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Leaked Windows Blue Build Reveals New Features: Gallery

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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Microsoft’s overhaul for the desktop OS goes viral in the highest profile leak of recent months

Over the weekend, an unnamed Microsoft partner leaked an early build of the Windows Blue project, revealing new features that could become part of Windows 8 before the end of the year.

Some users have already posted their impressions of the new operating system, along with screenshots. News of the leak was first noticed on a Polish forum dedicated to all things Windows.

Judging by the unfinished build, Windows Blue will offer desktop users new tile sizes, extended customisation options and more settings available directly from the “Start screen”.

The update confirms Microsoft’s commitment to the Start screen as the default navigation tool in Windows, and includes the upcoming Internet Explorer 11 browser.

Fresh from the oven

Since the existence of the project was accidentally revealed in February, Windows Blue has given birth to plenty of wild rumours. Microsoft has made a heroic effort to keep the details secret, as no one was sure what the weirdly named software product actually was, until now.

Windows Blue Start ScreenDuring the weekend, an unnamed Microsoft partner leaked Build 9364 of Windows Blue online, and it is now doing the rounds on the Web. It turns out the project is indeed an update for Windows 8, but there are no details on whether a similar update will be made available for Windows Phone 8, as the earlier rumours suggested.

The changes begin with the Start screen: according to Build 9364, Windows Blue will offer desktop users more tile sizes – smaller tiles taking up a quarter of a standard tile, as well as bigger ones which combine four standard-sized tiles into one. There are also other customisation options for the start screen, like the ability to set your own background and choose highlight colours, right from the “Charms” bar.

There are now more settings available without leaving the start screen, in the “PC Settings” menu, “Update & Recovery” menu and “Screen” menu which gives users more control over the display in Microsoft’s touch-centric OS.

The update will include several new stock applications, like the alarm clock, sound recorder and calculator, along with a brand new browser – Internet Explorer 11.

Microsoft has also added a “share” charm (similar to the one used in Windows 8 version of the Twitter client) to its OS, that allows instant sharing of content through various applications.

Windows Blue puts a lot more emphasis on running apps side by side, and allows up to four apps to be “snapped” together and displayed simultaneously on the same screen.

Windows Blue Build 9364

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Windows Blue installation

 

Acording to a poster with nickname WyznawcaSlonia, the new version of the OS improves the overall productivity of the system, providing an instant boost to the Windows Experience Index – a tool used by Microsoft to rate user’s hardware. Other analysts have also noted that the update seems to drop the overall RAM footprint of Windows 8.

As the leaked version of the build is being distributed through file-sharing networks, more details about Windows Blue are likely to emerge over the coming days. Microsoft is expected to release an official preview in the next few months, with a Windows Blue released in full before the end of the year.

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