Microsoft's fast, furious week: Inside new Windows 10 and Office 2016 previews galore

Microsoft has released no less than five new Windows 10 and Office 2016 preview builds over the past week as July 29 draws nigh.

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The fast and the furious

With Windows 10’s July 29 launch date looming, Microsoft’s kicked its preview program into overdrive. The past week has seen no fewer than three all-new Windows 10 preview builds, a new Windows 10 Mobile for phones preview, and even a sweeping overhaul to the Office 2016 consumer preview. Whew!

Did you blink? Here’s what you missed in Microsoftland.

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Windows 10 Mobile preview build 10149

The blitz actually began late last week, when Microsoft released Windows 10 Mobile build 10149. The build added GIF support and automatic OneDrive uploads for photos, as well as an Action Center button that activates the camera’s light so you can use your phone as a flashlight. The browser formerly known as Project Spartan now carries the official Edge branding, as well.

But more importantly, the Cortana digital assistant’s Notebook interface—which lets you tinker with her settings and privacy options—has been finalized, a key step towards Microsoft’s promise that July will see the Windows 10 Mobile previews become a lot more stable. That’s a promise that can’t become reality soon enough.

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Windows 10 preview build 10158

This week was all about Windows 10 for PCs and tablets, however. First up: Preview build 10158, which brings the Edge branding to computers along with a fresh coat of black paint, new sharing menus, New Tab page customization, and more to Microsoft’s next-gen browser.

Build 10158 also added the ability to swipe left on the Start menu to see your installed apps, and improved the user experience when using both Windows Store apps and old-school desktop software while in Tablet (a.k.a. Metro) mode.

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Windows 10 preview build 10159

The next Windows 10 preview build came the very next day. Preview build 10159 built upon its short-lived predecessor by squashing more than 300 bugs, but more notably, it added the new default Windows 10 wallpaper and login screen to the operating system. They’re purdy.

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Office 2016 preview update

Microsoft then took a break from releasing Windows 10 builds at breakneck speeds… only to highlight a sweeping series of updates to the Office 2016 preview. Sure, Office 2016 still looks an awful lot like Office 2013, but the update adds handy-dandy features like real-time typing collaboration in Word. (You know, like Google Docs has had for years now.)

Other tweaks introduced in recent weeks include six new chart types (Waterfall, Histogram, Pareto, Box & Whisker, Treemap, and Sunburst), the full release of the “Tell Me” natural language search feature first introduced in Office Online, and support for handwritten equations. The Insights feature—which taps Bing to provide, well, insights about a highlighted portion of text—also expanded from Word and Outlook out to PowerPoint and Excel.

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Windows 10 preview 10162

Then it was back to Windows 10 the very next day. Preview build 10162 doesn’t add any new consumer-facing features to speak of, but it does feature “better reliability, performance, battery life, and compatibility than any Windows 10 Insider Preview build so far,” according to Microsoft’s Gabe Aul.

That may sound boring, but it’s an important wrinkle to iron out with July 29 barreling down the pipeline. By all indications, Microsoft is working fast and furious to whip Windows 10 into shape for its grand debut, and Aul says we should expect to see new builds released with greater frequency in the coming weeks—though build 10162 is a candidate for a “Slow Ring” release next week, downloadable ISO and all.

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Try it yourself!

Want to hop on this fast-moving train? It’s not difficult. Just follow PCWorld’s guides to installing the Windows 10 and Office 2016 previews and you’ll be basking in bleeding-edge builds in no time.

Once you’ve got up Windows 10 up and running, be sure to check out these killer new features first, and if you’re feeling really adventurous, we’ve compiled a list of Windows 10 tips, tricks and tweaks buried just under the new operating system’s surface.

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