Microsoft’s New Windows 10 Previews Sport High Efficiency Image Format, Get Sneaky With Edge

PC users out there who are part of the Skip Ahead program have an updated version of Windows 10 they can grab and try out. The new version is Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 17623 and it has some cool bits in it, and one not so cool feature. The major new introduction comes in the form of support for the High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF) in Windows 10.


Support for that format has been rolled into the Windows 10 Photos app. If you are unfamiliar with HEIF, it is an image container that uses modern codecs like HEVC to improve image quality, compression, and capabilities compared to older formats like JPEG, GIF, and PNG.

Microsoft wrote, "In addition to traditional single images, HEIF supports encoding image sequences, image collections, auxiliary images like alpha or depth maps, live images & video, audio, and HDR for greater contrast. We have heard your feedback that these features and the ability to share photos easily with other platforms is important to you. This release we are delivering essential viewing support (You cannot edit HEIF images in this release)."

To be able to partake in the new image format, you have to join the Windows App Preview Program for the required version of the Photos app. You must be running the March release of the Photos app Version 2018.18022.13740.0 or newer. That version of the app has the updates for RS4 and RS5 to support viewing the primary image inside the HEIF file along with guides for installing dependencies like HEIF and HEVC media extensions from the Microsoft Store. Microsoft wrote, "Additionally, any application that uses WIC, WinRT Imaging APIs, or the XAML Image control can now add similar support for viewing single HEIF images."

While the support for HEIF is appreciated, Microsoft has made a move in this release that is sure to infuriate many. Microsoft will force all email links clicked in the Windows Mail app to open in Microsoft Edge. This means if your preferred browser is Firefox or Chrome, clicking a link in an email will use Edge instead. This change certainly won’t sit well with Windows users who prefer other browsers, and there is no indication from Microsoft that you have the option to turn that feature off.

Microsoft wrote, "For Windows Insiders in the Skip Ahead ring, we will begin testing a change where links clicked on within the Windows Mail app will open in Microsoft Edge, which provides the best, most secure and consistent experience on Windows 10 and across your devices. With built-in features for reading, note-taking, Cortana integration, and easy access to services such as SharePoint and OneDrive, Microsoft Edge enables you to be more productive, organized and creative without sacrificing your battery life or security. As always, we look forward to feedback from our WIP community."

This just seems like a sneaky way of trying to cram the Edge browser down users' throats, and we have the feeling that this "feature" won't last long before it is abandoned.

Other new items in the Preview Build include an External GPU safe remove experience that allows the safe removal of that external GPU to prevent data loss. Microsoft has also changed the privacy settings layout and made improvements to Windows Defender Application Guard (WDAG). Last month's Insider Preview rolled out a bunch of fixes among other things.