This latest build of the Windows 10 Technical Preview released last week to members of the Windows Insiders program doesn't offer many notable new features compared to the previous release, build 9926. But it does introduce a handful of UI changes, and some new features, like improved virtual desktops, Start menu tweaks, and Cortana for desktop finally comes to the UK, China, Spain, and more. Here's a look at where Microsoft is with its future OS.
Start menu changes
The Start menu now has a transparent background so you can see what's on your desktop while using it. This is a nice touch, especially if you need a quick glimpse of what you're doing on the desktop while launching an app or using Cortana. Also, the "Places" section we saw in the last build has been removed, the All Apps section is easier to use with touch, and you can drag and drop apps from All Apps to your most used list or pin them to Start.
New network menu
This is a new feature that allows you to click the network icon on the taskbar for quick access to your network settings. It isn't complete yet, so we can expect access to more features in future builds that will improve the ability to manage your networks and switch between them easily.
Improved text input canvas
The way you enter text has been updated, and is a nice improvement for users of Windows 10 on tablets or 2-in-1 devices like the Surface Pro 3. There is improved handwriting recognition and predictive text, similar to the keyboard on your smartphone. There are controls on the right side that let you select a different keyboard, delete words and return, while also offering a compact view of the writing area. If you like the handwriting canvas on Windows 8, you can toggle to that version instead with the tap of a button.
Cortana comes to more countries
Cortana for the desktop has been expanded to more countries in this build, including China, the UK, Italy, France, Germany, France, and Spain.
Cortana started on Windows Phone as a digital assistant, similar to Apple's Siri or Google Now on Android. Microsoft intends it to be the central location for searching your local machine and the Web, either by voice or typing in your query. And you can customize it to fit your interests better so it becomes "smarter" over time.
New Virtual Desktops features
There have been some nice improvements to the virtual desktops feature, with the desktops now being numbered. You can also drag and drop windows between different desktops, and only the virtual desktop you're working on will show its open icons on the taskbar. Overall, these simple tweaks make it much easier to organize and manage what you're working on.
Improved apps for Windows Insiders
The Windows Feedback app and the Insider Hub have also seen improvements. You'll be able to filter your feedback and suggestions more easily, and in the Insider hub, there's an updated "Your Progress" page that tracks the amount of missions you've completed, how may times you respond to requests for feedback, and the number of up-votes based on your suggestions. The news, alerts, and other content will also be updated more quickly, and you'll be able to enter contests and giveaways.
Redesigned login screen
The design of the login screen has been tweaked a bit as you can see in the screenshot below. According to Microsoft, it's experimenting with different lock screen designs and features, too. These will probably change several times before the final version is complete.
Microsoft continues to tweak the icons in each build, and in this one, there are more of the flat and vibrant icons spread throughout the OS. The one that pops out right away is the Recycle Bin, which has a whole new look, as you can see in the screenshot below.
The most notable feature is the availability of Cortana in more territories. Users in the US have had it since the last build, and now users in additional countries have a new toy to play with. While this build provides only minor improvements, they are definitely welcome. Sometimes it's the little things that can make the biggest difference.
It's just shy of two months since Microsoft rolled out build 9926, and the company has received criticism from Windows Insiders who've been wanting new builds released at shorter intervals. Microsoft says it will indeed start releasing builds faster, possibly one or two each month. However, the company said that two months ago, so whether that comes to fruition remains to be seen.