A rant about colors in build 15014

Microsoft released build 15014 earlier this week and although it comes with a number of new enhancements that make Windows that much better again, I couldn’t help but be disappointed as I was reading the announcement. Especially the delay for MyPeople. Although I understand that Microsoft holds off on that feature to bring is a great implementation in Redstone 3. (Call it the People Update, get it done Micrsooft!) Either way. There are actually 2 (perhaps minor) things that really boggled my mind.

Cortana

Imagen this, somewhere in Microsofts buildings, there was someone who thought “Hey, wouldn’t it be a great idea to make the Cortana search bar light grey so that it constantly is yelling at your eyes for attention?”. That’s the though process that went behind this:

I’m not sure what Microsoft was thinking there. The taskbar is supposed to “fade to the background” (not literally, unless you’ve set it to do that) when you’re working. But now, it’s a black bar, that suddenly has a light grey area, which is distracting to say the least. This grey bar doesn’t make sense here, unless the taskbar itself was white (or light grey). Please Microsoft, reverse this.

Custom colors

Sadly, the Cortana change wasn’t the most stupid thing in this build either. But first, let us dive into some history with Windows Phone 7.

In Windows Phone 7, Microsoft had the genuinely great idea to allow users to easily change the look of the UI across the whole OS. This was a great idea, unlike other systems like Android and iOS, you where not constrained to the color that either Google or Apple (or any Android OEM) thought was the best. And so, we ended up with these colors:

Although this was limited. It was the start of a great idea. Windows Phone 7 sticked to this color pallet throughout all of its updates. Nodo, Mango, Tango, they all used these 10 colors.

Meanwhile, Windows 8 was also introducing the Metro UI and included its own implementation of accent colors. I’m not sure if it is fair to call them accent colors here, since this only applied to the background of the start screen and the Settings app, while all other apps just went with their own brand color.

Either way, Windows 8 had what I would call a “dual color” system where you could select a color and its variation, but not independent from each other. Despite that, it gave much more freedom than what Windows Phone 7 provided. With 25 colors, it was far ahead of Windows Phone 7.

Meanwhile, Windows Phone 8 came around (and so did Windows Phone 7.8) and Microsoft added a number of new accent colors to both systems:

Hoeza! Going up from 10 to 20. Although still limited, this certainly gave people more choice. This is still less than Windows. But an improvement either way. This stayed the same throughout Windows Phone 8 and its 3 updates and Windows Phone 8.1 and its 2 updates.

Meanwhile, Windows 8.1 came around with a revamped start screen and the first “free” selection.

Windows 8.1 provided us with 324 background colors and 216 accent colors, leaving us with 69 984 different combinations to choose from. That’s 69 959 more than Windows 8 and 69 964 more than Windows Phone 8.1, if you’ve lost count. However, this was already down from the freedom some leaked Windows 8.1 builds provided.

Then the Windows 10 Insider Previews came around and Microsoft started to introduce the real accent color system to the desktop as well. The dual color system disappeared, but it made place for this beauty (image from Windows Central):

Lady and gentlemen: unlimited choice. The Windows 10 Insider Previews revamped Windows’ “Color and Appearance” window and made it affect the accent color. Sadly, with the dismanteling of the Control Panel, this panel disappeared as well. The other interface for the same setting is what has been left in Windows 10 (and Windows 10 Mobile) ever since:

48 accent colors. That’s all what was left. For Windows Phone 8.1, this was more than double but this new pallet also removed some of the previously existing colors. Basically all the happy and bright colors where gone. For Windows on the other hand, this was a massive step down from the 69 000+ colors.

The Creators Update seeks to bring back that choice. So why am I telling you this whole story? Because this really should never have happened, what’s now in the Creators Update should have been there from the very start in Windows Phone 7 (and Windows 8). Or no, a much better implementation should be in there. Let’s take a look.

The new accent color picker is a joke. I can’t describe it any other way. Just take a look at the accent I’ve selected here (with the option to pick an accent based on the background). The selector is outside the color field because this color is in fact not supported. You can’t reach my accent color. To make this even more ironical: you can’t reach some of the pre-defined accent colors with this new color picker either. There are however colors within its array that are “not supported” as well. If you put the slider to the left, not a single place you’ll put the selector in will result in you finding a color that is supported.

