Windows 10 preview build 10547 actually has useful improvements

Surprise release plugs a few gaps in Windows 10, but Microsoft has a long way to go to get a new TH2 Windows 10 Update out the door by November

Windows 10 preview build 10547 actually boasts some useful improvements

Microsoft's Gabe Aul caught most of the Windows testing community flatfooted when he released a new beta build of Windows 10 on Friday afternoon. I've had a chance to play with preview build 10547 over the weekend, and -- unlike TH2 (presumably Threshold 2) build 10532 -- this one actually has discernible new features.

Here's an English translation of the changes Aul notes in his blog post:

  • You can now choose between three tiles wide and four tiles wide in groups of tiles on the right of the Start menu. The change also affects tablet mode. Click on Start > Settings > Personalization > Start, and move the slider to "Show more tiles." You don't actually see more tiles; the setting merely unlocks a fourth column in the tile groups so taht you can drag tiles over to the right.
  • The old bug limiting the All apps list to 512 apps has been bumped up to 2,048.
  • Tablet mode has changed to better support snapped apps: When you have two snapped apps, you can directly snap a new app over the top of one of them. Click and drag a new app over the top and it "teeters" the two existing apps to show which slot will get the new app. There are also some improvements to how the text input panel works.
  • Apps have been updated. Photos now has a folder view that clearly shows which photos are on your system and which are in OneDrive. And "many other apps such as Groove, Mail and Calendar and Maps have also received updates."
  • You can keep your Windows background (formerly wallpaper) from showing up on the lock screen (formerly sign-in screen) by clicking on Start > Settings Personalization > Lock screen, then turn off "Show Windows background picture on the sign-in screen."
  • Edge now gives programmers the ability to run audio and video without plug-ins with a technology called Object RTS.
  • You can use Cortana with a local account; you're no longer required to use a Microsoft Account.

Here's the part that isn't mentioned in Aul's post.

There are lots of changes to the Microsoft Store and the built-in Windows apps, and they aren't only for beta testers. If you're running Windows 10 of any pedigree, fire up the Store app, click on your picture (to the left of the Search box), and choose Downloads and Updates. Click on the "Check for updates" button. I found new updates for all of my RTM build 10420 and Insider Fast Ring build 10547 PCs.

With build 10547, Windows Spotlight makes a return on Pro systems; it's always been available on Home systems. The Spotlight feature changes your lock screen (sign-in screen) so it shows different pictures chosen by Microsoft, with a new one appearing every 24 hours. You can influence the choice of pictures by clicking the "Love it" or "Not a fan" link in the upper right. As I've written before, Spotlight is yet another advertising opportunity for Windows 10: Look for an ad on your Spotlight-enabled lock screen sooner or later.

Earlier this month (it's hard to pin down the exact time because there aren't any changelogs), Windows Mail gained the ability to show mail sorted by the time it arrived -- in other words, you could turn off "Conversation view." (From inside Windows Mail, click the gear Settings icon, choose Options, and slide off "Show messages arranged by conversation.") As best I can tell, that option is now available in all versions of Windows 10.

Around the time build 10547 was released -- again, it's hard to say exactly when -- the Mail and Calendar apps acquired a new dark theme. From inside Mail, choose the gear Settings icon, then Personalization, and choose Dark Theme. You can also choose a color and background picture.

I've seen reports that Mail has gained a unified inbox -- where one inbox folder contains all of your inbound mail -- but they appear to be mistaken. All I'm seeing is a slightly improved navigation pane on the left that makes it easier to switch accounts. If you can get to a unified inbox, I'd sure like to hear about it -- drop me a note in the Comments.

There are also new settings under Options that let you attach digital signatures to messages and/or encrypt messages automatically or manually using S/MIME. There's a more complete description in this TechNet article.

The dark theme option, new navigation pane, and optional signing/encryption only appear in Mail and Calendar for build 10547; it looks like Microsoft hasn't yet released them for the RTM build 10240 version of Windows 10. You can quickly tell if you have the new version of Mail (17.6216.42271.0) by looking at the Settings list. The old version (17.62087.42001.0) has a Background option. The new version shows Personalization instead.

There's no indication yet as to when Microsoft might roll those new apps out to the unwashed Win10 masses.

Also, lamentably, the official Release Notes for build 10547 haven't been leaked yet.

We're slowly seeing some improvement to Windows 10, particularly in the woefully underpowered built-in Windows apps. If Microsoft really aims to get a new TH2 Windows 10 Update out the door by November -- one that includes everything that should've been in the RTM version -- it still has a long, long way to go.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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