Last week, Microsoft set its rescue mission into motion, codename: Windows 10. The new operating system will try to revitalize PC sales and resurrect the company’s dead-on-arrival phone business. Windows 10 could also be seen as an act of goodwill towards PC users that felt let down by the company’s failed experiment to reshape the OS, i.e. Windows 8.
We should note that the Windows 10 upgrade is available for FREE until 2016. Upgrading your PC to Windows 10 is very simple. A step-by-step guide is currently available on Microsoft’s website.
At its core, Windows 10 is an attempt to right the ship and reclaim the brand’s lost confidence. It is unlikely that Microsoft will accomplish its mission with just one product, but it is a good first step. So, what exactly does Windows 10 bring to the table?
The Start Menu
The Start menu has regressed a bit, but in a good way. It’s essentially a hybrid of the Start menu from Windows 7 and Windows 8. The full-screen view is gone and the rectangular window is back. It still has the Live Tiles from Windows 8, but the grid as been simplified. With it, you can quickly access recently used apps, the file explorer, and power controls. It’s easier to use and is truly a welcomed sight.
The interface has gone through some fine-tuning and now works better on PC and laptop as well as touchscreen devices. Fullscreen apps can now be windowed on desktop and arranged for easier multitasking. Windows 10 also allows for window-switching gestures similar to Exposé on Mac. Ultimately what you get is a much better user interface that keeps with the modern, flat style of Windows 8.
Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri and Google Now, is built into your computer with Windows 10. The virtual assistant that originated with the Windows Phone can now help you pull both local and web-based data whenever you perform a search on your PC. It can also crawl your email and calendar to send you notifications in regards to upcoming events automatically.
Cortana can be easily controlled through voice commands and quickly activated by saying, “Hey Cortana.” You can tell her to send emails, perform searches, add calendar events, and more. She is responsive and accurate (most of the time) and makes for a convenient hands-free tool.
The major apps in the Windows’ wheelhouse, Mail, Calendar, Photos, and Maps, have gone through some great changes. Mail and Calendar have been completely redesigned with a new interface and features, borrowing a lot from the Outlook app on iOS.
The app now uses threaded conversations, gesture controls, and easy ways to delete or archive mail, making it faster and more efficient. It’s actually worth it this time to set up your email and calendar accounts as it helps to make Cortana more useful.
The Photos app has also been given a makeover and plugs into OneDrive to make it easy to view all the pictures and videos backed up on your phone. It has tools for image enhancement and editing. Maps also looks much better and works well with Cortana.
The Continuum feature lets devices seamlessly switch between the tablet and PC interface. This feature shines most brightly on the Surface Pro 3. By simply connecting and disconnecting the keyboard, it will switch apps back and forth between their fullscreen and window mode. It’s quite handy and helps give Windows 10 a more intuitive feel.
Internet Explorer as been Microsoft’s default web browser ever since Windows 95. But with Windows 10, they are finally trying something new called Edge.
Edge is better than IE in nearly every way. It’s lean, fast, and supports modern web experiences. It also integrates with Cortana nicely and has a note-taking mode that lets you doodle on web pages and share it out. Extension support is not available for the browser, and it’s not likely to convert Chrome and Firefox users. However, it’s still better than anything Microsoft has put out before.
The Action Center is where you can view all of your app notifications and provides quick access to commonly used settings. You can access it by swiping from the right of the screen or trackpad or by clicking the icon on the taskbar. Plus you can customize its appearance and which app’s notifications it displays. You can even perform actions on certain alerts, such as calendar notifications.
Xbox Streaming to PC
Although it is still only a beta feature, Windows 10 has a new Xbox app that lets you stream games from your console to your PC or laptop. The console connects to Windows through Wi-Fi and makes use of the OS’s native support for the Xbox controller. You can even record up to two hours of gaming footage on your computer’s hard drive.
Windows 10 is by no means revolutionary, but it is a substantial upgrade from Windows 8. For those of you still on Window 7, there’s a lot to be had by updating to Windows 10. And for those on Windows 8, making your decision to switch should be an easy one.