Take a look inside Microsoft's Windows 10

Background story

What is Windows 10?

It is the latest version of Microsoft's Windows operating system, which was announced earlier this month.

Why is it called Windows 10?

The official word from Microsoft is that Windows 10 is such a significant change from Windows 8 that the company did not feel it was right to call it Windows 9.

Given that Windows 8 has an estimated market share of only 13 per cent two years after its debut, perhaps Microsoft wanted to put some distance between the two versions.

When will it be available?

Sometime next year. Microsoft said it would be available after its annual Build developer conference. Pricing has not been discussed.

Meanwhile, it has released an early Technical Preview for those who want to try out Windows 10.

Return of the Start menu

In Windows 10, the Start menu looks like a hybrid of the traditional Start menu in Windows 7 and the tile-based Start screen in Windows 8.

On the left are the regular Windows 7 Start menu elements, such as Documents, Pictures and other recently used apps.

On the right are the Modern apps from Windows 8, including the Windows Store and Mail apps. Like their Windows 8 incarnations, these Modern apps show updates (Live Tiles), including new e-mail messages and weather information.

More importantly, at the top of the menu, there is a power button to shut down or restart the computer. Not knowing how to switch off the PC was a frequent complaint from first-time Windows 8 users.

Our take: Microsoft brought back the Start button in Windows 8.1, but clicking on it took the user to the tiles of the Start screen.

In Windows 10, the Start menu is truly back and well worth the wait. It is highly customisable (see 'Five Windows 10 tips' for five Windows 10 tips) and is probably the best implementation ever.

Multiple virtual desktops

Desktop real estate is valuable. Professional users will pay for large expensive monitors so they can have more desktop space to fit in all their open apps. Windows 10 solves the space problem by introducing multiple virtual desktops.

You do not get more actual desktop space as you would with a bigger monitor, but the new arrangement reduces desktop clutter by letting you organise your stuff into separate desktops.

You can, for instance, keep one virtual desktop for work-related apps and another for your personal e-mail client, along with browser tabs for updates on your favourite football team.

Windows 10 has a Task view feature (it shows up as a new button on the taskbar) which brings up the currently open desktops so you can switch from one desktop to another.

Our take: It is about time Windows got a feature which Linux has had for the longest time. Apple's OS X also has a similar feature called Spaces. However, Task View feels more like a power feature for business and professional workers than for home users.

Snap four apps or windows

In Windows 8, you can snap an app to fill up half the screen by holding down the Windows logo key with the Left or Right arrow keys.

In Windows 10, you can use the mouse (click and drag the window to the side of the screen) or keyboard short cuts to fill four quadrants of the screen, meaning you can snap up to four open apps.

What is cool is that once you snap an app, the feature will suggest another open app or window which you might want to snap next to it.

Our take: When you have a few apps open, resizing them to fit the screen can be a hassle, more so if you need them to align properly with no gaps in between. This feature goes some way towards ensuring you spend more time using the apps than arranging them.

Run Modern apps in a window

The tile-based Modern UI apps from Windows 8 are still in Windows 10. Truth be told, there are some good ones, especially those created by Microsoft, such as its Food & Drink and Sport apps.

Windows 10 takes these apps and makes them run like a desktop app so they can be resized or closed easily (click on the Minimise, Maximise and Close buttons on the title bar).

Our take: It is indeed useful to be able to close and resize these apps like any desktop app. However, the degree of vertical resizing is fairly limited.

Also, having the title bar above these tablet-like apps can look jarring. After all, we do not expect smartphone apps to behave like PC desktop apps. At least this compromise is convenient for users, which is probably the most important criterion.

New Search button

This new button on the taskbar shows recent searches and suggestions from Bing, such as what others are searching online. It is a universal search which returns results from your PC (locating a local file) and from the Web. You can also search from the Start menu.

Our take: This feature is similar to the one on Windows 8, except for the extra Search button on the taskbar. Perhaps Microsoft wants it to be more prominent, but it also takes up valuable taskbar space.

Digital Life's verdict

The desktop is king again. After flirting with the touch interface in Windows 8, Microsoft has restored the desktop interface to the heart of its Windows platform. Given the reversals which we have seen with Windows 8.1, this move was not unexpected.

Microsoft paints a pretty picture of Windows 10 as an operating system spanning mobile devices and servers. The company also talked up universal apps, which work for all types of devices, and a common app store.

Currently, in Windows 8.1, only Modern apps are found in the Windows Store.

However, the Technical Preview looks very much about wooing desktop users and businesses.

Does this mean that years of development have been wasted on the Modern UI? It is probably unfair to arrive at this conclusion from this early build of Windows 10.

From the Technical Preview, it appears that retrofitting the Modern UI to suit the desktop has not been seamless.

The Charms bar remains, but some of its features have been replicated in the title bar of Modern apps. The PC Settings, accessible from the Charms bar, continue to have some unique settings which are not found in the Control Panel. Having two locations for changing settings is bad for usability.

In short, Windows 10 as it is now, feels like a Windows 8.2 update. Obviously, there is time for Microsoft to work out the kinks and add new and cool features, but I would be reluctant to pay for just an update.

One hopes that the rumour of Windows 10 being offered free for upgraders will turn out to be true.

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