Windows Blue Build Leaks, Shows Off UI Tune-Up
March 25, 2013 11:10 AM
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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 (
-- 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
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.
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.
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.
And there's new style options to allow users greater flexibility in customizing the look of their Windows 8-style GUI.
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.
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.
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.
(Italian) both reported on these leaked features.
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Win8 is improving...but not quickly enough.
3/28/2013 12:48:04 AM
All of these improvements are very welcome, and you can pretty much ignore the Metro haters, they'll come around - so long as Metro is improved of course, in it's current state it clearly wasn't ready for release.
That said, there's a couple of small changes that would, in my mind, drastically improve the operating system:
#1: This is actually really simple, but applies to Win8 AND WP7/8 - close buttons in the multitask switcher. Drag to the bottom is quite nice (in Win 8 only, not WP8), but buttons are good for newbies).
#2: Allow apps to be set to open up to a sidebar by default by the developer and/or by the user. Opening up the messaging app or the calculator is just plain crap in metro. When you do this the start menu should also drop away to reveal whatever you were using before.
#3: I would also make the start screen background slightly transparent so it doesn't seem quite so jarring to switch between apps.
#4: Extend the taskbar across all screens and apps - make this an option and give apps the option to be marked as "Fullscreen" so that they will cover it up. I would get OEMs to enable it on desktops by default, disable it on ultrabooks/tablets.
"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson
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