I finally had some time this weekend to play around in Windows 10 Technical Preview on my laptop. Having only recently been exposed to Windows 8.1, I have still not fully become accustomed to the new interface or adjusted my usage habits to fit. So here is a collection of my thoughts on Microsoft’s new OS with a strong Windows 7 background. Although not comprehensive, this list covers what I feel are the biggest impacts to us, the everyday user.
A Mix Of Old and New
Start Menu Is Back – Charms Gone (Desktop)
The current build of Windows 10 is very much so a mash up of Windows 8.1 and Windows 7. The desktop is back as a default and so is the Start menu. You can search for programs and pin items just as before. However, a new addition to the Start menu is the pinned Modern apps. This to me initially looked like a decent idea, as they are applications as much as standard desktop apps. However, the default apps installed have live tiles, and its incredibly distracting to go searching for a program and have the News app flashing updates. You can disable the live tile feature, but that seems to miss the entire point of having the tiles function the way they do. So it’s a nice feature, but I am not exactly sure how well it will work in practice.
Along with the good news of the Start menu, the charms bar was hidden from sight on my laptop with the traditional mouse swipes. I believe this how Microsoft is tailoring the experience per platform and hardware. The last I recall reading is that the charms will live on, but its nice to have this removed at the very least from devices without any touch input. I haven’t researched this at all, so I am not sure what the final plans are for this peice.
Gadgets Are (Still) Gone
Gadgets do not return as MS has been encouraging users to disable them for years now. However the Modern apps are able to resize and function in the desktop space essentially making them able to become the gadgets found in Vista and 7. Currently these apps work as any other program, but I think it would be great to have a built in application to group and tile the modern apps similar to the start menu of Modern apps or auto-start apps in a certain window size to enable the utility of the old gadgets. If this level of functionality isn’t added I am sure using task scheduler I can figure out how to autostart some programs so I can see the weather, calendar etc at start up. That should be as easy as starting applications at boot as outlined in one of my previous posts (found here).
Windows 8’s User Interface – Upgraded
Aero has not made a return and no Windows Classic theme is available either. I find this leaves the interface a little to be desired. Unlike the colorful defaults for windows/taskbar colors in Windows 7, all the default colors are slightly washed out and muted. This makes the interface particularly unappealing for me, and tweaking the colors to look good with solid window colors is harder than it sounds. Title bars have only simple black text and without any Aero effects you can also easily make window titles unreadable with dark colors themes. However there is a fair amount of feedback regarding that so I hope it is updated in a future build and the final release.
A new feature in Windows 10 is having multiple virtual desktops. I have seen these previously in Linux for years and the ones in Windows 10 are very similar. With that said I never much used them, but they do allow you to break up your work into separate spaces so its easier to stay on task and focus. It’s a welcome addition even though I don’t see myself integrating it into my daily workflow anytime soon.
The network icon from Windows 7 is present in the taskbar again instead of being hidden in the Charms menu. Clicking on it will allow you to pick a network from the ‘PC Settings’ Modern app. This is a welcome change as previously hiding the options to connect under the settings in the Charms bar was very cumbersome especially when troubleshooting wifi or having any connectivity issues.
Aside from this, the sleek integrated features of Windows 8 persist and discovery of network items is just as easy. I haven’t tested it yet, but Windows 8.1 found my network printer and installed drivers automatically, and I would guess this will do the same. I was never too sure how I liked that as guests with Windows 8 machines who connected to my wifi didn’t even need anything to access my printer. On the flip side, neither did I. So upping your home networks security may be something to look at as we venture forth into the ever connected future. No longer do you need to tell the machine to install networked items before they can be used which is something that should be noted.
Dual Personalities Still Present
Although it doesn’t seem as prominent as in Windows 8/8.1 the dual personality of Modern is still seen. The Control Panel remains and is easier to use than ever, but so is the PC Settings app that is a part of the Modern interface. I haven’t dug around them to much, but I still don’t understand why there are two applications for this. I would prefer only one, even if the Modern style app would take over as splitting settings between apps is only confusing.
There are many other changes to the OS, but most of them are small tweaks that you may enjoy or completely overlook. These are minor and most of the changes seem to make things more intuitive. This is great news as it makes the transition to the new OS much more seamless than when I started working with 8.1. This is certainly easier to work with. I wiped Windows 8.1 off my laptop to install the technical preview because of how irritated I was with the issues it was causing me. To my surprise, all the issues I mentioned previously (here) have been fixed. My laptop is now fast, reliable and only has a few touchpad issues every now and again. Although I did upgrade the 5,400 RPM drive to an SSD, which could have solved most of my problems. That and this OS is not bundled with manufacturer bloatware.
One final point I want to cover is that OneDrive is integrated into the OS as it was in 8. This is annoying as I prefer to keep my files out of the cloud and if I would use a cloud storage option I would want to pick everything that is sent and not have defaults enabled. This is not much of a change from 8 that I am aware of, but a change in how we compute. With data breaches happening more often I think it’s time to pause and look at just how much we expose ourselves and rely on third parties to keep our information secure.
Windows 10 is another version Windows in every sense. It runs all Windows apps the same as 7 and 8 and puts touch computing front and center only when needed unlike its predecessor. I feel it’s certainly easier to use than 8.1 and have had a much more enjoyable time using it as well. Overall, its shaping up nicely despite some rough edges with Modern apps living in the Start menu and having PC Settings live along side the Control Panel. I for one find it a good enough replacement for prior versions of Windows. However, with that said there is nothing that really warrants the upgrade from a functionality perspective. I feel I will be upgrading only when I need features tailored for newer hardware. For older machines, I feel there is no real need to upgrade unless you are on Vista or XP. There is still change to overcome, but this time around it looks much easier than the last round of upgrades to Windows.
Have you used Windows 10? Anything important that you think I missed? List it out in the comments below!