When Windows 10 launched on July 29, 2015, the Internet was littered with Windows 10 reviews. I didn’t write one, nor did I read any. After all, we’ve been writing about Windows 10 for ten months. Build after build after build, we all made a big deal about each and every one.
I use my Surface Pro as my Windows 10 testing machine and my Surface Pro 3 as my main machine. When a new Insider Preview build came out, I’d install it on my Surface Pro, make a walk through video, shut off the Surface Pro, and put it away.
The main reason that I never chose to use Windows 10 as a daily driver is because Microsoft stripped out the OneDrive functionality that they added in Windows 8.1, a functionality that I have come to rely on. We’ll get to that later.
When July 29 rolled around, I decided to take the plunge on my Surface Pro 3 and I’ve been using it ever since…
When I first installed Windows 10, I was expecting a new OS with a new feel and a bit of a learning curve. That’s not what I got.
It might be because I’m already familiar with Windows 10, but for the most part, I didn’t notice any changes. Let me explain what I meant by that. I installed Windows 10 first thing in the morning on July 29 and halfway through the day, I realized that I had forgot that I was using a new OS.
I’m finding Windows 10 to be an extremely pleasant experience. The big thing that they did in Windows 10 and take all of the mistakes that they made in Windows 8 and make them right. Windows 10 is to Windows 8 as Windows 7 is to Windows Vista.
I don’t want to go that much deeper into impressions because I want to break this up as much as I can. One thing I will add is the walk through video of Windows 10 Insider Preview build 10240, which is the RTM build. I tried to walk through all of the new features.
The Start Menu
I was always an advocate for the start screen in Windows 8. After all, is there any reason that a start menu should take up a third of the screen? You’re choosing a new app to launch. You’re not doing anything with the rest of the screen. Even Mac OS has Launchpad, which has the exact same functionality.
Microsoft did a really great job with the Windows 10 start menu because, despite advocating for the start screen, the start menu does feel more comfortable. They certainly got UI design right in Windows 10.
The Windows 10 start menu acts just like you would expect it to. You click the start button in the bottom left and the start menu pops up. On the right side of the start menu, you have your live tiles, which are now 3D, giving them a really nice look.
The live tiles and be easily reorganized or recategorized. When you first install Windows 10, the top category is “Life at a Glance”, which contains your Mail and Calendar apps and such. Under that is “Play and Explorer”, which is your Xbox app and such.
You can drag and drop tiles if you so wish or you can drag and drop entire categories if you so wish. It works very well.
Then there’s the left side of the start menu. The left side of the start menu starts with your most used and recently added apps. There’s also shortcuts for File Explorer, Settings, Power, and All Apps, which are sorted alphabetically.
Of course, in tablet mode, the start menu once again becomes the start screen. You can also change your settings so that it’s always the start screen, or resize it however you like.
I really didn’t want to talk about the start menu too much. I mean, it’s a fucking start menu, hardly changing the way anyone uses their computers, but people care about it, so I did. Continuum is one of the ground breaking features of Windows 10.
Windows 8 was, more or less, a disaster as far as design is concerned. There was two of everything, from apps as large as Internet Explorer and Calendar to apps as small as Calculator. It was like using two completely separate operating systems but in one operating system.
Windows 10 fixes all of that. By swiping in from the right or opening the notification center, a user can turn on tablet mode. When tablet mode is on, it’s just like Windows 8.1, including swiping gestures and a start screen.
Windows 8.1 gave us universal apps, which were apps that allowed a developer to create an app for Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1. It would compile into two packages and the developer would link the apps through the Store.
With Windows 10, universal apps deliver a single package that runs on Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile, Xbox One, and even HoloLens using responsive design.
Because of these new universal apps, there is also a new feature for Windows 10 Mobile called Continuum for phones. This will allow users to plug their phone into a monitor and use it as a PC. Since the phone runs the exact same app as the PC, it can actually run the desktop version of the universal app.
If you already own a Windows Phone, you know Cortana. If not, you’re about to meet her.
People often look at Siri and Google Now as competitors, despite the fact that they have completely different functionalities. Siri is strictly a voice assistant (well, until iOS 9). Google Now is there to try to give you the information you want, when you want it.
The idea behind Cortana is to do both. Cortana is the voice assistant for your phone; however, Cortana is essentially no more than a front end for Bing.
I also really love what they’ve done with the design of Cortana in Windows 10. Cortana originally appeared in Windows Phone 8.1 and, like a lot of the design in Windows Phone 8.1, didn’t come out looking great. Windows Phone 8.1 was clearly a step in between the metro design of earlier versions of Windows Phone and the newer design scheme.
One of the most underrated apps in Windows 10 is Phone Companion. Phone Companion is designed to make your Windows 10 PC work better with your phone.
Upon opening the Phone Companion app, you have the option of choosing iOS, Android, or Windows. If you select iOS or Android, Phone Companion will help you install OneDrive, OneNote, Skype, Office, and Outlook (which is ironically not part of Office). Also, coming soon is Cortana and Groove Music. If you choose Windows, it simply tells you that you already have everything you need.
Settings is a big change in Windows 10. Well, sort of. Settings was another thing there was two of in Windows 8. There was the new Settings menu, which almost no one used, and then there was the old school Control Panel that’s been there for years.
Control Panel still exists. It’s just harder to find. You’re not going to find it through the new start menu. The only way to find it (that I know of) is to right click on the start button and select the Control Panel.
The new Settings menu is clearly meant to be the successor to the Control Panel, although I think that Control Panel will exist for some time to come, if not forever. The new Settings menu reminds me more of a mobile device’s Settings menu.
