20 years ago Windows 95 was released, it became the standard operating system that businesses ran their IT systems on. Since that release Windows has continued to evolve with a couple of versions performing extremely well (XP, Windows 7) and couple less so! (ME/Vista)
The previous release Windows 8 was a brave move for Microsoft and took a massive step away from its tried and tested user interface, the Start menu was no more and the interface was geared for the new world of touch screens. Great for those folk who were using tablets and touch screens, but not appealing to the millions of windows users that still spent there working life at a desktop machine with a keyboard and mouse as the primary input. An update added an element of the start menu back, but it was a step too far for many businesses.
So with Windows 10 Microsoft has brought back some of the familiarity of previous versions, but also taken some of touch friendly interface it introduced with Windows 8 and the operating systems attempts to change depending what type of device you are working on.
1) The Start Menu is back (and better)
So everything you loved about the start menu from Windows 7 is back, you can pin favourite apps or shortcuts. You get branched menus, so click on Accessories drops down a further menu with all the accessories icons showing. The menu is in alphabetical order, so click on one of the letters and the alphabet pops up to select another letter that contains the shortcut you’re looking for. All the quick lists are there as well so right click on Windows Explorer and you get the last few files you’ve been working on to get quick access.
One of my favourite features, I loved the touch interface on Windows 8 when I was working on a tablet or touch device. So now when I’m on a touch device as soon as disconnect the keyboard I get the option to have a touch friendly interface. With more devices becoming hybrid this feature is ideal, you just keep on working in the most effective way that your device is set up at that moment. You also get the touch friendly menu alongside the new start menu – so if you prefer that windows 8 look its always with you.
3) Its Free!
If you are on a legit version of Windows 7 or Windows 8 this is a free upgrade for the next 12 months.
4) A new browser – Microsoft Edge
Internet Explorer has been the browser bundled with every copy of Windows since that Win 95 release, its got a little clunky and bloated over the years, Microsoft Edge performs faster than the usual suspects such as Chrome etc, but for me it’s a couple of the other features that have made it a really nice browser. Reading mode, how many times have you found an article online that you wish to read, but the page has loads of junk all over the screen and across the article? Well select the reading mode and the browser strips out all the on screen noise and leaves you with just the text.
It also allows you to have a reading list as well as a favourite’s list, so when you stumble across a page you want to go back to later and read just drop it in the reading list. I used to always be adding links to my favourites that I only wanted to pop back to once, but after reading it I never removed it from my favourites, that meant the list just kept on growing. Of course with the power of the cloud no matter which Windows 10 device I log onto, my favourites and reading list will follow me around, much easier for catching up on some web links on a tablet in the evening rather than a PC or laptop.
Page review. Edge allows you to take a web page then to begin to write all over it (if you have a touch device) then share that page with anyone you want. Fantastic if you’ve found some info you want to share but with notes or highlights on it
5) Action Centre
Swipe in from the right and you get a new information hub that gives you visibility of all the things you need t o know. From Wifi points, battery life, screen brightness through to new emails, app notifications, its nice to have a single place one swipe away to see everything. If you have used windows phone its similar to the experience you get when you swipe down from the top of the hone, just with loads more information points.
Another feature that found life on Windows Phone. Cortana is a digital assistant that is now built into Windows 10. You can search your device or the internet by either typing in your search phrase or just talking to you PC. Begin with “Hey Cortana” and then ask away. As with a lot of voice activated technology it’s not perfect, but it’s getting better.
What I do like about Cortana is the way it learns about your interests and also looks at your location and diary and warns you when you need to leave or if there is traffic issues that may affect you. It’s neat when it suddenly pops up reminding you that a meeting 20 miles away will take around 40 minutes so its time to go – it drops a map of the suggested route up as well. It collects information about items I have said I’m interested in so gives me a personal view when I click on the search input, next to the start menu button. Having been playing on the beta version of Windows 10 since the turn of the year, it’s been great to see Cortana improve and actual be of use in certain situations. It’s still early days for digital assistants but once again its moving in the right direction. With Cortana at the bottom of my screen i just type my query, no more firing up a browser then my search engine of choice. Its just there.
7) Xbox Streaming
Not really a business feature, but it’s cool and who doesn’t like a quick session on the Xbox One. This allows you to connect your Xbox One to your Windows 10 machine and stream your game across to the Windows 10 screen. So you can keep on playing and free up the main TV in the living room. It currently only works if your on the same Wifi access point, so you can only play when you’re in the same house, but its rumoured to be available over the internet in the future.