And please, Microsoft, don’t narrow this color selector down even further to keep that from happening. Instead, just support every color. In fact, make this selection options wider. Just show that “This color looks like it might be hard to read” message whenever you think there is a problem but let people just pick their accent color. Give us the background color picker for accent colors:

The background color picker does in fact give you all freedom you could get. The full RGB spectrum is available on this scale. Also, for some weird reason, this window is smaller than the one for accent colors. Please Microsoft, give us that freedom. For once.

Ho, and if you’re using Windows 10 Mobile – you know, the platform this all started on – like me, for some reason, you won’t get this feature either. What’s with that?

Introducing ChangeWindows 0.1

Today, I am very happy to announce ChangeWindows 0.1. “0.1 you say? But if I scroll down there is a post announcing 3.4!” Why yes, yes I say 0.1. That’s because I’m not talking about the website. Today we’re introducing the ChangeWindows App! *Yay*

ChangeWindows in the Windows Store

Now, hold on for a second, don’t get too excited. Right now, this is a very (very) simple Westminster app. For those who do not know what that is: it is basically a website in an UWP-wrapper, in this case, ChangeWindows.org. However, this does give our website access to the UWP APIs when you are using the app version of our website.

We are planning to include more and more features from Windows in our Westminster app later on which will be send to you with updates. Think notifications, live tiles, Cortana integration, etc.

However, the long-term goal is to bring a fully native ChangeWindows app. That won’t be for anytime soon, but just be aware that it is our end game.

ChangeWindows is available for Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 Team.

ChangeWindows 3.4: welcome to 2017

It’s perhaps late but… Merry Christmas! And a Happy New Year (that last one isn’t late). Since ChangeWindows 3.0 launched, I’ve updated the website on a monthly basis with version 3.2 and 3.3. And while it is 1 January today, this month is no different. Welcome to ChangeWindows 3.4(.1701). Let’s take a look at what’s new!

Before we get started, some of you may think “Hold on, this has been there for days now” and to that I say “Yeah”. Most of these changes where rolled out on 22 December 2016.

A year in review

With ease the largest update to ChangeWindows this month is the A Year in Review page, celebrating another year of Windows Insider madness! On the “A Year in Review”-page you’ll find some statistics about Windows 10, Microsoft (that are relevant tot he Insider Program) and ChangeWindows. Next year we’ll do one again!

Milestone overview

Unlike any other view on ChangeWindows, the Milestone view did not have an overview but instead would show you all PC-builds by default. That’s no longer the case. We’ve redesigned the milestone page to show you the latest stable and unstable build for that milestone for each individual platform (no matter which ring) and we show you how many releases have been made for each platform. Additionally, the milestone navigation is now only available on that page.

Timeline filters

If you go to a timeline of a platform, you will now see a filter appear on the side to filter by year. This is the first filter we introduce to keep things simple for now, but there are more to come in future updates. Expect a filter for branches as well.

Rings page

For color contrast reasons, we’ve redesigned the Rings-page to be more userfriendly. We also updated the rings for some platforms as they where out-of-date (sorry for that).

Version share history

Another page that got a redesign is the Version share history. We got a number of complaints that percentages for small versions aren’t readable and that the graphs where confusing to look at because they where so close on each other. Both issues have been addressed in today’s update.

Introducing Settings.json

Windows has plenty of settings. Problem is, they are spread all over the place. Since Windows 8.1 Microsoft has been working on bringing this all together once more in the then-called PC Settings app. For Windows 10, this became even more important and ever since we’ve seen Microsoft expand the settings available in Settings. Version 1507, 1511 and 1607 all brought a massive amount of new settings and old settings to the Settings app and version 1703 is appearing to become another massive step on the road.

But… how long is that road? That’s the question I asked myself. And personally, I couldn’t answer it either. And I want to change that. There should be a roadmap, listing every single setting native to Windows and whether or not they are available in the Control Panel, the Settings app or both. And today, I’m announcing the first step to such a roadmap:

studio384/Settings.json

Some of you might have already noticed this repository if you follow me on GitHub. Either way, Settings.json is a JSON file containing a list of settings. Right now, these are mostly settings that are available in Settings since I first started looking from the point of the Settings app. Now that this has been done, I feel its time to start showing the work. Next up, I’ll start looking in the Control Panel. Keep in mind that the current data in Settings (for the Control Panel) might be incorrect. There is still a lot, and I mean A LOT, of work to be done on this.

