‘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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.