The changing face of Windows 10

New features and a big adjustment to the UI are coming.

windows 10 laptop primary
Credit: Adam Patrick Murray

You would think that with the fast-approaching release for the Windows 10 Creator's Update that Microsoft would stop adding features and just go into bug squashing mode, but no, it continues to add new features to builds, and some of them are welcomed.

Microsoft released a new Windows 10 Insider Preview, build 15031, last week. One of the coolest, and most welcomed by me (and probably others) is the new “Compact Overlay window” function, which can best be described as the picture-in-picture function from your TV.

As you know you can only have one window on the top of the screen at any given time. If you want to watch Netflix in full screen, you can't browse the web or read email at the same time unless you have a multi-monitor setup and can additional windows on a second screen while watching Netflix.

Well, this new feature allows you to pop a video, either a Skype window or the Movies & TV app, to view the video while doing other things. For me, that would mean keeping the Skype window active while conducting an interview and typing in Word, for example.

For now, my Netflix analogy doesn't apply since the feature only works with Skype and Movies & TV. So I hope Microsoft extends this feature to third-party apps as well.

Another new function is Dynamic Lock, a part of Windows Hello. Windows Hello uses your Webcam as a security device -- your face is your password. Dynamic Lock can detect if you’re in front of the PC or not, and lock the computer when you move away from it. When you are ready to work again, just sit back down in front of the PC and it unlocks.

An overhaul to the UI is also in the works, and Microsoft gave us a glimpse how last week during the Windows Developer Day keynote. It's called Project Neon and the details are scarce, although the screenshot provided by the company did give some indications.

windows10projectneon Tom Hounsell

It's believed that the new visual look will focus on animations and transitions, “to add fluidity, animation, and blur to apps and the operating system,” as Windows Central put it. WC was the first to pick up on the new UI.

It's believed Project Neon will bring a new interface to all Windows devices, including HoloLens, computers, phones and the Xbox One console. It's already known that Microsoft is working on common shells for all devices, so Neon wouldn't be out of the ordinary.

Neon is believed to be a new style of interface that's programmable, with a custom language, called Microsoft Design Language 2 (MDL2). A design language is a term that refers to a language for how controls, fonts, and iconography in the desktop and mobile versions of Windows 10 are controlled. It manages things like switches, toggles, pickers and dialog windows.

MDL1 was Metro, which was introduced in Windows 8 and Windows Phone 7. It introduced the flat, dull UI instead of the more 3D-looking skeuomorphism that iOS and Android were adopting. If there is one thing I dislike about Windows 10 it's not the spying, it's the look. It is ugly as sin and you don't have many options for changing the UI elements.

However, Neon is a longer term project and not scheduled for the Creator's Update. It's expected to ship with Redstone 3, the next big update, due in late fall.

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