Which is why this is just a JSON-file right now. We’re planning to add a page to ChangeWindows where you will be able to see this in all its glory as a table with some stats, but that’s something for later.

If you want to contribute, if you think we’re missing something, feel free to help us on GitHub!

Where I think Windows should go next

With the Anniversary Update out to the public, development has fully shifted to Redstone 2 at Redmond. Microsoft has already set their plans for the Redstone 2 update in stone (hehe), but here is where I think Windows should go next.

Note: I started writing this post before the Anniversary Update was even finished, so some of this is dated. There will be a little paragraph with “Update” if it wasn’t rewritten.

A more consistent and polished design

I’m not going to talk about how the Win32-based part of Windows and the WinRT-based part of Windows look completely different. That should be obvious. What I do want to talk about is the inconsistency between UWP-apps. All of the build-in UWP apps seem to follow the basic set of rules of a normal UWP app, however, they all seem to implement it differently.

A clear example is the hamburger menu. There are a lot of different styles: the MSN apps have a dark bar all the time with a colored line in the app’s color, while apps like Get Started use the same design but instead go with the accent color. The Groove Music app and Movies & TV app use a line to indicate the active tab and they take the selected theme color instead of the app color and neither is their rail always black. The People and Settings apps use a similar style, but instead of a line over the full height of the active item, it just covers the height of the text within that active item.

Meanwhile, the Skype app makes the rest of the app fade slightly to dark when the menu is opened and the whole menu changes color when doing so. And honestly, why isn’t Skype following any of the other design styles either? The Calculator on the other hand switches to a small version of the hamburger menu when the app becomes small enough, reducing the line height.

These are just a few examples and there are more out there in Microsofts own apps (the Office apps and 3D Builder for example). Point being, there should be some consistency here and the hamburger menus and rails of which they are part should all respond and act the same. Why are some wider than others? Why is it that some hamburger menus lock their large form while others collapse again when you click outside of them. And don’t get me started about the Microsoft Casual Collection of games that got their UWP “redesign”.
Update: meanwhile, we’ve already come to known that Microsoft is running a project under the codename Neon to improve its design language. Although we expect most of this top pop up in Redstone 3 and 4, some apps might already start showing these enhancements in Redstone 2 and earlier.

More settings in Settings

Another obvious change is that more settings should be moved to Settings. The good news is that the Anniversary Update got us a long way, the bad news is that the road ahead is still long. Redstone 2 will likely further improve on this, as we’ve already seen with build 14926, which unified the Wi-Fi pages across desktop and Mobile.

Now, settings being split between multiple interfaces is, despite it being a popular Windows 8/8.1/10 complaint, not something unique to these latest versions. In fact, the situation was already bad in Windows 7 and older versions. These too had their settings all over the place, in fact, I would dare to argue that Windows 10, especially version 1607, might have one of the least confusing settings-situation. Anyway, it is obvious that the Control Panel will one day have to go, but it is also obvious that that day won’t be around anytime soon. Keep in mind that the Control Panel was build in over 20 years, you don’t rebuild that in 1, 2, 3.

Either way, Redstone 2 is making more moves to this than just adding new settings. One of these changes is that the Win+X-menu (the menu you get when right-clicking the start button) now shows “Settings” instead of “Control Panel”. We’re getting there, but this will take its time.

Update: Ever since writing this, even more Settings got moved in the Insider Preview. It’s looking good. ChangeWindows has also something coming up to see which settings are available where. More on that later.

Unified start experience across phones and desktops/tablets

There is something very cringe-worthy about the start-experience. If you look at your desktop’s start and Mobile’s start as individual, you might not notice it. But if you put them next to each other? If you happen to know how the Windows 10 Mobile start menu works when using Continuum, you know what I mean.

My point here is, the phone and desktop/tablets have 2 completely different yet so similar start experiences. While the desktop has to miss out on transparent tiles and folders, Mobile doesn’t get groups and large tiles. And oddly enough, on both sides these missing features have been requested a lot.

