For a lot of users, Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system was offensive in ways software updates rarely are. Some users, particularly those with touch devices like Microsoft’s Surface Pro and Surface RT devices appreciated the faster boot times, background cloud syncing and integrated Windows app store that Windows 8 offered. Other users appreciated those things too, they just had to be willing to put up with the Start Menu being taken away and a few other very big annoyances. Windows 10 Technical Preview, the operating system that Microsoft introduced to the world this past week and let users download, feels like one big apology for what Microsoft pulled with Windows 8. Mostly, that’s a good thing, but it some ways Windows 10 makes me very nervous about the future.
Read: What is Windows 10?
Start Menu & Start Screen
Microsoft isn’t talking much about the entire list of features it has planned for Windows 10. That’s understandable, the company doesn’t actually plan to launch the operating system until next year. The features we do know about, and that are included in the Windows 10 Technical Preview read like an destinations on an apology tour.
The Start Screen has been neutered. More specifically, the Start Screen has been neutered for laptops and desktop users in favor of a newly reconstituted Start Menu. This new Start Menu is a combination of the old style Start Menu that appeared in Windows 7 and an area that users can drop the Live Tiles for Windows Store apps into.
As I simply decided to do an upgrade, Windows 10 mostly stayed true to the settings I’d had in Windows 8.1. That meant that the Start Screen was still there. Once I dived into the settings and turned it off for the Start Menu the fun really began.
I’m a Windows user of the new guard. I say this to convey to you just how different my views of Windows 10 are probably going to be from your own. I can say, that I felt mildly uncomfortable with the Start Menu in a way I hadn’t anticipated. Pinning apps, and searching for files is just as easy as it was on the Start Screen.
Still, on my Surface Pro I just felt like I wasn’t being productive, like this Desktop and its Start Menu were completely out-of-place. I’m sure, this is just because I’m using a 2-in-1. I think mouse and keyboard users will still have a pretty big appreciation for this new option – provided Microsoft turns it on for upgrades without a touchscreen by default.
In the Windows 10 Technical Preview none of the apps have been updated past their Windows 8.1 counterparts in any meaningful way. That may be why I just don’t find Windows store apps opening on the Desktop all that nice. The other reason has to be that the Windows 10 Technical Preview has some pretty strange things going on when it comes to opening a Windows Store app in the Desktop. Click on a Windows Store app and you’re immediately taken back to the Desktop, which is fine. When this happens though, Windows 10 goes full-screen on the application. This leaves you starting at a title bar and your Taskbar peeking through at the bottom. Presumably Microsoft is counting on this change boosting the profile of Windows Store apps. It will, but only if developers get a handle on their app designs. Store apps on the Desktop are all fun until you have to scroll from left to right. Everything just feels so awkward. You can go full screen on apps, but they’ll immediately drop back to being in the Desktop with title bars after you close them. That’s great on laptops and really, really awkward on anything with a touch screen.
Also, I’m also liking the Charms Bar that used to hide app options, but Microsoft needs a better place to put this functionality than to the far right on each app’s title bar. Seriously. There is a benefit to them being moved into app windows themselves. Sticking your pointer in the wrong corner and triggering the Charms Bar is a thing of the past. So too is swiping from the sides of your track pad and opening the Charms Bar.
Finding files you’ve just opened or saved on your computer has always been a slight pain. Surprisingly, Microsoft dropped in a pretty easy fix for this issue. It’s called Home and it’s really the old Computer window but better. Inside Home is a list of recent favorites, folders you frequently open and documents you’ve just interacted with. I love it so much. I’m perfectly fine with it opening by default when you click the folder icon in the Taskbar.
Another feature I’m very grateful for is universal search. There’s now a little button that allows you to search your PC and the web. It’s always there, just waiting with a list of recent searches you’ve made. I’m not too big a fan of the way it looks, nor how it drops in Trending Topics from the web though. If I’m searching for something I’m already on a mission, I don’t need Microsoft adding more ways for me to procrastinate.
Task View is pretty handy. It allows you to open different Desktops and organize what you need based on what you’re doing. For example, all the apps related to working on this piece or in one Desktop and another holds Xbox Music for some research I’m doing for another piece. I wish could just open the Task View area and drag different apps I already have open into a different Desktop. That would make this even more useful.
In Windows 8 you can Snap apps to the right or left side of your screen by clicking on them and dragging them to the left or right edge of your screen. In Windows 10 Microsoft has upgraded this is very useful ways.
First, you can now Snap four apps your screen. If you have a small display, like on the Surface Pro, I don’t that’s going to help you much. Those with larger displays should find this very useful. In addition to this functionality, Snap now auto suggests other apps that you have open that you may want to snap. I love this feature and will use it daily. To be fair though, I was already a pretty active user of Snap.
Is Windows 10 Better Than Windows 8?
Due to the way I use Windows on the daily, I can’t say that I’m overly enamored with Windows 10. Don’t worry though, this is a good thing. My main computer is a Surface Pro and I use it to read and write handwritten notes. I’m definitely not the target market for what Microsoft is showing off in this preview. I can’t declare whether this thing is indeed a worthy upgrade until Microsoft adds Continuum so that I get a decent convertible user experience.
Read: How To Get Windows 10
Don’t misunderstand though. I liked Windows 8 because it best handled my usage style and devices. If that’s true than what we have in the Windows 10 Technical Preview is the other half of that whole. Windows 10 will genuinely make all the advancements that Microsoft introduced in Windows 8 easier for Desktop and laptop users to swallow. That’s already immediately clear in the Windows 10 Technical Preview. The real test will be how the final version of Windows 10 meets in the middle. That’s the thing that worries me.