• Posted on July 29, 2015

Windows 10 Release First Thoughts

Today I was able to get Windows 10 right when it hit July 29th, the first day of Windows 10’s release. I was the “lucky” few who got it first, mostly because I found a way to force it to download without waiting for Microsoft. To force Winndows 10 to download, navigate to microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10 and download and run the tool. After a large download over WiFi and a kinda long install I got Windows 10 working in about an hour or two.

The first thing I did after installing Windows 10 from Windows 8.1, was to remove all of the tiles from the Start Menu so I would have a familiar start menu that is comparable to Windows 7. It’s not exactly the same as the one from Windows 7, which has some advantages and a few disadvantages. The main disadvantage I found with the Windows 10 Start Menu is that you are unable to pin programs to the Start Menu as you could in Windows 7. You can pin programs and apps as Tiles, but you can’t have them appear in the normal list style similar to the apps that appear under “Most Used” and “All apps”.

With that small issue I have against the new Start Menu, the rest of the features of it I really like. You can adjust the size of the start menu to be as tall or short as you want. Do you want to see all of your apps from top to bottom without scrolling? You can do that. The Start Menu can cover about 90% of the screen height, and has a minimum height of around 35% (these are rough estimates). You can also adjust the width of the Start Menu if you decide to use the Tiles that appear on the Start Menu.

Another neat feature of the Start Menu is you can easily add locations to the Start Menu, such as “Documents”, “Personal Folder”, “Music” and all of the other general folders. A few other small features include showing the most used apps, showing recently added apps, switch the Start Menu to be full screen (should probably only be used for tablets and smaller screen devices).

The final thing to mention about the Start Menu is the search features, including Cortana. Cortana is a “personal assistant”, mostly compared to Siri. She will perform searches, launch applications and more. I didn’t test out Cortana that much, I actually disabled that feature almost right away (but for some reason it continues to run) so I can’t get into detail about how it functions and all of the features. The search inside the Start Menu works like the Windows 8 search, with results including Software, Files, Web Searches and Apps that you might want to install. You can disable the Web Search feature if you so desire.

Windows User Interface

Windows 10 made a few changes to the appearance of Windows and a few of the changes make using the operating system more difficult. The first problem I have with the new windows is that the title bars are white. The title bar is the area at the top of each program that contains the program’s name along with the Close / Minimize buttons. It’s very difficult to distinguish where the title bar ends and the program window begins, leaving a lot of room for user error when trying to move windows around. Another issue I have with the design changes to the title bar is how large they made the title bar buttons. The buttons are huge in main windows, but in secondary / pop up windows they are regular size. The buttons are not really a problem since it’s appearance only, and doesn’t affect user interaction.

Since windows no longer changes the color of the title bar, they instead change the color of a thin border around the active window. This thin border is almost pointless because it’s so thin, it ends up blending into other programs and the background image of the desktop. I’ve tried many different colors and they all are very difficult to notice when multiple windows are being used.

The final thing I’m going to mention about the user interface is the Task Bar. The task bar is the panel at the bottom of the screen that shows the start button along with programs that are running. By default the task bar has a large search bar, which I bet a lot of users are going to hide straight away. If you are going to start searching, you already have your hands on the keyboard and can easily open up the start menu with the Windows button which will launch the search anyway. The task bar looks a lot cleaner than previous versions of windows. It has a very nice flat design that makes quick glances to the task bar possible. Programs that are running have a border under them so they are not confused with pinned programs that are not running. Along with the border, the active program’s icon has a lighter colored background. All of the icons that are not programs but for Windows services are thin white icons so they won’t be confused with programs, such as the search icon and the new Task View icon.

The task bar also has the “Notification Area” which appears on the right of the task bar and includes programs running in the background, the clock, network status and all of that good stuff. They updated these icons to match the Search and Task View icons. Also all the icons have a nice contrast with the task bar making them really easy to see. In the area for hidden notifications (system tray), there is no longer a “customize” link to hide certain programs and alerts, you have to dig through settings to find the option to hide / always show certain programs that minimize to the system tray.

