Windows 10 Initial Impressions

Windows 10 was released on July 29 of this year, so it’s been out for about a month and a half now.  It’s taken that long but I now have used it on a full desktop PC, a touchscreen laptop, and a tablet (HP Stream 7).  There’s a lot to like, but it’s not without its rough edges.  Here are my thoughts on it about 45 days in.

Overall, I’d say Windows 10 is pretty great.  It has a beautiful aesthetic which is modern and clean.  It makes using the OS with a mouse and keyboard completely natural again without any compromise.  While Windows 8.1 improved this aspect greatly over 8.0, Windows 10 is clearly designed to be used by either mouse/keyboard or touch depending on what form factor you have.

This brings me to the main new features:

  • Continuum: This feature adapts elements of the OS to work better depending what device and how you’re using it. If it’s a tablet, it will be detected and the Start Menu will be full screen, reminiscent of Windows 8.  If you’re using a desktop, the Start Menu will be in the bottom left corner (by default) which is what everyone is used to.  Other elements change as well, including taskbar icons being wider apart, hidden when in tablet use; and context menus are spaced out more to accommodate touch selection
  • Microsoft Edge: The new modern browser that finally replaces Internet Explorer. More on this below
  • Cortana: the built-in digital assistant. Much like Siri, Google Now, or Cortana on Windows Phone, you can use Cortana to get directions, launch apps, make reminders, and check on your favorite sports teams or stocks, and more.
  • Task View: Very similar to Mission Control on OSX, this is a new way of multitasking. Another option for Alt-Tab, this shows larger previews of running apps.  It does work well on multiple monitor
  • Snap Assist: When snapping an app to the left side, right side, or any corner, you’ll now be prompted with a smaller Task View prompt to snap another app in the other part of the screen that currently has nothing. The assumption here is that you want to snap to have multiple apps on the screen at one time in a quick and easy way.
  • Xbox app and game recording: Windows 10 includes an Xbox app that aggregates all things gaming, like messages, friends’ activity, achievements and more, even if you don’t have an Xbox One.
  • New suite of built-in apps: Including updated Maps, Photos, Mail, Music, Movies & TV and a few more
  • Windows Hello: Biometric sign-in via finger scanner, iris scanner, or actual 3D facial recognition. Dependent on hardware.

There are a lot of reviews and articles going deep into Windows 10 but I will say this regarding an upgrade.  If you are using a desktop or non-touch laptop with Windows 8.1, Windows 10 is a no-brainer and you should upgrade as soon as you’re able.  If you are currently on Windows 7 and are happy with it, there is no rush.  Windows 10 will remain a free upgrade for a full year from launch, which was July 29 2015.  So you’ve got some time.  The reason I say this is that with all the cool things Windows 10 has, it’s not without its issues.  Let’s discuss some of them briefly.

  • Bugs and minor annoyances: You can really tell that Microsoft has fully transitioned to treating Windows as a service. It’s been available for about a month and a half and there have been at least three cumulative updates released, maybe four.  Honestly I’ve lost count.  While the bugs are being fixed, there are still some I come across often.  Nothing huge, but annoying.  I’ve come across some live tiles not changing color when the accent color changes, some tiles randomly deleting themselves, the Start menu crashing, and more.  On a tablet, when you go into Task View to switch apps, you can’t swipe down apps to close like you could in Windows 8 and on Windows Phone.  Tapping the little “X” to close something can be irritating when it takes you 3 or 4 tries.
  • A lack of polish: Depending on where you right-click, the context menu can look completely different. Right-clicking the desktop, an icon on the taskbar, the start menu, Microsoft Edge, and the address bar in Edge all give different looking context menus.  This is something already noted and is being addressed.
  • Microsoft Edge: It’s much quicker than Internet Explorer, but it’s not ready for primetime yet. There is an issue where sometimes you can’t scroll or really do anything until the page you’re loading finishes.  There are hitches sometimes where the page will load and then reload.  There is no extension support yet.  There is no easy way of organizing favorites.  If you were used to this because IE never had one either, the Users\Favorites doesn’t work since that’s still only tied to IE.  You’ll have to search online for the file path to Edge favorites.  Basically, use Chrome or Firefox at least until Microsoft releases the first big feature update Threshold 2, tentatively scheduled for November 2015.
  • Modern apps: They’re much better than the ones in Windows 8, especially for mouse & keyboard users. Unfortunately they are a little toucher to use with touch now since the buttons are designed more for mouse use.  And while improved, they are still not on par with actual Win32 apps yet.  Sure they are much lighter on your system and they are sandboxed for security, so on tablets they’re fine.

Windows 8 was heavily criticized but most seemed to like it when it came to touch and tablet usage.  I can’t help but feel that in better accommodating mouse and keyboard users that the touch experience is not as good in Windows 10 as it was in 8.  For mouse & keyboard users, Windows 10 is absolutely an upgrade and should be taken advantage of as soon as possible.

If you’re buying a new PC, you’re getting Windows 10 and that’s excellent.  It works well and provides a ton of new features and a fresh and modern look.  If you’re upgrading, take the time to decide if you really need to upgrade now.  To Microsoft’s credit, they have been updating and adding to Windows 10 at a very quick pace so far, so by the time you have to upgrade to take advantage of the free offer next summer, Windows 10 could potentially be very different and much better than it is today.