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Windows 10 Review

Windows 10 was launched at the end of last month and while its slowly been rolled out for free (year 1) to those who reserved their copy (Windows 7/8.1 OS’s), I’ve actually been using the OS since January as I enrolled in the Insider Preview program. For the most part the experience has taught me that Windows 10 is possibly the best OS Microsoft has released to date. Then again Windows 10 is going to be the last version released because of its service model. In other words features will be added to the OS during its lifetime so there is no need to migrate again.

Opinion

In this review I am not going to head deep into every feature, instead I’ll be talking more about the features that I have enjoyed using or have used the most. Additionally I’ll mention about the software that I have had working on the platform since January, so if you are worried about compatibility it might be useful (jump to page 3).

So hopefully you will get something out of this review and you can also check my YouTube Channel to see a past list of videos relating to Windows 10 throughout the stages.

Start Menu

WinStart

One of the main criticisms with Window 8/8.1, though I never had a problem with this per-say, was the Metro style interface which incorporated live tiles and pop-out Charm Windows. Some found it fiddly to access core options that they loved from the previous Windows 7 and XP days.

Microsoft however has listened to the feedback and while the live tiles are still in place (which can reveal things like your Photos, Twitter feeds etc.) they have blended the old with the new to great effect in my opinion.

Clicking on the now permanent Start Menu icon via the bottom left corner will launch a newly restructured Start system. For example to the right you get a series of live tiles which can be manipulated as per Windows 8.1. Thus you can re-size, group together and so forth, but this is now joined by a traditional menu list to the left - which essentially provides access to your account, the most used apps and a series of short-cut icons to your Power (on/off) and Settings options. Additionally you can customise this list by adding further short-cuts to your Pictures or Downloads folder for example. Finally there is an All Apps icon which as the name suggests will provide access to your installed programs (filtered alphabetically like it does on Windows Phone).

You can even adjust the appearance of the Start Menu further in terms of how it uses colour i.e. does it take this from the standard background or a manually set colour. You can also hover your mouse at the top of the Start Menu to expand it vertically.

The Start Menu will also change depending on if you are running in tablet mode. The latter will essentially mimic the look/feel of a tablet device, which in a nutshell produces a larger Start Menu and a more minimalistic interface which you may actually prefer as it optimises the screen space a little better. However Windows 10 will also automatically adapt to the size of your display, so if you plug in a Smartphone or tablet to your screen it will change to a desktop version. Microsoft call this 'Continuum' and it could be a deal breaker! Note: You can set this tablet mode via the Settings option or you can use the new notifications bar to manually set this. I’ll talk about the Notification options in a moment.

Settings

WinSettings

The original Control Panel is still there, but most of its functions are now taken over by the new Settings option. I find this a little easier to access/find features (albeit you initially have to spend some time getting used to where things have been moved).

For example all the major options you will need are split into 9 categories. System is where you can access the aforementioned tablet mode controls, remove programs, install optional features such as new keyboard languages and control your default programs i.e. which program will open up say a web file.

You also have quick access to setting up Devices and personalising your Start Menu and background

I won’t spend long listing all the separate options, but I think personally it’s a big improvement from Windows 8 as it collates all the main options together. Updates are also a lot easier to find, plus the Settings look/feel shares a common ground with the Mobile version of Windows 10, so once you learn the ropes you can pick up from where you left off on other devices.

Personalisation options are another area I'll quickly talk about because it offers the means to customise what shortcuts will appear on the Start Menu. Plus you can set how you want the Start Menu to look i.e. condensed or Full when the Start button is pressed. The personalisation option is also where you can change the colours of the Taskbar and Start Menu, so if you don’t want it to pick the colour based on the background you don’t have to.

You can also use the above to set if you want the recently used items to appear (jump lists) in the taskbar icons i.e. when you right click a taskbar icon it will reveal all of you’re recently saved or opened files.

Lockscreen

WinLock

The lock screen can be customised via the Personalise option as well. From here you can choose the default background or set which apps you want to see detailed or quick status about. Such as your Mail app quick status can reveal how many new emails you have received un-read.

You can also delve into Account Settings to choose how you login to Windows 10, such as via password, PIN Code or Picture (for touch-screen devices i.e. use a certain gesture on a favourite picture to login). While its not set in stone I feel it’s useful to create a Microsoft account for Windows 10, especially if you want to tap into the new Windows Store and OneDrive Account for Online storage – more about the Windows Store later.

Taskbar

WinNot

On the subject of the taskbar this remains pretty much the same as it did in Windows 8.1. You can right click on any program to add it to your Start Menu (as a tile) or the taskbar. Additionally open applications on the taskbar will have a white line underneath which indicates that the program is being used (when it flashes red the app will indicate it needs action). 

To the far right you now get a new Notification’s bar. Clicking on this will of course allow you to view and perform actions on previously revealed notifications. A notification could be that you have an email or a new article has been posted on one of your Apps. It could also represent System notifications, such as when a restart is required.

This list is well presented and easy to manipulate, however the Notification bar also has several options at the base for quickly accessing Connect options i.e. connecting to Wireless display (Miracast) or other wireless devices. Accessing the tablet mode I spoke of before and even your Settings option. This list of icons can also be expanded to reveal the full list of functions underneath and I think it’s a nice addition to the standard Hidden icons feature.

The hidden icon feature is accessed via the upward looking arrow and it just provides access to some of the running programs on your computer, such as your virus checker or Steam client (if you have installed the latter). Once again you can use the Settings menu to customise these hidden icons so they appear on the taskbar itself for more visibility.

Finally the taskbar has options for quickly accessing your volume control, current date/time and network status.

From my point of view it’s a system that is familiar, yet improves on previous version by adding more functionality....


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