After many years of slow, gradual evolution, the Steam user interface has gotten a complete revamp. Valve kicked off a public beta of the new UI late yesterday, giving users of the all-in-one game distribution and community application a chance to test out the changes—and submit ever-important feedback.
Participating couldn't be easier: just head to the account tab of your Steam preferences then click "Change" in the beta participation section. Steam will automatically update and restart with the brand new interface, keeping your games, friends list, and other preferences unchanged.
The changes Valve has implemented are too numerous to cover here, but the announcement page includes a complete list at the bottom. Among the highlights: extra views for the games list, a download manager that keeps track of data downloaded, an updated web browser based on the WebKit rendering engine (bye bye Internet Explorer), a new interface for the Steam store, and an updated in-game overlay.
Valve has implemented all of those changes in a new visual style, which definitely seems to take cues from Microsoft's Zune application. Large section and subsection headers populate the upper part of the window, and menus fill in the space most applications reserve for a title bar. Folks used to collapsing the Steam app into a narrow games list will need to change their habits, too; the updated UI no longer allows that.
We've grabbed a few other screenshots of the new UI, and you can check them out at their full resolutions in the image gallery below. For more information, be sure to peruse the official Valve announcement. (Thanks to Shacknews for the heads-up.)