Windows 10: What Can We Expect?30 Jan
It’s no secret that Microsoft has made a valiant effort to turn the modern laptop user into a tablet user, or a ‘combination’ user if you will. The release of Windows 8 showcased a new interface that was geared toward touch instead of type and click. While Windows 8 made some improvements on past operating systems, it did lack in many areas and was often confusing or out of touch, no pun intended, with its users. Windows 10 hopes to rectify some of those issues while making it easier for users to use on a laptop, tablet, or other device and easily switch between them. Here’s what we can expect from Windows 10 after the latest demonstrations and test release from Microsoft.
The Start Menu
Ah, the return of our favorite and most used button/menu in the Windows OS – the trusty Start Menu. The Start Menu makes a comeback in Windows 10 as Microsoft commits to making things easier for users on different devices including PCs and laptops.
The Start Menu combines some old and new features. On the left hand side is where you will find “Places” and “Most Used”. Places consists of folders such as Documents as well as “Settings” and the File Explorer. Below it is an area for your Most Used applications. Some testers reported having trouble getting the Most Used section to work properly, as they used several apps consistently that did not show up in the menu while apps they used sparingly would still show up. Of course, this is likely to be fixed by the time the OS releases in full later in 2015.
On the right side of the Start Menu is the “block” look that we’ve come to know with Microsoft. It consists of agile applications that show changing data such as weather, news, sports scores, or your Inbox.
Most users will be happy with the return of the Start Menu and its ease of use.
One of the coolest new features of Windows 10 is Continuum. Continuum allows Windows to sense what type of machine it is operating on and automatically alter the interface to reflect it.
This feature is showcased on one of Microsoft’s recent “hybrid” devices, the Surface Pro 3. The Surface Pro 3 can switch between a tablet and a laptop simply by removing the keyboard. When the keyboard is attached the standard Start Menu is seen, however, when you detach the keyboard and switch to tablet, Windows will ask if you would like to switch the view, including the size of the Start Menu. If you reattach the keyboard, the menu goes back to its regular size.
The Action Center
The Action Center replaces the Charms Bar in Windows 10. The Action Center is like a notification area where you can see notifications about email, news, Twitter, Facebook, or other applications. It also has integration with OneDrive to receive notifications from the cloud storage app.
At the bottom of the Action Center are a set of icons and settings. Currently the settings allow you to switch to tablet mode, change display settings, connect to Wi-Fi, or even turn your device to Airplane Mode. Some of these settings are very useful, while others have drawn complaints that the settings aren’t great for most users – including the VPN option. Either way, the Action Center is a step in the right direction for those that were not happy with the Charms Bar in previous versions.
Perhaps the most anticipated new feature is Cortana, Microsoft’s Siri rival. Cortana is a digital assistant which was originally featured on Windows phone devices. In Windows 10 you will find a Cortana search function beneath the Start Menu. You can type your request to Cortana, or if you’re more the vocal type you can tap the microphone icon and speak your request to Cortana.
Cortana is useful for doing web searches and searches of your system or OneDrive. For instance, if you ask Cortana for a definition of a word, it will automatically open IE and do a Bing search. If you ask it to show you files from last year, it will show you anything on your system or OneDrive. Cortana is not just a search function though. When you tap the Cortana button an interface pops up that shows the latest weather, sports news, or local restaurants where you may want to have dinner. Of course, Cortana is tied to your Microsoft ID and will know your preferences throughout all of your Microsoft devices.
Cortana also ties in with some new applications such as the new Maps app. When you have Maps pulled up you can actually speak commands to Cortana that will alter the app’s interface such as zoom or centering your map back to the start location.
Here are some of the other new features we can expect when Windows 10 launches later this year:
- Spartan (new web browser)
- New Maps App
- New Settings app
- Touch enabled Microsoft Office
Overall, Windows fans should be pretty excited about the improvements; at least the ones that didn’t jump ship after the Windows 8 debacle. Currently, if you have a Microsoft account you can download the Windows 10 preview version through the Windows Insider Program if you’d like to test it out on your own. The expected launch for Windows 10 is “late 2015”.