The Windows 10 review
How you react to Microsoft Windows 10 depends to a great extent on what your Windows desktop has looked like for the past few years.
If you and your organization stuck with Windows 7 (especially if you completed a migration from Windows XP shortly before its end-of-support date in 2014), you’ll have to adjust to a few new ways of working. The redesigned Start menu is the most obvious change, followed closely by the relocation of many system settings from Control Panel to the modern Settings app.
Ironically, the learning curve is considerably more complex if you and your users were early adopters of Windows 8. Not only will you have to learn the new elements of Windows 10, but you’ll have to unlearn some of the techniques you mastered with Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.
Feedback to Microsoft after the release of Windows 8 made it clear that the radically revised user experience caused significant frustration. Even with the refinements introduced in Windows 8.1, the change in user experience was substantial for anyone accustomed to the familiar desktop and Start menu.
As a result, the Windows 10 user experience offers another significant round of changes, designed to bring together the best elements of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 and smooth the transition between the familiar desktop ways and the new touch-friendly techniques.
In Windows 10, you and your users can take advantage of the rich new Windows apps on a traditional desktop PC or laptop, alongside familiar Windows desktop applications, interacting with those new apps in resizable windows. On a touch-enabled mobile device, you can turn on Tablet Mode, making it possible to work with apps in a full-screen setting, minus clutter and distraction.
A new set of navigation techniques replace the sometimes-confusing “hot corner” techniques from Windows 8, and the addition of virtual desktops in Windows 10 makes it possible to shift between groups of apps instead of shuffling windows around.
Regardless of your starting point, moving to Windows 10 requires a thoughtful and thorough plan for training and orienting new users, especially if they work primarily in a traditional desktop environment. This chapter describes what you need to know about the changes in the Windows 10 user experience so that you can make those plans intelligently.
An overview of the new Windows 10 user experience
The Start screen is gone. The desktop is back.
That’s the beginning of the Windows 10 review, but it’s far from the entire story.
The new Start menu, shown in Figure 2-1, is divided vertically in two, just as its Windows 7 predecessor was, but its contents are a bit different.
The left side contains the following, from top to bottom:
- An icon for the current user, which when clicked or tapped reveals a menu with options to lock the PC, sign out, switch accounts, or change account settings
- Shortcuts for File Explorer (Windows 7 users, note the name change), the current user’s Documents folder, and the Settings app
- Shortcuts to frequently used and recently added apps
- An All Apps shortcut that replaces the left side of the Start menu with a scrolling list of installed apps and saved shortcuts—everything that was on its own screen in Windows 8.1
(The shortcuts to system settings from the Windows 7 Start menu aren’t available here, but are instead on a hidden power user’s menu, which is available when you right-click the Start button or use the
Windows logo key + X shortcut.)
The Start menu contains a Power button (Sleep, Shut Down, Restart) that has been moved to the lower left in more recent builds than the one shown here. A two-headed diagonal arrow at the top right expands the Start menu to a full screen. In that configuration, the left side remains the same width, while the area devoted to live tiles expands to fill all available space.
Those live tiles work more or less the same as their counterparts in Windows 8.1. You can resize each tile, arrange them into groups, and give each group a descriptive name.
And it bears repeating: this is a preview. The layout and features of the Start menu will probably change significantly from the March snapshot you see here.
The Settings app
That Settings shortcut leads to the Windows 10 successor of Windows 8’s PC Settings. The iconography, shown in Figure 2-2, is a distinctive change from the Windows 7 Control Panel.
Speaking of Control Panel, it plays a diminished role in Windows 10 but is far from gone. Since the launch of Windows 8, each successive Windows release has moved more options into this app, usually (but not always) removing the corresponding entry in the desktop Control Panel. This is an ongoing process as well, one that will undoubtedly continue after the official release of Windows 10.
The System pane, shown in Figure 2-3, is a case in point. In this preview release, clicking or tapping Power & Sleep offers only limited options. That shortcut in the bottom right, Additional Power Settings, leads to the familiar Power Options page in Control Panel.
In general, you’re likely to find shortcuts for simpler tasks in the new Settings app, with complex or esoteric jobs (especially administrator tasks) requiring a trip to the desktop Control Panel and related utilities.
Cortana is one of the signature features of Windows 10, adding a personality (with the name and voice taken from the Halo franchise on Xbox). Essentially, Cortana acts as a personal assistant, combining local and web search with the ability to understand spoken commands and enough smarts to convert those commands into tasks, appointments, or instructions.
Although Cortana has been part of Windows Phone for nearly a year, she appeared for the first time in the Windows 10 Preview in late January. Because much of Cortana’s magical powers derive from webbased services, she’s getting smarter with age. What you see in the current preview releases is a pale imitation of what you’ll see after a year or two of continuous improvements.
The best way to understand Cortana is to type something into the box just to the right of the Start button, or click the microphone icon and say it instead. (If you don’t enable Cortana, that box performs simple searches, sans personality.)
After you and your users get past the novelty of it all, take a look at Cortana’s notebook, which is shown in Figure 2-5. That’s where you can fine-tune the information—news, upcoming appointments, weather, reminders, and so on—that pops up instantly when you click in the “Ask me anything” box. (That summary is replaced with search results as soon as you start typing.)
Most of the changes I’ve described so far in this chapter are for the explicit benefit of people using a PC or laptop in the traditional fashion: with a keyboard and mouse or trackpad.
But if you are using a tablet (or a touchscreen-equipped hybrid device flipped for handheld use), the navigational challenges are different.
Enter Tablet Mode, which you can do by swiping in from the right and tapping the Tablet Mode action button at to the bottom of the Notifications pane. (Tablet Mode also works well on a traditional PC if you want to run an important app in a full screen to make best use of available space and minimize distractions.)
Turning on Tablet Mode maximizes the Start menu, shrinks the search box to a single Cortana icon, and runs every app in full-screen mode. You can snap a window to the side of the screen, but when you do it occupies the full height of the display, and there’s a thick black bar between snapped apps, as shown in Figure 2-9.
The long-term roadmap for Windows 10 includes a unified sync client that combines access to files stored on either or both of Microsoft’s cloud-based storage services: OneDrive (a free consumer service that offers additional storage for a price) and OneDrive for Business, which is a feature of Office 365 Business and Enterprise accounts.
In the current Windows 10 Technical Preview, OneDrive for Business is missing completely, and the OneDrive client doesn’t yet contain some improvements that are on the roadmap.
For now, the OneDrive client works reasonably well for syncing files. During setup or any time after, you can enable the option to save space by selecting specific folders instead of the entire contents of a OneDrive, as shown in Figure 2-12.
Again, this feature is likely to change significantly in the next year, so don’t spend too much time obsessing over the details of the windows 10 review and user experience.