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Smaller live tiles, new Internet Explorer 11 browser, and multi-monitor "snap" views are among highlights

Details have already started to trickle out regarding Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFTWindows Blue -- the somewhat ironically named (BSOD anyone?) sequel to the coolly received Windows 8, a refresh which sources indicate will land later this year.  But a leak of a partner test build from earlier this month shows us the most explicit details about the Windows 8 UI makeover yet.

I. The Leak 

The leak came courtesy of photos posted to a Polish language forum in The leak also fell on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's 57th birthday.  Mr. Ballmer has shaken up the Windows team after Windows 8 received mixed reviews, with the biggest change being the departure of Windows President Steven Sinofsky.  The shakeups are expected to have a sizeable influence on the end product as Microsoft moves towards a shorter schedule of releases with Windows Blue.

The leaked build -- Build 9364 -- was compiled on March 15th, and is one of the builds that Microsoft sends to certain trusted partners in the months leading up to a Windows OS or service pack launch.

The build is current 2.63 GB

II. The Features

One of the biggest changes showcased in the leaked screenshots was an expected one -- smaller live tiles.  Much like Windows Phone 8, Windows Blue gives developers and customers more flexibility by allowing them to adopt a smaller/leaner footprint for seldom used apps' tiles.

Windows Blue

Microsoft has also borrowed Windows 7's desktop "snapping" and inserted it into the Windows 8 UI to allow snapped Windows 8-style apps.  The concept has been extended to allow a 4-app snapped configuration.  What's more, the snap-fest can extend to up to 8 simultaneously snapped apps in a multi-monitor setup.

Windows Blue

Windows Blue snaps (2)

The screenshots also show off a series of Windows 8-style apps --alarm, sound recorder, movie moments, and calculator -- which will come pre-loaded with Blue.  

Windows Blue

And there's new style options to allow users greater flexibility in customizing the look of their Windows 8-style GUI.

Windows Blue styles
Windows Blue Styles 2

The Windows 8 menu's controls have been streamlined and expanded to offer more intuitive control over hardware, uploads, networking, and other options so as to minimize the instances in which you have to return to the desktop control panel.

Windows Blue Control Panel (1)

Windows Blue Control Panel (2)

Windows Blue control panel (3)

Windows Blue Control Panel (4)

There's new gestures for touch users:
  • swipe up from the bottom -- gives a list of all apps
  • swipe up or down (in Desktop Mode) -- gives toolbar w/ access to Snap
Another highlight is a test build of the upcoming Internet Explorer 11.  The new browser has tab syncing, presumably to sync tabs between your mobile Windows Phone Blue device and your various Windows Blue tablets/laptops/desktops.

Windows Blue

Wrapping up the changes, there have been modifications to the "Charms" feature.  There's a new option in the Share Charm, which offers a quick shareable screenshot option for use with other apps like messaging and email.

Windows Blue Charms

Windows Blue Charms (screenshot)

The Verge and R27 (Italian) both reported on these leaked features.


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RE: craptastic.
By FastEddieLB on 3/25/2013 2:51:20 PM , Rating: 2
I don't even care about the Windows 8 UI any more, I'm just pissed that they took away the Windows Aero that I know and love. Win 7 will be my mainstay until it's no longer supported, then I'll make a permanent transition to Linux

RE: craptastic.
By The0ne on 3/25/2013 3:20:01 PM , Rating: 2
ClassicShell gives you that and more styles from previous windows :D

RE: craptastic.
By Motoman on 3/25/2013 3:25:35 PM , Rating: 2
After futzing with Win8 for a while, I find it to be OK after you install Start8. Although I highly recommend turning off all the "charms" too. Then it's a reasonable approximation of a real OS.

Try that, or maybe StartMenu8, and see what you think.

RE: craptastic.
By Cerin218 on 3/25/2013 3:55:05 PM , Rating: 1
I wish a had a nickel for every time that Microsoft pissed off some idiot by changing things and in "retaliation" that idiot threatened to change to Linux.
A. If you weren't an idiot you would ALREADY be on Linux and I wouldn't have to listen to you whine.
B. Linux will NEVER replace Windows for main stream use. Period. End of story. Linux is for people that want to spend hours getting obscure things to work that Windows just does simply. Like the 4 hours of NDIS wrapper to get the wireless to work on my laptop when the Windows install takes literally a minute and a half.
C. Every one whines about the new one they don't like. All I heard was moaning and complaining about Vista until 7 came out and placated the drooling masses.

RE: craptastic.
By Motoman on 3/25/2013 4:43:58 PM , Rating: 2
You are correct in that no one is likely to ever move to Linux - not until the industry well and truly gets behind it. If enough people got sick of MS's bullsh1t, they might see some $ in getting behind it though.

And of course, you could always buy a Mac. Or a Chromebook.

The real answer is simply that there will always be 3rd parties that crop up to make massive amounts of money fixing the stupid sh1t that MS does. Like Start8.

We may be forced to use Windows, since ultimately it's the only rational choice...but luckily we aren't forced to cripple ourselves by using the Metrosexual UI.

RE: craptastic.
By HoosierEngineer5 on 3/25/2013 5:55:29 PM , Rating: 2
Why does Microsoft now seem like another Intel, just before AMD kicked the crap out of them (in the Pentium 4 days) - oh yeah, tiny little incremental updates so they can drain the maximum amount of money for the smallest effort.

RE: craptastic.
By Bubbacub on 3/25/2013 5:33:49 PM , Rating: 2
apart from gaming, linux in the form of mint, for example, can be a totally superior os for people who need to get work done.

i was in the same boat as yourself till 18 months ago - i'm not planning on switching back now that i've made a successful conversion.

whilst i agree that your average user is not going to install a linux distro and do the fiddling required to get everything working to a similar windows environment, i disagree that linux will never be mainstream and would argue that it is already mainstream.

the linux kernal in the form of android and the increasing sales of chromebooks does indicate that there is mass mainstream usage of the linux kernal - the thing that makes linux, well linux.

also calling people idiots because you appear to be having a geeky explosion of indignant wrath is not particularly cool

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

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