D aside, scanning real-world objects into Windows is almost ludicrously difficult. (Unless you’re using an HP Sprout.) You’ll need Microsoft’s 3D Scan app, a PC with a decent GPU, a Kinect depth camera, a massive adapter, some sort of rotating table, a tutorial, and a great deal of patience. I spent several hours, muttering and cursing, and got something that looked like a flying saucer taking a dump. Brian Posey, a Microsoft MVP, tried out 3D Scan for Redmond Magazine and gave up halfway through.
3d builder screwup 2

IDG / Mark Hachman

…And all I ended up with is this mess.

It goes on from there. As part of the launch event, Microsoft’s Heather Alekson introduced the ability to import 3D objects into PowerPoint and other Office apps. To date, that feature isn’t available either in Office or in the Office Insider program. Paint 3D within the HoloLens? Importing 3D objects into the virtual space? Neither, apparently, is here. Microsoft tells me that “Windows Mixed Reality [formerly known as Windows Holographic] will be available on Windows 10 PCs with the Creators Update so that developers can start creating content,” implying that regular users will have to wait for access.

acer windows mixed reality development edition headset

Microsoft

A rendering of the Acer Mixed Reality Developer Edition headset.

 We can’t ignore the lack of mixed-reality devices, either. Yes, the responsibility for delivering mixed-reality devices on time for the launch of the Windows Creators Update falls on hardware partners like Acer, Asus, and Dell. (Did Microsoft’s Terry Myerson promise mixed-reality devices by the Creators Update launch? Decide for yourself.) But Microsoft has developed its own hardware for years, and has a tight working relationship with each of these vendors. 3D-capable, mixed-reality hardware was part of Microsoft’s 3D vision, and it hasn’t been delivered.

The gaping holes in Microsoft’s 3D vision overshadow everything else Microsoft promised last fall. But a number of other features Microsoft promised for the Creators Update haven’t appeared, either.

Missing: My People

Microsoft already quietly announced that it’s postponing the My People experience. My People, which sounds like it might be either replacing or supplementing the existing People app within Windows 10, will allow you to pick five close friends or family members and customize your experiences around them—putting icons in the taskbar, auto-suggesting them as email contacts and to chat, and allowing them to send you emoji via what Microsoft calls “shoulder taps”.

my people Windows 10 Creators Update

IDG

My People: a casulaty of the Microsoft development process.

Microsoft, though, plans to hold My People for “the next major update to Windows,” which is due out in the fall.

Missing: Xbox Arenas

One of the features Microsoft showed off in the Xbox gaming space (which has its own Creators Update rolling out now) was Arenas, player-configured tournaments. “The Xbox team is still working hard to bring custom gamer-created Arena tournaments to the Xbox community, though it will not be releasing alongside the Windows 10 Creators Update,” Microsoft said in a statement.

Missing: Groove Music Maker

Though it was never officially announced, the Groove Music mixer app appeared in a “sizzle reel” of other Windows 10 CU features at the launch itself, as well as Microsoft’s general Windows 10 Creators Update video. I haven’t seen it in the Windows 10 CU itself, nor the Microsoft Store.

groove music maker Windows 10 Creators Update

Youtube / Microsoft

Microsoft representatives said that they had “nothing to share” about the fate of Groove Music Maker.

(Not) Missing: Tabs as Reminders

One of the smart features that Microsoft added early to the Windows 10 CU was the ability to tie an Edge tab to a Cortana reminder, a handy jumping-off point to research a wedding cake, explore potential campgrounds, or dig through tax regulations. In November, though, the company said it cancelled it.

I should have noticed that the feature is indeed there. You can’t “save” an Edge tab to a reminder, but you can “share” it. For any tab, go up to the “share” icon to the upper right, and click it. You can then save the tab as a reminder within Cortana.

I’m aware that companies over-promise and under-deliver, delay products and cancel commitments. Sometimes they just slide into a niche and never recover. You know these names: Half-Life 3, Duke Nukem Forever, HD DVD, StrongARM, the Itanium chipMarket demands change.

