Microsoft has released a new preview build of Windows 10 with just one month left before the operating system's official launch.
Released on Monday, Build 10158 offers updates to the Cortana voice assistant and the Edge Web browser. It also stirs in a few refinements to the Start menu and other areas of the interface. But perhaps most promising is that there are no "significant known issues," aka no major bugs in this latest build -- a good thing if Microsoft is to meet its July 29 launch deadline.
Since October 2014, Microsoft has been releasing preview builds of Windows 10 on a fairly regular basis. Aimed at testers who join the Windows Insider program, the builds have been designed to elicit feedback on each new one so Microsoft can continue to refine the OS and resolve any problems. Most of the previous builds have introduced various bugs. But at some point, any major bugs have to stop popping up so the version of Windows 10 released in another month is stable and reliable. Microsoft is counting heavily on Windows 10 to erase the stigma of Windows 8, so the new OS has to kick off without a hitch.
So what's new and improved in the latest build? Gabe Aul, head of the Windows Insider Program, revealed the details in a blog posted Monday.
In April, Microsoft introduced the new, formerly known as Project Spartan, as a sleeker, faster alternative to the aging Internet Explorer. The new build refines Edge with a new home button, the ability to import your favorites from other browsers, new options to change the Start page and Tab pages and support for managing your website passwords.
The Cortana voice assistant also sports a few enhancements. The Cortana Notebook, which stores key settings and options, is in its final stage, according to Aul. Cortana can now track your air flights by alerting you when you receive emails with flight information. Alerts for going to work, coming home and heading to the airport also are available. And you can tell Cortana to send an email in one simple command by speaking the name of your recipient, the subject and the body of your message one after the other.
Organizations that use Microsoft's Office 365 can now test out Cortana integration with the Office suite. After connecting with Office 365, the voice assistant can alert you to meetings, learn about your fellow co-workers and remind you of your schedule.
You'll also find some fine-tuning to the Start menu and other sections of the Windows 10 interface. Aul says the build includes a lot of bug fixes for, the feature that can detect whether you're using a PC, tablet or hybrid device and automatically change the layout accordingly. On the Start menu, you can now swipe up on the left side to access All Apps. You can also click on a specific letter to see all apps that start with the letter. And the Taskbar will now flash in orange if some app pinned on it needs your attention.
And as for any bugs?
"We don't have any significant known issues for this build worth noting in the blog post, but we are servicing several issues so make sure you check Windows Update for those," Aul said.
Can any further builds be expected before Windows 10 officially launches July 29? Yes, says Microsoft.
"We are pleased with the stability and reliability of Windows 10 and are continuing to work to refine and improve the Windows 10 experience for customers," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "Between now and July 29, when Windows 10 becomes available to consumers, Windows Insiders should expect additional builds."
Update, 4:45 a.m. PT Wednesday: Comments from a Microsoft spokesperson were added.