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New Windows 10 preview beefs up Mail app and more

The latest build is one more step toward a new version of Windows that has to avoid the missteps of Windows 8.

The latest build of Windows 10 improves the Mail app and screen options. Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Microsoft has rolled out a new version of its Windows 10 Technical Preview that shows further promise as the company races to finish the final product by this summer.

Released on Wednesday, Build 10061 is available only for Windows 10 users on the Fast Ring, Gabe Aul, head of the Windows 10 insider program, said in a blog. Microsoft offers new Windows 10 builds via a Fast Ring or Slow Ring. Those on the Fast Ring get the latest builds quicker but run the risk of bumping into more bugs. Those on the Slow Ring have to wait longer but typically get a more stable version.

Microsoft has been striving to create a new version of Windows aimed at avoiding the mistakes of Windows 8, which was criticized by PC users for its tablet-focused approach. With Windows 10, Microsoft is attempting to fashion a more user-friendly OS designed to run as adeptly on PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. As such, the company has set up a Windows Insider program through which people can download Windows 10 and then offer their feedback and opinions to help Microsoft enhance the OS.

The latest build brings improvements to the Mail app, which has been criticized in the past for its limited functionality.

The new Mail app lets you quickly toggle between Mail and Calendar, just as you can in other email clients. You can customize your swipe gestures to delete, move or mark your mail as read or unread. You can also spruce up your emails via a formatting toolbar that lets you change the color and attributes of your fonts, insert tables and pictures and run a spell check. The Mail app now lets you add POP accounts in addition to Office 365, and other common accounts.

Microsoft has added some colorful options in the new build. The Start menu, taskbar and Action Center now use a black background by default, though you can change that. In the Personalization screen under Settings, you'll find new options that let you use the primary color of your desktop for all three areas. You can also turn the transparency on or off. And as one minor but helpful change, the Power button, which shuts down or restarts your PC, is now located in a more accessible spot in the bottom left of the Start menu.

Switching to Tablet Mode now increases the size and spacing of the Start button, the Cortana voice assistant and the Task View button so that they're easier to touch. Any items pinned or displayed on the taskbar are removed to give you more space, though you can disable this option. By default, any tablet with a screen size under 10 inches automatically boots into Tablet Mode, but you can now manually set any device to boot directly into Tablet Mode.

Finally, Microsoft has tweaked the look of Task View, which displays all open windows as thumbnails, and has improved the Virtual Desktop feature, which lets you juggle different desktops for different tasks. You can now create as many virtual desktops as you'd like.

The latest Windows 10 build fixes some technical issues but also introduces several of its own. So don't be surprised if you run into a bug or two.

Microsoft has stated that it plans to release Windows 10 in the summer. An apparently accidental comment last week from AMD CEO Lisa Su revealed that the new version would come out in late July. Assuming Su's comment was true, Microsoft has only another three months to put the finishing touches on its new OS. And given the negative feelings about Windows 8, this time the company has to get it right.