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A first look at the Windows 10 Technical Preview

The next version of Windows is here! Well, kind of.

Earlier this month, Microsoft released a public preview build of its new operating system. The Windows 10 Technical Preview is available to anyone who wants it, and it offers a glimpse at the direction the Windows team is taking. The name of the game, it seems, is a revival of the desktop interface Windows 7 users know and love—and a scaling back of the Modern UI interface that was introduced with Windows 8.

In keeping with that aim, Microsoft has focused squarely on desktop improvements for this first preview build. While the final release of Windows 10 will support touch-enabled laptops and tablets, Microsoft says the touch functionality is “rough and unfinished” in the current build. The company is, instead, encouraging users to kick the tires on the new desktop goodness.

I’ve been using the Windows 10 Technical Preview on my own desktop PC for the past little while. Along the way, I’ve been jotting down my thoughts and impressions. I’m pretty pleased with what Microsoft has done, for the most part. There are more than a few rough edges still, but I get the sense the company has made a genuine effort to improve the experience for power users. And that’s a big deal.

Over the next few pages, I’m going to take you through the main changes the Windows 10 Technical Preview introduces over Windows 8.1, and I’m going to share my thoughts about each one. Let’s begin.

Cosmetic tweaks
Fire up the Windows 10 Technical Preview, and the first thing you’ll notice is probably the updated user interface. The cosmetic changes are subtle, but they’re hard to miss:

Windows now have much thinner frames that sit almost flush with the title bar buttons. One would expect this change to make resizing windows more difficult, but I didn’t really find that to be the case. The gripping area, where the mouse pointer turns into resizing arrows, is the same thickness as before; it’s just an invisible twilight zone around the window instead of a visible frame. Things can get a little weird when resizing from a corner, since you’re supposed to grab the empty space just outside the corner, but it makes sense once you get used to it. Mostly.

Drop shadows are also back in full force. The first time Windows, uh, windows started casting shadows was in Vista, and the feature lived on in Windows 7… before being largely eliminated in Windows 8 and 8.1. In Windows 10, the shadows are lighter than they used to be, but they’re also considerably larger, especially for foreground windows.

This change actually mirrors one Apple made a few years back. In 2011, OS X Lion similarly increased the drop-shadow size for foreground windows. The change was a little jarring at first, but it did help establish a clearer sense of depth on busy desktops. The practically shadow-less look of Windows 8 and 8.1, by contrast, feels flatter and often messier.

Microsoft has replaced some of the Vista-era icons with flatter, Modern UI-styled versions, as well. You can see some of them above. Another little cosmetic change is that, when opened, windows slide down into place instead of appearing to zoom in from the back of the screen. This is a fraction-of-a-second animation we’re talking about here, but it does contribute to Windows 10’s new vibe.

Of course, it’s still early days, and I fully expect Windows 10 to undergo further UI changes as the mid-2015 release time frame nears. I wouldn’t be surprised if, for instance, Microsoft wound up replacing more of the old icons—or if the jumbo drop shadows got dialed back a notch. Microsoft is making a point to solicit feedback from Technical Preview testers, and I’m sure some of those testers are absolutely horrified at the size of those things.

The new Start menu
Beside the UI tweaks, the most obvious addition to Windows 10 is the new Start menu, which replaces the Start screen by default on desktop PCs.

Microsoft first demoed the revived Start menu at its Build conference in April. At the time, the company promised to release it as an update for “all Windows 8.1 users” at “some point in the future.” Clearly, there’s been a change of plan. An upgrade for Windows 10, it seems, will be required for this feature.

The Windows 10 Technical Preview’s Start menu is pretty much exactly what we saw in April: a hierarchical app list with a search function on the left, mirroring the old-school design, plus a pane filled with live tiles on the right. The live-tile area can be resized and rearranged to the user’s liking. The menu can be made taller and wider, too, and live tiles can be added or removed, so there’s a fair amount of flexibility built in. It’s even possible to pin non-Modern UI applications alongside the tiles.

Unfortunately, some of the functions of the old Start menu haven’t been replaced. There’s no Control Panel shortcut, for instance. Since Windows 10 disables the Charms bar on non-touch-enabled PCs, the only way to open the Control Panel right now seems to be via a text search or by right-clicking the Start button. Not the most convenient.

Overall, though, Windows 10’s Start menu looks and feels much better than the Start screen. It’s particularly nice when I have to browse the programs list. The Start screen’s “All apps” section is pretty awful, since it takes up the entire screen and dumps app shortcuts in a completely flat list alongside help files and uninstallation shortcuts. Windows 10’s Start menu uses the same hierarchical list design as Vista and Windows 7, and it’s much, much easier to navigate.

Even searching for apps feels like an improvement. I often open programs by hitting the Start key, typing the first few letters of the program’s name, and hitting enter. Windows 8.1 lets me do the same thing just as quickly, but it brings up a full-screen search that briefly hides everything else happening on the screen. The Start menu lets me search for and open new apps without taking my eyes off chat windows, YouTube clips, and the like.

