Nein to Nine: Windows 10 Goes to Double Digits

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Some of the 1.5 billion Windows users may be slightly confused by Microsoft’s decision to skip from Windows 8.1 directly to Windows 10, but make no mistake—Microsoft knows that in order to bring life to its operating system, the company needs to make a bold move. With the ease-of-use of iOS and the emergence of Chrome and Android as viable alternatives to Windows, Microsoft wants you to sit up and take notice.

The biggest news that everyone has been waiting for is that the Start menu is back. The Start menu, which was the darling of Windows 7 users, and a noticeable omission from Windows 8, has returned with added functionality. Clicking on the Windows icon in the lower left corner of the task bar, you’ll see the familiar listing of programs and applications on your computer, with additional space to the right of the listing for Live Tiles (the large, colorful, and active tiles that were the trademark of Windows 8).

Search is back, and is located on both the Start Menu and the Task Bar. Now, when you search for something, you’ll see results from both your PC and the Web. How useful is that? For someone who constantly loses files because they’ve forgotten where they’re stored, it’s a lifesaver.

One of the more minor gripes about Windows 8 was its insistence on forcing users into tablet-type viewing for everything. If you clicked on an app, for instance, the app would resize to full screen, which is great on a 10" tablet, but not so great on a 22" monitor. With the new Tech Preview, you can resize app windows, and move them around, with title bars that allow you to maximize and minimize windows.

Microsoft is also touting new ways to multitask with Windows 10. There’s now a Task View button so you can quickly switch between all open apps. The Windows “snap” feature—which is the Windows way of moving and resizing windows automatically—enables open apps to “snap” to a corner or side of the viewing screen. Up to four “snaps” can be viewed simultaneously on the screen at once. The snap feature will allow Windows to make suggestions on remaining open apps so, for instance, if you snap an open Word document to a corner of the screen, Windows will make suggestions about the size and placement of the remaining open apps in the available viewing space.

You will also have the ability to create multiple desktops. This allows you to have separate desktops for both work and play—ideal if you’re sharing the computer with many users, or if you want to switch between different projects. If you’re working on multiple files and multiple apps, you can keep things organized by assigning your project its own desktop.

Microsoft shows its commitment to convertible devices like its own Microsoft Surface hybrid tablet/laptop, with the tentatively titled Continuum mode, which it claims will deliver multiple user experiences on the same device. The company is looking to bridge the gap between those consumers who would like an Android tablet-like experience that can somehow change back to Windows PC familiarity within the same device. Continuum will allow you to switch from a mouse-and-keyboard-based interface to a touch-screen interface with the click of a button. Once activated, the Continuum mode will change your input and redesign your environment to a much simpler touch-based interface. When switched back, the experience goes to a keyboard-and-mouse input system, and the screens and apps are restructured accordingly. Unfortunately, Continuum will not be part of the technical preview beta.

There are sure to be many more exciting features of Windows 10, but these are the main ones that Microsoft wants you to remember as months of rollouts and improvements progress. Stay tuned as we test, review, and inform you of our impressions of Windows 10.

Official rollout date is rumored to be late 2015, although a “tech preview” of the beta rolls out on October 1, 2014. The tech preview requires registration via the Windows Insider Program, and is a beta build of the product—it’s still very buggy and will be constantly amended and improved until the official rollout.