I’ve run Windows 10 as the Operating System on my work laptop since the start of January.
I’ve been through some ups and downs with the latest version of Windows, and came very close to uninstalling it. Six months on though, I’m delighted with Windows 10. It’s evolved a fair bit, and Microsoft claim it will be ready for general release during this summer.
Before I go into detail, note that I’m running Windows 10 on some pretty beefy hardware – a Surface Pro with an i7 processor, 8Gb memory and 500Gb solid state hard drive. I don’t know how Windows 10 will perform on lower spec hardware. I’m on build 10162 which has been very stable (as in, one blue screen in a fortnight – more details below).
The two key areas I think Microsoft have improved upon are the Start menu and notifications. The rest feels a bit like some simple repainting on previous features.
New Start menu
The start menu was the most controversial feature of Windows 8. For the first time in Windows’ history, the Windows logo in the bottom left corner disappeared, replaced by a full screen showing common apps.
Windows 10 merges both of these experiences. By default, the Start menu is about quarter of the screen, with live (self-updating) tiles for some apps like News, and you can place your commonly used apps here too.
Just like the old days, all apps are listed in a vertical list, only this time it’s in alphabetical order and not some random folders.
Built into the new Start menu is a search facility, which combines the computer and the web. It’s done well, and the final version will include voice recognition through Cortana – the Microsoft equivalent of Siri. I’m a big fan of voice recognition and use it a lot on my Android phone (Samsung Galaxy).
Will it work on my work computer? I’m not sure.
Brand new to Windows 10 are notifications. In earlier versions of Windows, small bubbles appear in the bottom right of the screen (affectionately known as toasters).
In Windows 10, users will still see the toaster notifications, but then they are archived into a notification pane, accessible from a clickable icon next to the clock in the bottom right corner. It’s just like Android’s and Apple’s notifications, and works well on a PC.
Some of the PC settings have moved to the notifications area. This is also similar to smartphones (think about Android – where notifications and popular phone settings are on the same screen), and this works nicely.
Other ‘new’ features in Windows 10
- Multiple desktops have been around on Linux for ages and I like them – they help keep a cleaner desktop and working environment. Windows 10 now has multiple desktops but I seldom use them because they are almost hidden – you need to press Windows + Tab, and look at some small icons at the bottom of the screen. They should have been placed on the toolbar area like on Linux.
Microsoft Edge is the new browser to replace Internet Explorer. New? Really? It still has a small e for a logo and behaves… just like Internet Explorer with a couple of Add-Ins to give some new features. I like the new features such as annotations on web pages but it’s cumbersome to use, and although web page annotations sound nice, I don’t know how useful it is. On a separate note, web developers will need to be mindful that most browser detection sites think I’m running Chrome 42 when I’m actually using Edge
- The Blue screen of death (BSOD) is alive and kicking. I get the blue screen every so often when docking my Surface into the official (and lovely) Surface docking station. I am getting fewer blue screens with each Windows build, but it’s still there, and was fine on Windows 8/8.1
- One of my only gripes about the Surface Pro is the lack of any lights to show whether the device is on or off. I sometimes shut Windows 10 down, only to see a flat battery the next morning because it didn’t shut down properly. It’s the most annoying problem with the Surface and Windows 10
- If you use Snipping Tool a lot, you’ll like the new ‘Delay’ feature, which gives you a pre-defined number of seconds for a screenshot. I know it’s a small feature but it’s come in handy a few times
- New Windows 10 apps. Maybe there already are some Windows 10 apps but I’m still using “standard” desktop applications because they are more useful and I already have them. I just don’t get the Windows 10 ones – they tend to be more restricted and look 10% worse. Perhaps some new developers will increase the quality of Windows 10 apps.
After six months of heavy usage, I like Windows 10. All the drivers for my peripherals at home and in the office work correctly, and the system is relatively stable for a Beta version. I haven’t discovered any incompatibility issues with applications including Visual Studio for development, or Office productivity tools.
I’ve already requested a Windows 10 licence for our home desktops, which Microsoft says will be free. These desktops are a much slower specification than my Surface, so I’m not sure how Windows 10 will perform on those.
Microsoft has done well with Windows 10. It’s brought a few smartphone user experiences to the desktop more subtly than Windows 8. It’s a gentle evolution rather than massive revolution, which Microsoft has executed well, and may finally entice those Windows XP corporate users to upgrade.