 

Making Modern UI apps usable
When was the last time you opened a Modern UI app? If you’re on a desktop PC, it’s probably been a while—and, if you’re like me, it may have been entirely by accident.

Modern UI apps aren’t always as polished as their iOS and Android counterparts, but that’s not why they’re so unappealing for desktop use. The fact that they take up the entire screen makes them unwieldy on large displays, and it also makes them difficult to integrate in a desktop multitasking workflow. Yes, Windows 8.1 lets you split the screen down the middle and stick a Modern UI app on one side, but the mechanism is awkward, to say the least.

Windows 10 eliminates this problem by making Modern UI apps behave much like their desktop counterparts. They open inside individual windows by default. They can run in full-screen mode, but only when asked (via the new Charms menu on the title bar). They can be resized (though there is a minimum height restriction). And, most importantly, they can be used alongside one another without requiring a song-and-dance routine full of awkward swipes.

In short, Windows 10 makes Modern UI apps usable without being detrimental to the desktop experience. That’s huge. That means some of us dyed-in-the-wool desktop users may actually get around to using Modern UI software on a day-to-day basis, either to replace certain websites or just to enhance our desktop experience.

Maybe this change will encourage developers to make more and better Modern UI software, too. I certainly hope it does. The current selection in the Windows Store is missing some big names, like official Gmail and YouTube clients, and it’s full of obscure offerings with unencouraging user ratings. Even high-profile, highly rated apps tend to be pretty barebones and bland-looking. But heck, what else do you expect when Modern UI apps are prohibitively awkward on anything other than a tablet?

Task view
Some of you may remember Microsoft’s PowerToys for Windows XP. That was the closest we ever got to seeing first-party virtual desktops implemented in Windows—until now.

In its current form, Windows 10’s Task view works an awful lot like OS X’s Mission Control. Click the icon in the taskbar, and you’re presented with an at-a-glance overview of all currently open apps and windows. An “Add a desktop” button at the bottom allows you to create another workspace, which can be filled with its own, separate collection of windows. Task view lets you switch between the two workspaces and add more if you so wish.

Now, let’s say you have two virtual desktops: A and B. From desktop B, none of the apps open on desktop A are visible. However, the taskbar icons for those apps have little translucent strips under them. Click any one of those icons, and you’ll be tossed back to desktop A. Only apps that can support multiple instances can be open on multiple desktops.

All of this works pretty seamlessly in practice. That’s not to say a little more polish and extra functionality wouldn’t hurt, though.

One feature Microsoft hasn’t yet borrowed from Mission Control is the ability to drag apps from one desktop to another. Right now, the only way to do that is to right-click the app inside Task view and navigating a context menu. Some keyboard shortcuts and touchpad swipes would be nice, as well. OS X lets users hop between desktops with four-finger swipes and customizable keyboard shortcuts.

The swipes in particular make multitasking very convenient on laptops. A lot of us have multiple monitors hooked up to our desktop systems, and going from dual 24″ panels to a single 1366×768 notebook screen can be pretty claustrophobic. The ability to swipe seamlessly between virtual workspaces alleviates the claustrophobia to a large extent. Task view is already most of the way there, but it wouldn’t take much to go all the way.

The updated command prompt
Okay, so maybe this isn’t worth a whole section. Still, Windows 10 represents Microsoft’s first effort to update the old-school command prompt in a meaningful way in, well, a long time.

The new command prompt supports pasting text via Ctrl-V rather than by right clicking, which is the only way to do it at present. That’s probably the most helpful change, but it’s not the only one. The new command prompt also features a new “Experimental” tab in its Properties pane. Some of the experimental options allow command prompt windows to be made translucent and to be resized horizontally, all with wrapping text. Similar features have been available in terminal prompts for Linux and OS X forever, so it’s good to see them in Windows, finally.

That said, there is one small catch right now: in the current build of the Windows 10 Technical Preview, only the administrator command prompt supports the experimental settings. The non-admin one, which is the default, refuses to apply them. Oh well.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, those experimental settings apply to the PowerShell console. Developers and scripting gurus won’t be left out. I’m surprised Microsoft isn’t taking steps to retire the command prompt in favor of PowerShell altogether, but I suppose stripping away legacy features has never been the company’s forte.

 

Miscellaneous stuff
Before we wrap up, let’s look at a couple of more minor additions in the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

File Explorer windows no longer bring up “This PC” by default. Instead, they present the user with a “Home” section that lists favorite locations, frequent folders, and recent files. The left pane has also been updated to display all currently active storage devices, including hard drives and optical drives. Don’t worry, though—optical drives aren’t listed unless they’ve actually got discs in them.

Then there’s the search button on the taskbar. I’m not sure why it’s even there, since it basically duplicates the functionality of the Start menu’s search field. Both search functions let users look for local apps and files, and they support online searches via Bing. Also, weirdly, both methods bring up Bing search results in a Modern UI app… which then opens up whatever you click on inside a browser window.

Yeah, I’m sure that will get ironed out in future releases.

