Windows 8 was a mistake. I can’t be any more blunt than that. The user interface which was intended for touch screens confused long time Windows users because even with a keyboard and mouse it was pretty much unusable. I have to admit that I made a lot of money downgrading people to Windows 7 when they got fed up with trying to cope with Windows 8.
I’m happy to say that Windows 10 makes up for that.
For starters, a real, honest to goodness Start Menu is back. Not that not so reasonable facsimile that existed in Windows 8. But one that has a Windows 8 concept which is Live Tiles that don’t occupy your entire screen, along with easy access to programs, settings and the like. Plus you can customize it to death so that you see as much or as little as you want. Next, you boot to a desktop and not to Live Tiles that you have to get rid of to get to the desktop. Those two things alone will have long time Windows users singing in the streets. I’ll also add that navigation is really improved. Windows 8 had things like hot corners that drove me nuts. Those have been binned in Windows 10 and replaced with Action Center which works as a notification center to collect alerts from apps and provide quick access to settings. There’s also Task View, which is basically a copy and paste of Mission Control on OS X. It displays all your open windows on a single screen so you can find what you’re looking for quickly. There’s a dedicated button to get to it which is handy. Also stolen from OS X is virtual desktops so that you can put different apps on different desktops if you so choose. Now the initial look of Windows 10 is, well, kind of dark, but it can be customized to pick an accent color that can be shown on the Start menu, task bar, and Action Center. That way you can get the look that you want.
As you can tell, Microsoft has stolen a few things from Apple. Another area that they’ve swiped from Apple is Cortana which is the Microsoft answer to Siri. You can invoke it by saying “hey Cortana” and it learns about you and keeps track of everything in a virtual notebook which you can edit to trim out information you don’t want it to remember. One advantage over Siri is if you run the Cortana app on any of your mobile devices, anything like reminders and the like get shuffled over the Microsoft Cloud to those devices. That makes it powerful in ways that Siri currently is not.
Though you won’t notice it immediately, there’s a new browser called Edge. The icon looks just like the old Internet Explorer icon. But other than that, it’s new from the ground up. Rendering most popular websites is smooth, and load times are usually good. Plus you can do annotations in the browser, and Cortana is integrated into Edge. But at the moment, extensions are scarce. I expect that to change over time, but you may find yourself downloading a copy of Firefox or Chrome, or firing up a Internet Explorer which is still there in Windows 10. But if you do switch browsers, you may have to hop through some hoops to make your choice of browser the default choice. #fail Microsoft. Actually, if you take into account the gong show in the making that is WiFi Sense and the security issues related to that, it’s a #epicfail Microsoft. But those are shockingly the only criticisms I have about Windows 10.
For the gamers out there, Windows 10 comes with the Xbox app. You can stream Xbox One games to your laptop or desktop and play them over your home network. Plus it has a DVR function so you can record your exploits in Call Of Duty and post them to YouTube. That’s not the only app present. The Mail client works a lot like Outlook.com and has swipe and other gestures on board. It’s actually quite decent. So is the Calendar app which works along a similar theme. You also get a Photos app that is actually something that may keep you from having to instantly run out and buy a copy of Photoshop Elements. There’s also a Microsoft App Store so you can get the Windows 10 apps that catch your eye.
Here’s the bottom line. Microsoft has made up for the Windows 8 debacle. And to give you a huge incentive to upgrade, Windows 10 is free if you have a legal copy of Windows 7 or 8. Also, chances are that if your computer can run Windows 7 or 8, it should be able to run Windows 10. As for how stable it is, other than my issues upgrading from Windows 7 thanks to Parallels Desktop not being ready to go on launch day, it’s been fine for me thus far. Microsoft appears to be rolling out daily updates to the OS. Thus if you have stability issues, it may be only days or weeks at the most before an update may address them. Speaking of updates, you have to take them as Microsoft no longer allows you to not accept updates to your computer as they clearly think it’s for your own good. I’m torn on that one. I see their point, but I’d like some choice in the matter as well.
My advice would be to dive in as long as the computer that you’re upgrading isn’t critical to your daily existence. But have a good backup first just in case. Chances are that you’ll like Windows 10 and you will be forgiving Microsoft for the mistake that was Windows 8.