Project Spartan First Impressions – A Great First Step

Like many Windows Insiders yesterday, I spent a good chunk of my evening downloading and installing Build 10049, the latest update to the Windows 10 Technical Preview and the first to include Project Spartan.  For those of you who are not familiar with what Project Spartan is exactly, it is the new browser experience that is coming in Windows 10 and you can read my summary of what it is in this post from yesterday.

The main focus of Build 10049 was Project Spartan so naturally I have focused most of my time in testing up the build in this new browser.  My first impressions are positive and I certainly like what I’m seeing.  It is a much cleaner viewing experience to be certain but there are other things that just make sense in Spartan.  I like where this is going and I think once Microsoft has it completed it will be a fantastic experience for everyone.

As I’ve said in many, many posts, Windows 10 right now is beta and there are plenty of issues and bugs in its current state.  Project Spartan most certainly falls in the same category.  What I have today in this build will not be what everyone gets this summer when Windows 10 is released.  But the whole idea of the preview is to give a flavor for what is coming and you do certainly get that in this release.

The first thing that struck me was how minimal and simple in design Project Spartan is over Internet Explorer.  It looks and feels very modern and as a guy who like these minimalist designs, it put a

Project Spartan UI
Project Spartan UI

smile on my face immediately. The top menus are very clean with only faint lines between tabs.  The menus are all also icon only and in fact the only text you will see really is the URL you are viewing.  That viewing area therefore is maximized nicely.  While you can certainly get Internet Explorer close to this, it is still a bit more busy than Spartan.

Reading Lists are another big part of the Project Spartan story.  The idea here is that you can get a cleaned up, stripped down view of a page, save it to your reading list so you can read it later, online or offline.  This concept isn’t new.  Apple has had this in Safari since the release of OS X Mavericks so this is very much a catch up feature.  Still, it is nice and something that I personally find quite handy if for nothing more than as a set of notes for sites or articles I want to review later.

Annotations is something that really makes Project Spartan stand out.  This feature allows you to add drawings, notes or type to a webpage then save that page to OneNote or share that with others.  You can also highlight text as part of the annotations.  I tried out the annotations and they work great.  I was

Annotated Project Spartan
Annotated Project Spartan

able to add one to a page then save that to OneNote easily.  It is certainly a way to will allow you to potentially embed the annotated page into another OneNote page or into a presentation.

The last bit of Project Spartan that is fantastically awesome is Cortana.  What is throwing some off though is that she isn’t obvious in Spartan – which could well be the point.  Cortana pops up as and when needed and is does so based on what you are doing at the moment.  The best example is if you start typing in a persons name or ask about weather in a location.  Cortana will then appear and provide that information to you.  Also, if you highlight then right-click on a word she will give you more information about that word.

To me the Cortana integration in Project Spartan feels pretty rough and is certainly an area that I expect will improve as new builds of Windows 10 is released.  But the concept is there and I think it will be a big improvement over current searching in Internet Explorer.

As I said in my opening comments, I like where Project Spartan is heading.  This is not a rehash of Internet Explorer and you can tell immediately when you open it up.  It feels and looks much nicer and smoother and performance wise is excellent.

If you have any questions leave them in the comments below and I’ll answer them as best I can.