Windows 10 – Is this the best Operating System Yet?
Wasn’t the last Operating System Windows 8? So why call the newest iteration of the Microsoft Operating system Windows 10? Well we reckon that Microsoft wanted to put as much distance between their new product and the train wreck disaster that was Windows 8. As most technicians will tell you, Windows 8 had a lot of flaws, however a lot of home users (Myself included) found Windows 8 quite manageable and didn’t have any problems. However, this may be due to the fact I’m a member of Gen Y and was using a touch enabled device which it seems Windows 8 was designed for. Things made sense and generally worked the way they were supposed to. There was a big change from Windows 7 when Windows 8 came out, but it was a change that was worth it to build towards Windows 10. If Windows 8 is looked at as nothing more than a building block to get to where we are now with Windows 10, maybe it wasn’t a total disaster after all?
Windows 10 may be a very big step in the right direction. Aimed to seamlessly display across all devices, PCs, Tablets, Phones and all the in-between. Microsoft said that Windows 10 is built from the ground up for a world in which mobile- and cloud computing are key. Insiders said it was committed to making Windows 10 friendly for the enterprise, ideal for keyboard and mouse users, but also optimised for touch. Windows 10 will put the same interface on devices with displays ranging in size from 4in to 80in. ‘One product family, one platform, one store.”
So What Haven’t we Seen Before?
THE START MENU IS BACK! We can’t thank enough for that! It also contains standard Windows software and Windows apps. Modern UI apps, as they used to be called. Or Metro apps, if you want to go right back to the beginning.
The start menu has been improved, and it could actually make Windows apps useful. Look to the left and you’ll see a list of your most-used apps, just as in Windows 7. This is much more familiar territory and is has been brought back due to the overwhelming backlash the user interface of Windows 8 received. Down the bottom there is an ‘All apps’ shortcut, shortcuts to File Explorer, Settings and shut down and standby.
Microsoft has retained the functionality of the Windows 8 Start screen on the right hand side, with resizable Live Tiles. Ideally this is so that you could immediately check unread mail or Calendar appointments. An important feature is that the Start Menu is customisable – you resize it to suit your preferences and rearrange the tiles plus create groups of tiles. You can also revert to the Windows 8 Start Screen…… if you really want to.
Having a full screen start menu really lends itself to touch enabled devices like tablets, however you can use it on a Desktop PC if you would like to. The tile concept seems to be a good idea. The key to this is the “Pin”. Instead of merely adding shortcuts to apps, you can pin tiles which are shortcuts to specific functions or features within apps. This is very handy if utilised. This makes life a lot more convenient when you begin pinning the right stuff. For example, you could pin a particular email or conversation thread from Mail or Facebook, or pin a certain journey (your commute, typically) in a travel app.
The Search and WHO is CORTANA?
Rather than placing a search box in the actual Start menu or moving it out of sight to a less noticeable place like seen in WIndows 8, Windows 10 has plonked it right in front of the users face on the taskbar. We really rate this feature and it cried out for being what users wanted. When you click on the box initially you will notice there is a prompt to enable Cortana. The reason for this is that Cortana and the “Search” are kind of the same thing Windows 10. To be 100% truthful, the Search function is in fact just a part of the virtual assistant’s remit.
Users of a Windows Phone 8, will hopefully be familiar with Cortana already (But honestly, how many of us have a Windows Phone?). For those of us with iPhones think “Siri” the virtual assistant.
So the search function does a lot of things. First off you can type in a word and Windows 10 will come up with a list of matching apps, settings and files, plus apps in the Windows store. In addition to this it is also going to display some web results. Search in Windows 10 actually does a lot more than just this though. Windows 10 incorporates all the features from Windows Phone, for instance you could casually ask Cortana “What’s the weather going to be like this weekend?” and She (He?) will display the lastest forecast. You could also off handedly tell it to “Remind me to fill in my tax return tomorrow night” and it will schedule a reminder for the activity to pop up at the appropriate time. Reminders can be even more advanced than this now as Cortana can associate them to people and places. So if a friend still owes you money from that dinner you foot the bill for last week, you can ask Cortana to “Remind me than Jane owes me money from dinner” and Cortana will ask whether you want to be reminded at a specific time or place. For places examples you could say to it “Remind me to get Vegemite and bread when I get to Woolworths” or “Remind me to water the plants when I get home”.
Cortana will show the top news stories, identify music playing and has a ‘Daily Glance’ which displays a summary of your meetings, today’s weather, information about your daily commute, sports scores and more. Should you give it permission, Cortana can also get information from emails, such as flight numbers and warn you if there’s a delay or if there’s heavy traffic on the way to the airport and you need to leave earlier than you might have. If Cortana can’t answer a question directly, it will launch the new Edge browser and display search results. Finally, Cortana can set alarms, record notes, play specific music, launch apps and give you directions on a map. The functionality that Cortana allows is fantastic, but we are unsure of how many people will use it to it’s full potential.
Windows 10 and Virtual Desktops – Finally!
