On September 30th Microsoft unveiled their newest operating system, the successor to Windows 8.1, Windows 10.
Some have questioned the name, asking what happened to windows 9, with theories springing up all over the internet. One of these being to do with Microsoft’s large Japanese market share, 9 is considered an unlucky number in Japan. Whatever the reason, Windows 10 it is.
With the technical preview now available for download I’ve had a hands-on look at the new flagship OS, scheduled for released in late 2015.
With Windows 8 being something of a letdown for many users thanks in part to Microsoft’s “mobile first” approach, Windows 10 will be a welcome change. The start menu is back and there have been several improvements made to how the metro apps (introduced in Windows 8) are displayed as well as multitasking enhancements for those using the OS on a touchscreen device (something 8 was not great at).
First impressions are that we have something of a love child between Windows 7 and Windows 8 and yet it never feels like Microsoft is doing a 180 and turning their back on the bold move they made with Windows 8, this feels more like they have learnt from the mistakes made, listened to their customer feedback and moved forward with something new and improved.
The Start Menu returns
That symbol of a Microsoft operating system for so long, missed by many Windows 8 users, the Start Menu has returned. This is of course no surprise, thanks to customer feedback Windows 8.1 brought back the Start button, this was the only next logical step to keep the masses happy.
But this isn’t just a return, this menu comes with upgrades.
While the left hand column looks very much like the traditional Windows 7 Start menu, complete with jump menus, including Windows desktop apps and Windows Store Apps, the right hand column is something new.
The right column houses customizable live tiles, similar to what Windows 8 users have come to expect from the Start screen. You can add any app’s live tile to that column at any time by simply dragging it over, although apps that don’t have live tile functionality will be a shortcut rather than a fully functional live tile. Alternatively, for those who prefer the classic look, you can have nothing there at all.
The tiles work in the same way as they do on Windows 8.1, re-sizable from small icons, to wide, to large live tiles, every customization that the current OS is good at. The response times, even on the early technical preview are impressive and the number of items you can add is unlimited.
The Start menu itself can be resized so that the tiles can be set up to display the way you want. The only limit being the size of your monitor as the start menu will rise to the top of your screen with ease.
Additionally you can quick pin any app, desktop or store, to the bottom task bar for even more convenient access.
The bottom of the menu also houses a handy spotlight-style search tool that will allow you to quickly search locally for apps and files on your machine as well as searching online via Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Say for example you have the eBay metro app installed, searching eBay will bring up the app as well as a link to the website itself. This isn’t new functionality as Windows as 8 currently allows you to do the same but the extra convenience goes a long way to making it a much more straight forward and more enjoyable experience for the user. The same search tool can also be found via an icon on the task bar.
The focus is on Multitasking
Windows 10 isn’t just about the look and feel though, there’s some big changes going in to some of the most important areas. The new powerful multitasking tasking features are going to be a big selling point for this OS.
Task View is a new multitasking feature for Windows, allowing users to instantly and easily switch between apps and multiple desktop layout. Similar to Apple’s Mission Control in OSX, this feature can be easily accessed from an icon on the task bar or by swiping left when using a touchscreen device.
While in Task View, the size and orientation of windows is preserved, so you can preview how windows are positioned in different desktops. You can also add new desktops or toggle between apps easily with the good old fashioned alt + tab command.
The addition of multiple desktops will be welcomed by many, with popular third party applications already offering this to experienced users, the new functionality will finally be easily available to the masses.
The process is seamless, it is simply a case of laying out a desktop how you’d like it, clicking on Task View, adding a new desktop, add a new layout. Switching between desktops is simple though the one drawback I found was the difficulty in moving apps from one desktop to another, there doesn’t seem to be a simple way of doing this quickly at present, but this is just a technical preview and with over a year until the finished product is released there will be many refinements going in before then.
In addition to the multitasking elements introduced through Task view, Microsoft has solved one of the biggest complaints with Windows 8, Windows Store apps can now be resized and do not need to run at either full screen or snapped to one side of the screen, they are free in the same way as conventional desktop apps.
All store apps now have a shortcut menu at the top with allows the user to access things like settings and the ability to share, basically every that Windows 8 has if you swipe right while in an app.
The snap functions are still in place though and can be used though there’s a bit more freedom then in Windows 8. Where the current OS allows you to snap either left, right or center (in 8.1 that is), Windows 10 has a new “quadrant layout” which allows up to four apps to be easily arranged on the same screen, throw in the multi-desktop functionality and any user can easily customize their own experience.
Outside of the new enhancements Windows 10 works very much like Windows 8.1, with many of the same UI layouts for things like PC settings and Control Panel.
First impressions of the new operating system are positive. The mixture of new features, the best of Windows 7 and 8.1 and the much loved Start Menu offer an experience that works well on both the conventional desktop/laptop keyboard and mouse as well as touchscreen devices. Much like how Windows Vista is now considered Windows 7 beta, when Windows 10 is released we will look back at Windows 8 and see its inspiration and lessons learned.