While Microsoft is severely limiting the number of prerelease Windows 7 builds it provides to beta testers, reviewers, and the public, it is providing a steady stream of interim builds to partners and these builds often find their way out into the real world. Such is the case with Windows 7 build 7022, one of two post-Beta builds that have escaped Redmond's iron curtain since the beginning of the year. Indeed, build 7022 is the first build I've seen that was actually created this year: Remember that the Beta (build 7000) dates back to early December 2008.

As you might expect of an interim build of a product that was deemed feature-complete months ago, build 7022 doesn't include any major changes. But it does have a few small UI tweaks that become obvious after mousing around the system even for just a few minutes. For example, HomeGroup picks up a new icon (it used to be a house, and is now more unique looking). The weird expanding task list from previous versions of the Control Panel is gone, replaced by a less animated and duller-blue rendition. There are a few other small changes as well.

Barring any unforeseen issues, I'll be using build 7022 going forward so I hope to discover some additional changes. And of course I'm looking forward to the true release candidate (RC) build, which I expect to see around April. There's little doubt that other interim builds will appear between now and then.

In the meantime, here are a few shots showing off build 7022.