I wouldn’t mind the search button being taken out altogether, though. The currently implementation feels redundant and, frankly, a little pointless. It doesn’t look like there’s a user setting to excise it from the taskbar, either—although at least that seems likely to change, based on the user feedback Microsoft has gotten.

Conclusions
So, that’s the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

In many ways, this new operating system seems more like a return to the drawing board than an incremental upgrade over Windows 8.1. Perhaps that explains the choice of version number better than other theories.

Windows 10, in its current form, feels to me like what Windows 8 should have been, had Microsoft not been overzealous in its attempt to shoehorn a tablet interface into a desktop operating system. The full-screen tablet UI is still there for those who want it. Heck, there’s even a setting to bring back the Start screen in the current Technical Preview build. But the Modern UI interface isn’t being forced on anyone, and the best parts of it can be enjoyed within the confines of the familiar desktop.

I’m curious to see how the operating system shapes up over the coming weeks and months. As long as the pendulum doesn’t swing too far the other way, and Microsoft doesn’t ruin things for tablets and touch-enabled PCs, this could be the best Windows release since Windows 7.

0 responses to “A first look at the Windows 10 Technical Preview

  1. The problem being that Windows *was* the OS to use (outside various unic/xes) when you wanted to do things your way. That included a variety of UI changes.

    The problem is in Redmond’s current attitude. So while it may be non-trivial it is still a business decision designed to drive people to the Windows Store.

  2. Maybe someone else can shed some light on why we’d want to use Modern UI apps. So far, my experience of them has been terrible.

    Case in point: A default Windows 8+ machine has a PDF and image viewer built in as a Modern UI app. Try to use these your frustration will quickly rise. 1) Options are so limited, you can barely do anything but read whatever is opened the way it appears–what good are programs without functionality and a few bare options? and 2) trying to close, minimize, or functionally use these programs in a similar fashion you’ve been programmed to do for the last 30 years is a futile attempt. There’s no thought to user experience, inherent knowledge, or fluidiness. IE is almost as bad.

  3. You can add the Control Panel to the start menu by right-clicking the task bar and going into Properties; then go into the Start Menu tab, and select Customize. There is an option to add a whole long list of items to the Start Menu, and one of them is Control Panel.

    It’s certainly a roundabout way to get there, but the option exists.

  4. My Computer or This Computer, as I have setup on the office PC image and my own machines.

    The best things about “This Computer” are that
    a) It’s the top of the tree, so the best starting point.
    b) You can’t actually save to “This Computer”, you have to choose somewhere sensible, thus encouraging [i<]filing[/i<].

  5. *Facepalm* default save location… by definition of default, there’s going to be one… and it’s going to be the file dumping ground and start location for save/load dialogs regardless of whether it’s a library or a real directory…

    Out of curiosity, since you have such a strong opinion, where exactly would you default to and what makes you believe it wouldn’t be the dumping ground?

  6. “Apple”. We’re PC users. We started with DOS. DOS GUI’s look like w8 / w10.

    There’s a reason software GUI’s transitioned to a “3d” look. It’s easier to use, not to mention just looks better.

  7. Does any other OS allow you to make massive changes to the UI without breaking robustness and compatibility with old applications? You seem to think this is some trivial technical problem and purely a business decision, which is not the case…

  8. Hey, I’m all for people using whatever they prefer, for whatever reason 🙂 If the new features in Win8/10/whatever are not worth the changes you don’t like, absolutely keep using Windows 7. My only comment is that it’s not really possible to cater to every combination of “I want this, but not this” with user options, unlike people seem to think.

  9. you’re welcome to use the alternatives. I honestly can’t believe anyone still pretends the M$ thing exists.

  10. That was a bit before my time but I’m still not convinced. The 1983 Apple Lisa had 3D effects where they could with some of the buttons, some of the icons and shadows on the drop down menu: [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Apple_Lisa_Office_System_3.1.png[/url<] According to wikipedia, "It was the first personal computer to offer a graphical user interface in an inexpensive machine aimed at individual business users." The first PC with a graphical UI and it has 3D UI elements. The 3D look is so old. The flat look is the future. In a few years you will get used to the flat look and then agree with me that the 3D look is dated.

  11. All true. Yea, it is a lot of work and I can see the headache in it. If I even get Win10, I will have to get used to it. It just seems that Win7 is perfect for me. Maybe I’m getting so old that I don’t like change? 😉

  12. I know exactly what libraries are, because they’re incredibly simple; As you say, they’re an additional aggregate view but there are a few major problems I have with making them the [i<]default[/i<] explorer location: [list<][*<]With a default save location, it encourages the "dump everything in here and don't worry about filing" mentality[/*<][*<]Explorer is used by programs, not just users. Every dialog ever will default to "libraries" or "home"[/*<][*<]Pathing doesn't work for libraries the same way it does for a direct folder path. For a start, it's per-user, and secondly there are unusual rules that apply, not the least of which is that you can have duplicate folder/file names in a multi-location library[/*<][*<]Libraries is a useless "top-level" in explorer because it's inherantly a collection of buried subfolders way down the folder tree[/*<][/list<] Whilst I don't need to use libraries, I can see their use. What I disagree with is making explorer default to a library.

