It’s almost astonishing that two months have passed since Microsoft started allowing users to test a significant part of its Windows 10 features on their own PCs. Back in January, how revolutionary Windows 10 appeared to be was just about all that longtime PC users who keep a close eye on things could talk about.
Power users are excited about Windows 10 because it brings tons of feature additions and a new look to their much-coveted Desktop interface. Windows users who’ve become accustomed to Windows Store apps and the Start Screen are excited because Windows 10 brings only the second set of major changes since the Start Screen and its ecosystem were introduced. This week, Microsoft rolled out Windows 10 10041, a new version of the operating system mean for the brave and bold members of the Windows Insider Program. This version of Windows 10 adds even more cool features for users to check out.
Read: What is Windows 10?
Here are the new features included in Windows 10 10041. This is only a preview of the final operating system, meaning some of these features will change significantly before Windows 10 launches with new notebooks, tablets and desktops later this summer.
Tablet Mode Gets a Silent Upgrade
Last year, Microsoft dazzled industry insiders with tales of a Windows interface that would tailor itself to the input methods users had. For example, if Windows 10 users had a keyboard and mouse, but no touch screen they’d get a Start Screen the size of the old Start Menu. For these users, Windows Store apps directly in the Desktop, just like the Windows programs of yesteryear. Touchscreen devices get the Start Screen with apps running in full-screen all the time, plus some gestures to make switching between apps a lot easier.
It wasn’t until Microsoft released Windows 10 10041 that they finally made good on this promise. Tablet Mode was in the last version of Windows 10 that Microsoft made available to users, but people had to click or tap on a prompt when they attached or detached a keyboard. Windows 10 10041 adds a setting that makes switching Tablet Mode on or off automatic. No extra steps, Windows 10 just rebuilds itself for the input methods you have automatically.
The Start Screen Looks Different & Network Gets Its Menu
Back at the January Windows 10 Media Briefing Microsoft confirmed that it was in the process of rewriting its Start Screen experience. It needn’t have shared that information, it was very clear from testing that Microsoft had gone was re-engineering the Start Screen experience. There was a new quick access area for things like File Explorer and Settings. To the right of a list of frequently used apps and programs was an area for users to pin and organize their Windows Store apps.
In Windows 10 10041, all of that is still there, but everything has a visual tweak or two. The File Explorer and Settings options now only appear as text, letting them stand out in the interface but not distract from what else is going on. That was a big problem from earlier versions. The Start Screen itself still has a colored background, but it’s also now transparent so you can see your Desktop background. You can drag apps from the All Apps list directly to the right to pin them.
The last Windows 10 Technical Preview had this enormously clunky way of connecting to a wireless network. Instead of quickly changing the settings you had to dive into another full screen app. Windows 10 10041 adds a fly out menu so that users can access their network settings without a bunch of extra nonsense.
Lock Screen Changes
Microsoft heavily tweaked the lock screen in Windows 8.1 in 2013. At that time it added a slideshow for showing off pictures and quick access to the built-in Windows camera app.
Windows 10 10041 upgrades the lock screen experience too. None of the upgrades are particularly revolutionary, but there are some nice features scattered here and there. Those slide shows for the lock screen are still there, but joining them are little tips that teach users how to use their device. Microsoft has rounded the corners of account pictures and made them more prominent too. In the bottom-left corner of the lock screen is the user’s Microsoft Account and a button for switching to another account without any issue.
A few more tweaks stand out too. First, the Photos app has some stability upgrades and showcases user’s pictures from OneDrive on its Live Tile. That’s something it simply didn’t do before. Cortana, the Microsoft personal assistant, now learns names. Also added is the ability for Cortana to create appoints in the Calendar app.
All told, Windows 10 10041 is a great look at why users may want to upgrade to the operating system. None of the features introduced in this version are enormously revolutionary, but they collective deliver a better experience than what we received from the company in January and Windows 8.1 in general.
Microsoft plans to release Windows 10 as a free update for Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 users late this year.