If you are upgrading to Windows 10 on a desktop or laptop PC from Windows 8, the Start menu you know is back. But Microsoft has not simply just reinstated the old version from Windows 7. Instead, it is completely redesigned it in a way that combines the best aspects of the last two versions of Windows.
Like before, the Start menu is in the lower-left hand corner. Microsoft is keeping the Live Tiles it introduced in Windows 8, but put them inside the Start menu. You can pin both modern and traditional apps to the Start menu, and there is easy access to settings, shutdown or restart, and a list of most-used apps complete with handy jump lists for apps like Word that handle files.
A black theme is the basis for Windows 10, but there are options to pick an accent color that can be shown on the Start menu, task bar, and the new Action Center. Across all three, you will notice subtle transparency effects have returned to Windows 10 from their roots in Windows Vista and Windows 7.
Navigating around Windows 10 is also greatly improved. A new Action Center works as a notification center to collect alerts from apps and provide quick access to settings.
Microsoft has focused a lot on multitasking with Windows 10. The Snap feature has seen the biggest improvements here. You can drag any window to a screen edge to snap it to half of your screen, and then the Operating System (OS) helpfully displays all of your other windows in an array for the other half. If you use a touchscreen, you can swipe from the left to bring up a list of all open apps and snap two of them alongside each other.
Alongside the snapping improvements is a new feature called Task View, which is similar to Mission Control on the Mac. It displays all your open windows on a single screen so you can find what you are looking for quickly. Microsoft has added a dedicated button to the task bar to get users to activate Task View and start using it. Microsoft claims the vast majority of its users have never used Alt+Tab to switch apps, so the idea is to help those users get better at multitasking.
It is also the gateway to a great new feature, virtual desktops, which allows you to create separate virtual desktops with different apps.
Microsoft has also built a virtual assistant like Siri right into Windows 10. It’s called Cortana, and it is designed to look and feel like an extension of the Start menu—and you can also use your voice to search.
Cortana keeps everything it knows about you in a virtual notebook, which you can edit to trim out information you do not want it to remember. It is also cloud powered, meaning you can download Cortana for Android (or iOS in the future) and get the same features there, all synced up with your laptop. So if you ask Cortana to remind you to buy some milk from a local grocery store, that reminder will sync to your phone and activate as soon as you are near the grocery store. That’s a particularly useful and powerful feature of Cortana.
Cortana also handles local search, and it is excellent. Hitting the “My Stuff” button within a Cortana search will search for files that are local to the machine and any data stored on OneDrive. Having a single interface for virtual assistant searches, web searches, and traditional computer searches is a convenient and powerful thing—and Microsoft has done a really great job of integrating it here.
Windows 10 also includes a new browser, called Edge. Internet Explorer still exists in Windows 10 and you can access it through an “Open with Internet Explorer” option in Edge.
Edge does have some new features. One addition that is very useful is Cortana is integrated into Microsoft Edge. If you search for something in the address bar like “weather,” then it will immediately surface the weather nearby. There is a built-in note-taking mode, so you can save and annotate webpages, plus a reading mode that strips away the content you do not need when reading through an article.
While Edge is very fast in raw performance, some more complex websites do not render quite right. While many times this is due to badly coded sites, it shows there are still issues with Edge.
Other issues are not being able to drag files into the browser (to attach them to an email or upload to cloud storage) and the lack of Extensions. It has more work to do before it can persuade people to move from Chrome and Firefox.
Windows 10’s built-in apps are a great complement to the operating system. While Windows 8’s apps were basic and lacking in features, Windows 10’s have mostly everything you would want. Most importantly, these built-in apps no longer run full screen by default.
Microsoft is currently offering Windows 10 free to Windows 7 and Windows 8 users, with the intention of creating a huge install base to attract developers.
While Microsoft is focused on mouse and keyboard computing with Windows 10, it has not forgot about all the good touch work that went into Windows 8. A new tablet mode in Windows 10 aims to bridge the full screen world of Windows 8 with the traditional way you use a Windows PC.
Windows 10’s tablet mode simplifies the task bar, makes everything touch-friendly and brings back the full screen Start screen
Windows 10’s development has been unique and has some great additions while blending the familiarity of Windows 7 and some of the new features of Windows 8.
So when should you upgrade?
Many advise to wait for the “service pack 1” release which is sound advice. Issues and bugs can range from basic problems like app icons on the task bar disappearing to incompatibility with drivers for other devices and other software.
Microsoft is confident these bugs and issues will be addressed fairly quickly. If you can deal with these issues and you are frustrated with Windows 8, then by all means upgrade now. But if you depend on your Windows computer on a daily basis, you may want to hold off until everything is a little more polished.
Microsoft is rolling out updates constantly, so it may not be that long until these issues are addressed.
There are some neat features to Windows 10, such as the return of the start menu and having multiple desktops for working on separate projects simultaneously, which are great and powerful once you begin using them.
You will experience a learning curve, albeit briefer than the learning curve for Windows 8. There are also some tech issues. Some of the issues require fixes with patching, such as the first patch for Windows 10 that was required less than a month after release. Video card and printer drivers have also caused bumps in the road to upgrade.
The worst to date we’ve experienced is a significant slow-down of all Google apps including Chrome, due to the update.
You will have to eventually adopt Windows 10, there is no choice there. However where you have the power, and how we help you is by providing the expertise so you can choose when and how to make the transition.
Our recommendation: wait and prepare.
We recommend waiting until at least Q1 2016. This will not only give Microsoft and software vendors time to work out the technical issues, it gives you time to prepare.
- Update and patch current windows operating system and system drivers.
2. Create a backup at an external location (external hard drive or cloud storage).
3. Perform any necessary hardware upgrades in the computers moving to Windows 10.
4. Provide plenty of time for the transition. After the upgrade to Windows 10, all other software will also need to be reinstalled.
By Nick Pascarella and Nina Johnson on behalf of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber’s Technology Committee. Nick Pascarella is a partner at TruBambu (www.trubambu.com), a business technology consultancy company. Nina Johnson is Co-founder and Chief Business Officer at Singularity LLC (singularityknows.com).