On January 23, Microsoft released an eagerly-anticipated update to its Windows 10 beta.
That beta introduces a number of exciting new features. Previously, Windows 10 was kind of like a re-skinned version of Windows 7 and Windows 8’s love child.
This new update makes the OS feel a lot more like something totally new.
If you’re a Windows Insider like me, then you already got the update automatically overnight. If you want to double check the update, you can go to PC Settings > Update and Recovery > Preview builds, then click the Check Now button.
If you’ve never installed any versions of Windows 10 before, then you can start from scratch by following tutorial guides like this one.
Last week, Microsoft showed off Windows 10 Build 9924. This morning, it released Windows 10 Build 9926. Here are all of the exciting new features included in the latest update:
Cortana is arguably the most exciting new feature. Cortana comes in the form of a search bar directly to the right of the Start button. You can talk to her using your microphone and even set her to “Always Listening” mode to listen in to your ambient background noise for the command, “Hey Cortana.” So far, Cortana is fairly buggy, so don’t expect her listening skills to be perfect until future releases.
Notifications in the Action Center
Much like Mac users receive notifications on Mac OS, so too will Windows users receive notifications in their Action Center. You can now access the Action Center from the bottom right-hand corner of your screen, where you’ll see general information about the things you like (similar to Google Now). If you’re a Windows Phone user, your phone notifications will pop up in here.
Full-Page Start Menu
Opening the Start Menu is now a full-screen experience. The icons are still on the left-hand side of the screen, kind of like Windows 8. It looks good, overall, and provides valuable information across the entire screen.
New Windows Store App
The new Windows Store app isn’t just a complete redesign: it’s a unified app store which will look the same on your PC, tablet, internet browser, phone, and Xbox. It will also be updated independently from the OS, which will allow for more frequent updates for beta users.
New Xbox App
Windows 10 will come with a built-in Xbox app which aims to unify PC gamers and Xbox gamers – whether you want it or not. You can sign into your Xbox account and view which games your friends are currently playing. If your friends have activated live streaming, you can also peek into a live stream of their current gameplay.
New Photos and Maps Apps
Microsoft’s new photos and maps apps are universal apps which will have the same UI across all tablets, PCs, phones, and browsers.
There are also countless minor changes. The new update is pretty cool – and it’s showing a tantalizing glimpse of what Microsoft has planned for the future of its flagship desktop OS.