Microsoft lulled us all into a false sense of security with previous versions of its Windows 10 operating system. It felt like what we were getting next year when Windows 10 launches was something very boring, very apologetic. Windows 10 9901, the version of Windows 10 that leaked onto the internet this past weekend, is a smack in the face to people who assumed the rough experience in early Windows 10 Technical Preview was indicative of the final update.
Read: What is Windows 10?
Those keeping an eye on Microsoft’s plans expected an explosion of new things coming next month when Microsoft plans to fully reveal the Windows 10 experience for everyone. Chances are a lot of those features were revealed with this leak. Here’s what’s new in different in Windows 10 9901.
New Buttons in the Title Bar
In previous versions of Windows 10 we’d already seen Microsoft back away from the chrome design we’d seen since Windows Vista. Chrome is the area around an app that contains buttons for maximizing and minimizing. Microsoft confirmed plans to bring Windows Store apps to the Desktop for mouse and keyboard users already. Windows 10 9901 includes chrome and borders that better blend with Windows Store apps. A new full screen button sits on the left-top edge of every Windows Store app. There’s a Menu button for accessing that apps settings, sharing and printing.
New Xbox Experience
Microsoft’s Games apps for Windows 8 was an utter disappointment. You could respond to friend requests and read Xbox Live messages. That was about it. Purchasing a game sent you back to the Windows Store. Microsoft didn’t even update the app for Windows 8.1.
We don’t yet know how it’ll play out, but Microsoft seems to have realized the error in its ways. The Xbox app in Windows 10 9901 is absolutely better than anything we’ve gotten previously. Recent games, gamertag searching, messaging and achievement browsing are all included. Avatar customization, color options, and visibility settings all have placeholders in the app. For now, it seems to be a rehashed version of Xbox SmartGlass. The hope is that it’ll become much more in the future, maybe a hub for PC gaming too.
New Taskbar Look
Translucency is out and solid colors are in. Windows 10 9901 includes a redesigned taskbar. Lines underscore which apps are open. The entire taskbar is a solid color that’s darker than the highlight color. Sitting to the far right is a giant search field for Bing & Cortana.
Microsoft has talked up its unified Windows 10 app store since September, but only in Windows 9901 is it available for anyone to see. Alongside this app store is the music and video stores too. Finally, the Windows 10 Store will act as the Windows counterpart to Apple’s iTunes Store.
For now, there are two completely different Settings apps in Windows 10. One is the Control Panel. The other is Settings, a streamlined version of the touch friendly Settings app from Windows 8.1. In an effort to appeal more broadly, Microsoft has made it more mouse friendly and divided each setting into easy to navigate categories. It’s unclear whether the company has plans to replace the Control Panel with Settings. However, small steps are always nice.
The Photos app in Windows 8 was ok. It offered some basic editing tools you just couldn’t get anywhere else. If you were on a touch device, it was less than user-friendly. The upgraded Photos app, has the same design as Xbox Music. All the content sits in the center while a bar on the side provides navigation. Users can hide the bar if they choose. It still searches for photos locally and anything that might be stored on Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage service.
The Photos app in Windows 8.1 needed some work. The Camera app in Windows 8.1 isn’t intuitive. Some would call it bad. Windows 10 9901 includes a fantastic camera app that’ll look familiar to anyone who owns a Lumia Windows Phone. Having finalized its purchase of Nokia Devices and Services, Microsoft is implementing previously exclusive features where they make sense.
We’ve heard about Cortana, the Windows Phone personal assistant, making her way to other operating systems for months. Leaked videos of her working on Windows even surfaced a few weeks ago. Windows 10 9901 includes Cortana. She’s activated through a search bar on the Taskbar. A look into the settings indicates Microsoft plans to let users have her always listen so that they can ask her for things without a button press.
Again, these features are in addition to the changes Microsoft already included in previous builds. That Start Menu for mouse and keyboard users is still here. Apps download from the Windows Store still open in the Desktop alongside apps like iTunes. Multiple Desktop support for organizing tasks, easy multitasking with app snapping and a unified notification center are still present too.
Microsoft may have plans to reveal another version of Windows 10 at its January 21st event, but it isn’t scheduled to release a final version until the second half of 2015.