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Windows 10 is coming on July 29, and free upgrades are being offered to a lot of existing Windows users. But what exactly does Windows 10 offer and is it a worthwhile progression?
With increased support for gaming, a clever personal assistant, free updates, and more, Windows 10 is looking to be the best – and apparently final – version of the operating system.
If you have any more reasons to add to our list below, please head into the comments section to sound off and let us know what features you’re looking forward to.
Free for Many
For many people, the upgrade to Windows 10 won’t cost anything. If you’re running Windows 7 or above, you should have a notification in your taskbar that allows you to reserve your upgrade for free, which will be available for a whole year. If you don’t have a legit version of Windows, or are on an older system, it’ll be priced at $119 for the Home version. No matter when you upgrade, you’ll never have to shell out additional costs.
Rather than having everyone spread out over different versions of Windows, Microsoft hopes the enticement of a free upgrade will be enough to get the majority of customers running their new operating system. This will mean that applications can be developed specifically for Windows 10 and Microsoft will be able to provide added value to their ecosystem, which includes services like Office 365 and OneDrive.
The Final Windows
Windows 10 will, apparently, be the last version of Windows. This is because Microsoft is moving their operating system into more of a service, which sees continual upgrades over time, while still retaining the same product name. Think of an online service like Facebook or Gmail, which changes in appearance and adds new features fairly regularly, but it’s still the same thing.
Unlike current versions of Windows, all updates will be compulsory. This will allow Microsoft to ensure that everyone is running the exact same version, which makes it easier for developer compatibility and keeps all systems equally secure. Theoretically, this means Windows 10 could be constantly evolving and adapting to add new features.
Cortana is an existing feature on Windows Phone, but now it’s coming to Windows 10. Put simply, Microsoft wants Cortana to be the first truly personal assistant. It can provide you with traffic updates, recommend the best places to eat nearby, inform you about the latest news, and much more. Commands can be spoken or typed to Cortana, like asking for a reminder to be set or to bring up the weather forecast.
Intriguingly, Microsoft has equipped Cortana with a personality, like being embarrassed if she can’t answer your question. Accessible from the Taskbar, Cortana is the assistant that will always be around to lend a hand. If you’ve ever used Siri or Google Now, then you’ll know what to expect. Be sure to check out our hands-on with Cortana.
Snapping your windows to quickly resize and reposition them on your screen has been around since Windows 7, but it’s received some enhancements with Windows 10. You can snap your windows vertically and horizontally; when doing so, you’ll be prompted to select what window you want to snap into the empty space. It’s a small touch, but one that helps make for a smoother experience.
Of more note is the ability to snap four windows into a 2×2 grid. You can use keyboard shortcuts to do so or just use your mouse. Of course, you don’t have to have four windows to use this mode. You could have one window snapped vertically and then two stacked horizontally on the other side. For those who often have a lot of windows and apps open, this will definitely help speed up productivity.
It’s an understatement to say that Internet Explorer doesn’t have a great reputation. Once the dominant browser, it’s fallen by the wayside due to competitors like Firefox and Chrome offering better compatibility. Microsoft’s solution? Edge, previously codenamed Project Spartan, a brand new browser, is being bundled with Windows 10.
With this being an entirely new browser that’s still being developed, it’s currently lacking some features that we might take for standard elsewhere, like incognito mode. However, it comes with some neat tools out of the box, like an address bar that gives you search results directly and the ability to add written notes to a webpage. It’s also quite lightweight and doesn’t put a strain on resources – hopefully it can stay this way.
Windows once used to just run on desktops, but those days are long gone. You can find it on tablets, phones and, with Windows 10, even the Xbox. With the release of Windows 10, all these devices will all be running more or less the same version of Windows. Not only is this great for them because it’ll tie everyone into their ecosystem, it’s great for us, too.
Windows apps can now be developed for one system and work across all of them. Something developed for the desktop can automatically be scaled down to a mobile device, for example. That way, there won’t be a disconnect between devices and all your favorite programs can be accessed wherever you are, as long as it’s a Windows 10 device.
One of the major criticisms levied upon Windows 8 was how touch-orientated the entire experience seemed to be. The Start page, with its huge tiles, was clearly designed with tablet users in mind, and many rejoiced when the standard Start menu was reintroduced. Microsoft has clearly learned from their mistakes, With Windows 10 now offering a feature called Continuum.
Continuum allows Windows to adapt to both desktop and tablet views on the fly. Disconnect the keyboard from the tablet and it’ll ask if you want to optimize the system for touch use, like providing tiles on the desktop. Vice versa, connect the keyboard and you can go for the more traditional desktop experience. You can customize if these prompts appear, along with letting the system do it automatically, which should hopefully make for a fluid experience whatever platform you’re using.
Refreshed Start Menu
While tiles weren’t universally praised in Windows 8, that doesn’t mean the Start menu doesn’t have room for improvements. So while the Start menu is back in Windows 10, it is really a combination of the two systems, with tiles appearing next to the conventional program lists.
Don’t fear if this doesn’t sound good to you, however. Customization is the order of the day. If you want, you can ditch all of the tiles and stick to the Start menu that you’re used to. You could also go in the opposite direction and have it full screen to offer a more application-focused experience.
Microsoft has repeatedly said that gaming is important to them on the PC, but nothing ever seems to come to fruition in the long-term. You only have to look at Games for Windows Live to see the failure. However, with Windows 10, Microsoft is taking a new approach by bringing the benefits of the Xbox One to the computer.
The Xbox app will come with Windows 10, giving you an activity stream that displays what your friends are playing and sharing. You can also send messages across the systems. Most excitingly, Xbox One games can be streamed to your computer, meaning you can play console exclusives straight from your computer. Some games, like Fable Legends, will even support cross-platform multiplayer, and hopefully other developers will support that in the future.
DirectX 12 will be exclusive to Windows 10, a fact that Microsoft hopes will bring hardcore PC gamers to the operating system. It apparently halves the power consumption over its preceding DirectX version and gives a better frame rate when playing games. Those running the insider preview of Windows 10 can actually try this out right now.
Modern and more powerful graphics cards will support DirectX 12, with only a driver update required. Although some graphics cards might not be able to handle every single feature that DirectX 12 brings to the table, chances are that if you have a higher-end card then you’ll be good to go with the new version.
Full of Features
Windows 10 is full of great new enhancements, like Cortana and Xbox support, but it also iterates on existing features with the revamped Start menu and expanded snap utility.
With the public release just over a month away, and Microsoft continually developing the operating system, who knows what Windows 10 will look like or offer in the future?
Which of these features sound most exciting to you? Have we missed any that you think deserve a mention?