Simply excluding My People or Capture 3D or Arenas from the Creators Update certainly doesn’t mean that we’ll never see them again. I’m betting we’ll hear much more about mixed reality in a month or so at Build, as a run-up to Windows’ next major update this fall. I said it in my review and I’ll say it again, though: I’d call the next “Redstone 3” release the “Windows 10 Creators Update 2.” It’s a mouthful, but it’s also an important way for Microsoft to save face.

Apple simplifies Windows 10 installs with support for Windows 10 Creators Update

Apple this week updated macOS Sierra to version 10.12.5 with more than three dozen security patches, and a change that lets users install Microsoft’s latest version of Windows 10 on their Macs.

boot camp

Sierra 10.12.5 “adds support for media-free installation of Windows 10 Creators Update using Boot Camp,” the update’s brief release notes read. Creators Update was the name Microsoft assigned to Windows 10 1703, the upgrade issued last month.

Boot Camp, which is baked into macOS, lets Mac owners run Windows on their machines. A Windows license is required. Boot Camp, while not virtualization software like VMware’s Fusion or Parallels International’s Parallels Desktop, serves the same purpose: Running Windows applications, including custom or mission-critical corporate software, on a Mac personal computer.

Previously, Mac users were forced onto a circuitous road to put Windows 10 Creators Update into Boot Camp. According to a Microsoft support document published before the upgrade was released, Mac owners first had to install an .iso of 2016’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update, aka 1607, to Boot Camp. Once 1607 was in place, they could then upgrade Windows 10 to 1703 from within Boot Camp.

Monday’s macOS update voids that workaround: Mac owners may instead directly install a disk image — in .iso format — of Windows 10 1703 into Boot Camp.

Sierra 10.12.5 also patched 37 vulnerabilities in macOS. Apple also released security updates for Sierra’s two predecessors, 2015’s macOS El Capitan and 2014’s macOS Yosemite.

This story, “Apple simplifies Windows 10 installs with support for Windows 10 Creators Update” was originally published by Computerworld.

How to buy and read ebooks in Edge as part of the Windows 10 Creators Update

As part of the blitz of new features in the Windows 10 Creators Update (see our full review here), Microsoft has added e-reading capabilities to its Edge browser. It’s a bit quirky, given its infancy, but with a bit of practice you can be lounging by the pool with an electronic novel in no time.

The first question you’ll ask: Does it surpass Amazon’s Kindle app. Well, sort of: The Kindle app available for Windows tablets rejected my (correct) Amazon password, a bug that numerous other users have reported. (The Kindle for PC app buried within Amazon’s site works, however).

Edge offers pretty much what you want from an e-reader app anyway: a progress bar, the ability to resume where you left off (mostly), and solid text-formatting options. Reading ebooks is also an opportunity to take full advantage of a detachable Surface tablet, as opposed to a traditional notebook PC.

edge bookstore microsoft store

IDG / Mark Hachman

Microsoft’s Store now has a nice collection of ebooks to go along with its movies, music, apps, and more.

 The Windows Store makes buying ebooks easy

Windows’ ebook-buying process begins with Windows 10’s Store app, which as of the Creators Update adds an ebook store alongside its selection of apps, games, music, and movies. All told, the Store app has evolved into a respectable marketplace.

Not surprisingly, the ebook store looks remarkably like the other categories: At the top of the screen are a few “hero” selections, a handy link to some free classics, and some links to “top” and “featured” books. How many books does Microsoft offer? “Hundreds of thousands,” according to a company representative, with plans to offer New York Times bestsellers as well as other top titles across a range of genres.

As I was writing this in mid-March, Microsoft had not highlighted any sales or discounts, something the company will need to do if it truly wants to compete. My own poking around revealed some price differences between ebooks sold on Kindle vs. the Microsoft Store: Jim Edwards’ Rookie Cooking was $11.69 on Microsoft and $17.09 on Amazon; more popular ebooks like Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, however, were priced comparably. Amazon competes notoriously hard on price, however, so it’s possible that any discrepancies simply escaped its notice. Disappointingly, some books, like the Harry Potter series, simply weren’t available in the Microsoft Store as of this writing.