So why isn’t start a shared UI between desktop and Mobile? This is perhaps the most obvious UI to build as a shared UI in an universal OS. Yet here we are, with 2 completely different systems. Why can I swipe to the left on Mobile to reveal the All Apps list and do I have to hit a button on the desktop? Why do I get all options for the apps when pressing the tile for a long time on the desktop, yet not on Mobile? I feel like these UIs should be unified.

fact, build 14942 made it even worse if you’d ask me. This build introduced the ability to hide the “All Apps”-list when using the start menu. The result is that the Tile-view and Apps-view buttons from the start screen also appear in the menu. However, they act differently. It would have felt more natural (if you ask me) to just fill up all space the start screen utilizes by default meaning with more than just 1 column, however, when clicking the Apps-button, it will jump to a 1-column design (similar to Mobile, but different from how the desktop already did).

Update: we now know that Continuum on Mobile at least is going to get a more desktop-like version of the start screen. We also know that build 14997 brings live folder support to the desktop.

Get rid of built-in Win32 apps

WinRT-based apps (UWPs) have taken over many of the important features in Windows and added a few new ones. However, not all of them have been replaced (yet) and even if they are replaced, the old Win32-counterparts are often left in the OS.

An example of this is Internet Explorer. I do understand why this is still there: enterprises often need IE. Enterprises. You know, there is a special edition of Windows for these guys. Why not make Internet Explorer a disabled feature in Pro and Home that can be activated if requested and leave it enabled for Enterprise? The same goes up for many other apps. Why is Windows Media Player still around (for non-Enterprise editions by default)?

Then there are these apps that don’t have a WinRT-counterpart like Notepad, Paint, WordPad (although you could argue for Word Mobile here), Snipping Tool, etc. Right now there is a Paint app in preview, but it is not yet part of the OS. For the other apps, there is no news. Snipping Tool is one of the few that actually got a new feature in a recent update to Windows.

And then there is the obvious one: File Explorer. Now, File Explorer is a very complex and important app and this can’t be gone lightly over. If File Explorer is replaced with an UWP, it has to be done right. However, I think that of all the apps that are still Win32-only, File Explorer might benefit the most. UWP has an extension model. Just imagen that: installing extensions from the Store to File Explorer.

There are rumors flying around that Microsoft is in fact looking into making File Explorer an UWP app. In fact, Mobile already has an UWP-version of File Explorer. A very limited one, that isn’t ready for desktop-use. File Explorer should reach feature parity with the Win32-version before it is even considered replacing it as the default.

Anyway, as many Win32 apps that are part of Windows should be replaced as fast as possible. This isn’t just to make the design of Windows more consistent, it also is to show developers that Microsoft is serious about the Universal Windows Platform. Perhaps even more importantly: Mobile would benefit of this too. Especially from a UWP File Explorer. That is basically the only missing piece to make Continuum a “true” PC on your phone (considering the features announced for Redstone 2’s Continuum update).

Update: meanwhile, the Paint 3D app has replaced Paint in the Insider Preview. And again, the Settings app has been eliminating one Win32 Control Panel after the other.

An eye for details

And then there are the small visual glitches in the UI. Ever noticed that when you hover over the Action Center-icon, there is a gap between the background hover and the “Show Desktop”-button? Well, if you hover over that gap, you’re still on top of the Action Center-icon. Why is that gap there?

Speaking about gaps. The start menu has some gaps of its own. On the top of the UI a number of pixels (let’s say 4px) are unused. The result is that putting your mouse in the top right corner in the start screen won’t actually be on top of the hamburger button. If you happen to use your start menu with one column of groups, you’ll also may know about the gap at the bottom of your start menu. There is a empty area left there. What is that? Well, if you make your start menu 1 column wide, the group-titles will take less vertical space. The left over space is put on the bottom of the start menu. Because reasons.

Build 14997: new Settings, new Edge, new Defender, new OOBE

‘t Was the night before Christmas… and a build leaked out. Build 14997 to be exact. This build, unlike builds Insiders usually get, comes from the rs_onecore_base-branch, instead of the rs_prerelease-branch. Despite being not that much newer than the build 14986 we’ve got today, it does come with a few surprises. Well… they aren’t as much surprises as they are features that where announced before. But surprises nonetheless.

Before we get started, I do want to have another little word though. If you happen to run into this build, do not install this over your current installation. If you install this build, you’ll have to wipe it afterwards anyway as you won’t be receiving updates on an unsupported build. Also, features in this build are likely to hit Insiders, but they could be dropped over the coming weeks. If they get through, they’ll likely be in the first build Microsoft releases in 2017. Keep in mind that this is already an old build, and despite the holidays, development continues (just at a slower pace).