New Notification Area

Windows 10 added a notification area, which is a sidebar that covers the right side of your screen when activated. It will show various alerts and toast notifications such as those for new e-mails, updates, alarms and whatever else apps and programs want to send to the user. From this menu you can also switch your computer to Tablet mode, open all settings, change VPN settings, create notes and more. Right now I don’t notice a lot of desktop software making use of this notification area, even though in Windows 8.1 there were Toast Notifications and the Windows 8 and Windows 10 API seems to be the same. Developers mostly seemed to avoid it for one reason or another and opted to use their own custom notifications that would appear in the system tray. I know that Microsoft Outlook used toast notifications in windows 8, but nearly every other e-mail client I have tried didn’t.

I really hope developers start using the notification API that Microsoft made. It has a few nice features such as “Quiet hours” which mutes notifications for when you are sleeping, busy working on a task that requires your full attention, or just watching a movie and don’t want to be bothered. Now that there is an actual panel for the notifications, I truly believe more developers will start making use of it. And if Microsoft wants even more software to make use of it, they should provide a C library for it other than C# and C++ to make it easier.

New Task View

It seems that with every new version of Windows, Microsoft creates a new way to see what programs are opened. In this iteration of Windows, they created the “Task View” which by far is the best way to view all programs that are running. The Task View (accessed by pressing WIN + Tab) shows the windows opened and allows you to move windows between Virtual Desktops. Virtual Desktops you say? Yup. Windows 10 finally jumped back into “thinking inside the box” and created virtual desktops which every other OS already has had for many years. A virtual desktop is like a second monitor. it allows you to split up what programs are visible on each desktop. For example you can have a “Work” desktop and a “Break” desktop. When it’s time to work just switch to the other desktop and all of your opened programs are in the same spot as before. You can have at least 30 virtual desktops, probably much more but I stopped testing after 30 because you have to manually close them.

Virtual Desktops are not to be confused with having multiple user accounts. Each virtual desktop will share the same files, same installed programs and settings. All virtual desktops do is expand your desktop to many different windows, essentially like having many monitors.

Updates to Command Prompt

This section probably won’t interest most, but the changes listed below are some of my favorite. Command Prompt, mostly referred to as “cmd” has finally been updated. Now, it’s still not perfect but it’s starting to get closer. CMD can now be resized normally by dragging the edges of the window instead of having to fiddle with odd column and row settings. This makes it a million times easier to work on anything that requires a console.

The other change is you can now select text normally and not in squares. If you are unfamiliar with CMD this doesn’t sound like anything special, but for anyone who uses CMD on a regular basis will now have a breath of fresh air. You can also copy and paste without having to open up a context menu.

The last two features I want to see for CMD is a tabbed view and color support for processes. But as of right now, the two changes made will have me set for a few versions of Windows, and I can always use ConEmu if I need tabbed CMD windows.

Final Thoughts

Windows 10 is still really new and a lot of changes are probably going to be made once more and more users finally make the switch over. It will take time for users to get fully accustomed to all the changes, but so far it looks promising. There are a few bugs and hiccups here and there, but nothing that should really turn users away from making the upgrade when it’s available to them.

As listed above I have some issues with Windows 10 but I will continue to use it. I also really dislike how all the settings and options are difficult to find, but it may just be that I’m used to how Windows 8 and Windows 7 had their settings. Also a few of the features are crazy like “Wi-Fi Sense” which lets you share your WiFi access to anyone in your contacts and Facebook friends list. It’s a neat idea but people always end up randomly on friends lists and contact lists. Instead of having it open to all friends, it should just be a feature where you can send friends access to your WiFi when the time comes.

Hopefully everyone who wants to test Windows 10 gets the upgrade soon, sadly Microsoft is rolling it out slowly to prevent servers from becoming overloaded so there is no set date for when you will get it.