I’ve now installed Windows 10 Insider Preview build 10122 on my main desktop PC and my Surface Pro 3, among other devices physical and virtual. And having now actually gotten real work done in this build, I feel like I have an understanding of where we’re at as Windows 10 barrels towards completion. It’s mostly good news, but many bugs remain.
Windows 10 build 10122 is currently available only to Fast ring testers, which means that the only way to acquire it is to upgrade the previous Windows 10 Insider Preview build, build 10074. There’s nothing new here at all: Setup hasn’t changed over several of the Insider and leaked builds I’ve used in recent weeks.
Hopefully this build hits the Slow ring quickly. I really prefer clean installs over upgrades.
The Start experience gets some nice fit and finish improvements in this build. The static File Explorer, Settings, Power, and All Apps items are moved down to the bottom left, which I prefer, and the resizing widget—which previously let you toggle between a Start screen and Start menu—is gone, as it should be. (No one will toggle this thing on an ongoing basis, and you can use Settings to change it if you want.) The result: a cleaner, more refined Start experience.
Some of the tiles now animate with an interesting but distracting 3D effect, as well.
There are no major changes on the desktop, and File Explorer retains the same washed out look as most Windows 10 windows—seriously, Microsoft, how about some contrast in the UI?—unless of course you consider the icons, in which case it’s too garish.
Of some note, I guess, is the work that’s been done around the tray area: the pop-ups you see when you select items like Network, Volume, and Power have all been made more consistent, both with each other and with the stark universal app aesthetic. And each offers nice context-sensitive choices so you don’t have to go digging to find things. Very nice.
People have been calling on Microsoft to add a notification center to Windows for decades, and after the aborted attempt in Longhorn (2003-2005, may it rest in peace), I never thought it would happen. Now that it has … eh. The collected notifications are almost worthless, and what this thing really is, is a glorified replacement for the Charms, courtesy of the Quick Action tiles at the bottom. It’s just not super-useful.
Tablet mode continues to be improved, but it also continues to have problems. On my Surface Pro 3, the default Tablet mode configuration is non-optimal: Tablet mode does not engage by default when you remove the Type Cover. So I enabled it and set it up so that it happens automatically.
When you engage Tablet mode—in my case by removing the Type Cover—things appear to work as they should. Everything goes full-screen and the tray icons space out so you can tap them more easily with your fat fingers.
But there are problems. Oh, are there problems.
From a user experience perspective, the rest of the UI doesn’t change. And in many places in the UI—the upper-left corner of many universal app windows, for example—the Back button and Menu (hamburger) button are so close together they’re too easy to mis-hit. Ditto for File Explorer, which doesn’t adapt to Tablet mode at all, beyond being full screen. And some apps simply look ridiculous full-screen:
Worse and more obviously, there are bugs, especially around such things are orientation switching, as you can see here in Edge:
And with exiting Tablet mode, where the full-screen apps return to a windowed state by squeezing into a tiny space in the corner of the screen. Dumb.
Microsoft’s new Edge browser picks up a number of new features in this build. The most notable is the New Tab experience, which is as attractive as promised. But it’s still incomplete: if you remove one of those default “Top sites” items—GitHub? Really?—there’s no obvious way to add your own choices. And it’s unclear why I want to see “Featured apps” in a web browser, ever.
Outlook Mail and Outlook Calendar
These apps were big news a while back, but now we’re just getting used to them and can see that they’re mostly just universal app updates to the previous Modern apps. That said, I like the use of the Word universal app in the Message view in Mail and the Event view in Calendar. That’s actually both attractive and useful.
Not much to say here. Stark seas of white and light gray, and the expected combination of apps, games, music and video options. If you access the Store option in Music (Preview) and Video (Preview), the Store (Beta) app now loads, as it should.
Music and Video
Again, not much to say. The apps are reasonably attractive, if stark-looking, though album art in both helps add contrast to many views. And unlike most universal apps, Music sports a true full-screen mode. But Video, weirdly, wrongly, does not.
On a related note, there is a new “Cast to Devices” option in File Explorer for media files, replacing the Play To option from previous Windows versions. As with Play To, no one will ever find or use this second screen feature, so whatever. (You can cast videos to a screen from within the Videos app, too.)
The Photos app still doesn’t support Albums. And I’m not going to even think about this app again until it does. (Microsoft promised this feature in January.)
UPDATE: Apparently, if you make an album in OneDrive on the web, they will show up here. But there’s no way to create an album in the Photos app yet.
The Xbox saw its big updates happen in the previous build, but I’ll just point out how attractive this app is, sans the ugliness of the stark white title bar against the otherwise very dark app surface. These kinds of small problems pop-up all over this build, and this is the sort of fit and finish work Microsoft still has to contend with moving forward.
Microsoft didn’t mention this in its release notes, but the MSN apps—News, Sports, Weather, Finance, and so on—have all been updated to universal apps, so they’ve lost the inefficient panorama user interface. I think they look great.
Aside from some minor UI changes to the set of buttons on the right—they’re now easier to see against the map surface—no major obvious changes here. But notice how the title bar matches the theme color (it’s dark) unlike in the Xbox app (as noted above). It’s all about the details.
(Literally) little utilities
Just a small note here, but when you run the three utilities that are called out in the Start menu—Calculator, Alarms & Clock, and Voice Recorder—it’s hard not to notice that these things are indeed phone apps. That said, if you run the system in Tablet mode, they will fill up the screen. Badly. (As noted above.)
Because I use so many leaked builds, I’m having trouble remembering when certain changes happened. For example, the default view in Settings now centers all the icon-based top-level options. But most of the sub-pages haven’t changed all that much. I feel like this part of Windows 10 was essentially done save some clean-up work a while back.
That said, there are new things to explore. A Family and Other Users section in Accounts, for example, hints at a new form of parental control.
Microsoft mentioned some changes to how Window 10 handles default apps. What it didn’t mention was how dumb this behavior would be. Since they noted that this particular dialog would be disappearing over time—it only shows up with legacy desktop applications—I will give them a pass on this one:
But there is no excuse for this stupidity.
Stability and reliability
I had high hopes for this build, and while the initial quality seems high, things are quickly falling apart as I use it. In the writing of this article, for example, I had to restart explorer.exe three times because the folder containing the screenshots kept hanging. If you’ve been holding off on Windows 10, you may want to see what, if any, updates Microsoft delivers for this build on the road to it potentially hitting the Slow ring. Or maybe the next build.
I’m going to soldier on, of course. I get that it’s a beta. And more to the point, this build represents, I think, something very close to the final shipping version of Windows 10, assuming we see more fit and finish and stability/reliability improvements going forward.
Tagged with Windows 10 Insider Preview