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?)
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! ↩