Microsoft launched a new Windows 10 preview for PCs today. The build includes a slew of improvements all over the operating system, both in terms of design and new features.
First up, Microsoft is reintroducing some Aero Glass elements in the user interface. The distinct look was introduced with Windows 7 but dropped in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.
“We’ve also heard loud and clear that many Windows Insiders want to see Aero Glass from Windows 7 make a comeback,” said Gabriel Aul, the leader of Microsoft’s operating systems group’s data and fundamentals team. “We’ve been working out how to satisfy this request, and are trying some things out with this build to see how you like them.”
Aul explains that not everyone will see the return of Aero Glass, as Microsoft is running an A/B test with this build. Half of Windows 10 testers will see normal transparency on the Start menu and taskbar while the other half will see a blur effect. Microsoft will choose which one to make the default based on feedback it receives.
Next up, Cortana has received a visual refresh “that makes the experience feel more ingrained into the overall Windows experience.” Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of the operating systems group, showed off some of the changes at Build 2015 earlier today.
In short, Cortana is more tightly integrated with the Start menu/screen. Searching for an app will bring up Cortana, the new Windows split view control has been added to Cortana’s left rail, and Cortana now provides navigation consistent with many other Windows first-party applications.
Better yet, Cortana has gained new features powered by Bing Instant Answers, meaning it tries to give answers while you’re still typing. It has 11 new functionalities:
- Weather — type “Seattle Weather”
- Finance — type “MSFT stock”
- Dictionary — type “define astounding”
- Calculator — type “48*92”
- Flight Status — type “UA 238”
- Reference — type “how tall is brad pitt”
- Showtimes — type “movies near me”
- Tech Help — type “memory in my computer”
- Time Zone — type “time in London”
- Unit Conversion — type “42 ft in meters”
- Chit Chat — type “tell me a joke”
Continuum is a Windows 10 feature that handles transitions between interface modes. Today we learned Continuum wouldn’t be limited to just convertible laptops and tablets, but was coming to smartphones as well.
Yet today’s build is for PCs. Continuum improvements thus include a simplified taskbar, general polish on snapping, and the option to adjust the size on the shared divider between two snapped windows.
Other additions and improvements in this build include:
- Multitasking: Alt-Tab, Task-View, and Snap Assist have all been refined. Snap Assist also now supports the ability to close a window.
- New default Windows sounds: Not all have changed, but most sounds are completely different.
- Music and Video preview apps: The Music app has a more immersive Now Playing experience with a true full screen mode while the Video app can now download movies, TV shows, and TV seasons. You can download, delete, and even re-download videos as many times as you want on up to three devices (a limit that Microsoft is planning to increase).
- Xbox app April 2015 update: Game DVR for PC games, screenshots, a Live Tile, user profiles, and real-name sharing. Drivers for Xbox controllers are also now included.
- Windows Store Beta improvements: Blue tile, Xbox Live games, and in-app purchases are all ago. Most importantly, apps you purchased on Windows 8.1 will now show up, and vice-versa.
- Discovering features and apps in Windows 10: More “bite-sized” learning and discovery experiences have been added.
Today’s update bumps the Windows 10 build number from 1061, released on April 22, to build 10074. The update should arrive overnight for Windows 10 preview users via Windows Update (your PC has to be plugged in, and be on or sleeping). If you want to get build 10074 now, head to PC Settings, select “Update and recovery,” then “Preview builds,” and click the “Check Now” button.
If you’re not signed up for the Windows Insider program, register now, check out the system requirements, and then follow the instructions. You can download the ISO in 32-bit and 64-bit flavors from this page (22 language options).
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