Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Windows gets a lot of undeserved hate. Critics love to describe Windows as a confusing mess while painting macOS as a perfect, easy to use experience. While Windows 10 does have some issues, if you look back, it’s clear that Microsoft has made Windows so much more user-friendly than it once was.
Let’s look at some modern aspects of Windows that show how far it’s come in communicating to its users. These make the operating system (OS) easier to use, even for those who don’t understand computer basics.
1. Warmer Language in Dialogue Boxes
Chances are, every time you use your computer you’re going to see a few message boxes pop up. These can alert you to errors, or show tips, advice, and other important information. What you might not have noticed is that these messages have evolved in recent years. Windows has replaced once-technical messages filled with potentially confusing words with language that feels friendlier to the user.
As an example, consider the dialogue box that pops up when you’ve copied a large amount of text to your clipboard in a Microsoft Office app and attempt to close out. This is what the box said in older Office versions:
In modern versions of Office, you’ll see this instead:
It’s a subtle change in language, but its effect is a warmer tone to the user. The first change is that the information is presented much more clearly. Compare the top line of the dialogue box on each version — the newer one asks the same question with far fewer words. Second, the text uses “us” to refer to the computer’s actions.
You can find this “we” and “us” language all around Windows 10. Have a look at the below Windows Update page and see how many times it uses “we”:
You don’t see any language like this in Windows 7’s equivalent page:
Sure, these are minor changes, which may feel patronizing to longtime Windows users. But the new language isn’t as cold, and it communicates a simpler message to a novice user.
2. Less Cryptic Blue Screen Messages
The Windows Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) has become a common symbol for computer problems. Whenever Windows runs into a problem that it can’t recover from, it displays a stop error (on a blue screen, thus the name) and must restart. Now, blue screen problems can happen for a variety of reasons, and they’re not always something to worry about.
But to the average user, seeing a screen like this filled with bleak text and cryptic error codes is overwhelming:
Compare this to the newer version (in Windows 8 and above). Notice that it includes a trendy “sad face” emoticon, more “we” language, far less text, and a prominently displayed error code. Thus, the user can easily Google the stop code for more information or share it with a tech-savvy friend. In Windows 10, Microsoft recently added a QR code the user can scan for more details and a webpage to visit, as well.
These changes have turned a visit to the Blue Screen of Death into a less terrifying experience, and they give the user something to take away.
3. Windows Defender Comes Built-in
One of the biggest security problems of Windows 7 and earlier was that the OS didn’t include an antivirus program. If a user didn’t know any better, they could use their PC for years without any security software installed. Microsoft changed that starting in Windows 8 — they reworked Microsoft Security Essentials into Windows Defender and baked it into the OS.
This means that every user running Windows automatically has an antivirus built-in. That’s huge and great for Windows’ overall security. While Windows Defender isn’t the absolute best anti-malware solution, it carries several benefits over its competitors. It receives updates through Windows Update, doesn’t nag the user to pay for a premium version, and has advanced features if you want them.
You might still elect to use other security software, which is fine. But having a solid antivirus — as opposed to nothing — set as the default is a huge step in making Windows more user-friendly for all folks. Light computer users are thus protected from malware without having to download anything or deal with pop-ups advertising paid versions.
4. Search Is a Hundred Times Better
Do you have an old Windows XP computer sitting around that you just can’t get rid of? Try something: load up your desktop, open the Search function, and look for a file.
Windows XP’s search function was horrendous compared to current iterations. It provided too many criteria and options when you just wanted to search for something quickly, took forever to search, and annoyed you with a stupid animated dog. If you couldn’t remember where you put a file or what you named it, search wasn’t going to help you.
Fast-forward to modern Windows versions and it’s amazing how much the search functionality has improved. Now you can search not only for files, but also Control Panel/Settings entries, programs, and more. It’s wicked-fast and lets you configure advanced search parameters if needed. Most users don’t even need to augment Windows Search with an alternative because it’s that good.
Of course, it’s a little unfair to judge a search function from 2001 against ones from 2009 and 2015. But it’s a great example of an improvement Windows made that boosted the productivity of average users.
5. Settings App Makes Configuration Easy
Windows 10 has a split personality when it comes to changing settings. Most advanced users swear by the Control Panel for making modifications to system options, but Microsoft is slowly killing it off in favor of the Settings app. While you can’t tweak every setting from the app, it provides an easier way to change options than the Control Panel does.
The Settings app divides options into clear groups, with tabs representing all the headers in that group. Compared to the Control Panel, it’s a lot easier to follow. Many Control Panel entries have related settings on the left sidebar that take you to hidden menus. However, because it’s hard to access these menus from anywhere else, it feels like a confusing trail at times.
A novice user isn’t going to tweak every setting Windows 10 has to offer. But they’re more likely to poke around and change a few basic values in the app than they are in the Control Panel. It explains options better and links to Microsoft help pages for more info if needed.
Eventually, the Settings app will totally replace the Control Panel. Doing this will make Windows Settings easier to change for everyone.
How Has Windows Improved for You?
We’ve covered five big ways that Windows has become more user-friendly. Each of these requires less learning on the user’s part and allows them to better interact with Windows.
Some hardcore users might argue that these changes are bad or remove functionality, but we think improving Windows for all is a smart idea. As Windows 10 evolves, chances are we’ll see even more enhancements on this front.
What advancements has Windows made to become more user-friendly for you? Do you appreciate any of the above changes? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!
Image Credits: Yayayoyo, Odua Images/Shutterstock