A few weeks ago, Microsoft released the Windows 10 Technical Preview. Here is a very quick overview of what’s new.
Return of the Start Menu
Many of us sorely missed the start menu in Windows 8, and dreaded having to search for programs in a tiled mess. Windows 10 brings back the start menu, combining the traditional search menu functionality we used up to Windows 7 (including searching for programs) and the live tiles from Windows 8.
Windowed Store Apps
Windows Store apps introduced with Windows 8 (formerly known as “Metro” apps, but that name has since been dropped due to legal reasons) have typically taken up the entire screen, which was pretty dumb in cases such as the music player which really only needs to show a few buttons for its UI.
That changes in Windows 10, where even the Windows Store apps can be hosted in their own window. This comes with its own limitations though – the minimum width and height of a windowed Windows Store app seem to be what you see in the screenshot above.
In previous editions of Windows, you could drag a Window to the top edge of the screen to maximize it, or to a lateral edge to dock it to that half of the screen.
In Windows 10, you can now dock a window to a quarter of the screen by dragging it into a corner. You can also dock a window to the bottom half of the screen by dragging it towards the taskbar.
As you are performing this action, you will even get suggestions on how to fill the remaining space with windows that are already open.
The usefulness of this feature is limited by the fact that windows docked to a quarter of the screen are inevitably quite small, and it does not yet work perfectly – for instance, there is no way to dock the task manager as yet.
I first experienced virtual desktops in Linux almost 10 years ago, and Microsoft are finally adding them to Windows. Better late than never, but still very much appreciated.
Virtual desktops are a great way to organize your windows according to different projects you may be working on. I never liked the grouping of taskbar icons by application: if you’re working on three different projects simultaneously, each one might have a Word document open, so it doesn’t really help to group all the Word documents. It’s much more convenient to switch desktop when moving from one project to another.
Improved Selection/Clipboarding in Command Prompt
The command prompt has finally become more usable. You can actually select portions of text normally rather than having to resort to block selection:
…and it is now much easier to copy and paste text in the command prompt. To copy, just select the portion of text you want and press Ctrl+C – the command prompt is intelligent enough to treat Ctrl+C as a clipboard copy if text is selected, or as a process termination signal if no text is selected. Ctrl+V works just fine for pasting text.
Since the start menu has pretty much replaced the tiled start screen on desktops, it is quite possible to live without the “Metro” experience. However, although the Windows installation routine may have changed a little since Windows 8, the experience hasn’t: it still features an all-Metro interface, attempts to get you to sign into Windows with a Microsoft account by default, and at one point displays some dumb text with nauseating rotating background colours rather than reporting on progress.
I noticed that windows now have a soft shadow, which makes the ugly window layout from Windows 8 more bearable:
This was just a very quick overview of what has changed in Windows 10, after spending only a few minutes trying it out. I’m sure there are many other features I’ve missed, and this is pre-release software, so take this article for what it is.
- Start menu instead of start screen
- Virtual desktops
- Windowed Windows Store apps
- Improved command prompt
- Visual improvements
- “Metro” still dominates Windows installation
- Start menu still has live tiles