Microsoft Store ebooks screen

IDG / Mark Hachman

If you’re the type of person who reads a band’s biographical info in Groove Music, you’ll notice a similarity: massive blocks of summary text.

 Microsoft’s individual descriptions of the books are a bit sparse, lacking previews or any art beyond the illustration on the book jacket. Since Edge’s e-reader only supports DRM-protected books in the EPUB format, that’s all you’ll find inside the Store. (Edge itself includes a PDF reader, too.)

If you choose to buy a book, Microsoft uses any stored payment information you have inside its system to charge you. Unfortunately, there are no refunds or trial periods. What’s nice, though, is that Microsoft defaults to using biometric identification within Windows Hello to streamline the purchase, if your device supports it. (If it doesn’t, you can use a PIN or password instead.)

edge purchase using windows hello edit

IDG / Mark Hachman

Purchasing an ebook is easy-peasy.

 The Edge easy e-reading experience

Once you’ve purchased an ebook, feel free to open it immediately. Otherwise, you’ll be off on a merry little hunt—where is my ebook library, again? Instead of tucking shortcuts to your library all over the place, you’ll need to return to the Store’s main “Books” homepage, and then click the My books link.

Doing so will launch Edge. Unfortunately, Edge opened my “Reading List”—a collection of web pages I stored to read later—and not my collection of ebooks. Even in Edge, “Books” isn’t found intuitively; you’ll need to navigate to the Hub—the icon to the right of the “star” in the URL bar—then navigate to the icon that looks like a collection of books leaning against one another. Microsoft might not force you to open a separate app to read an ebook, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier a process.

Microsoft edge books

IDG / Mark Hachman

The Microsoft Edge Hub, in which your ebooks are stored within the Books section.

 Within the Books sidebar, you’ll see your collection of books, with a progress bar showing how much you’ve read. At the bottom of the sidebar is a link back to the Store.

Once an ebook is opened in Edge, navigating its contents is simple enough. Edge will open the book to the title page, possibly (depending upon how the book itself is organized) with a list of hyperlinked chapters. At the bottom of the screen you’ll see the title of the book, the chapter (if any) and your progress as a percentage of the book.

microsoft edge ebooks recipes

IDG / Mark Hachman

Lush, lavish cookbooks lose a little something in the EPUB format, though traditional text-heavy books look just fine.

 More options open up if you simply tap the screen, which reveals a black border at the top of the page. At the upper left there’s an icon that displays the table of contents, which slides out from the left. Click the icon next to that and any bookmarks you’ve saved will appear. Edge also includes a search function to look for specific terms.

In the right-hand corner, the Options icon (alternatively Ctrl + Shift + O) lets you adjust text font, size, color, and spacing. There’s also an icon to “read aloud” via text-to-speech, which also lets you adjust pacing, evidence of Microsoft’s commitment to assisting those with vision problems (although there doesn’t seem to be a hands-free Cortana command to “read my ebook”—hopefully that’s forthcoming).  There’s also an icon to set bookmarks within your ebook, one per page.

Unfortunately, features you might expect in an e-reader app, and which are available elsewhere in Windows—inking, highlighting, sticky notes, titled bookmarks—haven’t yet made it to Edge’s e-reading experience.

microsoft edge ebooks options

IDG / Mark Hachman

There aren’t many options within Edge’s Books e-reader, but you don’t need many, either.

 If you stop reading an ebook—say, because Windows 10 unexpectedly reboots your PC—your progress will be saved. That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway. As I was evaluating Edge using a build of the Windows 10 Creators Update that Microsoft provided to journalists, the OS updated to a new build—forcing me to redownload all of my books, and losing my progress. That needs to be fixed.

