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Microsoft Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 16215 Is A Doozy

After it accidentally released internal builds of Windows 10 to the public last week, Microsoft got its Windows Insider Program back on track with the release of Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 16215 for PC and Preview Build 15222 for mobile devices.

Preview Build 16215 continues the trend of introducing new features instead of focusing mostly on bug fixes. That's to be expected--the Windows 10 Creators Update debuted in April, and Microsoft has only a few months to prepare the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update for its debut later this year. This build improves many aspects of Windows 10, but the stars of the show are the new Start and Action Center.

Both have been updated with elements from Fluent Design, the new design system Microsoft introduced at its Build developer conference in May. Fluent Design is based on a few principles--light, depth, motion, material, and scale--meant to help developers make apps for everything from  laptops and desktops to Windows Mixed Reality devices and tablets. Start and Action Center are part of the company's move to Fluent Design.

Here's the list of changes to Start, from Microsoft's blog post:

Acrylic: If you have transparency enabled for Start, you’ll notice it’s now been updated to use the new acrylic design.Vertical resize: No more glitches at the bottom of the frame.Horizontal resize: The frame now starts resizing horizontally immediately (like vertical resize), as opposed to only “snapping” to certain widths.Diagonal resize: The frame can be resized diagonally!Resize grips: It’s now easier to “grip” the edge of the frame to start resizing.Tablet mode transition: Smoother transition into tablet mode.

You can see that the new Action Center at the top of this post. In addition to the Acrylic texture, the Action Center has also been "redesigned based on your feedback to provide much clearer information separation and hierarchy," Microsoft said. The redesign isn't perfect; Microsoft said that it's already "investigating a bug where notifications in the Action Center lose their outline if acrylic falls back to having no transparency."

Preview Build 16215 has numerous other features, many of which are focused on input methods: Microsoft improved handwriting, made it easier to insert emojis via hardware keyboards, improved its on-screen keyboard, and introduced dictation features. All these improvements, much like the company's work on Fluent Design, drive home Microsoft's efforts to make Windows as hardware-agnostic as it could possibly be.

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Other improvements centered on Edge, which now offers a full-screen mode, re-introduces the ability to pin your favorite sites to the Taskbar, lets you annotate books, and boasts other improvements besides. Cortana was also improved to help use vision intelligence to glean information from photos, to create event reminders based on info from your camera roll, and to collect data from stuff you circle with a pen.

There are also improvements to the Game Bar, accessibility upgrades, and more. Basically, if you signed up for the Windows Insider Program to get access to what feels like an entirely new version of Windows before everyone else, Preview Build 16215 ought to make you a happy camper. It does feature the usual known issues--this is basically a public beta, after all--but the many updates could justify dealing with a few hiccups.

Preview Build 15222 is far less exciting. Microsoft fixed a copyright date, addressed some bugs, and improved Time & Language settings. That's about it. If the restriction of the Windows 10 Creators Update to a handful of devices and the relative lack of new features debuting in older preview builds didn't convince you Windows 10 for mobile devices isn't a priority, the gap between Preview Builds 16215 and 15222 should.