When Microsoft released Windows 8, they made a leap in the user interface, with the intention to make Windows work similarly on a tablet, phone and computer. That made some sense, except that they neglected the typical user that uses a PC with a mouse, and they made it worse by assuming we suddenly wanted to use our regular PC as if it was a tablet. A friend of mine once told me, “Big companies make big mistakes”. On most of my client machines, I installed software to bring back the start menu, and the machines more or less worked like Windows 7. However another problem was Windows 8’s split personality. Some settings were set in the control panel, others were set from the “Charms” interface, which annoyingly would pop in from the right of the screen when your mouse cursor strayed over there.
So with Windows 10, released at the end of July, Microsoft admitted their mistake and went back to the start menu in prior versions of Windows. The emphasis is fixing what people didn’t like with 8.
Start: On the left, the start menu has programs, control panel and power. The right has a customized selection of programs and apps, and it uses the live tiles that Windows 8 created. If you prefer the Windows 8 presentation of Live Tiles, you can have it show up full screen. Search has been moved from Start, and is accessed through the taskbar.
No More Dual Personality: Settings are controlled by “Settings” in the start menu.
Windows has Windows! With Windows 8, Microsoft introduced “Apps” like phone apps - to run on your computer. But when you ran an app, it took over the computer screen. You could run a couple at once, but you were very limited in how you could arrange them. And you could never see an app alongside a desktop application. These apps now run in a window on the desktop. Problem solved. For those of you who remember, Windows 3 had a similar problem, and they fixed it before too.
In Windows 7, MS introduced a windowing feature that I use a lot. A window can be quickly set to full screen or left half or right half (I’m using this now as I’m writing this article on the right portion of my screen, and have a browser open on the left to fact check my writing). In Windows 10 Snap can be used to create 1, 2, 3 or 4 neatly tiled windows on a screen. You do this by dragging a window by the title bar onto the top, left, right, top left, or top right of the screen. It will resize when you let go. Another feature is multiple desktops, where you can arrange windows as you like on your desktop, and then save that desktop to use in the future, and create a different desktop for now. You can switch between multiple desktops.
Cortana: Her name comes from a video game Microsoft created. Now she’s your personal assistant. She understands your voice, or you can type questions for her. If you permit Cortana to access your information, she will tell you when you have appointments coming up, show you documents that are pertinent to a meeting. Some people who use Cortana feel it is creepy, and there has been a lot of press that Windows 10 is too intrusive for your privacy. However, you can decide what Cortana sees. If you are a Dodgers fan, but don’t want her to inform you of the score, she won’t. If you don’t want Cortana to know anything about you, that can be set up, or you can disable it completely.
Internet Explorer is gone: Many of us abandoned Internet Explorer long ago in favor of Firefox or Chrome. I think it is funny that now even Microsoft is abandoning it. Internet Explorer was a key component in the anti-trust lawsuit in the 1990s. And it didn’t just create problems for Microsoft, it created some problems for users and web designers. Internet Explorer did not follow web standards. If you look at the coding for a web page, you will often see code that is present just to make the website work with Internet Explorer. Also it was outfitted with so much power that simply visiting a bad website in certain situations could bring malware into your computer.
Do unexpected things with Edge: Before I talk about IE’s replacement, I have to mention an MS quirk. They haven’t mastered how to name things. Often Microsoft will name a product, and then call it another name later. (Windows Defender became Microsoft Security Essentials) Or they’ll change the name (Sky Drive became One Drive), but forget to change the name everywhere (so One Drive’s folder was still called “Sky Drive”). Sometimes they’ll name a product (MS Groove was the name for their collaboration service) rename it, and then loves the old name so much, that they re-use it for something completely different! So MS Groove became Share Point, and was discontinued. And Xbox Music, which is similar to itunes, and does NOT need an Xbox to work, was not changed, but it was renamed to Groove. Well.. why do I mention this? MS has taken their naming philosophy to icons. If the browser icon looks the same, it must be a different program? YES. You will find an icon with a lower case “e”. But while the icon remains the same, the browser is quite different, its new name is “Edge”.
So the replacement is called Edge. So in this spirit, the icon has a big “e” – so it will make you think it is Internet Explorer. Here is a quick list of improvements.
At the end of the day, Windows 10 is a solid upgrade. I think it’s an improvement over Windows 8.1 and Windows 7. You have up to a year to redeem your free upgrade. And to clarify - if you upgrade this upcoming year you will not be charged for Windows 10 in the future. If you upgrade and there are problems or you don’t like it, you have 30 days to roll it back to what you had before. There’s nothing about Win 10 that should grind your work to a halt, but there might be some bugs and quirks to get used to. And with any major upgrade, it is advised to back up your data before doing the upgrade.
My quick take is that if you are on Windows 7, and like it, then there is no reason to move to Windows 10. If you are on Windows 8 and don’t like it, then you should upgrade to Windows 10. There are 2 ways to upgrade. If you want to upgrade your present PC, the best way is probably to wait until Microsoft downloads it automatically, and then tells you that you can upgrade if you wish. The other way is to proactively install it from a download. The reason to wait is that Microsoft is aware of the requirements of your computer, and when they tell you you can upgrade, they are supposed to have a good idea that that version of Windows 10 is ready for your computer.