Windows 8 has been with us for around 6 months now, and for a lot of that time, rumours of Windows Blue have been with is as well. (Mary Jo had a post about it on August 13th 2012 – http://www.zdnet.com/windows-next-just-call-it-blue-7000002535/)
Well, this week saw an early build of Windows Blue leak online and – thanks to early early adopters – we’ve got a great look at what it has to offer.
What new things are on offer?
Side by Side Snap
Windows 8 currently offers a snap view where one app takes up 2/3 of the screen and another makes up the other 1/3. I find it very useful and use it regularly but not everyone seems to agree on it’s usefulness. HP, for example, claim it is a “consumer feature” and purposefully built their business focused Windows 8 tablet, the ElitePad 900, with a screen resolution incapable of snapping; as they don’t feel that business users need it.
Windows 8 Blue brings new snap capabilities, giving 50/50 snapping (as per desktop mode & Windows 7) but also allowing 3 and 4 apps to be snapped simultaneously.
These improvements also extend to multi-monitor support, allowing you to run individual Windows 8 apps across multiple monitors.
As the current Windows 8 snap features requires a minimum resolution of 1368×768, will the additional 3 & 4 app snap capability require an even higher resolution?
Internet Explorer 11
The latest revision of Internet Explorer will be available as part of the Blue update:
The word on the street/online is that tab synchronization will be introduced in IE11 and Windows Blue, allowing users to continue internet browsing across devices. You’re looking at a page on your desktop pc and need to leave the office, you can pull out your tablet on the train and pick up where you left off…it should also be possible to continue the browsing on a Windows Phone 8 device.
Oddly enough I was talking to someone who’s quite the Apple fan the other day (hi Mat!) and they mentioned this as something they really like about the iOS universe. I wasn’t aware that it was a thing and had never really thought about it so it wasn’t something that I missed…that said, since our conversation and now it’s rumoured inclusion in Windows Blue, I can see myself using it a lot between laptop/desktop and tablet. Something I wonder is this – will it be possible to do it across devices that don’t share MS accounts? For example, people won’t have their Hotmail account linked to their work machine but they may wish to continue their browsing on a personal device, which will have the MS account rather than corporate details – will this be possible?
New Live Tile sizes
In a move that brings it in line with Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 Blue will support smaller live tiles. This please me and I’m sure many others, as it enables one to have many more things easily accessible without creating a huge start screen to scroll through. That change between WP7 & 8 was one of the biggest and most beneficial for me.
The Desktop tile is the only one to have a special “extra large” offering too:
(courtesy of The Verge)
New options in Settings
Microsoft have made many of the Control Panel features now available in the Windows 8 mode, rather than forcing the user into the desktop. This is a brilliant move, the switching between modes is one of the biggest complaints I hear and I find it very jarring myself, so steps to reduce it’s frequency can only be a good thing. I’d be happy to spend all my time in the Windows 8 interface if I could do everything I needed to (and I’m sure many others would) so this is definitely a step in the right direction.
You can see here the ability to backup a device to SkyDrive. I imagine this will be pretty useful although quite a slow process!
The Devices Charm features a new “play to” option.
The Share Charm lets you quickly take a screenshot:
Other new features
The Verge tells us that “On the Start Screen you can swipe up from the bottom to bring up a list of all apps, and in the desktop mode you can swipe up or down to reveal a desktop app bar that provides access to snap, projector settings, and more” which sounds like a great addition.
The new Apps section in settings lets you see how much storage each app is using.
There is a new, quick way to add VPN settings.
A “Quiet Mode” has been introduced, allowing you to set periods when notifications are subdued.
New built in apps include:
- Sound Recorder
- Windows 8 style calculator
- Movie Moments – a Movie Maker replacement.
When will we get it?
Microsoft today announced their BUILD conference, the Windows Developer event, will be held in San Francisco on June 26-28 2013. It seems likely that we will see the first public preview of Windows Blue around this time – so not that long to wait really, yay!
Registration for BUILD begins 09:00am PST April 2nd here – www.buildwindows.com.