As you probably know by now, we went from Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 10041 to Build 10049 in less than two weeks, and Spartan is finally here. I got my wish much quicker than I had anticipated. In last week’s article, “Where is Spartan? It’s not in Build 10041 of Windows 10,” I was grumbling at its absence. I’ve only had a couple of days with Spartan, but so far, I’m impressed. Let’s take a closer look.

A shift in the plan

As I mentioned before, the original plan was for Microsoft to include the new rendering engine, called EdgeHTML, in both Spartan and Internet Explorer (IE) for Windows 10. However, at the “Project Spartan” Developer Workshop on the Microsoft Silicon Valley campus, Microsoft announced that based on strong feedback from Windows Insiders and customers, they were going to leave IE alone and focus the new enhancements on Spartan. In other words, IE will keep the same MSHTML rendering engine for compatibility with legacy applications and will not include the new EdgeHTML rendering engine. Spartan, on the other hand, will only include the new EdgeHTML rendering engine and not the legacy MSHTML rendering engine.

This is overall a better plan, as it will avoid the trappings of the IE Compatibility View and allow Spartan to look forward. Of course, Spartan will still make use of the Trident layout engine, but it will be streamlined to take advantage of the modern internet. If you need to have compatibility with legacy web-based technology, like ActiveX, you can use IE.

The UI

Spartan’s user interface has a minimalist look and feel at this point in time. It’s basically grey and has the simple, flat looking graphics found in the Windows 10 icons (Figure A).

Figure A

The Spartan UI take a minimalist approach.


Having Cortana integrated into the browser promises to be a neat feature. Cortana is still a little rough around the edges, and it doesn’t work everywhere yet, but you can see where it’s going and how Microsoft is going to craft their digital assistant. For example, if you visit the website shown in the demos, the Cuoco Italian restaurant site, you’ll see Cortana in action. A pane will appear on the right side of the screen and provide you with all sorts of relevant information about the restaurant, including the address, driving directions, hours of operation, and more (Figure B).

Figure B

The Cuoco restaurant site really shows off Cortana well.

Another way you can find Cortana in Spartan is to type something relevant in the address bar, such as weather. When you do, you’ll see weather information appear in a drop-down window (Figure C).

Figure C

For certain types of queries, Cortana also works directly from the address bar.

Inking and sharing

Click the Web Note icon, and you’ll see a purple toolbar that includes various buttons for a marker, highlighter, a clipping tool, and a comment box (Figure D). You can then save or share your annotated web page. Of course, the best way to use the inking feature is with a stylus on a touch screen, but it also works well with a mouse and a steady hand.

Figure D

When you select the Web Note icon, you’ll see a toolbar containing a set of tools that you can use to annotate and share web pages.

Reading List\View

Spartan’s Reading List and Reading View are very much like Windows 8.1’s Reading List app. You can think of Reading List as a Favorites list on steroids! Basically, Reading List is designed to allow you to keep track of all the content you encounter that you want to be able find again or to read at a later date. The Reading View presents the content from your Reading list in a full screen format, much like an e-book. You can change the font size and the background color.

What’s your take?

Project Spartan is now available in Build 10049 of the Windows 10 Technical preview. Have you have a chance to download it yet? If so, what do you think of the features that it brings to the table? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.