Windows Blue features leaked
Starting at the beginning, then, Windows Blue (build 9364; Windows 8 is build 9200) increases Start screen customization. Live Tiles can now be even smaller (a lot like Windows Phone’s smallest tiles), and the Desktop tile is huge. Still no sign of a built-in feature to skip the Start screen or bring back the Start menu, though. Instead of just 30 color presets, you can now fully customize your Start screen background and accent color. There is also a new gesture: Swipe up from the bottom of the Start screen to reveal all installed apps.
In Windows 8, you have the option of snapping one app to the left or right side of the screen, and running another app side-by-side. With Windows Blue, you can now run apps that are perfectly split in the middle, 50/50, much like Aero Snap on the Desktop (try dragging a window to the left edge of the Desktop, if you’ve never done it before). Alternatively, Windows Blue allows you to run up to four apps in portrait orientation side-by-side. In a tiny boost for multi-monitor setups, Windows Blue allows you to snap apps to the edge of any monitor.
Beyond the visuals, by far the most significant update in Windows Blue is the addition of tons of new config options to the Metro Control Panel (“more PC settings”). If you had any lingering doubts about whether Microsoft was trying to kill off the Desktop, here’s confirmation. In essence, Microsoft seems to be adding enough features to the Metro Control Panel so that tablet users never have to switch to the Desktop Control Panel. There’s also a new section that shows you the handler for each file type, and allows you to change the default apps. For a better idea of the changes to the Metro Control Panel, check out the gallery below.
Rounding out the changes, there’s Internet Explorer 11, and a few tweaks to the Charms Bar; the Share charm now lets you quickly take a screenshot and share it with other apps/contacts, which is neat. IE11 seems mostly unchanged for now (unsurprising, as we’re not yet into the public preview stage), but the presence of a tab sync feature suggests that Windows Blue might sync your tabs with Windows Phone 8 — or perhaps Windows Phone Blue, when/if that appears.
At this point, we’re still not entirely sure what Windows Blue actually is, though the leaked build strongly suggests that Windows Blue is indeed an iterative, annual update to Windows 8; kind of like a normal Windows Service Pack, but with a few new features thrown in to help the OS (and Microsoft) keep pace with Apple and Google’s annual updates. The persistent rumor is that almost every Microsoft product — including Windows Phone, Server, and its online services — will shift to the same kind of annual combi-service/feature pack, which could definitely help Microsoft regain a modicum of maneuverability after way too many years of being a bureaucratic behemoth.