Unfortunately, Microsoft’s mobile ebook experience is limited to the small number of Windows phones in existence, as Microsoft doesn’t make a version of Edge for Android or iOS. That’s a serious and unfortunate handicap for train or bus commuters. Since Microsoft does include a browser inside its Bing app for both mobile platforms, it’s at least theoretically possible that this capability could be added later.

How successful will Microsoft’s ebooks gambit be? Microsoft’s real advantage is that its Store app is just a click away in your Windows 10 Start menu, versus opening a browser to hunt down a similar book on Amazon. What’s more, Amazon doesn’t sell books in EPUB but rather than in its own proprietary Kindle format, which requires the dedicated (and for now, buggy) Windows app. Truer competition comes from sites like eBooks.com, which includes EPUB among its formats.

For now, you’ve probably already settled on an ebook format and reader. If Microsoft launches its ebook store with a splashy sale, however, you could be lured in. And aside from the obvious mobile limitations, reading ebooks within Edge isn’t half bad.

4 powerful productivity features in the Windows 10 Creators Update

Despite the artistic implications of its name, the Windows 10 Creators Update, which started rolling out April 11, brings with it several nuts-and-bolts productivity enhancements. Here’s an overview of four that can make a big impact on your day-to-day routine. We’ll likely look at each of these more in-depth in the weeks to come.

new windows 10 logo primary

Recurring Cortana reminders

Cortana is one of the most useful productivity features of Windows 10, thanks largely to its ability to provide contextual reminders around meetings, deadlines, and other important events. Surprisingly, though, it hasn’t allowed you to set recurring reminders.

cortana monthly reminder

IDG

You can now tell Cortana to set daily, monthly, weekly, and yearly reminders.

The Windows Creators Update remedies this glaring omission, enabling Cortana to issue a place- or time-based reminder daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. You can set these using natural speech—“Remember to submit my column every Tuesday by 5 p.m.”—or by inputting the details manually. The new feature is particularly helpful for more infrequent occurrences, like paying your car registration or renewing your Washington Post subscription, that tend to get forgotten until they come due.

Dynamic Lock

No matter if it’s in a cafe or a corporate office, an unattended computer is a vulnerable one. And if you work in an office, you know you spend as much time—and sometimes more time—away from your PC as you do at the keyboard. Sure, you can secure your PC by logging out before you head to the kitchen to refill your coffee, but when was the last time you did that?

Windows 10 Creators Update Dynamic Lock

IDG / Mark Hachman

Windows 10 can use your phone to determine when you’re away from your PCand lock it down.

Dynamic Lock makes it easier to protect your PC in your absence by using your phone to determine when you’re away. Just pair it with your computer and Windows 10 will use the Bluetooth connection to determine your proximity and will lock your PC when you stray too far. You can even use it with multiple phones.

Improved Touchpad gestures

Touch gestures separate the productivity pros from the pretenders. The Creators Update helps users level up with improved touchpad features.

Windows 10 Creators Update touchpad advanced gesture configuration

IDG / Mark Hachman

Configure your favorite multi-finger gestures in the new Touchpad settings.

 A new Touchpad settings page lets you configure three- and four-finger gestures for things like switching apps, searching Cortana, and toggling Multitasking view. If you’re on a Surface tablet, there’s also a virtual touchpad you can enable when you’re connected to an external monitor.

Better tab management

Browser tabs cut both ways: Open a few and you can improve your efficiency, but open too many and you’ll overload your brain and your PC. Unfortunately, too many of us do the latter by using tabs as a way to bookmark pages we don’t want to forget in the course of a busy day. An addition to Microsoft’s Edge browser makes it easier to find the middle ground—the ability to put tabs on the back burner for review at a better time.

windows 10 cu 2

Brad Chacos

You can now set aside Edge tabs to review later.

 You’ll find a new Set these tabs aside button to the left of Edge’s address bar. If you have a bunch of tabs open that aren’t pertinent to the work at hand, just click this button and the browser will remove them from sight and store them away. When you’ve finished whatever you’re working on and have time to check out those tabs, click the Tabs you’ve set aside icon to the left of the Set these tabs aside button to bring them back.