(Credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft is about to release a big new update to Windows 10 for users participating in the company's "Insider" preview program, and one of more interesting new features is the free Font Maker tool, which can turn your handwriting into a system font. This Windows 10 font-maker app popped up in the company's Windows Store last month, but today marks the first time that everyone can find the download page, rather than needing the exact link.

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Using the app is simple enough. You are presented with a grid of letters and common symbols, and you fill in each box with something drawn by hand, either via a mouse pointer or with a touchscreen. Given how notoriously bad a mouse is for writing anything, we'd definitely recommend a touchscreen, whose precision can get pretty sharp if you couple that with a stylus -- a pen with a rubbery nub on the end, instead of a metallic tip.

Microsoft provides a screenshot of a sample block of text on the Windows Store page, and it looks surprisingly convincing despite the lack of variation in shapes that distinguish handwriting from keyboard input -- each A, B, and C comes out looking identical every time, but you can't tell unless you look closely.

The app also appears to be using some clever kerning to prevent weird spacing issues that have been problematic for handwriting-style fonts in the past. With kerning, you can control the spacing between letters and characters, which helps make a font like this look more natural.

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What else is coming in this build of Windows 10?

While the Font Maker is a neat addition, it's just a slice of what's coming to this new test version of Windows, known as Insider Preview Build 17704. Beta versions of the Microsoft Edge Browser will have a "beta" tag on the desktop icon itself, along with a tweaks to Edge's UI to make it a little less cluttered, and a customizable Edge toolbar. Skype for Windows 10 is also getting refreshed with a customizable call canvas, more visibility for screen sharing tools and your contacts list, and a built-in screenshot tool. ZDNet has the full report on what's coming.

The takeaways

  1. A font that looks like your handwriting may seem a little gimmicky, but as Microsoft itself points out on the Windows Store, it can help to personalize your experience with your operating system. Unless of course you're one of those people who can barely read your own handwriting.
  2. That said, with the ubiquity of keyboards on our phones, in the home, and in the classroom, the murky future of writing things down with a pen and paper makes Font Maker a curious addition to Microsoft's app portfolio.

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Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at Download.com.