(VI) Windows 10 review (build 10074): Microsoft’s new OS is maturing nicely / ‘Free’ Windows 10 Has High Cost To Windows 7 And Windows 8 Users

This is a later more extensive review of what is actually included in Windows 10 then the review yesterday. –MrT.

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Windows 10 review (build 10074): Microsoft’s new OS is maturing nicely

By 11 May 2015

Windows 10 is coming on nicely, as build 100074 introduces a number of key improvements

Microsoft’s is now well on the path towards its official release later this year, and the latest release – build 10074 – is evidence that the new OS is maturing nicely. See also: how to download .

Since the last time we updated this review, Microsoft has given its experimental browser Spartan a new name – Edge – fleshed out Cortana significantly, and added a host of improvements and tweaks throughout Windows 10. We’ve updated the text below to reflect the changes. Take a look at our list of .

Windows 10 review: I started something

Probably the biggest news when Windows 10 was first announced was the return of the Start menu, and its continuing development proves that it will remain a central point of focus through to launch. See also: .

The latest features include resizability, which is handled rather abruptly in this build, without any kind of fancy animation, and an attractive transparency-and-blur effect that brings back memories of Windows 7’s Aero interface elements. Microsoft has rather confusingly repositioned the Power button from the top right of the menu to the bottom left, but this shouldn’t take too much time to get used to.

Search behavior has also been refined. Where before your results popped up from the search field and sat awkwardly over the top of the Start menu, the Cortana drive-search interface now elegantly fades into view, while Start disappears.

You can still press Windows+S to access the search box directly, but this new method is a more successful compromise between the way Start and search used to work on Windows 7 and the brave new world of Windows 10.

Windows 10 review: the looks for the lifestyle

It’s not only the Start bar that’s changing, though: Windows 10 makes a significant number of aesthetic and functional changes throughout the operating system. On the taskbar, the icons have shrunk, making it easier to see the underline effect that shows which applications are open. Explorer and application windows have a slightly cleaner look, with simpler icons to minimize, maximize and close windows, as well as tidier back and forward buttons.

You’ll also see that PC Settings (now just called Settings) picks up on the same theme, as does a new beta release of the Store and the clock/calendar apps. All sport tasteful redesigns that make use of familiar elements such as tabs and icons: writing on the Windows blog, Insider boss Gabe Aul described this as “a new visual design which will be common across PCs, tablets, phones and the web”, and it’s definitely a step forward from the garish, unstructured Windows 8 look.

Windows 10’s new Snap Assist system is a rethinking of Aero Snap, first introduced in Windows 7, and it continues to develop as the OS matures. As well as being able to snap application windows to the left and right halves of the screen, you can now snap apps to the corners. Once you’ve docked one application, other open applications appear in thumbnail form, ready to fill the remaining space. A recent improvement here adds the ability to close applications directly from the thumbnail view.

With its new multiple desktop mode, Windows 10 is joining OS X and numerous Linux distributions, which have been able to boast this feature for some time. Recent improvements have seen the ability to drag applications from one desktop to another, which transforms the feature’s usability, but we’d like to see further improvements before launch, support for touchpad multitouch gestures would be nice, before giving it the full thumbs up.

Not all the changes are a success. The new folder icons in Explorer are ugly, and while it’s clever that recently accessed folders now add themselves automatically to the quick-access list in the Navigation pane, the big, grey icons that indicate pinned items here are hardly elegant.

One more major upgrade to the front-end comes in the shape of the Notifications panel. In early builds, this was a rather bare-looking box detailing recent pop-ups, but it has grown since into a proper sidebar, complete with transparency to match the Start menu. Entries are neatly shown in either grey or black to indicate which ones you can interact with.

At the bottom, you’ll find quick-access buttons for jumping directly to various settings, switching into tablet mode or quickly connecting to Bluetooth audio devices and Miracast displays, plus a selection of toggles for Wi-Fi, GPS, flight mode and so on.

Compared to the multiple sidebars of Windows 8, it’s a far more coherent and practical interface design.

Although there’s a renewed emphasis on improving things for desktop users, Windows is still a dual-purpose operating system that Microsoft wants you to use on tablets as well as desktops and laptops.

For users of such touchscreen devices, a new toggle button expands the tile-based interface into full-screen mode. This view replaces the old Start screen, so rather than switching between two different launchers, you can now focus on only one, which scales up and down to suit either desktop or tablet use. It’s an eminently sensible way to accommodate different usages: the only question is why Windows 8 didn’t do this in the first place.

The other big change for tablet users is the removal of the Charms bar. Frankly, we won’t miss it: it was always an awkward concept, and when we have Cortana for searches, and quick access to settings via the notifications sidebar, the swipe-in interface is no longer needed. Similarly, Modern apps, as Windows 10 still calls them, offer a streamlined set of controls in windowed mode, with an easily proddable button on hand to switch to full-screen view at any time.

