While tech experts all agree that Windows 10 isn’t anywhere near finished, it’s far better than it's predecessor Windows 8.1. This latest version banishes full-screen apps and the Metro Start, instead focusing on creating a beefed up version of the tried-and-true desktop loyal consumers loved. Even with traditional sensibilities at its core, Windows 10 is the biggest release of Microsoft's revered operating system in years. Whether you've already made the leap, or you're simply debating it, here's a rundown of the 12 best new features on Windows 10.
Start Menu Reborn
While Windows 8 seemed largely designed for touch devices, desktop users will be happy to hear that Windows 10 puts a renewed focus on the traditional keyboard and mouse. The start screen has been dropped in favor of a newly resurrected start menu akin to the one in Windows 7. Not all elements of the start screen are gone, though. Live tiles, the box-shaped app icons that display relevant information, have been integrated into the new start menu, making it an appealing hybrid of Windows 7 and 8. From the new start menu, you can access the traditional list of recently used apps, access the file browser, search, and get a quick glance at various information like email and weather.
A Simpler, More Unified Interface
The split personality of Windows 8 has for the most part been eliminated in Windows 10. By combining the functionality of live tiles with the traditional start menu and desktop, the overall interface feels much more focused. Apps from the Windows Store (also called Metro apps) can now run in windowed mode and have the standard close and minimize buttons like traditional apps. The separate control panel and settings charm of Windows 8 have thankfully been combined into a new settings menu where you can change most of your PCs settings. Accessing the control panel is still necessary for some settings, but users should need it far less often.
The Action center is now the one-stop location for notification messages. Here you can see system notifications, plus notifications from individual apps informing you about new emails, calendar events, chat messages, Facebook Posts, and more. From here, you can also quickly change the display mode and jump to the settings menu.
Microsoft's virtual assistant makes the move from mobile devices to desktop with Windows 10. Cortana makes the search function more powerful with the ability to perform searches using natural language and personal info to find more relevant results. Cortana can find files on your computer, as well as show you online information using Bing search. You can ask Cortana either using voice recognition or by typing out queries.
The new task view feature lets you quickly see all currently opened applications, switch between them, and organize them into virtual desktops. In essence, it's a close equivalent of the Mission Control functionality that Mac users have enjoyed for over a decade, so it's great that Microsoft is finally giving Windows users this feature.
It's Still Touch-Friendly
While Windows 10 is well-suited for desktop users, it still provides a great experience on touch devices. The new start menu can be expanded to a full-screen mode similar to the start screen in Windows 8. You can opt to see this full-screen start menu as soon as you login, and on smaller tablets, it's the default view. Touch-friendly store apps can be ran in full-screen mode, and touch-based navigation elements are still present on systems with a touch screen. For devices with multiple input methods (like the Surface tablet), the new Continuum feature dynamically adjust the experience to suite keyboard or finger-based input.
A Browser with an Edge
With Windows 10, Microsoft introduces its brand new web browser, called Edge. Touted as a lightweight browser with full support for modern web standards, Edge is aimed to better compete with browsers like Firefox and Chrome than the aging (and often derailed) Internet Explorer. Edge features a sleek interface, the ability to quickly create and share annotations on websites, clutter-reducing reading mode, and integration with Cortana. For traditionalist, Internet Explorer still ships with Windows 10, but it's safe to assume that Edge will be Microsoft's primary browser focus in future.
Better System Apps
Whether it's the Mail, Calendar, or Music app, the bundled apps in Windows 10 are faster, prettier, and more powerful. The mail app now has better gesture controls and support for POP, while the calendar app gets support for Google calendar. The music and video apps get some interface tweaks, and the new Photo app looks to be a solid option for simple photo organizing and editing.
With universal apps, developers will be better able to develop single apps that run on all Windows 10 systems, including desktops, phones, and tablets. This means you should get a more consistent, cohesive Windows experience regardless of what device you're using. Plus, it should go a long way towards increasing the number of apps available on Windows mobile devices.
Windows 10 may still have some work to do, but it's safe to say that Microsoft listened to the criticism of displeased Windows 8 users, and used that information to create an innovative version of Windows that deserves to be celebrated. Well done.