No more schizophrenia
Windows 10 tries to create a more seamless relationship between the desktop and touch-optimised Modern UI – and even at this early stage in W10’s life, it does a pretty decent job. Modern apps are now windowed when launched, and there are new keyboard shortcuts to snap them to the edges of your screen.
The sense of jolting from one world to another is now gone, although there’s still a lot of work to do in ironing out the creases – right now, those windowed Modern apps in W10 look like (and in many cases are functionally close to) expanded mobile apps.
Fair enough, OS X has touted Exposé for eons – but that doesn’t mean that Windows 10’s plural desktops are any less welcome. You activate them in W10 by tapping Win-tab, or – with a touch screen – swiping in from the left. And you can switch between them using Ctrl-Win + the left or right keys.
They need work, though: as we point out later on, flipping windows between desktops is some way from obvious. But we’ve no doubt that Microsoft will sort this before 10 hits full release next year.
By the way, don’t get it into your head that you can create an infinite number of desktops: in this release at least, they seem limited to the width of the screen (in the case of our Surface Pro 3, that’s eight desktops).
All-new Start menu
Well, kind of. In fact, W10’s ‘new’ Start is the bastard brother of the tiled UI from Windows 8, and the old school Start menu from Windows 7. But although it doesn’t represent a design breakthrough, it does work (which is more than many would say for W8’s Modern Start).
You can move your apps around in much the same way as you could in Windows 8.1 Update: either click or tap to drag and move, or right-click or hold to re-size. It looks good, it’s flexible and should improve further as Microsoft polishes the UI (particular the iconography from today’s Windows desktop, which currently looks cramped and dated in the new interface).
There are bugs to squish, as you’d expect. The entire Start menu can be resized from the top of the panel; we found that if you squash it down, the tiled area will run off the right-hand edge of your screen – we’ll assume that this won’t happen with the final release.
Spit and polish for the Windows desktop UIIt needs to go a long way to equal the pixel-perfect gloss of Apple’s OS X Yosemite, but there are early signs of the Microsoft design team getting its freak on.
File Explorer’s the most noticeable update at this early stage – it pops into view with a subtle new transition, and looks discernibly cleaner (thanks in no small part to the absence of coloured borders to the windows).
There’s also a new set of icons for the likes of This PC, Homegroup and Network – flat, muted blue and olive green affairs that are infinitely more modern that their over-designed predecessors. Let’s just hope that Microsoft keeps on going: we may actually get a Windows desktop that you stare at for the hell of it.
Worst Windows 10 sacrifices: Automatic updates
Not a missing feature, but a change few will welcome. Although the Pro and Enterprise editions of Widows 10 will both give the end user or network admin the opportunity to decide when updates are installed, Windows 10 Home users have no control. Windows Updates will be downloaded and installed automatically as soon as they’re available. This is a classic Microsoft move: it probably makes sense for the entire herd to be immune from security flaws, but end users will not like being forced to install updates at Microsoft’s will.
We will reserve judgment until we see how it works, but for now we will say that the idea of automatic Windows Updates sounds like a recipe for horror and disaster! (See also: How to remove Windows 10 nag messages.)
Worst Windows 10 sacrifices: Goodbye Windows Media Center
Less painful than automatic updates to the OS, upgrading will mean saying goodbye to Windows Media Center. The largely unloved entertainment centre of your PC will be despatched, to be replaced by a series of native media-playing capabilities and apps that don’t require a separate ‘Center’. In almost all ways this is unlikely to be too much of a pain, but we have heard from people testing the beta build that in the current iteration of Windows 10 there is no support for TV tuners, for instance.
This sounds plausible. As we outline below DVD playback capability is not native to Windows 10, and it is likely that only a few people use a TV tuner in a world in which most television content is available online. But that doesn’t mean *no-one* will miss those features.
Worst Windows 10 sacrifices: No more Hearts
Look. There is no other way of telling you this. It’s not you, it’s Microsoft. Microsoft has only gone and remove the card game Hearts from Windows. That’s right: install Windows 10 and you will no longer be able to play Hearts. Heartsbroken. (See also: Windows 8 vs Windows 10 comparison.)
Worst Windows 10 sacrifices: Desktop Gadgets begone
Remember Windows 7’s Desktop Gadgets? No. The chances are you probably don’t. But if you are the one person who uses Desktop Gadgets, you need to prepare yourself for a loss. In Windows 10, there are no Desktop Gadgets. None.
Worst Windows 10 sacrifices: Discs are destroyed
This may not be the biggest issue, but if you are currently using floppy disks on Windows you will have to install new drivers when you upgrade to Windows 10. I rather expect that will affect only a few people.
Perhaps more users will be distressed to know that according to Microsoft anyone who wishes to watch a DVD on their Windows 10 PC or laptop will have to install separate playback software. Microsoft has hinted that it will address this issue at some point, but from the get go if you want to watch a disc you will need to install VLC player or something similar. A pain, but probably a minor pain. (See also: How to get Microsoft Edge browser in Windows 10.)