Personally, it makes sense to me that a Settings menu exists for those that want to change frequently accessed settings, such as Bluetooth, themes, colors, etc. and Control Panel exists for more advanced options, although there is a lot of redundancy between both Settings and Control Panel.
Microsoft Edge is Microsoft’s new web browser that replaces Internet Explorer 11. First of all, Internet Explorer 11 still lives in Windows 10. They did it right though. You will not find Internet Explorer in your start menu, although you will find it in a desktop search. The only time you should stumble across IE11 is when you try to open a web page that requires legacy components.
Microsoft has gone through a great length of trouble to make sure that everyone knows that Edge is not Internet Explorer 12 and for the most part, they have succeeded.
The problem is, it’s Internet Explorer 12. Try this experiment. Go to Google Plus and start a new message in Hangouts. Type a message and watch how words wrap around to the next line. Then, find a browser besides Edge and Internet Explorer where that happens.
There are some great new features in Microsoft Edge. There’s a reading list, which is nothing special.
The new feature that really is special (and yes, deserves its own paragraph) is that you can draw on web pages, which is something that can come in really handy.
One thing that you’re going to want to note is that when I call Microsoft Edge Internet Explorer 12, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I was a big fan of Internet Explorer 11, which was a pretty great browser. It’s super fast and renders the web almost perfectly. Also keep in mind that no browser actually renders the web perfectly. As you would expect IE12 to do for IE11, there were significant improvements.
Windows 10 isn’t just coming to PCs and phones. It’s coming to Xbox One as well, along with Cortana, backward compatibility, and an entirely new interface. I’m not here to talk about that though, as no one even has a preview for that just yet.
What I’m here to talk about is what Xbox does for your PC now. You will now be able to stream your Xbox One to your PC. This mostly applies to games, just like the new screen shot feature. I just tried streaming Netflix and it actually shuts down Netflix on the Xbox One.
All you have to do is open the new Xbox app in Windows 10, connect to your Xbox One, and click stream.
Xbox One drivers are now preloaded in Windows 10, so all you need to do is connect a controller through USB.
Photos and Groove Music
There’s also a brand new Photos app and a brand new Groove Music, formerly Xbox Music. Both apps now pull photos or music from your OneDrive, including music that is questionably obtained.
Honestly, the new Photos app isn’t anything really amazing. I was very excited about it because I review a lot of phones and therefore it would be great for all of my photos to automatically be in the same place; however, it just doesn’t work that well. I’ll see photos from a year and a half ago next to photos from two weeks ago. A lot of stuff just doesn’t even show up.
Groove Music is pretty good. It does what you’d expect it to do.
We have to mention the new Store. I’m going to put this as nicely as possible, but the Store in Windows 8.1 was a huge stinking piece of shit.
The Windows 10 Store is a massive improvement. The design is more pleasant, you can find apps, games, movies, TV shows, and music there, and it’s just so much better. They really did this right.
If you’ve been using OneDrive on Windows 8.1, you’re used to working with it a certain way. In Windows 8.1, OneDrive can essentially be your entire file system, with the exception of apps.
At the time, you could format your computer, by a new computer, or sign into your friends computer, and as long as you use your Microsoft account, you have your entire file system ready for you to use again. It was pretty amazing.
I also always loved the idea that if I take a photo on my phone, I could upload it to a particular OneDrive folder and it would immediately be available in my computer’s file system.
OneDrive in Windows 10 works like OneDrive for Mac OS or Windows 7. It’s a massive step back. Windows 10 users must choose which folders they want to sync, the files get synced to the hard drive, and you can’t use anything else.
There are workarounds. As I mentioned, Photos and Groove already pull from OneDrive. You can also set up your OneDrive as a network drive, which serves the same purpose as placeholders; however, it’s slow and doesn’t allow you to use large files. What I do is sync the large files that I know I’ll access often and use the network drive for the rest.
Microsoft has promised an alternative to the deprecated placeholders coming later in 2015. We don’t know what the alternative is; however, we might see it in the next Insider Preview.
Windows 10: Review
The big deal here is that they fixed Windows 8.1. I was a big fan of Windows 8.1, mainly because I don’t care about terrible design. I care more about functionality than design, so Windows 8.1 was always far and away the best version of Windows for me. I also don’t buy into the crap that it’s only good for touch screens. After all, I never touch the screen on my Surface Pro 3.
They fixed the fact that Windows 8 felt like two environments, which was the key. They fixed Internet Explorer. They fixed everything.
The universal app strategy seems sound. No one developed apps for Windows 8 because Windows 8 had a 14% market share. Why develop a metro app for Windows 8 when you can develop a desktop app for all versions of Windows? This is why Windows 10 is free.
Those universal apps will run on Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile, Xbox One, and HoloLens. The idea is to use the desktop market share to leverage the mobile platform. I’m not certain that it will work. After all, Microsoft truly believes that this will be so big that even Google won’t ignore it; however, people use web browsers on the desktop. I’m not sure that universal apps will sway the developers you want for phone apps.
Many people are asking me if they should upgrade to Windows 10. Before July 29, I suggested that they wait until October. The reason for this is because Threshold 2 is coming in October.
If you’ll recall, Threshold was the codename for Windows 10, which was due to launch in October. They pushed it back to July and said it would be lacking features. We can only assume that Threshold 2 is what they would have launched if they had kept to their original time schedule.
After using Windows 10 as my daily driver for almost a week now, I’m fairly confident in its capabilities. If you want to play it safe, wait; however, I don’t think you’re taking a risk by upgrading.