Microsoft plans to make the Windows 8 Release Preview available to developers, businesses, and enthusiasts alike during the first week of June. In fact, some believe the near-final version of the Redmond software giant’s next big operating system could arrive as early as this Friday, June 1st. Windows 8 has been publicly available in Developer and Consumer Preview form for some time now, but the Release Preview will bring with it some much-needed changes and improvements. Here are just a few of the things I’m looking forward to in the Windows 8 Release Preview.
The pre-release versions of Windows 8 have been very stable, for the most part, but I have experienced a few annoyances. Metro-style apps will often force close, and sometimes opening them again won’t work for a short period of time. There are a wide range of other bugs as well. For whatever reason, the number of issues seems to increase as time goes on. Thankfully, most of them are minor and should be fixed in the Release Preview or, at the very least, before Windows 8’s general availability.
HTML5 is the future of the web, but some sites still cling to their reliance on Adobe Flash. The Metro-style version of Internet Explorer 10 won’t support add-ons for performance and security reasons, which originally meant that Flash-based sites would have to be opened in the desktop version of the browser in order to display properly. In order to get around this, Microsoft has worked with Adobe to actually build Flash into the browser itself. This somewhat limited version of Flash will only work on a special list of websites, but it will allow users to get the most out of Windows 8’s Metro-style browser without sacrificing performance, battery life, and security.
Superior multi-monitor experience
Windows has long supported the use of multiple monitors, but Microsoft has added some much needed improvements surrounding the taskbar and desktop wallpaper in Windows 8. The Release Preview takes things a step further, making it much easier to invoke the operating system’s new UI elements like Charms and the apps switcher. The Metro interface can only be displayed on one screen at a time (something I’d like to see changed in a future version of Windows), but you can now switch screens by simply clicking and dragging an app to a different monitor. A small six pixel corner makes overshooting the edge of the screen less likely, and the Charms and app switcher can be brought up on any monitor.
More options for customization
People using the Developer Preview were limited to a single green background color. In the Consumer Preview, Microsoft opened things up a bit, adding more colors and styles to choose from. The Release Preview is no different, expanding the available colors and styles even more.
Improved preview apps
This category is a big one. The Consumer Preview introduced people to the Windows Store, complete with a decent selection of pre-release apps. Unfortunately, these pre-release apps were quite limited, slow, and buggy. In the Release Preview, apps will still be branded as ‘previews,’ but they’ll be much improved. All of the apps have been updated, but I’m particularly looking forward to being able to receive notifications for incoming emails in the Mail app, improved presence in the Messaging app, and the ability to configure which calendars are displayed in the Calendar app. We’re also likely to get our first glimpse at what Microsoft has in store for the Music and Video apps, which so far haven’t been leaked online.
There are numerous other features and improvements in the Windows 8 Release Preview, but these are the ones I’m looking forward to most. I’ve been using Windows 8 as my day-to-day operating system since the release of the Consumer Preview in late-February, and I’ve been very pleased with my experience so far. The Windows 8 Release Preview should be even better. I’m counting the days until it’s officially available.