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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 WinForum.eu. 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.

Source: WindowsForum.eu



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RE: craptastic.
By Motoman on 3/25/2013 3:19:20 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for pointing out those other options. I've been buying Start8 for Windows8 machines around here, since they're useless without it.'

I honestly haven't spent any time looking around for alternatives lately...StartMenu8 looks good and gets good, legitimate reviews.

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2027243/review-star...

Granted, the $5 for Start8 doesn't break anybody's bank...but free is free. And since MS refuses to sell an OS that can be used out of the box, apparently it's up to the rest of us to fix it.


RE: craptastic.
By bigboxes on 3/25/2013 4:15:05 PM , Rating: 2
M$ should have put a start button in the first place. If not, then at least an option to choose what type of interface you have. One optimized for tablets and phones and one for productivity for the desktop. Yeah, the desktop is dying in the home, but for any of us that want to get any real work done they should have given us that option in the first place.

To the first metrotard that replies that I have to like clicking a few extra buttons just to get to the place I would have been with the Win7 start button... get bent.


RE: craptastic.
By bigboxes on 3/25/2013 4:17:20 PM , Rating: 2
And I shouldn't have to pay $5 for an app to provide an option that Microsoft should have offered in the first place.


RE: craptastic.
By Ammohunt on 3/25/2013 5:38:25 PM , Rating: 5
Thats where i am at sticking with Windows 7 costs me 0.


RE: craptastic.
By Belard on 3/25/2013 5:30:32 PM , Rating: 4
Why should I or anyone else pay for a defective crappy product? sales numbers already show that win8 is doing twice as bad as vista.


RE: craptastic.
By xti on 3/25/2013 5:46:20 PM , Rating: 3
start menu haters are a minority, just like enthusiasts are minorities or DT readers are a minority of pc users.

win8 sales suck because laptops/desktop sales are slumping, not because the world is on a start menu embargo. win7 was thru the roof because it was pre-tablet and during the peak of $300 laptops and ultrabooks coming into the market.


RE: craptastic.
By Belard on 3/25/13, Rating: 0
RE: craptastic.
By xti on 3/26/2013 11:52:40 AM , Rating: 2
you need to understand, the masses don't care that their start menu is missing. they deal with that they are given.

get THAT thru your head, DT users/geeks use of an OS are NOT a representation of the typical average joe consumer.


RE: craptastic.
By Belard on 3/26/2013 3:25:37 PM , Rating: 2
I am aware of the mass market target for win8. I've stated many times that metro makes sense. that the typical computer user is a moron when it comes to technology or anything else more than a trigger and a TV.

MS went about this all wrong. the design of metro for desktop is poor. like the photo on top with the calculator... it looks retarded to have a whole screen for a tiny little program. functionality is lost. its also ugly. I grew up with 8 bit computers. I still have my complete commodore 128 system. I bought my 1571 5.25" floppy drive for $280 with my own money when I was 15... which is far more expensive than my android phone I'm typing this response with.

I don't need to relive the old days. android and iOS are better mobile UI. thought and experience went into them. with TIFKAM apps not being windows.... why bother? go with something better. MS is failing on all fronts.... the market knows this.


RE: craptastic.
By mechBgon on 3/28/2013 2:52:13 AM , Rating: 2
I can tell you that we would have zero Win8 systems at work if we had to deal with the Metro UI. Microsoft can thank the third-party StartIsBack add-on for our recent Win8 upgrade purchases, which I pushed for on the basis of Win8's noteworthy security advantages. If you like Metro/ModernUI, you're welcome to it, but it would be better to have choices. Choices are good.


RE: craptastic.
By flyingpants1 on 3/31/2013 1:20:30 AM , Rating: 2
People like to make stuff up. Of course users like the start menu. They don't like when obvious features go missing.


RE: craptastic.
By robinthakur on 3/26/2013 8:32:20 AM , Rating: 2
That may well be the case, but tablet sales are certainly not slumping, and here MS has no defence. We were trialling MS win8 tablets from HP recently. Nobody wanted them as they already have iPads and didn't want to learn something new. One of them died and wouldn't boot and had to be sent back. On both, full screen apps can be easily manipulated, but the more powerful desktop mode is unwieldy and the keyboard (which does not pop up automatically when you tap on a text field in Desktop view) just doesn't really work properly on things like Chrome because you can't see what you are typing. The icons in Chrome don't do anything when you tap on them either, and the whole experience just doesn't feel cohesive compared to what users have been using since the first iPad launched. In terms of workflow, I also question what Win8 brings to the table. Yes you can join it to a domain, Multitask properly (in desktop mode) run MS Office on it and plug in a USB device, which is kind of nice in a novelty way, but we've been using iPads for so long, that ways have been found to work around the lack of office, using third party apps like Quick Office HD and to a degree multi-tasking. True MS might have better SharePoint/Exchange integration etc, but as far as users are concerned, they can send and browse email and make minor edits of office documents already and the rest, they aren't really interested in. Only IT really got excited about them, and after spending the weekend with the device I was bored with how fiddly it was to use. I've used Windows 8 since last November and know it well on a desktop machine (whenever I need to use it, less frequently these days!)but expected its natural home to be on a tablet.

I'm not really sure what we were expecting in Windows 8, MS did about as well as they could have, but the ship has already sailed in many ways and they are massively late to the party with an imperfect product. Perhaps Surface is better to use, but speaking as an end-user and an IT professional,and considering how long it took for MS to get a competing product out of the door, this is not that impressive nor does it really give people confidence in MS and the rest of the product stack.


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