Beyond the tile-based user interface (UI) already demoed in past months, Microsoft is leveraging its Build developers conference this week to give a sneak peek at new features that come as surprises, including a task manager revamped for greater ease of use, integration through Windows Live with Microsoft’s cloud-based SkyDrive file sharing service, and both online and “desktop browsing” modes for Internet Explorer [IE} 10.
Set for release on Tuesday night, a Developers Preview of Windows 8 — an OS destined for both PCs and slate tablets — will revolve around a tile-based user interface (UI) — highly reminiscent of the UI for Windows Phone 8 — to be known as “Metro style,” affirmed Steve Sinofsky, president of Microsoft’s Windows and Windows Live Division, in a Build keynote earlier on Tuesday.
Through IE 10, a browser to be built into Windows 8, end users will be able to search either their desktops or the Web through Microsoft’s Bing search engine, Sinofsky indicated during a demo.
Sinofsky also revealed a few other new features in IE 10, including “draw mode” — for using anywhere between two and five fingers to produce a drawing on a Windows 8 touch screen — plus an “enhanced magnifier” which will let you magnify only a selected portion of the screen, if you don’t want to magnify the entire thing.
A retooled task manager and control panel
Also in Windows 8, Microsoft will retool the Windows task manager, control panel, and task bar for greater ease of use, according to Sinofsky.
“Right from the start, you’ve got all the power you want,” he contended. In the new task manager, applications will be listed separately from background processes. Users will be able to view statistics such as CPU usage, memory usage, and performance for both apps and processes.
“If you see an app that might be presenting challenges, you can manually disable it from the task manager,” he elaborated.
Windows 8 ‘refresh’ and ‘reset’
Users will be able to “pause” apps, as well, and to either “refresh” or “reset” their entire systems. The refresh function might be used for testing and comparing new and old system setups through a new, chart-driven feature called the “Windows Assessment Console.” You might compare the impact of a software setup on hardware performance over time, he suggested.
The new “reset” function, on the other hand, is for use when you’re about to “give [your PC] to charity,” he quipped.
With “refesh,” you “refresh your PC without affecting your files.” With “reset,” on the other hand, you “reset your PC and start over.”
New Windows Live ‘People’ and ‘Photos’ apps
Also on Tuesday, Microsoft gave sneak peeks of new Windows 8 “People” and “Photos” apps for Windows Live, a platform combining software with cloud services.
Along similar lines, the “Photos” app will let you pull together photos from Facebook, Flickr, a pictures library in Windows, and Microsoft’s SkyDrive online photo sharing service.
Microsoft presenters also showed how you’ll be able to run “movie rolls” and share e-mail with other users through SkyDrive.
Meanwhile, Microsoft will not stop adding new features to Windows 8 after Tuesday night’s release of preliminary Windows 8 code, Sinofsky said. Instead, Microsoft will continue to add updates to the software until the new OS enters general release