In Pictures: Windows 10 - Inside Microsoft’s latest Technical Preview
The latest version, Build 9926, does not include some of the things that Microsoft showed off on Jan. 21, including deep integration of Skype into the OS, and the new Spartan web browser. But there are many important features in this build.
On Jan. 21, Microsoft revealed many of the major features coming to Windows 10. Two days later, Microsoft released an updated Windows 10 Technical Preview. The Technical Previews have been made available to the public, but are meant only for testing purposes, and will not completely reflect what Windows 10 will be like in its final form. The latest version, Build 9926, does not include some of the things that Microsoft showed off on the 21st, including deep integration of Skype into the OS, and the new Spartan web browser. But there are many important features in this build. Here's a closer look.
A search box now appears on the taskbar to the right of the Start Menu icon, which you can use to find files or programs stored on your computer/device or information on the web (via Bing). You can remove this box from the taskbar, or turn the search box into a shortcut icon of a circle. This search box is the interface through which you will interact with Microsoft’s personal digital assistant.
Cortana comes to Windows 10
The biggest new feature is Cortana. Microsoft plans to fully bake its personal digital assistant, which first appeared in Windows Phone 8.1, into the official release of Windows 10. During this testing phase, Cortana is not fully baked, and that's to be expected.
Setting up Cortana
Cortana resides inside the search box. You set it up by typing in your name or whatever you would like her to call you by.
You can set Cortana to activate whenever you say aloud to your computer's or device's mic "Hey Cortana." Doing this means Windows has to continually keep the mic on.
From there, you can ask Cortana to look up something, such as: "Hey Cortana, what is the current temperature?" A weather forecast will sprout from the search box, and a female voice (Cortana) will tell you the current temperature in your local area. She can also be asked to perform and answer basic calculations: "Hey Cortana, what is 6 times 7?"
Inside the search box are three tools that let you add or remove what kind of information Cortana presents to you throughout your day: Notebook includes events from your personal calendar, local news, and traffic conditions. Reminders are notifications you set for Cortana to alert you about something on a specified day and/or time, or when you arrive at a location in the real world. With Places, you add location addresses that Cortana can reference regarding your personal travel activity.
In prior builds of the Technical Preview, the restored Start Menu interface looked similar to the one in Windows 7, but with the Windows 8/8.1 Start Screen sized down into a panel stuck to its right. This sounds clunky, but the overall result was actually manageable.Now, Build 9926 presents an interface where both halves of the Star Menu share a uniform look; it further blurs the distinction between which are your Windows desktop applications (which by default are listed in the left panel) and which are your Windows Store apps (by default on the right).
Resizing the Start Menu
In the older Technical Previews, you could resize the Start Menu by clicking-and-dragging on its top border. For some reason, Microsoft took away this feature, but added a full-screen mode, which is turned on by clicking the icon on the upper-right corner of the Start Menu. In full-screen, it doesn't look completely like the infamous Windows 8/8.1 Start Screen, though -- the left panel listing your desktop applications and Windows Store apps still remains. If you switch on "Tablet mode," the Start menu will expand to fill the screen when you click/tap the Start Menu icon. Tablet mode also locks out the user from accessing the desktop.
Switching off a live tile
Another thing that the Windows 10 developers removed from the Start Menu was the ability to switch a live tile off. Windows Store apps can be designed to show updated information, like your local weather, on their tile. Turning off such live-updating has been available since the original Windows 8 release, as a means to save bandwidth when necessary, so it's disconcerting to see this option eliminated from Build 9926. Hopefully, its absence is temporary due to testing purposes, and will return in future builds.
Besides the more unified look of the Start Menu, there's not much new to see when it comes to eye candy. Some design changes for the system and user folder icons are seen under File Explorer. I think they look amateurish with a garish color palette, but maybe these won't be the final versions.
The Action Center in the last Technical Preview build simply showed system status updates. In Build 9926, it now also includes shortcut icons to eight system settings.
Windows 10 could merge the PC Settings of Windows 8/8.1 and classic Control Panel into one. Build 9926 presents the first take at this. The Control Panel is still available, but some of its settings have been moved over to this new UI (including Windows Update). Clicking the System icon here...
...takes you to a new version of the Windows 8/8.1 PC Settings menu.
And lastly, most of the Windows Store apps that come preinstalled on Windows 8/8.1 have been updated in Build 9926: Alarms, Calculator, Camera, Maps, OneNote, Pictures and Sound Recorder are among these. There's also a second version of the Windows Store, marked as a beta, which features a layout that's been designed to supposedly work better for desktop PC and notebook users of Windows 10.