As part of its get-ready effort for the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft is updating some of the operating system's built-in apps. The apps were included in the release-to-manufacturing build that was sent in August to manufacturers, which are also now receiving the updates.
The first update, for the Bing search engine, is being delivered Friday, and the others will roll out over the next few weeks, until the OS launch on Oct. 26. The company said that the updates will include performance and reliability improvements, as well as some new features.
In a Thursday posting on the company's Building Windows 8 blog, Steven Sinofsky, head of the Windows and Windows Live division, noted that the rollout is including a new Store for Windows, which is offering thousands of apps and will also be able to deploy updates to apps. In this way, he pointed out, users who have already installed Windows 8 can be notified when updates are available, and install them through the store.
Updates to Bing include enhanced search results for local content and images, integration with rewards, zoom on search results to see related queries, and the ability to use the file picker to select a Bing image for the computer's lock screen or in other apps.
SkyDrive will now feature functionality for searching, renaming and moving folders and files, and a custom sort order. Mail, Calendar, People, and Messaging are upgraded with a conversation view of the inbox, complete IMAP account support, accepting or declining invitations in e-mail, capturing and updating an account picture, and improved search and searching for a contact within the Messaging app.
In Photos, users can now crop and rotate photos, view auto-assembled collage slideshows, view photos and videos on network locations in the Pictures Library -- such as Home Groups -- and move through photos in the Pictures Library, even when they're already opened on the desktop.
Maps, Finance, Sports
Maps is updated with 3,000 indoor-venue maps, hints for driving directions, enhanced navigation and layout, improved customization -- such as custom pushpins and roaming options -- and integration with Bing and Travel apps.
There's more news and magazine content in Finance, as well as more enabled market exchanges and the addition of finance videos. News offers more content from such partners as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, an enhanced article reader that includes font customization and zoom, an improved offline reading experience, and the addition of news videos and slideshows.
Similarly, there's additional content in Sports, such as new soccer leagues, and additional content and functions in Travel, including improved hotel listings and flight searches. Weather offers improved default location usability, Video now has closed captioning and the ability to search in local currencies, and there are expanded choices in Music.