Windows 10 feels like what Windows 8 should have been from the beginning -- it’s less revolution, more evolution.
On Sept. 30, Microsoft officially unveiled its new operating system, Windows 10. It isn't named Windows 9 for myriad reasons, one of which is Microsoft's effort to distance the new moniker from the often lambasted Windows 8.
Although it’s not set for official consumer release until 2015, there is a beta of sorts available. So the question is, how good is Windows 10 right now?
Keep in mind that, like any developmental software, Windows 10 isn’t final, but as it stands, the experience is, for the most part, positive.
The new Windows 10 desktop is familiar; it looks like Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 in desktop mode. But massive changes for the sake of change aren’t always necessary (remember the original Windows 8 launch? Precisely). It looks like Microsoft took the sensibility of Windows 7 and threw some Windows 8.1 DNA into the mixture.
The old Start menu is back (and you no longer have to click a live tile to get to it, huzzah!), but it now contains rearrangeable, customizable live tiles. It breathes some life into an otherwise stale Microsoft design staple. If you prefer the 8.1 Start Screen, you can switch back to that (though why you’d want to on anything except a touch device is beyond me) with a few setting changes.
One of the more subtle improvements is the inclusion of multiple desktops. It’s a simple but clever organizational solution, whether you work on one or multiple screens: It allows you to hide and shuffle windows and workstations as desired, so you won’t have to sift through 20 open tabs in Google Chrome to find your work email sandwiched between open YouTube and Facebook tabs. If you’ve got multiple monitors hooked in, it feels almost like you’ve got two separate computers at your station, and it eliminates the need to manually manage each new program you open on a main screen -- wherever you want it, open it there and you’re set.
The most appealing new feature (as an avid gamer) is Windows 10’s integration with Xbox. Xbox is launched as its own live tile and lets you plug your gamercard in, and it holds your games library -- just like the Xbox One and Xbox 360 do, off-computer. What this means is that the original Xbox browser website can be completely bypassed if you want to check on your game stats. That’s a great thing, because the current Xbox.com has been slow, sloppy and frustratingly buggy for years. Nobody will miss it. How this all translates to the Xbox One itself is still unknown, but this is promising.
One last note, albeit a small one: Cortana is a part of Windows 10. There are system files containing the name of Microsoft’s resident A.I./Siri competitor, and although the technical demo doesn’t hold a use (at least, not one I found) for the files, this is pretty convincing evidence that Cortana will be in the final version of Windows 10.
Well, it isn’t all-new, if that’s what you’re looking for. Stripped of the live tiles and subtle facial changes, it looks just like the desktop mode of Windows 8.1, which looked like Windows 7, which looked like Windows Vista.
As previously mentioned, the Windows 8-style home is also available if you so choose. But right now it just feels like it was tacked on in an attempt to appeal to everyone. It has some unforgivable flaws at the moment. The biggest problem is that if you open something in the Windows 8 home screen, it still opens in the classic desktop mode -- and it doesn’t revert when you close the program either, so you have to go back to the Windows 8 home style manually. The inclusion of the Windows 8 style seems like a total afterthought.
Which is fine, because it doesn't deserve a place in the final build. All it’s doing is cluttering the classic desktop, and Microsoft is well aware that consumers aren’t big on Windows 8 desktops and laptops anyway.
When you open the live tiles, you’re presented with the Windows 8 touch screen, swipe side-to-side navigation method. It just looks weird on a non-touch device, and scrolling horizontally is counterintuitive with a mouse. If Microsoft reworked these programs to scroll vertically (like a Web browser), they’d make more sense.
It’s still early in the development cycle and Microsoft is adamant that this isn’t close to the final product. There are a lot of good ideas here, but it’s clear that there’s still work to do -- hopefully Microsoft is actually listening to feedback intently.
If you’d like to try it for yourself, here’s the link.