Settings

Settings is one of the many areas in this build that has gotten refreshed. When you open the app, a major change will be prominently on your screen: the number of categories has gone up from 9 to 10 (10 to 11 if “Extras” is a category for you as well). The “Apps” category has been added after “Personalization” and contains panels that used to be under “Systems”. To be exact “Apps & features”, “Default apps”, “Offline maps” and “Apps for websites”. Why would Microsoft split this category up? To give users a better overview could be one reason. Perhaps more panels will be moved to this category, or new ones will be added.

But there are much more interesting changes than moved panels. Let’s start with a feature that has been talked about a lot: Blue light. Settings for this feature have been added under “System” and it will allow you to reduce the blue light emitted from the screen when you use it, making it easier for your eyes.

Under “Personalization” much has changed as well. For starters, if you want to switch the theme of your device, you can now do so without leaving the Settings app (and thus without being kicked into the old Control Panel). The new Themes panel also contains shortcuts to changing the color and background, which just sends you to the respective panels for these features. But also to change the sound and cursor. These 2 however do send you to their old windows.

Another change is that you can now choose a color from your “Recent colors”. This is probably a first step to a color picker, as it doesn’t make much sense to add such a list when all colors are displayed in a grid right below it. The custom color picker, which was showcased in a video earlier, isn’t in this build.

Edge

For those using Edge – like me – it is still version 39. But there are plenty of new things to enjoy. Well, perhaps not plenty, but the things that are there are probably features you might want to use often. Perhaps even something you’ll end up with not being able to live without them.

These new features all result together in 3 new buttons in the main UIs tab bar. Let’s start with the 2 on the left. When you have tabs open (other than the New tab-tab), this button will be enabled. Once you click it, all tabs that are open will disappear and a New tab-tab will open. The tabs you had open are now stored below the first button. This panel shows you all tabs you’ve previously send there, ordered by when you did so, in groups. I can see this feature being particularly useful if it syncs between devices. I don’t know if it does that (yet), but if it does, than synced tabs are finally back.

On the right side of your open tabs, another button has appeared. Clicking this button will show you all previews that you would usually see when hovering over a tab. There is something interesting about it though: unlike what you might think, right now, the previews don’t collapse when you do anything else. They just stay open untill you click the button once more.

These 2 features are interesting in another way: Microsoft has been showing them off in demos of Edge ever since they announced the browser. When asked for it later on, Microsoft told us that these features where no longer in the planning and later videos never showed them again… until the October Windows 10 announcement where they popped up in a concept video once more. It’s great to see them finally materialize as this brings another 2 unique features to Edge that other browser don’t have (out of the box).

Now, if you’re a developer, there is plenty for you to enjoy as well. The new version of EdgeHTML has now support for WebVR and Content Security Policy 2. Not behind flags, these features are enabled by default.

…talking about flags, there are a couple new flags in about:flags. One of them is “Allow independent rendering of HTML5 Video elements”, another one, more interesting perhaps is “Allow background tabs to be put into a low power mode”, which could be usefull for battery-powered Windows 10-devices. There are plenty more, and I suggest you go read the changelog for this leaked build to find them all.

There are however 2 more that I want to call out in particular. The reason behind this is that they require you to sign in with a Microsoft Account (although your account itself has nothing to do with it). One of these new flags allows you to “Show an option in Settings to enable the Home Button in the browsers chrome”, the “Enable Home button”-option was added after Insiders complained, to me it’s strange that there is now an option to disable that option. The other one is “Show the books library in the Edge hub”, which has probably to do with Edges new found support for EPUB-files, and this probably means that we’ll soon see a 5th category in the Edge Hub.

Defender

In build 14986, Microsoft added a refreshed Windows Defender. Unlike the previous version, this new version is an UWP app. In this leak, the UI has been updated with some refinements and a new page in the app. It is already clear that this new Windows Defender will do more than the old one as it seems to be heading to be more of a “security hub” for Windows, rather than a simple AV.

OOBE

Another major change in this version is the new OOBE. You have probably heard about this on other news sites. The new OOBE has been redesigned with a dark blue interface and the container for text has become smaller. But that’s nothing compared to its one biggest new feature: Cortana. You can now run through the installation by simply talking to Cortana. I’ve got to say that this new version also makes options that were previously more “hidden” (as in, links instead of buttons) more visible which is probably a welcome change for some people, and another slap in the face for the privacy-conspiracies.

