Windows 10 has witnessed the release of a new preview version that presents a big change that we’ve heard of before; namely a new look for the Start menu, alongside some other tweaks like changing the way Alt-Tabbing works in some cases.
Windows 10 build 20161 has been released for testers in the “ development channel ” (the new name for the quick ring), although these new features will not be available immediately in every Windows Insider, and it will be a deployment progressive with only a small number of testers involved at the start – so you may have to wait a bit to see this in your preview version.
The centerpiece here is the new Start menu that was previously teased, and as you can see from the images provided by Microsoft, this is not a massive change at the start – although more work may be in the works – but it makes the interface cleaner and more uniform.
The live tiles have been changed so that they are not a hotchpotch of different colors, and they now all have the same color background for a uniform appearance that matches whether you are using a light or dark theme (in the blog post describing the changes, Microsoft notes that you can apply an accent color if desired).
The backgrounds of the icons in the Start menu applications list have also been removed for a sharper appearance. We think the changes are good, and previous online comments have also been positive about them, but as we have already mentioned, there is probably more work to be done – and it will be interesting to see exactly what Microsoft has planned something else.
Note that the new Start menu in build 20161 is not linked to any particular version of Windows 10; as Microsoft points out, this is a version of its active development branch.
In other words, we don’t know when or with what update we’ll be seeing the launch of the new Start menu, but the smart money is in the first half of 2021 (given that the update is scheduled for later in 2020 is minor and without major introductions, as is the update from November 2019 to the end of last year).
Build 20161 also changes the way Alt-Tab works, the feature that lets you quickly switch between the windows you’ve opened, but the setting only affects Microsoft Edge.
Instead of an Edge window being viewed as a task for change, now each open tab in Edge is displayed separately and can be alt-tabulated between; so if you have a few tabs open, you can easily switch between them using Alt-Tab.
If you have a lot open tabs, mind, so things will likely get rather cluttered and confusing – but fortunately Microsoft has included the ability to turn this feature off (or limit the amount of tabs displayed when Alt-Tabbing).
Like the Start menu, this feature is also only deployed on a small subset of testers initially, so again, you may not see it immediately. Note also that you must be running the Dev or Canary version of Microsoft Edge to be able to use it, as well as the 20161 preliminary version.
Microsoft promises that further “productivity improvements” will be made to the Edge, so we can expect the browser to be further pushed in Windows 10, which is not a big surprise. Remember, Microsoft is currently in the middle of a major campaign to persuade people to switch their browsers to Edge, with all kinds of ads popping up here and there, including Windows 10 search (and Microsoft frankly runs the risk of it becoming quite boring).
Anyway, a few other more minor changes came with version 20161. They include a more personalized taskbar for those who set up Windows 10 using their Microsoft account, through which the operating system will put , for example, the Your Phone app on the default taskbar for those with a linked Android smartphone.
Notifications have also been changed to display the appropriate application icon at the top, as well as an “x” icon at the top right to make it easier to dismiss the notification.