  13. The flat look looks far more dated than the 3D look, it looks like a throwback to the 1980s, it is old when new.

  14. It used to be that disabling Aero also reverted to GDI rendering (i.e. not 3D-pipe accelerated), and non-3D-accelerated desktop compositing was removed in… uhh… maybe Win8? I don’t totally recall the specifics, but the first question would be – was DWM ever able to render the “classic” XP GUI?

    There’s also lots of other stuff to consider now… there’s likely no way to render the new start menu with Aero, the task switching/virtual desktops stuff would need to be updated (remember Aero has that weird Flip interface thing too), Metro stuff wouldn’t work, etc. etc. It’s not just throwing a switch to “take the old code path”, you would have to actively put significant effort into supporting and testing another UI.

  15. No, I understand. But you are able to go from Aero to XP classic on the fly. Why can’t they do that?

  16. That only works to a point… it becomes infeasible to maintain arbitrarily branching paths over the long term, especially when you’re talking about pretty much the entire UI. Cross that with the large matrix of applications (some 10+ years old!) that need to keep functioning decently or there will be another Vista-like riot and it starts to get a bit ridiculous.

    Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the desire and notion that users should just have choices for all contentious changes. But as I developer, I’m also well aware that whether or not that is reasonable depends a lot of the specifics of the choice.

  17. I see. Well I found this: [url<]http://www.eightforums.com/tutorials/29426-onedrive-integration-windows-8-1-enable-disable.html[/url<]

  18. Mafiasoft’s reply: “No, there is not. You will use only what Mafiasoft says you will use. Or you can try our concrete shoes.”

  19. And back in its day, among the more professionally-designed platform GUIs, Workbench 1.3 was (justifiably) criticized for having a “Fisher-Price” look:

    [url<]http://www.gregdonner.org/workbench/wb_131.html[/url<] Intelligent, professional GUI design does not operate like the fashion industry. I'm getting very weary of looking at this "modern" (puh-lease) emaciated interface. The rumors that MS is going to be giving Win10 away says it all. Frankly, I wouldn't upgrade from Win7 to this even if they paid me (and Win7 has its own consistency and schizophrenic issues). Could someone *please* explain to Microsoft what the difference between progression and regression is?

  20. Exactly–an anorexic GUI. Change for the sake of change = fail.

    …and MS’s ‘UI design’ team is getting paid *how much* for this?

  21. Networked locations however are a key feature, and a major reason I use Windows over Linux in day-to-day operations.

    Transferring data from my Laptop to my Desktop is as simple as browsing through Homespaces and grabbing my files off of my Laptop. But these sorts of places don’t really belong in “favorites”, because my laptop turns off, leaves the house / network, etc. etc.

    But all of a sudden Redmont believes “Skydrive” to be more important than my network locations and places it in the top left >_<

    I know “favorites” are at the very top, and yes… it is useful. But I can’t make everything in “favorites”.

  22. I’m still not seeing any significant reason to upgrade from Windows 7 or advise anyone else to do so. Looks like change for it’s own sake. As someone else mentioned, it’s like Windows 8 second try.

  23. I think you have a misconception of what libraries are… Libraries do not mean files will be saved some place random, there is a single default save location, just as if you picked that folder yourself. Do libraries remove the ability to file your own photos in d:\photos\ebay? No. They simply give you an [i<]optional[/i<] aggregate view. Now what if you misfiled the photo and isn't in d:\photos\ebay? Odds are you filed it with other photos, possibly encompassed by the aggregate library. How do [i<]you[/i<] search if something is misfiled? Your methodology will be the same regardless of the presence of libraries. So with libraries, you are not worse off in the "good filer" case, and potentially better off (but still not worse) in the "bad filer" case.

  24. I really cannot wait until the “flat” look has run its course at Microsoft and Apple. I just find it boring and unattractive. It also does not help that other applications don’t use that look, which is kind of jarring.

  25. It’s faux because it’s a 2D icon of a 3D glossy image. Fake 3D with fake 3D effects.

    I checked the icons used in Windows 3.0 and they are fake 3D objects with shadows, so the 3D look has been around longer than I can remember (apart from when I booted into DOS on my Dad’s PC to play games).

    3D UI elements have been around for what feels like forever and the flat look UI will soon take over. Come back in a few years or less and you will see how dated the 3D UI elements look (Apple too, not just Windows) and see how right I am.

  26. Oh, sorry – I missed that.

    As for browsing vs searching, it’s like my weekly shop; When I go to the supermarket there’s no way in hell I could list the 50 items I will end up leaving the store with, so there’s no way I could search for them all up front. Instead, I browse so when I get to the vegetables aisle, I see carrots and go “oh yeah, I’m out of carrots”.

    If you take the libraries, or whatever dump-all-here-and-let-us-index-it-for-you folders end up being called in 10, they’re great for specific searches, but then what if you are looking for a photo of something you sold a few years ago on eBay. Chances are it’s called DCIM1020301512-09042012.jpg and you’re screwed with a search. But if it’s *filed* in d:\photos\ebay you suddenly have a choice of 50 thumbnails to look through rather than 100,000.

