Even though its big annual Build conference doesn't kick off until next week, Microsoft dropped Windows 10 Technical Preview build 10061 late Wednesday night. Unlike the last Technical Preview release — which merely added the Project Spartan browser — this one is positively stuffed with tweaks, changes and news apps.
Curious, but loath to install pre-release software on your PC? Live vicariously. I've spent the night poking and prodding at Windows 10 build 10061. Read on for screenshots and impressions of all the new changes, and don't forget to check out PCWorld's guides to the best new Windows 10 features to try first and the top Windows 10 tips and tricks to get a deeper feel for the operating system.
Start me up
The very first thing you notice upon booting build 10061 is that Windows 10's Start menu has been tweaked yet again. It's been widened, from one "fat column" of apps to two, lending it a feel closer to Windows 8's Start screen. Don't like it? Fear not: Build 10061 also restores a previous option to resize the Start menu to smaller — or larger — dimensions.
Note that the Power button was moved from the upper-right corner of the Start menu to the lower-left corner. It's a subtle tweak, but an appreciated one for desktop users. Let's hope it sticks!
Paint it black
This build also adds a black system theme that travels across the Start menu, taskbar, and Action Center. The Start Menu and taskbar also gained some transparency, showing a bit of the screen behind them. It's a nice touch, and the transparency effect is opaque enough that your background doesn't interfere with actually navigating the Start menu and taskbar.
Again, don't worry if you don't like it: The Personalization section of the Settings app has been fleshed out in this build. (It was pretty sparse in the last one.) If you head to it you'll find options to enable or disable the new aesthetic tweaks in the Colors section.
Vastly improved Mail and Calendar apps
Once you move beyond the cosmetic tweaks you'll find build 10061's biggest additions: overhauled apps galore.
Most notable are the new Mail and Calendar apps, which first appeared in the leaked 10051 build that never officially made it to Windows Insiders. The Mail app introduces a three-pane design, with the ability to add a custom image background to the preview pane when no messages are selected. If you have a touchscreen, you can also swipe left to delete messages or swipe right to flag them, just like in the recently released Outlook mobile apps.
Email authoring has been tweaked to more closely resemble Microsoft's Word, with much more robust formatting options and — get this — the ability to insert tables directly into outgoing emails. The new app also includes POP email support, a feature oh-so-sorely lacking in Windows 8. Hallelujah.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.