Windows 10 Technical Preview: A first look at a Metro-free Windows

Yesterday, Microsoft somewhat unexpectedly made available1 a preview of the next version of Windows – official Windows 10 and codenamed Windows “Threshold” – on its website for immediate download to the general public.

Today, we take a quick look at some of changes and new features that have made their way into Windows 10. As various “leaks” from within Microsoft had made clear, the biggest changes are going to be in the areas of UX and UI, as Windows is toned-down to become less alien for its long-term userbase that has clung on to Windows 7 for dear life, looking in utmost horror at the completely foreign landscape that is the Windows 8 metro desktop. Microsoft had previously made some steps to assuage these fears and boost adoption of Windows 8 with Windows 8.1, going so far as to make it possible to (finally!) disable the metro desktop on startup but refusing to bring back the start menu. Well, don’t let it be said that people can’t make a stand by boycotting with their wallet – the lackluster adoption of Windows 8 and then Windows 8.1 has thoroughly convinced Microsoft (and its new head, Satya Nadella) to release a somewhat more-sane Windows.

Without any further ado, we’ll start with a gallery of screenshots taken from the new Tech Preview:

There are a lot of mixed signals here, and some behavior we can only hope is left over from Windows 8 and will see its way out at some point during the remainder of the beta stage. It’s a little hard to summarize in text, so here are some bullet point ideas/notes about the new build:

  • It boots to the desktop. The desktop! And it has a start menu! Yes!
  • The start menu (see above) is a little too crowded, no? It seems very messy, and the items Microsoft has chosen to include in the start menu by default are an.. interesting choice.
  • The ribbon UI is still clunky and crowded when used in places it doesn’t belong (yes, I’m looking at you, explorer.exe).
  • The option to revert to the “start screen” instead of the start menu is still there, though thankfully disabled by default.
  • Enabling the start screen (and disabling the start menu) triggers a logout/login still logging you in to the desktop but then showing the start screen when the winkey is pressed (or the start menu is triggered).
  • Windows 10 reports itself as Windows 6.4… for now?
  • The “Seattle start screen” is kind of (a lot?) depressing, what with the gloomy orange-y sun and all. Quite different from the vibrant one.
  • Applications that used to make us shudder in horror as they yanked one from the desktop to the Metro la-la land/house of horrors still behave a little weird. For example, Calculator launches full-screen by default (still in the desktop, though!) and takes up (unnecessarily!) the entire screen. Double-clicking on it to bring it back to a sane size shrinks the actual calculator, but the app window itself remains far too big.
  • Speaking of app window sizes, “metro-esque” apps don’t have a proper resize window handler, you need to hover to the precise pixel to get the drag handle for resize to show.
  • The traditional calc.exe is still available and looks just like it did in Windows 7 – so two apps, both in desktop mode, but different skins. The “metro” one is the one you see first in the start menu, however. Confusing, no?
  • Speaking of “metro” – what do we call these things? Why do they exist? They’re apps that still have the metro look and feel, but they live in the desktop now, “co-existing” somewhat-peacefully with everything else; but meaning there’s a lot of duplication going on here. Shouldn’t they be disabled for desktop mode?
  • EasyBCD runs just fine on Windows Technical Preview, and the new 2.3 beta plays nicely with the Windows 10 boot loader (yes, it still uses the metro bootloader UI for now. No word on if/when that will change).

These are just some first thoughts on Windows 10, expect more as we spend more time with it and see how it feels for daily use. It’s honestly not too bad, but certainly needs some TLC from the guys at the “making things look sane and pretty and not overwhelming” department. It’s certainly nowhere near as foreign as Windows 8, feels pretty snappy, and actually resembles what one would expect from a successor to Windows 7. If it just gives us all the under-the-hood improvements Windows 8 brought without the hideous UI and the horrid UX nightmare, we’ll be happy.

Stay in tune for under-the-hood updates. We’re anxious to delve deeper into the new command prompt, changes to ReFS and Storage Spaces, new WIN32 APIs in Windows 10, and more.

