The following column was published in the April 5, 2015 edition of Seacoast Sunday.
Microsoft is getting ready to release Windows 10, one of the largest upgrades to the Windows operating system in years. For once, this is an upgrade you will want to have and best of all, Microsoft is making it free to anyone with Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 if you upgrade within the first year after release.
I have been testing Windows 10 for several months now and I have to say I’m impressed. The operating system boots faster, runs faster and is generally very stable, even in pre-release “Technical Preview” mode.
So what makes Windows 10 an upgrade you’ll actually want to install as opposed to waiting to see if all the bugs get worked out? For one, it’s more familiar to most computer users than Windows 8/8.1 has been. Windows 10 returns the loudly missed start button to the lower left corner of your screen. That has been the single largest complaint about Windows 8/8.1 since their release. Users wanted not just their start button back, but their start menu of programs as well.
In Windows 8, Microsoft did away with the start menu and replaced it with the start screen. A large collection of squares called Live Tiles. These tiles may represent applications or services like news and weather updates. The idea was to make a more interactive experience for working with your computer. Along with this change came a lot of user frustration.
Even though Microsoft enhanced the Windows search function to be far more useful than it had been in previous versions, users had difficulty finding it and using it, because it was part of what is called a Charms bar that you had to access to moving your mouse to the extreme upper right corner of your screen or by swiping in from the right side of your screen if you had a touch enabled computer. And there lies another major complaint, Windows 8 was built as if every computer would be touch screen enabled and that’s just not the case, especially in business environments.
Windows 8.1 did a lot to address these concerns. You could select to have your computer boot to the Windows 8 start screen, to the list of all installed applications or right to the familiar Windows desktop. While this made Windows 8.1 far more customizable and friendly, for the average computer user, it was still a steep learning curve and the calls for the start button and menu did not diminish.
Microsoft heard the voice of its customer and Windows 10 is a great acknowledgement of that voice. The start button is back, as is the start menu and you list of installed programs. If you liked the Live Tiles of Windows 8, they are still here in Windows 10 and you can customize your start menu to have the best of both worlds without making it hard to find what you’re looking for.
Best of all, by default, Windows 10 boots to the desktop and you are back to a more familiar working environment. Search is also vastly improved and far more intuitive. You can click the start button and just type what you are looking for, be it a program, file or PC settings and you will instantly be taken right to what you need. Microsoft is also going to embed Cortana, their voice search and operating capability into Windows 10, so if you want to talk to your computer, have at it.
Windows 10 adds a host of new features and functionality that are designed to make your computing experience more intuitive, reliable and friendly. As the official release of Windows 10 draws closer and the final feature set is confirmed, I’ll write a more in-depth review. For now, know that this next major release of the Windows operating system will be one you will actually want to install and it won’t cost you a penny to do so.