And more…

 

There are more minor changes in this build. The start menu now supports live folders similar to Windows 10 Mobile, the new Share UI which finally replaces the Windows 8-era sidebar, a new icon for the Get Help-app, etc. If we find anything major more, we’ll update this post.

Either way, like said before, we strongly recommend against installing this build if you have no idea what you’re doing. In about 3 weeks, most of these features will be available to Windows Insiders anyway through builds that are actually meant for the public.

ChangeWindows 3.3: desktop isn’t desktop anymore

Today, we’re pushing once again a major update to our website. If you prefer to visit preview.changewindows.org instead of our normal website, nothing here will be new for you, if you don’t… well… not much here will be new for you either.

Desktop isn’t desktop anymore

However, there is one minor yet major change that I would like to address. Desktop has been the category on ChangeWindows with which it all started, and today, we’re dropping it. You will no longer see us reference to the Home, Pro, Education and Enterprise SKU of Windows with the name “Desktop”. Instead, we’ll now use “PC”. Why? Well, whenever we reference to “Desktop” as a hardware platform to run those SKUs on, we are actually pointing to desktops AND laptops, tablets, AiOs, convertibles, 2-in-1s and more. “Desktop” simply didn’t fit the bill, it never did. It was time for us to move on from that term, so here we are. Obviously, you’ll still see us reference “desktop” as in the software environment within Windows as that simply is its name. For now, using “desktop” in URLs will continue to work, however, this won’t stay for long.

Improved (mobile) UI

If you often visit ChangeWindows with a smartphone or other small-screen device, you’ll notice that we’ve changed the UI on a number of places. ChangeWindows will now better handle these small screens with a cleaner UI. Especially the menu got some enhancements to make it more touch-friendly on those little devices.

Some old ChangeWindows 2.x features

Todays update also brings back a number of old ChangeWindows 2 features that got lost in the transition to ChangeWindows 3. For example, it is now possible again to quickly navigate to the previous and next build. We’re now once again showing the buildstring for each release in the minilogs (not the main changelog for each build) and if a source URL is available, the string will be clickable to go to the Windows Blog announcement or KB article.

Additionally, we’ve added vNext as a build to our milestone overviews to make these changelogs accessible from all views and you’ll find a link to the vNext logs in the sidebar of our home.

Another massive management update

Like ChangeWindows 3.2, this update makes it once again more easy for me to manage ChangeWindows. You won’t notice anything from this, but I do. And it is massive. We also cleaned up our code, both Mainstage and Backstage.

Thinking about the future

ChangeWindows vNext

Of course, we’re also looking further into the future. We’re already making plans for ChangeWindows 4, in fact, I hope to start development of this revision of the website soon. With the next major update, I would like to introduce an account system and allow you guys to change what you see on our home page and more. Plenty more things will be possible.

Universal Windows Platform App

Another thing I’m looking into is an Universal Windows Platform App. Zac Bowden – from Windows Central – recently brought the Westminster Bridge to my mind again, a bridge that I’ve played with before, which allows a website to act like an app. Ever since, I’ve been playing around with some possibilities.

ChangeWindows 3.3 already includes some code to manipulate Windows APIs when running as a UWA (mostly some customization like title bar, etc., nothing to fancy). And perhaps soon you’ll see the ChangeWindows app pop-up in the Windows Store! However, this will still be a very basic Westminster app, basically a wrapper. But there are plans to extend that. Right now, I’m looking into native notifications when new builds become available and Cortana integration, so that you can say things like “ChangeWindows show the changelog for build 14971” or “ChangeWindows show Redstone 2” and such.

I’m not saying this will materialize any time soon if the app goes live. Maybe it will always stay as a handy wrapper. But perhaps not. I hope not. And maybe, one day, we’ll have a full native app.

ChangeWindows 3.2 and an update to our content expansion

At the end of September, we launched ChangeWindows 3.0, since then, with version 3.1 we’ve brought a number of minor refinements, mostly to the management system we use. Today, we’ve put ChangeWindows 3.2 online, and although this update once again focusses on improving our Backstage, it also has some new tricks on its sleeves for you guys.

