Slated for release this summer, Microsoft’s latest operating system is packed with new features but also heralds a much-anticipated return to certain classic aesthetics to put desktop users back in their comfort zone. Microsoft’s tagline “Windows 10 isn't for all of us, but for each of us” targets the greatest source of discontent felt by opponents to Windows 8: the basic interface seems blind to the multitude of users still interacting with the system through mouse and keyboard. With the new device sensitivity branded as Continuum, Windows 10 will dynamically adapt to the input capabilities available in real-time. With a Surface in tablet-mode, it is optimized for touch-sensitive operations: full-screen apps, slightly enlarged icons, and the Windows 8-style Start menu; attaching a keyboard immediately transforms the same Surface into a laptop with windowed apps and a “proper” Start menu.
Speaking of the Start menu, it’s back. Windows 10 offers traditional desktop users the same list in the same place we have known and loved since Windows 95. Pin your favorite programs, let your most frequently used ones build up, and click the “All apps” arrow to get the full listing of everything installed in the usual nested folder structure. You can also have the best of both, with the hybrid menu displaying live Windows 8 tiles alongside the traditional listing, with the added bonus ability to resize the menu to optimize your app-launching experience.
In addition to alleviating the resistance to Windows 8, the new operating system is bringing a bundle of new features. Cortana is the Microsoft counterpart to Apple’s Siri or the Google Now voice-based virtual assistant. Harnessing the power of machine learning, Cortana will respond to natural language queries to serve up information from the web, suggestions for new apps, search results from local drives, or control apps through voice commands. Virtual desktops have been available in less popular platforms for decades, launched in MAC OS X as “spaces” in 2007, and will finally become a native feature for Windows. Users will be able to switch between multiple instances of the desktop view, each with a separate collection of programs and icons, much like looking between multiple monitors connected to a single computer.
While the pricing for the new operating system has not been unveiled, Microsoft has indicated that users with genuine copies of Home and Professional versions of Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 will be able to upgrade free for the first year. These systems will even have a direct upgrade path to keep most of their applications and settings intact without requiring a fresh installation. Can’t wait? Join the Windows Insider Program to download the Technical Preview and test drive the new system now.
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