Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9879

While I was away writing a book for NaNoWriMo during November, Microsoft released what was supposed to be the last Windows 10 Developer Preview build of the year. Presumably, the next build would be the Consumer Preview in January. However, Build 9879 turned out to be incredibly buggy. Many DP users were running into BSODs, File Explorer issues, and OneDrive functionality issues. Add a rather controversial change to OneDrive, and this build has had a pretty rocky existence. Microsoft has since released an updated version of Build 9879, which I am reviewing in the video below.

But before I show you the video, keep in mind that this is still very much Beta software. I don’t recommend putting this software on a production machine, nor am I even suggesting that this build is “good stuff” enough to go all-in with Windows 10 yet. Mainly what I’m wanting to do with these previews is show you the future of Windows as it is developed. So far, I like what I see in Windows 10 with a few exceptions, but as with anything as complicated as an Operating System, you’re going to have to take the good with the bad.

Here are the changes I’ve run across in the build:

OneDrive Changes

The most controversial change of this build. OneDrive will no longer give you placeholder files for Online-Only files within your OneDrive folder.

Previously, in Windows 8.0 and 8.1, the OneDrive background client would look for new files added to your OneDrive cloud storage and would automatically download placeholder files which would include metadata and thumbnails. They would not be full-sized files, but would be good enough to tell you what’s there. There would be an “Available Online-Only” or “Available Offline” designation in the bottom of the file explorer to tell you whether it’s downloaded or not. If you exited your internet connection, such as if you got on a plane, your files in OneDrive that are “Available Online-Only” would still show a placeholder file, but would not open up until you got an internet connection again.

The main downside of this is of course a slight bit of confusion for those who aren’t aware of how this cloud storage works offline. I can only imagine how many sales people or company execs saw a file in their OneDrive, then went on a plane only to realize it wasn’t accessible. The other downside is that these placeholders do take up space, albeit not a lot. I checked after my video above to see what my Videos folder (the biggest folder on my OneDrive) amounted to with just placeholders. The folder has 15.2GB of stuff on it, but the placeholders only take up 9.91MB of space. Practically nothing. Microsoft stated this as a reason for removing placeholders, because low priced low storage Windows PCs are now being sold, but I still wonder how much of a non-issue the storage issue is.

In this build of the Windows 10 DP, the OneDrive client has reverted back to the old Windows 7 selective sync strategy. Instead of downloading placeholder files, it will instead ask you which folders you want to sync between your OneDrive and your PC. If you select everything, it will literally sync your entire OneDrive to your computer. If you select a few folders, it will sync those and then you won’t be able to see anything else in your OneDrive unless you access it via the web. This change has angered a lot of people, including me, as I find that this change was the proverbial nuking of an ant hill, but Microsoft has certainly heard the outcry. Although they’ve been firm that placeholders will never return to Windows 10’s OneDrive client, I have to imagine they’ll have to do something about this.

UI Improvements

There are a lot of small UI improvements. In fact, this is the majority of the build. All of these changes are welcome and I appreciate them. However, there’s not much to talk about other than what’s in my video, so I’ll list them here.

  • You can now show and hide the Task View button and the Search button from a right-click context menu on the taskbar
  • Minimize/Restore animations have been smoothed out and simplified.
  • Elipses menus (…) at the bottom of modern apps have been replaced with a “hamburger menu” of three horizontal lines in the top left. Inside this hamburger menu, we now see the options that used to reside within the Charms bar: Search, Print, Settings, and Share. It appears that this is how Microsoft is replacing the Charms bar.
  • A few more legacy icons have been replaced with new “Windows 10”-style flattened icons.
  • Snap Assist is back and it now supports multiple monitors
  • More Control Panel settings have been added to the PC Settings app, once again proving that Microsoft is pushing to PC Settings to be the new end all be all of Windows backend control.
  • New zPC Settings app running parallel to PC Settings. This new PC Settings app shows a cleaner and more intuitive list of options as well as some hints as to new functionality coming in future builds.

A Few New Features

There aren’t a lot of new features in this build, as it appears to be focused entirely on UI changes. But there are a couple of new things that some will appreciate.

  • New Trackpad Gestures: If your trackpad supports 3-finger gestures, you now have some new commands you can activate with just a flick of the fingers.
    • 3-Finger swipe up – Opens up the Task View for multi-tasking, app switching, and virtual desktop management
    • 3-Finger swipe down – Minimize all windows and return to the desktop
    • 3-Finger flick to left or right – Move from app to app. Keep in mind, there is no real difference between desktop and modern apps as far as task switching is concerned, so this will swap between all programs currently running
    • 3-Finger move left or right – Instead of flicking your fingers, you will instead drag them to either side. Instead of automatically swapping between apps, you’ll instead see the ALT-TAB simplified task view pop up and you’ll see a running carasol of your currently running programs.
    • 3-Finger tap – This will open the search app. Since WinBeta has reported that future builds of Windows 10 will see Cortana inserted into the Search app, this potentially means that a 3 finger tap will activate Cortana or even activate her speech recognition. Could it be that in later builds we will be able to tap 3 fingers and then say a command to Cortana? It sounds like it!
  • Windows Media Player now natively supports .mkv video files. Torrenters be praised!
  • 10% of Windows 10 DP users will be receiving an updated version of Internet Explorer with an “interoperability focused Edge rendering engine.” Supposibly, this engine will improve speed and efficiency, and may actually be an eventual backbone for Cortana to share your searches and preferences between devices.