ChangeWindows 3.2

First off, we’ve updated the “build”-pages. You’ll notice that the color of the website now fully follows the color of the ring that build is in, so that the ring color no longer results in an ugly mismatch between the default blue and that ring color. More useful perhaps is that you can now hardlink to the “Release history” tab, you can do this by replacing the platform in the url with “history”. For example: changewindows.org/build/14393/history. This is likely very useful for those wanting to link to our patch notes.

Another major change can be found on the “Milestones” page. You’ll notice a “Version share”-tab, which allows you to dive into our historic data from July 2015 up until October 2016 and see how one version of Windows 10 overtakes the other. That data isn’t the same as we showed in previous versions (2.x, 3.0 and 3.1) since we’ve taken on a new source.

A third major change can be found on our “Rings” page. It got a full redesign and now shows every ring for every branch instead of a general overview. Very similar to the image we showed with our The Lord of The Rings post from earlier this month.

The fourth and final major change is invisible for you guys, but makes it much easier for me to manage ChangeWindows as the Backstage has been reworked with an improved design, easier addition of new builds, releases and milestones and more.

Content expansion

In October, we promised to expand our reach far beyond what we had so far. We would include Team, improve our coverage on Server, IoT and Xbox and we would expand our coverage to all rings for all platforms.

Now, a good 3 weeks later, Team has been added to our website, we’ve added all Rings we didn’t cover so far and our coverage for both Server and Xbox has been expanded to cover every build and patch for both platforms that got released ever since Windows 10 came around. IoT also got all its patches listed. The only thing we’ve yet to do is add changelogs for previous IoT builds. This is something we hope to finish this November or in early December, so stay tuned for that!

The Lord of The Rings

Rings. Not these things you put around your fingers, no, I mean the rings that make up the flighting system in Windows 10. Ain’t they beautiful? Gracefully flighting builds through them, from canary builds to the ever lasting Long-Term Support branch. Wonderful.

Until you reach the point where you are asking the question: how does this even work? Is anyone mapping this whole system out? Until you talk with people like @Nickurtnl. That’s the point where you realize how much of a mess this system actually is. A beautiful mess, but a mess nonetheless.

The people that have been around since the early days of the program might remember this chart:

The Windows 10 rings system as of build 9841.
The Windows 10 rings system as of build 9841.

It’s a very simple chart. This was published with the launch of build 9860 to draw a comparison with the old (build 9841) and new (build 9860+) ring system that was introduced that day. That day, they introduced the Fast Ring. The chart looked like this:

The Windows 10 rings system as of build 9860.
The Windows 10 rings system as of build 9860.

Simple. Isn’t it? Well yes, it is simple. And accurate for its time. However there have been some changes to it. The Fast Ring has now moved in between the Selfhost (what used to be the OSG Ring) and Microsoft Ring. And the Release Preview Ring has been added after the Slow Ring. But then again, this is only development rings. These aren’t all the rings.

Counting internal Microsoft-rings too, there are 9 rings (for desktop). But for the sake of simplicity, I’ll leave out all non-public rings in this article. That results in this chart (also dropping the visual rings to keep things from getting to confusing):

All rings that are available to the publc.
All rings that are available to the public… for desktop… in some editions.

Alright. Still with me? Great. Because this is just the easy part. Because lets not forget that we’re talking about the desktop/tablet SKUs of Windows in general. Not every desktop SKU has access to every ring. And to repeat myself: this is ONLY desktop. There is also Mobile, Holographic, IoT, Server, Xbox and Team. And here comes the fun part: all of these have their own combination of rings that are available to them. Behold:

All rings for each platform… not considering editions.

Well, that certainly doesn’t look that organized. However, this isn’t the most complex chart I could make of this, tho. We’re ignoring individual editions here, who all may or may not have their own set of available rings. This chart just shows all rings that are available for any SKU within a certain platform.

This chart isn’t all that complex, but if you are trying to keep track of everything in these rings, like what I do for ChangeWinodows, then things become messy. This makes a total of 27 rings. It’s a good thing that none of these rings can have more then 1 different build… Right? RIGHT?!

Well… Nope.

For those unaware, the Current Branch for the desktop versions of Windows 10 isn’t serving just build 14393. If you are still on 10586, then you’ll also get updates on this branch. Are you still on 10240? You are also still receiving updates. The Current Branch for Business on desktop is serving both 10586 and 10240 while the LTSB is serving only 10240, but is set to serve 14393 as well (in fact, it is already available, but not being “officially” supported, it’s complicated).

