In a new blog post chronicling its design process, Microsoft is talking more about Virtual Desktops, the new feature coming in Windows 10 that Microsoft hopes will convince longtime Desktop power users to upgrade.
Windows 10 is the software update Microsoft says is launching sometime later this year. In that post at Blogging Windows, Microsoft gives a granular look at Virtual Desktops and how they’ll work. As Microsoft notes in its own post, Virtual Desktops aren’t exactly new. Apple’s OS X operating system has offered something akin to Virtual Desktops for years. In its early years the feature was called Expose’. Recently Apple renamed it to Mission Control.
Windows 10’s Virtual Desktops allow power users to see every Windows Store app or Desktop program they have open at any given time. A dedicated button for the screen that allows users to switch between the Virtual Desktops, which Microsoft calls Task View, is located on the Taskbar of the Desktop just beside the Cortana personal assistant.
Most people will only use Task View to quickly switch between different apps, but the hope is that hard-core Windows users who didn’t dare upgrade to Windows 8 will find the Task View useful because they can create multiple Desktops and drag different apps to the desktops they’ve created. In designing Virtual Desktops, Microsoft says that it examined how people use their computer. Many Windows users are apparently, “filers.” Microsoft uses the term to describe people who strictly organize the contents of their PC.
Task View and Virtual Desktops are great because they allow users to categorize and organize the things they’re looking at on their PC. That’s something you simply can’t do without the help of add-on software in Windows 8 and Windows 7. To make the feature even more attractive, Microsoft is adding keyboard commands for the productivity included. When pressed together the Windows Key and the Tab button open Task View. Switching between Virtual Desktops requires users to hold down the Windows key, CTRL key and directional button at the same time. Dragging an app or program directly to the New Desktop button opens another Virtual Desktop with just that app.
To be clear, Task View isn’t just useful for power users with a mouse and keyboard to interact with. In Tablet Mode, Task View is available by swiping right from the left-edge of the display. It’s the perfect way for touch users to quickly switch between apps and games.
Besides Virtual Desktops and Task View, Windows 10 includes other features. With this update, Microsoft hopes that the Windows Store will become the dominate way people get their apps. What we traditionally think of as programs are already available in the Window Store on a limited basis. Today, the store deep links users to Desktop apps. Native Windows Store apps are getting a redesign and will now also run in the Desktop alongside the programs users download from the web.
Microsoft’s Cortana Personal assistant is directly integrated into the operating system, letting users quickly and easily make appointments, monitor news, set reminders and get weather alerts. Cortana is already available only in Windows Phone today. There’s a new Outlook Mail app included in leaked versions of the operating system, along with an Outlook Calendar app that finally supports Google Calendar.
Microsoft plans to allow users to upgrade to Windows 10 free if they have a device running Windows 7 or Windows 8 for the first year. Presumably, we’ll hear about the rest of Microsoft’s productivity and entertainment plans for Windows 10 at its BUILD 2015 show. The event kicks off on April 29th.