More details about Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 have apparently leaked onto the Web, revealing new surprises and some makeovers to existing features.
A greater peek into the next version of Windows is coming from Windows 8 Milestone 1, also known as Build 7850, which started popping up at various FTP and file-sharing sites last week. This build was released to Microsoft partners late last year. Milestone 2 has since been released, while Milestone 3 has reportedly been compiled. But combined with details from more recent builds, Windows users can get a glimpse into what the future may hold.
One new feature, reportedly first revealed by the Italian Web site Windows8Italia.com (Google Translate version), is a cloud synchronization tool. The feature would let users sync files and folders from their local PCs with a cloud-based service. Liveside.net sees this as confirmation that Windows 8 will include integration with Windows Live accounts, though it's as yet unknown whether this would directly tap into Windows Live SkyDrive to store data.
Another feature, also reportedly uncovered by Windows8Italia.com (Google Translate version), is a hybrid boot option. This feature is designed to reduce your PCs bootup time after you shut it down by putting it in a form of hibernation. CNET sister site ZDNet reports on this as an evolution of the current hibernation function that puts the core operating system files to sleep. Windows 8 Center sees this as a setting for more advanced users and one that changes the shutdown process more than the start-up routine.
Yet another new feature revealed would allow users to carry Windows 8 with them on a USB drive. As described by Windows 8 Center, this portable workspace, or Windows on a stick option, would let people load a bootable copy of Windows 8 from a USB device and may be geared toward business users who could take their corporate version of Windows 8 with them from the job to work at home.
Beyond these and other new features, Windows 8 users should also see improvements to some old standbys.
The Windows Task Manager, which lets you view and manage open programs and processes, will apparently get a much-needed retrofit. Combining the current Task Manager with Microsoft's Resource Monitor, according to WinRumors, the new and advanced Task Manager would provide more details on running processes and system resources and offer a better way to shut down a misbehaving application.
The Windows Disk Cleanup tool, which can help get rid of unnecessary or duplicate files, will also apparently be beefed up. Based on information and a screenshot published by Windows 8 Center, the revamped tool would provide users with more options for cleaning up their drives and show how much space is taken up by specific types of files, such as videos and music.
Other details recently revealed about Windows 8 point to greater use of the Ribbon interface, a built-in PDF reader, and a new Windows App Store. ZDNet is also offering a good overview of what has appeared in the pre-beta builds of Windows 8 so far.
Microsoft has been generally mum about Windows 8 and hasn't given any clues as to a launch date. However, a blog post on the company's Dutch Web site may have spilled a few beans in October when it stated that Windows 8 was about two years away, putting its release toward the end of 2012.