Windows 10 is just around the corner and if you’re running Windows 8 you will be able to upgrade for free on July 29. Let’s take a look at what the big changes are.
Windows 8 wasn’t well received when it launched, facing criticism for being too focused on touch devices. But with the newest, and supposedly last version of Windows being the same across all platforms, Microsoft has learned from its mistakes.
Please be sure to dive into the comments section afterwards to let us know if you’re using Windows 8 at the moment and what you’re looking forward to in Windows 10.
Rediscover the Start Menu
Technically, the Start Menu never died completely, but things were much different when Windows 8 launched. It was out with the Start Menu and in with the Start Screen, a full-page display of tiled applications. There was outcry and backlash, forcing Microsoft to relent and add back the Start button and the ability to boot-to-desktop.
While that full screen display worked better on tablets, it was cumbersome on desktops and frustrating to have the lack of total control through limited customization.
You can launch the Windows 10 Start Menu using the familiar Start icon in the bottom left corner of your screen or you can press the Windows key on your keyboard. You’ll see how Microsoft has merged old with new, combining the best of both worlds. The more classic view sits on the left, offering commonly used apps and shortcuts, while those tiled and live apps are housed opposite.
The great thing about this new-look Start Menu is that you can alter the appearance of it to fit your needs. You can drag tiles to move or resize them, group apps, change the color scheme, and more. You can even set it to full screen if you actually liked the Windows 8 approach and want to emulate it.
Switch Between Desktop and Touch
While Windows 8 was more geared towards the touch market, Windows 10 caters for everyone. Whether you’re using your finger or a mouse, you’re catered for with both methods. Whereas previously there were multiple menus that did the same thing, the interface in Windows 10 is more unified and easy to access regardless of your control scheme.
For example, Windows 8 had two separate application switchers. Now you can press Windows key + Tab or swipe in from the left of the screen to access Task View, allowing you to switch between apps and desktops (more on that later). Also, swiping in from the right or clicking the rectangular taskbar icon will take you to the new Notification Center, a place which displays alerts and also provides access to shortcuts and settings. This replaces Charms in Windows 8, instead offering a menu that works equally well on desktop and touch.
A feature called Continuum allows you to switch between tablet and desktop modes on the fly. If you have a keyboard and mouse connected to your tablet then you’ll run in the traditional mode; disconnect them and it’ll switch to a tablet view, with full screens apps and Start Menu. This switch can be made automatically or manually. To alter your preferences, navigate to PC Settings, select System and then set to either on or off under Tablet Mode.
A Personable and Tailored Search
Searching your system is nothing new. Microsoft got it right in Windows 7, allowing you to instantly search anything, be it files, programs, or settings, right from the Start Menu. Frankly, Windows 8 search lacked the simpleness of its predecessors, separating each search function into its own shortcut. It just wasn’t as quick or efficient. Windows 10 doesn’t make the same mistakes.
By using Cortana, your virtual assistant in Windows 10, you can search for anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s on your system or online, it’s all searched from the same box on your Taskbar. Just left click in the search box and you can begin your search. Find programs, files, emails, weather, notes, and much more instantly. It’s smooth and easy, taking away the hassle of trying to hunt something down through menus or folders.
The cool part? Cortana can do so much more than that. It can be voice controlled, provide you with traffic details, information about nearby restaurants, and even updates on parcels you’re tracking. Those using Windows Phone 8.1 will already be aware of Cortana, but she’ll be appearing across all devices come Windows 10.
If you want Cortana to react to your voice, click in the search box, then select the settings icon. Turn the switch to On where it says Let Cortana respond when you say “Hey Cortana.” You should also click Learn my voice so you can help it better recognise you. Should you wish, you can also disable Cortana completely from the same settings menu.
Boost Your Productivity
Ever found some things take longer to do than they should? Windows 10 contains a number of productivity improvements that should make you more efficient. Power users who utilize the command prompt will be happy to know that it finally supports CTRL shortcuts (like CTRL + V for paste), line wrapping, and decent text selection out of the box. It’s about time!
While Windows 8 only allowed you to snap two windows automatically, Windows 10 let’s you snap to a 4×4 grid. That means you can share your screen space out evenly and spend less time flicking between windows. Sure, you could manually resize in Windows 8, but that’s just a hassle – now it’s a whole lot easier. Click and hold on the title bar of a window, then drag it to a side of the screen to snap it into place. You can also use Windows Key + arrow direction to achieve the same.
Virtual desktops, a long requested feature, are also making their debut. Windows 8 currently supports multi-monitor setups, which allows individual desktops on each screen. With Windows 10, you can have these separate desktops all from a single screen, easily accessible through the new Task View. Open this by pressing Windows Key + Tab and then clicking Add a desktop. Each desktop can have different apps opened, so you could have one for work and another for play, for instance. When in Task View, hover over each desktop and you’ll see its respective open programs displayed above, which you can left click on to jump directly to.
From 8 to 10
Windows 10 is shaping up to be a great platform. With a number of improvements to existing features like the Start menu, along with some brand new ones like Cortana, Windows 10 offers the best of past operating systems while still bringing in the new too.
You can currently reserve your copy of Windows 10 through a taskbar notification. However, if you don’t plan on getting Windows 10 straight away, but still think some of the features still look good, check out our guide on how to get some features right now.
What feature of Windows 10 are you most looking forward to when coming from 8? Will you be upgrading as soon as possible?