  27. To me, it is not the way it is designed, it is the lack of preference that bother me. They should give the option to have aero or not. Leave it up to the user to design their layout. If they want our money, they are going to have to leave it up to the user.

  28. *Clicks Windows Explorer, then search box*
    Search filters for Kind, Date Modified and Size pop up…

    Maybe “contains the words” got more obtuse (though by default contents are searched in indexed locations)… but they augmented search a lot…

    [url<]http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/advanced-tips-for-searching-in-windows[/url<]

  29. Which is why I was responding to his post about searching…

    Though, if you want to talk browsing, I’m not sure why browsing a libraries is some much more complex for you IT gurus than browsing a normal directory… If anything, their existence would make the brute force method of browsing to find a file easier since libraries would most likely capture the locations the dumb end users would save their files to.

  30. Multi-rez and no need for email address:

    First, you don’t need to provide an email address and set up a MS account to install the W10TP either as a clean install or as an upgrade from W8.1.1. I did both, without using my MS account. For the upgrade I was able to keep my single admin-level account intact with same lo/pw and no added account. You just need to fiddle a bit at that point in the install to avoid it, as in the past with W8 installs. You can find this info via Google.

    The multi-rez is working great…. using far left 3MP color, two central 3MP medical grayscale monitors, and a far right 2MP color monitor, driven off two nVidia Quadro cards (FX3700 and FX1800), and it is working as well as in W7 and W8.1.1. I can flip them landscape or portrait, in any combination. My DICOM calibration software is a bit flaky on this…. but that is the fault of that software.

  31. It wasn’t the curves, it was the colours.

    Fisher-Price = [url=https://www.google.com/search?q=fisher+price+toys&espv=2&biw=1264&bih=1311&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=wXJFVLHjB4vU7AaChYCwBQ&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAg<]violently clashing primary colours[/url<]. When designing toys for babies, bright colours are required because their eyes aren't developed yet.

  32. OH! haha.

    I typically just rely on the Favorites list personally, dragging and reordering things as needed. It’s not so bad once it’s set up.

  33. I don’t code but I do write a lot of Matlab scripts at work, and horizontal space is useful there to keep tabs on my variables and vectors/matrices in the workspace sub-view.

    Work’s been rather stingy on multi-monitor setups for the engineers of late, I’m stuck using my laptop main display (15″ 1080p) and an old dell ultrasharp (23″ 1680×1050). The ultrasharp is TN, though, so would probably look pretty lousy in portrait mode. The DPI scaling between the two displays isn’t great, and we’re on Win7, so no per-monitor DPI settings.

    Been bugging my manager to get me a second external monitor since December of last year; at this point, I’m not holding my breath.

  34. Wrong kind of space.

    I’m talking about vertical space. I have a lot of things in “favorites”, and when I connect external drives to my desktop, I’ve had drives all the way up to “L” before. (C, D, E, F… K, L).

    I [b<]never[/b<] use the Skydrive feature, but now all of my other stuff (libraries, my disk, Network Drives) are now "below the fold" and I have to scroll down because Microsoft put SkyDrive on the F***ing top left.

  35. There was a lot of criticism of Aero at the time it came out too… such is the case for any UI change really, everyone has their own opinions. Ultimately that’s why I find the discussion somewhat tiresome, as nothing useful ever really comes from it… there’s no objective answers and preferences vary.

    Personally I find the differences pretty minor and much less important than core OS stuff, but it seems like I’m in the minority on that prioritization 🙂

  36. If you’re a programmer you’ve probably already rotated your monitor so you can view more code. Anything else doesn’t matter.

  37. This is me troubleshooting for a user, mind you. Note that they at least know whether they created the file in Word or Excel, but tons of users have horrible organizational habits with files.

    I can at least make good guesses with the old version of Windows XP Search, plus I can search based on date modified easily, file extension, and size, and I can even search with “contains the word(s)”. None of that is near as straightforward in Vista and later’s search, which was dumbed down. I can also define searching a single folder, or all of its sub-folders.

    Windows XP made it easier for me to save the day when a user who couldn’t work their mouse dragged half of the sub-folders they made in My Documents into another folder, or did something else equally brilliant. I can still eventually find a file for them (assuming they didn’t delete it), but it takes longer in a newer operating system. This is one of the few steps backward I saw in the XP->Win7 transition.

  38. Win+C does work and opens some sort of setting menu on the right. I don’t know if those are charms as I used Win8 as rarely as I could

  39. Oh, and still not a fan of Ribbon interface. It just eats up too much visual real estate, especially in the vertical axis.

    And doubled title bars for windowed ModernUI apps eats up even more. Maybe I should take a page out of The Zero Theorem and run all my monitors in portrait mode. 😛

  40. [quote<]Since Windows 10 disables the Charms bar on non-touch-enabled PCs, the only way to open the Control Panel right now seems to be via a text search or by right-clicking the Start button. Not the most convenient.[/quote<] Win+X doesn't work? It was one of my favorite things about 8/8.1 (one of very few, admittedly).

