Windows 10 build 10041: 99 bugs on the wall, fix a bug, add a feature, 114 bugs on the wall

More Cortana, updated browser, still a race to summer

Windows 10 lock screen

Pics Microsoft has released build 10041 of Windows 10, the first major update since January’s build 9926 went public. The test version is part of the US giant's “Windows Insider” program which lets enthusiasts install preview builds as they are ready.

The Insider program offers “Fast” and “Slow” versions, with Fast builds more frequently updated though with “more bugs with fewer workarounds,” says General Manager Gabe Aul. Build 10041 is in the Fast category, so users can expect a rough ride in places. So far, Fast has not been all that fast; Microsoft says this is changing but to what extent is uncertain.

Windows boss Terry Myerson promised earlier this week that Windows 10 “will be available this summer in 190 countries and 111 languages.” Summer is only a few months away, and judging by this build the team has plenty still to do.

There is a feedback app built into the preview, and the most up-voted comment refers to the “massive UI inconsistencies with the OS”. This is something Windows users have learned to live with over the years, and will be even worse in Windows 10 as it merges the “Metro” apps from Windows 8 into the traditional Windows desktop. The new build includes updated icons – the recycle bin now has a plain, flat look – but achieving the same look throughout Windows is unrealistic.

New icons in Windows 10

New icons in Windows 10

The revived Start menu is now transparent, though in this build this is a disaster: desktop windows show through and makes the Start tiles hard to read. Apparently this is not how it is meant to work and the issue is being addressed. Start menu entries also have a tendency to get replaced by long Store URLs in this build; do not try to use it for real work.

Microsoft is still working out how the Windows 10 virtual desktop feature should work. In this build, alt-tab only cycles through windows in the current desktop, and the taskbar only shows apps running in the current desktop. This means apps on other desktops are near-invisible, which could cause confusion.

“We are doing some A/B testing for this where there will be different defaults for different users,” says Aul.

One welcome change is that in the Task View, obtained by clicking an icon on the taskbar, you can now drag windows to desktops or to a new desktop, which is much clearer than the right-click previously required.

Preview users in the UK and several other countries now get Cortana, the Windows virtual personal assistant, which was previously US-only. Cortana’s capabilities remain incomplete, though. Other new features include a streamlined handwriting-recognition panel for pen users, a new Network fly-out giving access to network settings from the taskbar network icon, and an updated photos app with support for the RAW image format and hooks into OneDrive cloud storage.

Cortana in Windows 10

Cortana in Windows 10

There are big internal changes in the Internet Explorer rendering engine, though Microsoft has yet to unveil the “Project Spartan” browser promised for the final release of Windows 10. The updated engine has numerous new capabilities including 74 per cent ECMAScript 6 compatibility, CSS Conditional Rules, support for the JavaScript Web Audio API, support for the Apple-originated Touch Events API, partial support for CSS Transitions and Animations on SVG elements, and more. Some features are only unlocked if you enable “Experimental Features” in IE’s about:flags settings page.

Windows 10 will run on anything from small IoT (Internet of Things) devices to mobile phones and PCs, allegedly; it has huge scope, and brings with it a unified app platform that will be appealing to developers. It is also clear that Microsoft is making efforts to respond to feedback and to avoid a repeat of Windows 8, which was disliked by most existing users. Looks promising, but getting this thing finished, polished and stable by the summer will be a challenge. ®

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