So. Let me show you the scheme as it is for desktop only. The blue squares are “entry points” for builds. This is where builds are “fed” into the public system.

The ring system as it stands for each individual release at this moment… on desktop.

This is getting a bit more confusing perhaps. Again, note that this is only – and only – for desktop. The Mobile scheme is different, so is any other scheme. And note that I’m completely ignoring the whole idea of editions here. The scheme above is only for desktop as a platform. The Home edition of Windows 10? Different scheme. The Pro edition of Windows 10? Also a different scheme. The Enterprise/Education editions of Windows 10? Also a different scheme.

You see, this is where “not all editions have all rings” comes in. Some editions of Windows 10 are/where excluded from the Insider Program, while others don’t go beyond the Current Branch or Current Branch for Business. Another important note is that these arrows between rings do not give a representation of time. If a patch is introduced to the Current Branch for a build that is the Current Branch for Business or both the CBB and Long-Term Support Branch, than that patch is distributed to all 3 rings at the same moment. But only if it is a patch, not for builds.

The Release Preview Ring on the other hand exclusively receives patches. Except if it doesn’t. At the end of a development cycle, when the final build of a future release has been accepted by the Slow Ring, it can move to the Release Preview Ring. From that point forward, the Release Preview Ring is no longer an “entry point” for builds (patches, in its case) but is receiving from the Slow Ring. And when that happens, slowly every single ring after it will follow.

Except for the Long-Term Support Branch, which doesn’t. Unlike the other rings, no matter how stable a build might be in the Current Branch for Business, it might never see the Long-Term Support Branch. The LTSB is said by Microsoft to be refreshed only every 2 to 3 years. This makes that 3, 4 or 5 releases of Windows 10 for every LTSB won’t reach this final ring (considering Microsoft will release 2 stable updates each year) – and I’m prety sure that, at this point, you see the following coming.

Except when it doesn’t. Because despite this “once every 2 to 3 years”-rule, the Anniversary Update, which follows only a year after the original and first LTSB-build (10240), will also get pushed to the LTSB. “Pushed” as in, it will be made available, these machines won’t actually get this new build offered. They have to be upgraded in-place.

However, on Holographic and Server both are receiving build 14393 on the LTSB. Even more confusing, there is in fact an LTSB version of 14393 for desktop available as well, but not officially served (they are getting updates, tho) just yet. Basically, multiple rings can have multiple builds. However, this only applies for stable rings, so everything that is green or farther to the right in the above chart.

Except Xbox. Xbox is currently getting served 2 different builds in its preview ring. Both the August Update and October Update are being previewed at the same time.

All right. Here we go. The full scheme. All public rings, for each individual release per platform. This only displays the rings that are currently being served for each platform. So IoT version 1507 isn’t on this, neither is Xbox version 1510, 1602 and 1603.

Can you feel me!?

Look at it. Just look at it! Such complexity. Again, completely ignoring the whole idea of editions. I can make this even more complex. This is the situation as it is right now, on November 6th, 2016. And believe me if I say that over time, this will get even more complex. As more builds move to LTSB to stick there for 10 years, more and more releases of Windows 10 will get spread over more and more support life cycles.

 

The final pieces that are Team, Xbox, Server and IoT

Over the course of the last 2 years, ChangeWindows has collected changelogs from every platform Windows’ runs on. Starting with the desktop in October 2014, and expanding to Mobile in February 2015. In April 2016, we started to include Xbox, Server and IoT. Finally, in June 2016, we added Holographic.

And – if I can say so myself – we did a pretty good job at desktop, Mobile and Holographic ever since we started with these 3 platforms. We’re doing fine for Xbox too since build 10586. But everything else? Server is missing most patches, IoT doesn’t even have actual changelogs (let alone patches) and the New Xbox One Experience-previews aren’t listed either. And finally, we don’t even cover Team. For those who don’t know what Windows 10 Team is: this is the OS running on the Surface Hub.

These are 4 big gaps in ChangeWindows’ data. 4 gaps we intend to – finally – close before 2016 has ended. So I’m kind of excited about that, because once that is done, we truly do cover every single publicly released Windows 10-based build. So here is a blog post, just to announce this. Likely we’ll first focus on adding Team, followed by Xbox-updates, followed by Server to close off with IoT. So stay tuned for all of these changelogs, soon on ChangeWindows!