Microsoft today launched a new Windows 10 preview for PCs with improvements to the Start menu and tablet mode, a slew of app updates, and ORTC support in Microsoft Edge. This build includes more than just the usual bug fixes: There are new features and changes to test.
Windows 10 is a service. As we wrote in our deep dive on how Microsoft is still building Windows 10, this means Windows Insiders are getting new builds even though the operating system launched in July.
First up, the Start menu can now handle four columns of medium-sized tiles (Settings app => Personalization => Start => enabling “Show more tiles”). Insiders asked for this so they could have two wide or large-sized tiles side-by-side in a group. The tile limit has also been increased from 512 tiles to 2048.
Next up, in tablet mode you can now snap apps to the left and right directly from the Task View. You can also replace a previously snapped app with another, and swipe down to close an app.
The text input panel now expands as you write to provide more space in Latin languages, and it no longer opens automatically when you are not in tablet mode or have an external Surface keyboard attached. Additional punctuation support has been added, and suggestions should now be more relevant. Lastly, you can now turn off the Windows background picture in the sign-in screen (Settings app => Personalization => Lock screen => turn off “Show Windows background picture on the sign-in screen”).
Arguably the most exciting addition is support for the Object Real-Time Communications (ORTC) API in Microsoft Edge. In layman’s terms, this means Microsoft is one step closer to bringing voice and video calling to its browser without the need for plugins. Yes, that includes Skype.
Later this year, Microsoft will update Skype for Web so that it doesn’t need plugins on Microsoft Edge. This same experience will also be available in Skype for Business. For Chrome and Firefox, Skype for Web will leverage existing WebRTC APIs to offer the same experience without plugins. That said, other browsers will still require a small browser plugin.
Microsoft said it is making the following investments to make this happen:
- We are updating our Skype media stack on all platforms (Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android) with Standard transport protocols support, including STUN (RFC 5389), TURN (RFC 5766), ICE (RFC 5245), DTLS-SRTP (RFC 5764). The Skype media stack is used by all Skype and Skype for Business clients, cloud services and servers.
- For audio, on top of SILK, G.711, G.722, we have added support of the Opus codec in ORTC. We will continue to add native Opus support in our Skype media stack for all platforms.
- For video, Skype and ORTC in the Edge browser currently support 264UC. We are working on adding support for H.264. This will enable video interop between Skype and the Firefox browser, which currently supports H.264, and the Chrome browser when H.264 support is added to its WebRTC implementation.
For developers, the ORTC API means they can build web apps with real-time audio and video communications, which will work right inside Microsoft Edge. The ORTC API provides granular control over audio and video streams on the client machine as well as the transport layer that carries those streams over the network. All of this will work without the need to install any plugins.
New features and changes aside, here is the list of bug fixes in today’s Windows 10 build:
- We have fixed a lot of the underlying causes of the critical error dialog Insiders were seeing with Start. And search should work more consistently now when interacting with Start.
- The notification icon for Action Center should no longer light up even though there weren’t any new notifications.
- We fixed an issue where the Battery fly-out text was truncated in certain languages.
- When choosing background shuffle, we’ve enabled the ability to shuffle backgrounds randomly instead of the order they appear in the folder.
- You can now use Cortana with local accounts as well as with a Microsoft account.
- We have fixed several issues with audio – including issues specific affecting Realtek audio devices.
If you’re a Windows Insider who also happens to play video games, Microsoft has launched a new “Gaming on Insider Preview” section in the Windows Insider forum. If you have gaming-related issues with Windows 10 Insider Preview builds, or just want to talk to Windows 10 gamers, this is where you should start. Engineers with gaming expertise will be on standby, as will support staff from Intel, AMD, Nvidia, and other partners.
Last but not least, this build has the following known issues:
- Languages packs are being published, but will be rolling out to the update servers throughout the day.
- Windows Store apps may not update automatically. To receive app updates, open the Store, click on your profile picture at the top right, choose “Download and updates” and check for updates manually.
- Using Notepad.exe from the command line to open files when using only a file name, such as ‘file.txt’, will fail with a permissions error. This will be fixed in a future build, but this can be worked around by using a full or partial path, such as ‘.\file.txt’, or using File->Open options in the UI.
- Clicking on the system icons in the notification area quickly can result in Windows Shell blocking the launch of fly-outs like Audio, Networking, etc. This can be resolved by rebooting your PC.
- You will see a warning message in the Settings app > Update & Security > Windows Update regarding preview builds. Don’t worry about this — It is safe to ignore for now. We’re adding some new functionality to help you diagnose what’s going on if a new build isn’t getting to you, but it’s not fully implemented yet.
Today’s update bumps the Windows 10 build number from 10532, made available to testers on August 27, to build 10547. The update should arrive overnight for testers (your PC has to be plugged in, and be on or sleeping). If you’re OK with the above known issues and want to get build 10532 now, head to PC Settings, select “Update and recovery,” then “Preview builds,” and click the “Check Now” button.