  41. Amiga OS, ah the nostalgia, the smell of dusty plastic floppy disks… good times. But yeah that’s what the interface reminded me of when I first saw it as well.

  42. Cyril, did you have a chance to test out dual/triple monitors, with multiple resolutions??

    Just curious to see how it handles that, and task bars, etc. with 2 or 3 monitors, vs. win7.

    I put it on a spare PC the other day, sort of an annoying installation, having to put in an email and password, and internet connection etc.

    Start button is nice, but lack of colors and aero makes it feel depressing. Win 3.1 had more different colors. Classic shell would probably help.

    I would be curious to see other “under the hood changes” compared to windows 7, like ssd enhancements, etc. and how they translate into actual numbers, useability, etc.

    Actually be nice if there was a list of changes and/or improvements over win7. Does one exist?

  43. It did have a Fischer-Price look, but it was a significant improvement over the previous UI. Windows 7 Aero refined it to a remarkable degree. (There are still things I’m not a big fan of in Aero, but most of those you can turn off.) Modern UI is a swing in an extreme opposite direction with very little usability justification. Worse, the flat look required a long series of compromises which made it even worse.

  44. Skydrive doesn’t take up much space at all if you mark files as “online-only.” Look at the size vs size-on-disk in Properties, it’s actually quite clever what they’ve done.

  45. So you don’t know where the file is nor the filename, yet you’re magically able to right-click the folder which you just said is unknown to enter a filename, which again you don’t know…

  46. that’s because the colors / look they chose was hideous by default.
    aero is a more “professional” look. Win 8 shenanigans is not as hideous as Win XP was but it’s boring.

  47. There’s cupcakes, donuts, eclairs, some ice cream sandwhiches, and even a kitkat, but no cookies. 🙁

  48. Ironically, some 13 years ago when Microsoft switched from a blocky, flattened UI to a more curved and colorful look, people accused them of designing it for five-year-olds (the words “Fischer-Price” appeared quite a bit in tech review website and literature).

  49. For varying amounts of “perfectly”. I personally had it completely bork one machine after an update (couldn’t even boot to the desktop).

    And at least at the time, making the windows actually look like Win7 took a serious amount of fiddling.

    I mean, I still like it, but it needs to improve.

  50. I want to be able to uninstall a program/app from wherever I am (desktop, Start menu, File Explorer) by simply right clicking the associated icon (and/or shortcut) and choosing “uninstall.” Currently, the only way to do this is: 1) going to Control Panel > Programs Features; 2) Installing some third-part app that produces this feature. To me, this seems like an elementary change that should be added as part of the basic user feature set.

  51. it’s actually not specifically right clicking the start button. it’s right clicking the bottom right corner or clicking win-x. Also, in the taskbar properties, on the navigation tab, you can check a box that replaces the command prompt with powershell.

  52. We still haven’t seen what they’re doing to the touch/tablet side of things. Most of that stuff doesn’t work right now.

  53. When your user can’t find a file, and has no idea where they stored it, and you ask for the filename and get “I don’t know”…

    Chrispy is right. It’s actually harder to find things since Vista/7/8.x. There are few things I miss from Windows XP, but the search (prior to the crappy Windows Search 4.0) that let me right-click on a folder, and then search in a very granular manner, is one of them.

  54. [quote<] Does the Windows 10 preview allow you to right-click the network connection in the message tray -> select "Open Network and Sharing Center" -> click the relevant connection (Ethernet in my case) -> click the "Details" button and then mark/select just the IP-address? In the "Details" dialog box in Windows 8.1 I cannot select any text and right-clicking does not bring up a context menu, though I can hit Ctrl+C and copy all the details to e.g. Notepad? [/quote<] Looks like the Windows 10 Technical Preview behaves the same way as Windows 8.1 there.

  55. I used to use it to open up an Explorer window in earlier versions of Windows before I could pin the Explorer app to the taskbar itself.

  56. It seems like MS is backpedalling and making Windows 10 a better desktop OS. Which is a good thing, except that they’re also asking us to take Surface Pro 3 and its competition seriously – the same schizophrenia we saw with the release of Windows 8 and Surface Pro 1/2.

    What I see here is a start menu that incorporates the functionality of the old Modern UI, and steps taken to make Modern UI apps more usable when seated with a desktop or laptop computer.

    What still needs to be done, given Microsoft’s aspirations in the tablet/convertible market: something to make x86 apps more viable on a touchscreen – most obviously, gestures to zoom in and out (pinch) and pan the *entire* screen (multi-finger swipe) in real time.

    Until then, this is just Windows 7 again, and Surface Pro is just another ultrabook.

  57. This is a tech preview, mainly for enterprises to start validating their applications on a new version of Windows earlier. They have stated consumer features will come in a later preview build.

  58. Wait, whats wrong with libraries?

    Libraries are nothing more than a bunch of folders “merged” together. They’re actually a very good organizational tool. I have my “Video” library pointing to multiple different folders, including “amv”, and “anime” on my desktop.

