Windows 10 Build 9926 is a big leap forward. It comes with new apps and features, most notably Cortana, Continuum, and an overhauled Start menu, Action Center, and Settings app. As Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore said, it’s an early build, which means we have a number of known bugs in this build, but fixes are imminent.
The consumer preview was rolled out on Friday, both to the fast and slow ring of Windows Insiders. Before you upgrade, make sure all updates were installed and you have around 4 GB of free space. If you’re installing from scratch, you can get the Windows 10 ISO here. Note that you’re opting in to a new Privacy Statement for the Windows Insider Program when you upgrade to or install the new build.
Cortana is Here
Everybody is talking about Cortana these days; or should I say talking with her? Having made her debut on Windows Phone 8.1 last year, Cortana is now being introduced to a wider audience via the Windows 10 desktop. You can tell it’s not her home turf. For most questions she refers to Bing and to some tasks, like creating a calendar entry, she responds that she can’t do this right now and that you should check back again after future updates. It’s an early build after all.
Stay tuned for an in-depth article on Cortana from someone who knows her well from Windows Phone.
New Start Menu
The massive changes here were somewhat unexpected; some are welcome, others not so much.
The Start menu can no longer be resized, but you can now maximize it via a button in the top right. In other words, the Start menu can be turned into a Start screen by the touch of a button. The change is remembered when you next click the Start or Windows button. The new Start menu / Start screen hybrid is very clever and will please those who wanted to have both.
What’s nice is how the tiles are handled. You can sort tiles into different groups via drag-and-drop, rename their header, and move an entire group by clicking the dotted area of its header and dragging it up, down, or sideways.
The left-hand portion of the Start menu used to work much like in Windows 7; a customizable list where some items expanded when you hovered with the mouse over them, like folders exposing files or the browser listing recently visited websites. This was useful.
Now, the Start menu displays up to three categories in the left pane: Places, Most used, and Recently added. Unfortunately, these lists are rigid and the most you can do is to remove apps from the latter two lists. No additional information is available on mouse-over. The only way you can add new tiles to the Start menu, is to right-click and select Pin to Start; drag and drop doesn’t work. Fortunately, these changes are just an intermediate snapshot, as Gabe Aul explained :
[W]e actually rebuilt Start in XAML, which is one type of code developers can use to build apps for Windows 10. The work on Start isn’t done yet, and we’ll have more changes that will show up in future builds including more personalization (and transparency!), drag and drop, Jump Lists, and the ability to resize the Start menu. – Gabe Aul
Notifications Replace Charms Bar
We knew it was only a matter of time until the Charms bar would disappear. In the previous Build 9860 , while the main keyboard and mouse shortcuts no longer worked, you could still swipe in the Charms bar from the right or open parts of it with respective shortcuts, such as Windows + S or Windows + I.
In the January build, swiping in from the right brings up the Notifications window or Action Center. It can also be launched via the note button in the notifications area in the bottom right or via the keyboard shortcut Windows + A.
At its very bottom, the Action Center hosts several shortcuts to quick actions, most of them linking to the new, overhauled Settings app. You can customize the for quick actions that are always shown in the Settings app (press Windows + I) via > System > Notificatons & actions.
Overhauled Settings App & New Features
The last build contained two Settings apps, one was called zPC Settings and contained some options that weren’t functional, yet. The new app unites both, sports a new interface, and many new options. Basically, the Settings app is turning into a modern Control Panel, i.e optimized for touch devices.
Most new features can be found under System, including Cortana & search, Storage Sense, Battery saver, and Maps. Briefly, Storage Sense shows you how your drive space is being used and you’ll eventually be able to change default storage locations for different file types.
Battery saver does exactly that by limiting background activity once you hit a pre-set battery level. Under Maps you can manage your offline maps to search for places or get directions when you’re not online. We’ll dive deeper into some of these in future articles.
Under Update & recovery, you can schedule restarts after new updates became available. Under Advanced options, choose Notify to schedule restart for this option to become available.
Universal Apps: Xbox, Xbox Music & Photos
In Microsoft’s media briefing, universal apps were all the hype. The January build comes fitted with the Photos, Xbox Music, and Xbox apps and all three lack features or have bugs. Photos keeps crashing and freezing on me while compiling my collection and the Albums feature is not yet included. Xbox Music doesn’t launch, unless you leave it in the forground until you’re signed in. The Xbox app looks more stable, but also sports some bugs and not all features that were demonstrated at the media briefing are available at this point. You’ll hear more about gaming on Windows 10 from our experts.
Welcome to Continuum
Thanks to Continuum, Windows 10 is able to tell what mode your device is in and seamlessly switch the user interface accordingly. Our tests with a Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro worked for the most part, although sometimes a manual input was necessary to switch to the touch optimized Tablet Mode and back. The switch can be done via a quick action in the Action Center. Note that in Tablet Mode you can close both desktop and Store apps via a swipe from the top.
Windows 10 Continues to Look Good
Overall, Build 9926 looks very promising. It contains a few more bugs than previous builds, but it also comes with many new features and several of them are promising to be game changers for Windows.
Have you played with the new Windows 10 build, yet? What’s your impression? Did you come across any bugs? What new features impressed you the most? Let’s hear what you think in the comments!