Microsoft Updates Default Windows 8 Apps Before Blue

In the months leading up to a big update called Blue, and in a departure from past OS releases, Microsoft tweaks some of its default Windows apps.

Windows 8 users won't have to wait for the forthcoming Blue update to experience improvements to some of the operating system's most prominent core apps.

In past Windows releases, default programs typically lingered unchanged—and unloved, some would argue—for years, with the exception of a few apps like Internet Explorer. Amid the buzz surrounding the Windows 8 Blue upgrade, which may arrive by this summer, Microsoft is signaling that it is leaving no app unturned as it struggles to make headway in a brutally competitive tablet market.

Microsoft issued new updates to the Mail, Calendar and People apps for Windows 8. And as per Microsoft spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc, the aim is to help users better manage multiple accounts and the daily deluge of email.

"We know our customers typically have two or more email accounts for personal use and work use, they use these accounts throughout the day and they have a large volume of email they're continuously managing. So this update will bring improvements to your Windows experience across your whole life—your personal communication and your work," LeBlanc wrote in a March 25 blog post.

He added, "You will see big improvements to performance and additional new features to make it easier to connect with friends and colleagues, manage your inboxes, create and send email and manage your calendar."

Although minor in and of themselves, the updates should add up to more productive and efficient use of the standard apps. For example, in Mail, users can now use a filter to view unread emails, create and delete folders directly within the app or select all the emails in a folder to move or delete them.

Other new features include the ability to flag messages, "smart contact suggestions" for the recipient field along with enhanced email composition and editing tools. Users can now also search for emails on a server, allowing them to fetch messages that reside beyond the default two-week email storage limit imposed by the Mail app. (The setting is configurable.)

The Calendar app received a visual overhaul. "Gone are the solid blocks of colors—instead, those colors are reflected in a small bar on the left of each appointment," LeBlanc wrote. Also new is a scheduling assistant support for Exchange environments, expanded reoccurrence settings and the ability to forward meeting invitations.

Finally, the People app has been updated to include new gesture-based navigation elements that speed up activities like issuing tweets or posting status updates. New to this version is the ability to post on the walls of Facebook friends.

Taken altogether, these improvements exemplify Microsoft's new, rapid-fire approach to software updates. LeBlanc echoed remarks recently made by Microsoft's vice president of corporate communications, Frank X. Shaw, who finally acknowledged the existence of Blue after months of rumors and leaks.

"These updates are part of our ongoing focus and commitment to continually improving your Windows experience. This means that the experience on Windows PCs and tablets will keep getting richer," LeBlanc wrote.

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 network of...