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Windows 10 is finally here. There are people dancing in the street over this news, there are people that view this about as important as the ratio of belly lint to fabric softener debate, and there are people like me who are cautiously optimistic – we want Windows 10 to be the one ring that binds us all (inset your own Lord of the Rings reference here) but we know the truth. We’ve been burned before (*cough* Windows RT *cough*) and we want the dust to settle before we jump up and down on the bandwagon and proclaim that the greatest OS ever has been introduced.
Hyperbole aside, we did get a chance to take Windows 10 for a spin this weekend, and we found some great news, some good news, some interesting news, and some wacky news. Here’s 10 about 10 that you’ll soon discover.
1) It Kicks Windows 8’s Butt
I had no hate for 8, but I was sorely disappointed from coming off of Windows 7 and being quite happy, then being force fed touchscreen dogma like some kind of cult initiation. Windows 8 was hardest on my in-laws, non-tech doe-eyed seniors who calmly ask me why Skype never calls them back. Telling them that Windows 8 was an improvement, and then trying to explain what was improved made me look like I learned tech from Facebook posts. Windows 10 is something completely different. When I fired up Windows 10 for them, going through the tutorial felt more organic to the way they use computers (although when I showed them the new Edge browser, they went back to slack-jawed disbelief), and I also gave them a brief history on why operating systems change and the good and bad reasons for changes. All in all, they were up and running on Windows 10 in a few short hours, whereas it took them weeks (and weeks of phone calls to me) to help them figure out Windows 8.
2) Upgrading Experience May Vary
This may not be true for every system out there, but between myself and about five of my colleagues, the upgrade experience for Windows 10 ranged from simple to “AAAHHHRRGGGHH”. A couple of tips here – when upgrading, hardwire your connection – there were a lot of connection timeouts, even a week after the launch. Also, make sure that your PC or laptop is tuned up – remove any unwanted programs, make sure all drivers and firmware are up to date, and clean up your registries. Also, expect more back and forth with computers that have a lot of programs installed – Windows 10 is already finding some programs that it doesn’t want to share its graham crackers and milk with – and make sure that once upgraded, you reinstall or check your antivirus software. Norton, for instance, stayed ahead of the game and prepped for Windows 10. Let’s hope your AV is just as proactive.
3) Virtual Desktops
One of the few enhancements that makes sense (and takes a page from Apple) is the ability to create multiple desktops with open apps. Mail browser? Open a desktop. Want to work in Word while the mail is open? Create another desktop. Each desktop can be switched using a button on the toolbar, and each stays active (be aware that opening dozens of desktops may have a serious effect on your computer’s ability to multitask). It’s a nice feature, and one that utilizes the entire screen.
4) Microsoft Edge Kicks Internet Explorer’s Butt
Yeah, just like Windows 8 looks paltry compared to Windows 10, Microsoft Edge adds features to its browser that makes Internet Explorer look like it got sand kicked in its face at the beach. You can mark up any web page, highlight text, or take screenshots, then save those pages to a Reading List that can be accessed when you’re offline. You can also send marked up pages to others, to show them you know how to annotate the hell out of page. Send some to ex-college professors and apologize for marking up so many textbooks with your horrendous doodling.
5) Start Button Kicks … You Know Where We’re Going with This
So many people, so much lamentation about the start button missing from the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 8. So many band-aids and third party apps to fix it. So much for complaining. The start button is back, and it’s even better than before. Click on the Windows icon, and you get a mini-tile interface that mimics Windows 8 but lays out your most often used programs to the right. On the left, a nostalgic throwback to the days when a start menu was a start menu – settings, power, file explorer all at your fingertips. Still want to see your Metro-style apps, but don’t want to switch back to the tiles? Click on all apps and you get an alphabetical menu listing of all programs and apps installed on your machine. Sweet.
Windows 10 start button
6) Cortana is Fun, But…
Did you know there are two ways to use Cortana? One is fun and interactive, and the other is far more useful. First, let’s not pull any punches – Cortana is Siri. You can ask her a question, and receive an appropriate response using all the search powers that she can muster. Fun, yes, especially on a phone when you’re looking for a review or a piece of information on something. Not so fun? When you’re talking into your 2-in-1 tablet like an idiot, and then yelling because you believe that volume is the key to understanding you. This doesn’t work on my kids, and it works even more poorly in Cortana. The vocal recognition isn’t all there just yet (and I will admit, it has a lot to do with microphone placement on your device), but when it does work, it works as well as Siri.
The other way to use Cortana that I found much more helpful is when searching through text on a website. Pick a word, any word, and then right click on the word and click “Find with Cortana” You immediately have the Bing engine using all its power to find information on your word. This just turned the whole Web into rollover text, for good or for bad.
7) Xbox One
Yeah, this nailed it for me. You open up your Xbox One, you start playing a game. Sooner or later, another member of your household is going to want to watch TV. Get up, take your controller, plug it into your PC or laptop, and if you have Windows 10 running, you can mirror the content to your device while someone else watches TV. The experience will depend greatly on your network connection, but this is a game-changer simply because I don’t want to buy another TV, and I have a Windows 10 laptop. Playing in bed before you go to sleep is also an awesome way to annoy your partner. I speak from experience.
Using the Xbox One with Windows 10
8) Power Notifications
This seems cheesy, but I hated that the power notification button only showed a battery bar and how much juice was left. Now I can see how much power is left, a percentage of how much power is left, and an accurate estimation of how long I have left (like “13 hours, 1 minute remaining” ). Minor pet peeve that was fixed in Windows 10.
I’m going to file this under “interesting concept” only because I have not seen the full effects of this working. Continuum is an ideology that says that your experience for Windows 10 should continue across all devices – tablets, phones, laptops and desktops. When you’re connected to a keyboard, the experience is a mouse and keyboard-type scenario. When you detach the keyboard, you are immediately presented with tablet mode, and your foray into the world of touchscreen computing begins. All experiences should draw on the strength of the type of device – and for the most part, I found that they do, but I have found some glitchiness in the transition. Switching from mode to mode is not always seamless (and again, my experiences on an Intel Core i5 Dell Venue 11 Pro may not be yours), but when it does work, it’s a “hey that’s cool” moment.
10) There is a Learning Curve
Don’t think you’re going to upgrade, switch on your PC and start working like the pro you were before Windows 10. There’s a definite learning curve, and you’re going to do a lot of searching around for how to accomplish tasks that have seemingly disappeared (why can’t I have a desktop button on the live tiles menu anymore?). Like any switchover, give yourself plenty of time to learn the OS – don’t update a mission-critical computer that can’t afford any down time. Play around. Read a few articles. Come back here for more tips and solutions. But at some point, you’re going to lean back, put your hands behind your head, and breathe a sigh of relief. Windows 10 is here, and it is a welcome change.