We welcomed Windows 10 on our laptop with inevitable trepidation. After all, the scars of the usability debacle that was Windows 8 had still not healed. At this point, we were just trying to look at the brighter side—at least Windows 8 (and Windows 8.1) is going away for good. Things became clear soon. Windows 10 as a PC operating system is better in every single way.
Return to familiarity
The Start menu is back. It was much missed in Windows 8, and if you look closely, this latest evolution is a fully customizable mix of the menu we saw in Windows 7, and the Live Tile interface from touchscreen-optimized Windows 8 interface. Now, individual programmes and folders can also be “pinned” as tiles for quicker access. While we celebrate the return of the start menu, it isn’t necessarily the best implementation we had hoped for. Microsoft’s entire idea is to make the usability experience same across the PC and the phone (Windows Phone devices), and hence the two portions—one for tiles and the other that is the list of apps. But most of us don’t use Windows Phones, and the entire thing just seems a tad gimmicky initially. On the brighter side, all apps installed on our test PC showed up in the list, and the search function worked seamlessly.
The other big problem that Windows 10 solves is the rather jarring switch between the conventional desktop and the touch interface—it was almost like running two different operating systems in one PC. Having two sets of the same app (Chrome browser, VLC media player and Plex, for example) was simply confusing. Plus, the Charms bar that showed up on the extreme right part of the screen was never a comfortable fit for devices that didn’t have a touchscreen. Windows 8 went too far the other way, and adopted the vision of the tablet as the primary computing device. But that hasn’t happened, and Windows 10 tries to take corrective action. Microsoft’s own apps such as Photos, Videos, Groove, Maps, People, Mail, and Calendar, retain the look of the Metro apps, but work brilliantly in the desktop mode.
Snap it in
Windows 10’s Aero Snap feature makes it easy to use multiple software side by side on the same screen. Simply drag an app to either the left or the right side of the screen, and it gets automatically resized into half screen space. The moment this happens, there is a seamless transition on the other half, which immediately begins to show thumbnails of the other windows and apps you may be using at the time. If you click on any one of them, that window gets snapped into that half of the screen, and you end up using two apps side by side.
Living on the Edge
With Edge, Microsoft has managed to bury the ghost of the Internet Explorer. In terms of features, website load speeds and compatibility in real world usage, we find Edge to be pretty much at par with Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. While power users (those who use a lot of extensions and apps with their Chrome browser) may not switch just yet (Edge doesn’t have a very wide range of extensions yet), others will probably find this more than adequate for their work. The rather neat feature of scribbling a note on a webpage screen and then sharing that with friends would prove useful.
More space on your workstation
Apple’s Mac OS X operating system has had this feature for many years now, and Windows is only just adopting it. Basically, you can create multiple desktop spaces, to switch between. This will be a good feature for power users, who open multiple apps at the same time. For example, you could open the web browser in one desktop window, a Word document in another and the iTunes media player in a third window.
Action is here
A lot of us have become used to how our smartphone pops up notifications for new messages and more. Apple added a Notification Center with the Mac OS X Yosemite, something on the lines of how notifications work on an iPhone. Microsoft has now done the same—the Action Center is the one location for any new emails, system information, app notifications as well as access to toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, tablet mode, VPN etc.
Windows 10 is a breath of fresh air, something that was needed to restore our faith in Microsoft’s PC operating systems. Yes, there is still work to be done—the constantly updating method doesn’t work well for people who don’t have high-speed Internet connections, there are bugs (brightness changes automatically, scaling doesn’t work perfectly with all apps) and the start menu still clings on to Microsoft’s vision for a complete Windows world. But none of these things are deal breakers, and will surely be ironed out with future updates. At the moment, Windows 10 is in much better shape than Windows 8 ever was, and that is progress in itself. On the same laptop or PC, the performance is visibly better than Windows 7 and Windows 8, and the battery life is 10-15% better as well, for the same usage.