    If I’m looking for “any video”, I go to my “Video Library”, which happens to be where Windows Media Center defaults to. If I’m using Sony Vegas to edit a particular file, I go to a that folder directly.

    Ditto with “Recent”. Favorites is also amazing because folders that I’m using for a current project (ie: if I’m editing clips out of “Sound of the Sky”, I put that in my “favorites” bar so its easily accessible), leading to fewer clicks.

    Seriously, Windows organization is actually a lot better than what I’ve seen in other OSes. Linux is still trapped in hardlink / softlink mode, but Windows has actually gotten a better organization scheme than that.

    Honestly, the only problem with Windows 8.1 is that “SkyDrive” is taking up precious space. I’ve had to use a registry edit to disable SkyDrive to make room for my libraries / favorite folders. Hopefully Microsoft can give me an option to disable SkyDrive without scary registry edits.

  59. Of all the things I miss in jumping from Windows Phone 8 to iOS, MetroTube has to be #1. God, what a great little app.

  60. I’m running it on an old Core2 T7200 with 2gb of ram and have to say that it runs very smooth.

  61. The missing control panel is actually only a problem if you don’t readd it.

    That is the first thing I did pinned it to the start menu and problem solved.

    Will add that to my feedback when submitting it to microsoft it should be there by default.

  62. Windows 10’s start menu can be trimmed down to nearly nothing on the right-hand side as well. It’s pretty configurable.

  63. I never knew I could do anything other than changing taskbar/startmenu options by right-clicking the start button. I just did this with Windows 8.1 and was surprised by the list that popped up. It almost was a control-panel list all by itself.

    In an interesting aside, that list has entries for the command prompt, but not for the powershell…

  64. @Cyril: Nice article.

    One of the things that has really annoyed me in Windows over the years is that, IIRC, most Windows versions don’t allow me to use the mouse to mark and then right-click text that I want to copy from the network connection status details dialog box that shows IP addresses and netmasks etc.

    Adding the ability to mark text and right-click in this class of dialog windows would be very convenient. It’s a small feature, but e.g. the GTK+ version of NetworkManager in Linux allows me to do this.

    And yes, I know you can use ipconfig in a cmd window. But most users do not know this.

    Does the Windows 10 preview allow you to right-click the network connection in the message tray -> select “Open Network and Sharing Center” -> click the relevant connection (Ethernet in my case) -> click the “Details” button and then mark/select just the IP-address?

    In the “Details” dialog box in Windows 8.1 I cannot select any text and right-clicking does not bring up a context menu, though I can hit Ctrl+C and copy all the details to e.g. Notepad?

  65. Yeah, I’m not really sure why either. There are plenty of email apps, and many YouTube ones. Why do I care if it is official?

  66. As good as the browser experience generally is for Google services, I don’t get why you’d need an app on Windows.

  67. Likely, but if they [i<]are[/i<] doing it on their own, then they sort of have...a...er...[i<]responsibility[/i<] to do it well, don't they?

  68. Home? Libraries? Favorites? Recent? I personally hate this encouragement of disorganisation.
    “Don’t worry exactly where your files are, just drop them into one of the vague and ever-changing folder-of-the-month and we’ll index it all for you so that you can find it just by searching.

    That’s great.
    [b<]Until you can't remember what the filename is.[/b<]

  69. Because the latter is visible and the former is something you need to know before you do it. A good UI should present you the options, never assume you already are an expert. Going to the windows button when you don’t know where to go is convenient.

  70. It’s not at all clear from the article: can Remote Desktop display more than one virtual desktop? Are they accessible at all from RDP?

  71. Of all the features that [b<]*SHOULDN'T*[/b<] matter, because it's just superficial cosmetics after all, the flattened UI of 8 is actually one of the single biggest issues for a lot of people. I managed to get by with the schizophrenia of the two OSes, choosing to ignore all of touch-centric features like charms and ModernUI apps - but I couldn't deal with the ergonomics of the interface. Even on an IPS panel where the subtle shades are visible, they're not ergonomic. I feel like Windows is a fashion victim wearing ridiculous clothes in an attempt to feel cool and trendy without actually considering for one second that the stupid clothes are completely impractical for daily life. Sometimes high-visibility clothes with lots of pockets are needed. If you're only going to have one outfit in your wardrobe, make sure it's practical to wear for as many activities as possible, not just looking good on the catwalk.

  72. In Windows 7, the Windows Explorer brings up “Libraries” by default.

    If you right-click the Windows Explorer task bar icon -> right-click Windows Explorer -> Properties, set the Target to:
    [code<]%windir%\explorer.exe /E,::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}[/code<] That brings up "Computer" in Windows 7, which shows your drives. You can set it to other things, but I don't know what they are. Google can help with that.

  73. They need to merge the two control panels anyway.
    “PC settings” is incomplete and necessitates the existance of the old control panel.

    It’s one of the half-assed leftovers from what should be called [i<]The Shoehorn Era[/i<], where MS tried to shoehorn a tablet interface somewhere it didn't actually fit - their desktop OS.

