We have been hearing about Windows Blue, the next version of Windows, arriving for a while, but we didn’t know what changes it would bring. Well, that has changed, as Build 9364 of Windows Blue, a version compiled on March 15th, is now available for download and use on several file-sharing sites. The OS build gives us an idea of some of the changes that Microsoft is working into the Windows Blue update.

Leaked screenshots, which were posted at WinForum, show that the company is addressing some of the problems that users faced with Windows 8. One criticism was that tiles could only be arranged in two sizes – small and large – which didn’t exactly make the best use of larger screens. Now with Windows Blue, users have two more sizes to choose from. The smaller tiles should be useful for apps which you use often, but don’t need such a large space, such as browsers. There’s even a larger desktop tile, which hints at the possibility of a bigger tile size, which would be ideal for Photos or Travel app.

The new Start Screen

The new Start Screen (Image credit: WinForum)

The Blue update also brings greater control over the colour customisation and additional Snap Views. The new Snap Views will allow users to place apps side-by-side in the Windows 8 view, which was not possible before. The new view is similar to the snapping on Windows 7, but the screenshots also show that Windows Blue will support up to 4 snapped apps alongside each other.

Microsoft has updated Internet Explorer to version 11 and a tab sync feature could be included, which would allow users to carry bookmarks and other settings across devices.

There are new utilities in the offing as well. A new alarm app, an improved sound recorder, movie moments, and Windows 8 -style Calculator will also take advantage of these new views. From what has been posted on the forum, developers will be able to update their apps to include support for the new Snap Views. The improvements to window management also extend to external monitors, where users will be able to open separate Windows 8-style apps on two different monitors.

There are other improvements in the settings screen. It seems all the necessary settings for the desktop Control Panel have been included in the Windows 8 Settings menu so that users don’t have to keep jumping between the two modes and to also allow those with Windows RT tablets greater control over their device. SkyDrive integration has been taken to the next logical step, with greater integration with the camera app and control over device backups. Also under the settings screen is the new page, which lets you change default apps and has details about app sizes etc.

Internet Explorer 11

Internet Explorer 11 (Image credit: WinForum)

There are more changes in the Charms feature, which now includes a new Play option. On the Share Charm there's a new screenshot option that lets you quickly share an image with applications. If you were one of those who thought navigation on Windows 8 was cumbersome, Blue brings relief in the form of new gestures. Swipe up from the bottom on the Start Screen and it will bring up a list of all the apps. In Desktop mode, the same gesture or a swipe down will reveal an app bar that has options and access to Snap, projector settings, and more.

Bear in mind that some features may not work very well, if you do decide to run this build. This is just an early partner version, intended to be shared with OEMs to give them an idea of what Windows Blue is expected to look like. The update will enter public preview in the coming months and a full release is expected in late 2013.

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