Windows App Preview Program offers early apps without raw OS

Microsoft will allow users to try the latest version of apps without necessarily needing to be using the most cutting-edge – and potentially unstable – build of Windows 10. The Windows App Preview Program will offer Windows Insiders – members of Microsoft's open software testing scheme – to get their hands on the newest software from the company, without necessarily going the whole hog with their OS.

Currently, if you want to try the very latest version of Microsoft apps like Microsoft Photos and Paint 3D, you also need to be part of the Skip Ahead program. That's a subset of Windows Insider membership, which has offered the bleeding-edge of Windows 10 versions for desktop and server users willing to test out code that's a little more raw. Not everybody, though, lists this all-or-nothing approach.

"We heard feedback from Windows Insiders that having to opt-in to Skip Ahead to receive the latest app updates wasn't ideal as it required Insiders to also be on super-early and sometimes unstable builds of the OS," Microsoft's Dona Sarkar and Brandon LeBlanc said. "Insiders told us they wanted to be able to try out the latest app updates but be on the latest Insider Preview builds from the Fast, Slow, and Release Preview rings."

The result is the new Windows App Preview Program. Open to any Windows Insider, no matter which stage of the preview you're actually using, it'll allow earlier access on a per-app basis. Initially, there'll be ten apps that are included:

Feedback Hub

Microsoft Photos

Microsoft Sticky Notes

Microsoft Tips

Paint 3D

Windows Alarms & Clock

Windows Calculator

Windows Camera

Windows Mixed Reality Viewer

Windows Voice Recorder

Rather than gaining access to every app in one fell swoop, Microsoft will be offering preview membership to each individually. Head to the Settings or About page and, at the bottom, there'll be a "Join preview" option to check out the latest version. When you're part of the preview, clicking the button again will leave it and return to the regular, most stable public version.

Membership to each app preview will be limited, however, Microsoft warns. If the current round of preview invites has been used up, you'll get a notification telling you to wait for another slot. Skip Ahead members will continue to get the very latest versions installed by default. Microsoft says the Windows App Preview Program will start rolling out invites in the next few days.