Microsoft Teases New Fluent Design in Windows 10 Preview Build

A new Windows 10 preview build offers Insiders an early look at the future of the operating system's sleek new UI.

Windows 10

Microsoft this week is offering Windows testers a sneak peek at the futuristic user interface that will soon grace the operating system.

When it arrives later this year, the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will feature a revised look and feel, which the company refers to as its new Fluent Design System. With the release of Windows 10 preview build 16215, Microsoft is providing members of its Windows Insider early-access program an early glimpse.

Unveiled during the company's Build 2017 developer conference last month, Microsoft's Fluent Design System will not only lend a sleek and polished look to the Windows 10 UI, it is meant to set the stage for seamless and consistent experiences across different devices. On the desktop, Microsoft is taking a measured approach to introducing users to the new experience, beginning with the operating system's Start menu and Action Center.

In the updated Start menu, for example, Fluent Design makes its presence known with Acrylic, a "material" that lends a translucent backdrop to objects on-screen. Recalling the Aero Glass transparency effect in older versions of Windows, Acrylic is just one material (more are in the works) that Microsoft hopes developers will incorporate into their apps for engaging app experiences.

Acrylic also appears in Action Center, the operating system's notification and quick settings hub. Windows 10 notification toasts, or pop-up alerts, have received the same treatment.

Meanwhile, Cortana, Microsoft's virtual assistant, has gained a couple of new skills.

"With your permission, Cortana will now prompt you to create a reminder when she notices event posters in your camera roll," wrote Dona Sarkar, head of the Windows Insider program, in a blog post. "To try it out, make sure you're signed into Cortana with your MSA or work account, and then give Cortana permission to access your camera roll via Settings > Cortana > Permissions & history > 'Manage the information Cortana can access from this device'. The next time you take a picture of a flier for an upcoming event, Cortana will reach out asking if you want to create a reminder for that time."

If users happen to stumble upon an event online, they can use the new Cortana Lasso tool on their pen-enabled devices (provided they support the Press and Hold action) to create reminders instead.

This latest build also includes a new XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language)-based handwriting panel that automatically converts words into text and shifts them out of the way for continuous pen input. For users who keep misplacing their pens, a new Find My Pen feature shows the location where the pen was last used. A new XAML-based keyboard offers improved text prediction and a new one-handed mode that takes the place of the split keyboard option.

The built-in Edge browser now supports ebook notes and allows users to highlight or underline passages. Build 16215 also marks the return of the Pinned Sites feature, which allows users to place shortcuts to websites directly in the Windows taskbar.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...