On the right hand side of the search box you may notice an icon that is not familiar. Click it and Task View will open. Running along the bottom of the screen display sitting neatly under the app thumbnails is a new bar which shows virtual desktops. In Windows 10, you can now create virtual desktops right out of the box. All you have to do is click the “add desktop” button and you now have a brand new and blank desktop on which to launch your apps.
Cycling through Desktops using Ctrl+Win+left cursor or Ctrl+Win+right cursor is much faster than using the previous Alt+Tab method from Windows 7 and 8. Trying to find one Word document from heaps of open windows is also significantly easier.
SNAP ASSIST AND WINDOWED APPS
Windows 8 enabled a “snapped” App to take up half the screen which let you have 2 Apps side by side. Windows 10 allows all the way up to four apps per screen with each one taking up 25% of the display. Once an App has been snapped the Snap Assist will then show an Al+Tab view of some of the remaining open apps so you can quickly fill the entire screen. You can still snap apps to fill the whole screen, or the left- or right-hand side, and the same shortcuts apply as with Windows 7 and 8.
In Windows 8 there was “pop-up notifications”. The good news is that these are much improved in Windows 10. In the case that you miss a pop-up notification it will appear in the bottom-right corner and you can swipe in from the right on a touchscreen to display the Notifications bar. Like most other contemporary systems, it will split up these notifications by the app it came from. Users can clear notifications individually or all at once. Buttons at the bottom of the bar include toggles for tablet and desktop mode, brightness, battery saver mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, rotation lock, location, flight mode and more. You can expand or collapse the menu depending on how much room you want it to occupy.
MICROSOFT EDGE BROWSER
There’s a new web browser in Windows 10, and it offers some unique features. As well as the reading mode you may already be familiar with from other browsers, which strips away page furniture so you can focus on the content, there’s a new annotation feature which lets you highlight things and add notes and crop to a certain area of the page before sending them to others. Having these capabilities natively in the browser is a compelling reason to use it over Google Chrome or Firefox. It has also been a decent performer in our testing. Edge has been designed to have a minimal interface, leaving as much screen real estate as possible for web pages: the whole reason you’re using a browser is to view them, of course.
Some may mourn the loss of Windows Media Centre in Windows 10, but few people have PCs with built-in TV tuners and few laptops (and no tablets) come with optical drives for playing DVDs. You do get media playback apps, of course. Instead of the Xbox branding which proved a little confusing in Windows 8, the apps are simply called Music and Movies & TV. The Music app combines your local music with any stored online in your OneDrive Music folder. Plus, it also integrates Microsoft’s music streaming service called Groove – formerly Xbox Music – which you can access by buying a Music Pass.
The Movies & TV app lets you buy or rent videos from the new Microsoft Store but, like Apple, Microsoft currently lacks a streaming service to rival Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video. The app is split into three sections: Movies, TV and Videos, the latter of which monitors your Videos folder and shows them in the same easy-to-use interface.
It should be no surprise that Skype is pre-installed, now it’s owned by Microsoft. This means it’s easy to call or video chat with friends, family and colleagues. While Office isn’t included – it was only ever bundled with Windows RT – you do get the Mail and Calendar apps. Mail is a clean-looking email client which has the ability to handle multiple emails accounts including Outlook.com, Google, iCloud and Exchange (plus pretty much anything else, as long as you can configure the settings yourself).
OneNote is also part of Windows 10. If you haven’t used it, you should certainly try it out. It’s a powerful Evernote-style app which lets you create notes that are a mixture of text, lists, images, maps and more. Again, OneDrive integration means that you can access your stuff from other devices – even if it’s an Android or iPhone. Maps has been improved too. Microsoft has added Streetside – the equivalent of Google’s Street View – so you can take virtual tours of places, as well as getting directions and finding nearby places of interest. For directions, you can choose driving, walking or public transport.
It’s hard not to think of the release version of Windows 10 as the final and finished version. But it isn’t. It’s really the first version. Microsoft will issue regular updates just as it always has. Only this time it’s different. You won’t find an option in Windows 10 Home, for example, to turn off updates. That’s right: updates are now mandatory. We’re still waiting to see how this works in practice, because there’s nothing worse than finding Windows has installed updates and restarted while you were making a cup of tea and losing your unsaved work in the process.
Updates will contain drivers as well as security (and non-security-related) patches, which worries some people. A broken Nvidia driver has already caused problems for some users running the Insider version of Windows prior to 29 July. No doubt Microsoft will figure out the best way to deal with this, as it won’t want millions upon millions of Windows users complaining when an update breaks all their machines in one fell swoop. There are benefits to forced updates, though. Vulnerabilities and security holes will be addressed and patched on all Windows 10 machines (aside from Enterprise versions) at the same time, and people won’t be running vulnerable 6-year-old versions of Internet Explorer.
What do we Think?
Upgrade! It’s FREE for most and its by far the best we’ve seen in an operating system in recent times! However you should still beware: Upgrade at your own risk. Installations can go astray, there may still be bugs in the system and/or other things we don’t know about yet. The other thing to consider is this; It will be a big change from Windows 7 (not so much from Windows 8) and if there are particular features or layouts that you can’t live without then maybe the upgrade isn’t quite worth it.