Microsoft recently allowed select OEM partners to download updated preview builds of Windows 8. Since then, there have been several leaked images of supposedly new features that you might see in the next version of Windows when it launches (perhaps in early 2012). And Microsoft showed off some features in a preview last week. Here we have compiled the most interesting ones. (Watch a slideshow version.)
1. Windows Phone 7's theme and UI
Last week, Microsoft confirmed that Windows 8 will have a tiles-based interface. Called Immersive, this GUI is meant to be used in full-screen mode, and is probably targeted at tablets running Windows 8. Source.
2. Ribbon User Interface in Explorer
It looks like Microsoft is taking the Ribbon GUI that they introduced in Office 2007, and gradually extended to their other software products including Windows Live Essentials 2011 and Windows 8. So expect a Ribbonized Explorer. Source.
3. Cloud Integration
The Windows 8 Explorer interface suggests it will access Microsoft's cloud services, possibly SkyDrive and Windows Live Mesh. SkyDrive is an online storage space that you can put your files in, and Mesh lets you sync your other Windows computers and mobile devices remotely. Both are already available by installing Windows Live Essentials 2011 onto Windows 7 or Vista. Source.
4. Windows Live Integration
Along with being more wedded to Microsoft's cloud services, the Windows 8 preview suggests that you'll be able to use your Windows Live (or Hotmail) account to log into your Windows 8 computer. The profile image of your Windows Live user profile would then appear to the far right of the system tray. If you want to experience how this might work, this unofficial, user-created app mimics this feature for Windows 7. Source.
5. Built-In PDF Reader
Microsoft may include the capability for Windows 8 to load and display PDFs, with its own PDF reader they're calling Modern Reader. So there will be no more need to download and install Adobe Reader or its speedier competitor Foxit Reader. The user interface and look of Modern Reader is full-on Metro. Source.
6. ISO Mounting
It looks like you'll be able to mount an ISO file to Windows 8 and access its contents as though it is a data CD or DVD drive. Having this functionality in prior versions of Windows has been available only as a third-party program, such as Virtual CloneDrive or Daemon Tools. Source.
7. File Download Verification
First implemented into Internet Explorer, it looks like Microsoft may be expanding its SmartScreen filter feature throughout the Windows 8 ecosystem. So when you try to download a file, SmartScreen will kick in and evaluate whether the source URL is known to distribute malware. Source.
8. Aero Auto-Colorization
Here's something that doesn't address the critical nuts-and-bolts of Windows 8, but could be fun: Aero can be set to automatically change the colors of your Windows theme based on the primary colors of a desktop wallpaper image you use. The result could be harmonious or awful, of course. This is one of those tinker-around-with toys. There's already a program that does the same thing for Windows 7 called Aura. Source.
RELATED: Windows 8: What you need to know
8 more rumored features of Windows 8
The following have been publicly announced, reported or heavily rumored:
1. App Store: It seems like every company has or is about to launch an app store, so it should come as no surprise that we're probably going to see one in Windows 8. There has been debate for months whether screenshots that have been leaked are fake.
2. ARM Processor Support: Indicating Microsoft is probably looking to position Windows 8 for tablet use as well, the company confirmed the OS will support ARM, the processor used mostly in embedded systems and mobile devices.
3. Factory Settings Restore: If your Windows computer has been hit with Trojans, worms or viruses, Windows 8 could have an option to restore it to its "factory settings" -- like the daisy-fresh way it worked when you first started it up. This is supposed to be faster to run than using the restore method that comes with most OEM computers.
4. History Vault: Windows' long-time "restore to a given point in time" function will be renamed History Vault and become like OS X's Time Machine. It will be a more robust tool that takes a "snapshot" copy of the entire contents of your Windows 8 computer's hard drive and then lets you easily restore things to that prior system state.
5. Instant-On and Improved Power Settings: There have always been minor to annoying power setting issues with Windows. Rumors of near instant-on and better efforts to save on power consumption would fit into Microsoft's goal to make Windows 8 more tablet-friendly.
6. Internet Explorer 10: Yep, Microsoft only recently launched IE 9 and has yet to release a preview of its follow-up. It's probably a safe bet IE 10 will be in Windows 8 when the OS launches.
7. Multi-Touch Interface Support: Another sign that Microsoft likely wants to make Windows 8 more appealing for tablets is rumored support for multi-touch interfaces. We can probably assume that the aforementioned Immersive UI is being developed to work ideally with a multi-touch screen. (In fact, Microsoft did confirm multi-touch capabilities in a preview late last week.)
8. Really Fast Install: Supposedly, installing Windows 8 will take up less than half the time it does with Windows 7.