Psst: can you keep a secret? We’ll be posting about the new icons in Windows 10 soon. We’ll tell you in advance: they’re pretty! (but alas, inconsistent, but what’s new in the land of Windows where consistency is considered a baking term only?)

  1. The release yesterday of the Windows “Threshold” Technical Preview itself was not unexpected, but the sudden springing of the entire Windows 10 affair on the tech community this week most certainly was! 

10 thoughts on “Windows 10 Technical Preview: A first look at a Metro-free Windows

  1. honestly windows 8 marked the end of my use of windows. i use the alternative now but it sure aint mac either thats expensive too.

  2. honestly, i’m still using windows 7. And don’t know how long they going to support 7. so, i’m trapped. Don’t wanna use windows 8/10. Thinking about mac, but its too expensive. I’m a linux user(7 years of exp) but lack of applications. i don’t wanna learn gimp, i just want photoshop. so what to do.

  3. “Windows 10 reports itself as Windows 6.4… for now?”

    Really? For a technical site, I’m surprised this is even a question. Run winver.exe in any previous version of Windows since Vista and you’ll see the following:

    Windows 6.0 = Vista
    Windows 6.1 = Windows 7
    Windows 6.2 = Windows 8
    Windows 6.3 = Windows 8.1
    Windows 6.4 = Windows 10

    The main reason is that they all share the same architectural underpinnings – kernel, driver framework, etc.

    This is old news.

  4. @Jason: You’re right, of course. 6.4 seems like the logical choice, and it’s probably not going to change.

    If anything, the bump from 6.2 to 6.3 for Windows 8.1 was the unexpected one.

  5. I can’t believe how people get so upset over the Start Screen/Menu. It’s *just an app launcher*. And it’s certainly not like the old Start Menu was the gold standard of application launching. Are people really that inflexible and unable to adapt? It’s just a button you click (or tap)… it’s not like we’re suddenly switching to an RPN calculator or something.

    The over-the-top protests are just a bit much. I understand some of the complaints, but the reactive vomiting over the word “metro” and comments like “looking in utmost horror at the completely foreign landscape that is the Windows 8 metro desktop” are not simply wrong (“completely foreign” is beyond a stretch; “Windows 8 metro desktop” conflates terms incorrectly; etc.), they just start to sound silly.

  6. Frankly, I find the issue of the format of the Start menu kind of amusing. Since W7, I’ve found that the addition of Libraries, pinned apps and jump lists in the toolbar have basically eliminated 99% of my use of the Start menu. My primary use of the Start menu is the “Search” capability. Other than that, not much use at all.

    Keep in mind that the configuration of the Start menu is very customizable. You can edit/resize/delete the “modern” tiles.

  7. I have been a Windows lover since Windows 98′. I am appalled at the mess Microsoft has made of our desktop! The IPad is a toy period. I have been using one since the metro mess. For a Windows power user, I must say, there is no getting inside the iPad! Apple controls their little world. I refuse to turn my desktop computer into a toy also. Have you ever tried to create wallpaper, web graphics, game graphics etc. on an iPad? How about playing your purchased Big Fish games? It is not happening! Try playing a hidden object game on the IPad. All those tiny little objects are nothing but blobs. Now Windows wants us to dump the desktop and go mobile no thank-you! All of the apps on the store are pay by coin, check them out you will love the selection! You don’t pay for the app you pay to play. Or you get to wait for hours or mabe another day to play some more. Rediclous! Also, thousands of them are repeats of the same app with different graphics. So I will gladly keep saying no to apps on the desktop forever!

  8. @Jason: Was just reviewing some code for Windows 10 and had a head-smack moment when I remembered they did, after all, end up changing the OS version from 6.4 to 10.0 and that’s why my code wasn’t working. ;-)

  9. For what it’s worth I triple boot Macintosh (Hackintosh) Yosemite, Any Version of Windows and Linux Ubuntu 14.04 on two computers, desktop and laptop and get the best of three worlds. :-)

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