Yesterday, Microsoft released what appears to be a nearly feature-complete version of Windows 10. Those of you (present company included) who scoffed at first about the rumors of RTM in July can start chewing a little crow. Given the rapid-release definition of RTM, which includes quite a bit of leeway for last-minute, pre-General Availability tweaking, we’re closing in on the first final build of the next (but not last!) version of everyone’s favorite whipping OS.
Microsoft spokesman Gabe Aul’s official take on build 10122 describes a lot of cosmetic changes: the re-arranged Start menu, improved Tablet Mode where the Start menu disappears, a few desperately needed additions to the Edge browser, a nicely designed new way to handle file extension association defaults, and lots of bug fixes.
Aul also warns about Edge crashes while running 10122 on an AMD GPU -- a problem I witnessed in spades. Switching to a machine with an Intel HD GPU made a big difference. That’s easy for me to say, but may be hard for you to do.
That’s the official word. Here’s the rest of the story, based on a long night banging away on several machines.
Start menu: Rearranged with File Explorer and Settings now at the bottom of the list. The flip-over tile animations look better. There’s still essentially no customization available for the Start menu, although there are grayed-out options for showing hard-coded linked locations (such as Documents, Downloads, and so on).
Microsoft took away the Expand Start double-arrow in the upper-right corner of the Start menu because people were confused -- they thought that Expanded Start (also known as Full-Screen Start) and Tablet Mode are the same. They aren’t (see the discussion of Continuum/Tablet Mode). If you want Expanded Start, use Settings, Personalization, Start and then at the bottom choose Use Full-Screen Start When in the Desktop.
Edge: Still identified as Project Spartan on the Start menu, Edge now includes long-anticipated capabilities, including InPrivate browsing and Pin page to Start. New pages now show a weird mashup of popular websites. Saints be praised, sites that are spewing sound have a sound icon on the offending tab, although you can’t click the icon to shut the page up. You can now right-click on a tab and choose to reopen a closed tab.
Cortana: Cosmetic changes. I’m having trouble with three different systems recognizing “Hey, Cortana.”
Continuum/Tablet Mode: When in Tablet Mode, the Start Apps list on the left disappears, replaced by a hamburger icon, and tiles expand to better fill the screen. Tablet Mode forces Universal/Metro apps to run full screen; it also enables a pull-down window title pane on each Universal/Metro app with an X exit button (but no universal back arrow). Tiles are larger. I had lots of problems with navigating in Tablet Mode -- elements didn’t render properly, Cortana got stuck with an open pane -- even on a Surface Pro 3.
Virtual desktops/Task view: Unchanged.
Windows Settings: Some reshuffling, a few cosmetic improvements. Full-Screen Start settings added to Personalization.
Other Windows apps: Many changes, most of them small. Mail supports two-factor authentication in outlook.com. The People app finally works, although it has very few features: It’s about as usable as a phone dialer from five years ago.
Many of the old Admin Tools, which used to be accessible from the Win-X menu, are now in All Apps, under Administrative Tools: Computer Management, Defrag, Disk Cleanup, Event Viewer, Resmon, SysInfo, Task Scheduler, PowerShell, and much more are finally accessible with keyboard calisthenics.
Although the Reader and Reading List apps both ship with build 10122, if you click on a PDF file, it’s opened in Edge. According to the build 10120 Breaking Changes list, it looks like both Reader and Reading List are being deprecated.
The Music app (no longer Xbox Music) gets a complete makeover. It’s now much easier to buy music from Microsoft (or it will be when the Store hook-up works), with exciting offers to buy a music pass, or to upload your music to OneDrive. The new Music now support playlists. Similarly, Videos (no longer Xbox Video) has a new look, and all the hooks.
The Photos app works some of the time -- Albums, in particular, can take hours to create. I found myself stuck, repeatedly, with a swirling circle and the notice "Analyzing photos: 0% complete." A friend of mine spent most of the night tracking down a few oddities:
First, it looks like you need to have photos in your local Pictures folder that have been taken with a digital camera. The Albums view won’t show screenshots from the Picture folder’s Screenshots folder (Win+Prt), nor will it show anything in the Picture folder’s Camera Roll folder (taken with the devices built-in camera).
Second, it takes a l-o-n-g time before newly added photos will show up in Albums. The Photos app really drags its feet while “analyzing the photos.” (You can see the words Analyzing Photos and a percentage sign in the screen’s upper, right corner.) The app must locate the photos, sort them by date, weed out duplicates, and apply its magic wand fixes before letting them appear in the Albums area.
If you have a lot of photos on OneDrive, it takes a really long time. So, I turned off the OneDrive option, and it took about a half hour to process 500 locally stored photos and begin showing them as Albums.