Well the time is finally here, and Windows 10, the latest in the popular line of Operating Systems by Microsoft, has hit the stores and is free for anyone who owns an activated version of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Windows 10 was first shown off to the public last year under the name Threshold and has been in open beta since the beginning of last October. This new version of Windows brings many upgrades to existing Windows 7 and 8.1 features, adds a few brand new ones, and also gets rid of some old ones.
The first thing, and probably most important for a lot of people, is the way that Windows 10 looks. From Windows 7 to Windows 8 there was a lot of negative reactions, mostly due to Windows 8 adopting live tiles and a Start Menu that reflected the appearance of the then Windows Phone 7. Windows 10 has taken the best of both of these elements by having a Start Menu that is extremely similar to that of Windows 7, while also allowing people to snap live tiles to it.
The Windows 7 features in this Start Menu include the display of recently added and installed programs, as well as the permanent links to File Explorer, Settings, Power options, and a list of all installed apps. Live tiles allow you to have relevant information from apps on display without even opening the app; this can be something simple like a notification of how many unread emails you have all the way to the latest news updates, meaning you can keep all your relevant apps pinned to the Start Menu to check your favorite programs at once. If you really don’t want to have any of these live tiles though then you can simply just unpin them all, but where’s the fun in that.
The File Explorer for Windows 10 is also sporting a new look with a wide variety of new icons—don’t worry though, each icon still is clear enough that you know what it is meant to be. Another aspect of Windows 10 that has been given an upgrade is the settings app, which while it doesn’t completely replace the control panel, gives a more user friendly way to search through these settings from Systems settings to Update and Security. These new changes to the appearance don’t do much to aid the OS functionally, but do create a cleaner and simpler look, while still ensuring you’re able to do everything that you want to be able to do.
One last new UI feature that has been implemented into Windows 10 is the Action Center; the Action Center is where you can view all of those little balloon notifications that might have appeared on the lower right hand side of your desktop. These include anything from app notifications, system notifications, incoming email or calendar events, or even reminders set on your device. This is one of the better additions; it means that when you turn on your computer, anything that you’ve missed is right there for you to take a quick look at.
For tablet users that were using Windows 8.1 and are worried that the new OS will be difficult to navigate by touch, don’t worry. Through the Action Center you are able to activate Tablet Mode or Continuum, where Windows 10 will begin to look and act a lot more similar to Windows 8.1. For example, this includes full screen windows, a full screen Start Menu, and swiping gestures activating features such as the Task View, which allows you to see all active windows as well as create and swap between virtual desktops. For users who are using a transformable tablet/laptop, Windows 10 is also able to detect when a keyboard has been added or removed from your device and can automatically swap between these two modes.
There is now a new way to listen to music and watch your videos in Windows 10 as well, with the Groove Music and Movies & TV app. Groove Music is where you can listen to all of your music, even if it’s from iTunes or if you enjoy listening to FLAC. Even easier than that, if you put your music in your OneDrive, then you’re able to access it from any Windows 10 PC where you are logged in.
Movies & TV is replacing Windows Media Center for Windows 10 as the place to view all of your downloaded movies and TV shows, as well as watch your own personal videos. One great aspect of Movies & TV is that the file support has expanded dramatically from where Media Center ever was, even allowing native playback of .mkv files. Some other great apps that are new to Windows 10 I talked about in a previous article focused on alleviating peoples fears of Windows 10; these features include the new Photos app, the integration with Xbox Live and the Xbox One, and the new digital assistant Cortana.
The store for Windows 10 also has a few surprises up its sleeves; the times of the Windows app store being laughed at for having the least number of apps might be coming to a close. Earlier this year at the Microsoft Build Conference 2015, it was announced that Android and iOS apps will both be able to run as Windows 10 Universal apps, meaning it will run on any Windows 10 device phones, as well as the Xbox One. For Android, it works through a virtual version of Android that can be used to run their apps with no modifications, whereas for iOS, apps developers will be able to compile their apps through Microsoft Visual Studio to create Windows 10 apps; apparently 90% of existing code will be compatible after the change. An example of this is the version of Candy Crush that is on the Windows Store, and has been for many months, is actually the iOS version of the game ported to Windows 10 using this method.
One of the last big bonuses of Windows is DirectX 12. This new version of DirectX is exclusive to Windows 10, which can help reduce the strain on rendering graphics for games. YouTube user emboar9889 has put out a video showing off just how much of a difference DirectX 12 really makes over DirectX11, and Intel has even shown that DirectX12 is 50-70% more efficient than its predecessor. It is able to achieve this because of the new speeds with which DirectX 12 is able to make more “draw calls”faster”; the draw call is where the CPU figures out what needs to appear and where, then sends that information to the GPU. For a layman it just means that DX12 can do all the number crunching required for graphics much faster than DX11.
For all of the positive things about Windows 10 though, there are some negative ones. Hopefully, this can help you avoid any issues down the road, such as high Internet usage or too much of your information being available for things like advertising. For those that aren’t aware, by default Windows 10 is set to share its installation files with other computers trying to install it; this P2P has no way of receiving any of your private data, but it does run the risk of chewing up your data plan if you’re not on unlimited. There is a simple fix to this, though, by opening up settings, and following the path “Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options > Choose how updates are delivered,” and then by either disabling the option to send parts of downloaded Windows installations or setting it so that it will only share on your home network. If you would also like to make sure that you aren’t able to receive any personalized ads specific to you, then you also should go to the Settings app and then into privacy where you can choose to disallow apps to use your advertising ID.
I will admit that there are at least two more things that I have seen people who, I assume, have used Windows 10 are talking about but I didn’t think that it was worth talking about it above. These issues are that apps like the previously mentioned Candy Crush are installed automatically and that the Microsoft Solitaire Collection offers in-app purchases to disable ads.While there are the usual hiccups, such as installation issues, and some bigger ones—I’m looking at you P2P transfers—issues like Candy Crush and the in-app solitaire purchases can be solved by simply by uninstalling Candy Crush and downloading a different free solitaire app.
A great operating system and one that all users can find comfort in with support for power users and casual users in much better moderation.