Thinking about trying Windows 10? Read this review covering many new features in Windows 10 with my thoughts on them. Pros and cons, bonuses and bugs.
Windows 10 Technical Preview Releases
The first of October 2014, Microsoft announced Windows 10 and released a Technical Preview to anyone brave enough to try it. Well, of course I tried it. My overall conclusion of that was that it was buggy, rough, and unfinished. There were very minimal changes from Windows 8, and those changes seemed far from finished.
Then, in mid January 2015, Microsoft had their Windows 10 event unveiling the latest iteration of Windows 10 along with the announcement of HoloLens, but that’s another story. I downloaded the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview after that event and I have to say, they have made astounding progress since the first draft Technical Preview.
This is a review of Windows 10 as of the January Technical Preview release. Let’s get started…
This is the most obvious and most anticipated change in Windows 10. I’ve talked before about how the rumored Windows 9, now called Windows 10, will be more like Windows 7, and this is one of those reasons. People didn’t like the Windows 8 Start Screen as a replacement for the Start Menu.
Microsoft has heard the complaints and they probably realized that the Start Screen didn’t get the use that they were hoping for. Therefore, in Windows 10, we get a new modern take on the old start menu, basically bringing in the tiles from Windows 8’s Start Screen and implementing them on the start menu taking up less space.
However, Microsoft has given a maximize button in the corner that expand the Start Menu into the newly redesigned full-sized Start Screen.
One thing I noticed is missing… Live Tiles is currently not available in the Windows 10 Technical Preview. I wonder if they have decided to get rid of them or if they are adding them in later.
I was pretty impressed with the latest redesign of the start menu. Instead of rounded buttons showing that a program is open, we now have flat design represented in the Task Bar with a colored line underneath the area of the icon. It looks pretty nice and modern to me.
But the real improvement in the Task Bar that I appreciate is that it no longer wraps to multiple row making you click up and down arrows to cycle through the rows. Now, when you have too many programs open, the icons simply get smaller to fit them in.
It is especially important to make sure the task bar can accommodate limited space when you consider how much space is taken up by the Cortana search box that sits next to the start button.
Another new feature of Windows 10 is the ability to have modern (a.k.a “metro”) apps open in re-sizable and movable windows instead of being forced to be full screen or split screen. It’s nice to have “apps” in windows alongside “programs”. Now, there’s not this strange segregation between the two.
I also noticed that the most apps in Windows 10 have virtually no edging around them. All previous versions of Windows have had a padding area all around the edges of the window that you use to grab with your mouse to resize.
That no longer exists in Windows 10. You end up grabbing an invisible area around the edge of a window that takes the same amount of space, but now that you don’t see it, windows just look cleaner and sharper.
Search and Cortana
As mentioned earlier, the search box is now built right into the Task Bar. It also has Cortana, Microsoft’s competitor to Siri and Google Now, built into the search box.
I actually couldn’t get voice commands to work for some reason. Maybe it’s just my computer, but I’ll update this if I figure out how to get it to work.
I’ve also noticed a bit of lag sometimes when I open the start menu and begin typing my search query. Sometimes it actually skips the first character or two. I hope they fix that issue soon as it’s very annoying.
One area from Windows 8 that always felt half baked was the settings interface. There was this new settings panel from the charms bar, but then the rest of the settings area was the same as it was before.
Finally, Windows 10 has started taking steps towards a more cohesive experience with a new redesign of the main settings window.
The only problem is that it looks pretty plain and boring, lacking color. Maybe there will be some iterations of this that look a bit better.
There is a new Notifications Center in Windows 10. You can see a notification icon rightmost in your system tray. It will open this…
While at the moment, it doesn’t have anything exciting in it, I can tell that it can quickly become useful once apps take advantage of it, or I install such apps.
Speaking of notifications, the lock screen now has notifications on it. There is a row of icons at the bottom used to display counts of notifications that are waiting for you. You can also choose one app to highlight.
Multiple Virtual Desktops
This was one of the more exciting features to me because it’s something that’s been missing from Windows while Mac and Linux have been enjoying this feature for some time. For people with only one monitor, this could be a killer feature. With multiple monitor users like me, however, it’s just a nice-to-have.
Here are a couple problems I found when using the multiple desktops feature.
Clumsy way to move windows between desktops
As far as I could tell so far, the only way to move a window to another desktop, is…
- Click the “Task View” button or press Win + Tab
- Click the “+” button to add another desktop
- Right-click on a window from above
- Hover over “Move to”
- Click on the desktop where you want to move that window
This isn’t the most user-friendly. It seems like they could have easily implemented a drag & drop feature to drag a window down to the desktop below. I’m willing to bet they will add that feature soon, because the interface seems to be begging for that intuitive functionality.
Windows doesn’t remember which windows belong in which desktops
This was a disappointment. One of the best reasons to split up my programs/windows between desktops is if I can save time by not having to set it up every single time I reboot.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t remember having a second desktop after reboot, so I would have to set it up from scratch every time, rendering it useless.
Here’s hoping that they add this feature later. Then, maybe I’ll give it a try once again.
Overall, I like Windows 10. If you’re coming from Windows 8, it feels like a more refined version of Windows 8 (much like how Windows 7 was a refined version of Windows Vista). If you’re coming from Windows 7, this should feel like a substantial upgrade.
It should also be a no-brainer upgrade if the rumors are true about Microsoft offering the Windows 10 upgrade for free to Windows 7 and 8 customers.
Again, since I’m reviewing the Windows 10 Technical Preview, a lot of this may change by the time it’s finally released. Hopefully it will continue to change for the better!
If you are brave enough to install it and play with it for yourself, you can download the ISO here.
Have you gotten a chance to try it out? What do you think? Chime in with your own thoughts below in the comments. Thanks!