Unfortunately, the accommodation for search in tablet mode appears to have gone backwards. The onscreen keyboard squeezes the narrow search box into such a cramped space in the top-left corner that it both restricts the number of visible results and makes them fiddly to select. Once more, we hope this is something Microsoft plans to work on.

Browsing on the Edge

The Edge browser, still confusingly labelled Project Spartan in the latest build, is another key new feature. It’s still incomplete, but there’s enough in it to draw some conclusions about the browser and what it’s going to be like using it.

Aside from a new rendering engine, Edge includes several big new features: Reading View, which lets you see a simplified and easier-to-read version of web pages; Cortana, which adds a layer of intelligent assistance to your browsing; Web Note, which lets you add comments to a web page; and support for browser extensions, here dubbed Apps.

Reading View is similar to the same feature on Safari on the Mac and iOS. It strips away all of the ads, styling and most of the graphics on any web page, delivering a simple and easy-to-read look that definitely improves the reading experience.

Although this feature was in the most recent version of Internet Explorer, Edge takes it further by making simplified web pages that you’ve saved to your Reading List available offline. We’re not convinced by the current process, there are a few too many clicks involved, but it works.

Cortana, too, is pretty limited here. Ultimately, it should deliver information from and into your calendars, flight information, and a lot more besides. In this release, though, it’s essentially just acting as a search engine: highlight a word or phrase, right-click on it, and it will deliver information from Bing about that word into a panel on the right. It’s great as far as it goes, but nothing too groundbreaking.

Finally there’s Web Notes. Tap the Web Note icon in the corner and you can annotate web pages with a variety of tools, including text, drawing and highlighting. Once you’ve added your comments, you can save or share the results.

These user-focused features are all looking good, but what will probably win people over in the long run is Edge’s speed, efficiency and ability to work well with demanding modern web pages. Obviously, this is an early release and you expect bugs; taking this into account, Edge looks pretty good. It has the subjective feel of one of the early versions of Chrome, where simplicity and speed were Google’s watchwords.

Windows 10 review: smartphones and Xbox

Windows 10 isn’t just about PCs and tablets. It’s coming for smartphones, too, () with an updated front-end to match the look and feel of the desktop OS, and support for the new Universal app framework, which allows Modern apps to run on both phone and desktop devices.

Interestingly, Windows 10 also integrates with the Xbox One console: a bundled app lets you access your Xbox friends list, activity list, achievements and so forth, and in the final release it will also be possible to stream games from the console to any Windows 10 device.

The Xbox console itself, meanwhile, will be able to run Universal apps – part of a clever joined-up strategy to attract developers to the Windows Store by growing the potential market.

Windows 10 review: Cortana

The latest build of Windows 10 includes the desktop debut of Microsoft’s “personal digital assistant”, Cortana. Officially the feature is, for now, US-only, but you can enable it in the UK by changing your system, region, language and keyboard settings.

You can access Cortana by typing queries into the taskbar search field, but the real focus is on voice commands, which you can issue by clicking the microphone icon, or, in the optional always-listening mode, by using the key phrase “Hey, Cortana”.

You can carry out web searches, ask about a variety of topics – from the weather forecast to facts such as “What’s the longest bridge in the world?”, set reminders, take notes, carry out music-match searches, look for documents on your PC, launch apps and create appointments.

The speech recognition is improving. When we first tried Cortana on Windows 10, we had problems getting Cortana to recognize the key phrase “Hey, Cortana”, and the system was terrible at picking up on proper names. In the latest release, that’s ceased to be a problem. Cortana’s look is neater, too, and you can now train Cortana to improve voice recognition.

Overall, we can see Cortana’s potential as a rival to Google Now and Siri, but if it’s to become a really useful and usable part of Windows 10, there’s still work to be done, particularly in the accuracy of its voice recognition.

Windows 10 review: first impressions

This latest build of Windows 10 sees the new OS start to develop its own personality, and it’s taking shape very nicely indeed. Not everything is perfectly polished but, with its updated visuals, revamped Start menu, new notification center and more, Windows 10 no longer feels like a mere iteration of Windows 8. Nor are these updates merely an exercise in distancing the new OS from the old: it feels like there’s a real guiding vision at work. Bit by bit, desktop and touch modes are being brought into confluence.

All of which is just as well, since this latest build of Windows 10 carries particular significance: it’s the first to emerge since Microsoft announced that upgrades made within the first year will be free for users of Windows 7 and 8 (excluding Enterprise versions). This means that many previously ambivalent customers will be eyeing up Windows 10, asking themselves whether they trust Microsoft to get it right this time. Happily, from what’s on display here, it looks as though the new OS is on track to win back those hearts and minds.

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It looks like the goal is to transition into a subscription based OS. –MrT.

‘Free’ Windows 10 Has High Cost To Windows 7 And Windows 8 Users