  74. If you’re holding out for YouTube or google apps, give up. They will not build or authorize them. Likely ever. If you’re basing the quality of the app store entirely on one company that has publically said they wont support it then you’re doing it wrong. There are many FANTASTIC third party google apps that are better (on WP anyway) than any of the official google ones on any platform. Google will not build windows apps. Don’t expect that to change.

  75. You’re right. Thr new one is better. You can remove all the metro you want in the current one.

  76. For the same reason they can’t be updated on android or IOS without a linked account.

  77. Ballmer didn’t make it, and the ENTIRE rest of the industry is copying Microsoft’s UI design. You might not like flat. I don’t like wood in a car, but Mercedes doesn’t care.

  78. What do you mean, faux? Is it faux because it’s not holographic? Is it faux because it has been around and worked for twenty years? Did many users miss the flat look before they saw the 8 preview?

    In a few more years the 3D effects will come back and evolve further, like the start menu did. Then we will look back at them and say, “was that guy Ballmer thinking anything at all when he made this?”

  79. [quote<]File Explorer windows no longer bring up "This PC" by default.[/quote<] ARGH! There better be a way to change this back to the previous behaviour (WIN+E bringing up a windows with all available drives). Hopefully the 'Metro apps in windows' will also be optional for desktops. Having Reader as its own screen that I can flip to and away from with WIN+TAB is REALLY useful when consulting datasheets without having to rearrange parts of the desktop.

  80. “Busier” is what I’d describe the Start Screen and the New Start Menu, but definitely not Windows 7’s Start Menu.

    Plus you can remove a lot of those links in Win 7’s menu.

  81. I didn’t know that :/

    And I just right-clicked it, on Windows 7, and it gives me two options: “Properties” (start menu and taskbar properties) and “Open Windows Explorer”.

    I doubt I’ve ever right clicked on the start button before, and I’m pretty sure I’d not expect to find the Control Panel there on any version of Windows.

  82. [quote<] I need to tie my machine to a MS/Live account! Why can't they just be updated via the normal 'Windows Update' method? 🙁 [/quote<] Because that's always been half the motivation of Metro and the Windows Store.

  83. [quote<] I'm surprised Microsoft isn't taking steps to retire the command prompt in favor of PowerShell altogether, but I suppose stripping away legacy features has never been the company's forte. [/quote<] Though command prompt scripts are (or at least, seem to be) much simpler than PowerShell, so...maybe it's not a bad thing. Also, a very large number of applications use batch files to do stuff during installation, so removing cmd would break that, I suppose. [quote<] The new command prompt supports pasting text via Ctrl-V rather than by right clicking, which is the only way to do it at present. [/quote<] Does Ctrl-C work too? If yes, wouldn't that conflict with the escape sequence for script termination?

  84. [quote<] However, the taskbar icons for those apps have little translucent strips under them. Click any one of those icons, and you'll be tossed back to desktop A. [/quote<] This looked very jarring in those leaked videos, though. If I remember correctly, Linux virtual desktops allow an application to have a separate instance in each desktop...which is what I'd want from Windows as well.

  85. Is it just me or the “new” flat style for icons make them look as if they’ve come out of a vintage Amiga Workbench 1.3 installation?

  86. Cyril, page 2
    “Right now, the only way to do that is to close an app on one desktop and re-open it on another”

    Not so. Right click on the app window in “Task view”-mode and send it to the chosen desktop. Dragging it would be more convenient, some say it may become a reality in future builds.

  87. You can pin the Control Panel to the start menu (as both a ‘Live Tile’ and as a menu/button in the list on the left ‘menu’ side) in the preview build FYI. See [url=http://i.imgur.com/dlpn76T.png<]this screencap[/url<]. To pin it to the 'menu' right click on the taskbar > properties > Start Menu > Customize > tick 'Control Panel. edit: My biggest complaint at the moment is that in order to update the built in Store 'apps' (e.g. the 'Weather' and 'News' tiles I have pinned in the screenshot linked above) I need to tie my machine to a MS/Live account! Why can't they just be updated via the normal 'Windows Update' method? 🙁

  88. While I’m not a big fan of the flat color-tastic UI–real men use 9x/2k/XP style when they’re not busy having fabs–this generally looks like an OS I’d be willing to use, unlike 8. The features are there, Metro works like it should, and they’re not trying to cram the latest marketing fad down everyone’s throats. I’m fine with W7 Ultimate and this is basically just rolling things back to W7 like functionality, but I’d consider it if I spin up another system.

  89. no aero?
    is there a way to put aero back into windows 8/8.1 that could possibly be used in 10 also?

  90. Faux 3D-and-glossy UI elements are so gaudy and unpleasant to look at. In a few more years we will look back at them and say “what on earth were they thinking when they made this?”.

  91. When I finally used Windows 8.0 and 8.1 at my job, I found I liked it except or one thing: the lack of aero on individual windows. The blocky look of Modern UI is beyond hideous. It looks like it was designed by a five-year-old (and I’m insulting five-year-olds.) I am completely baffled as to how ANYONE at Microsoft thinks having flat title bars and massive borders is attractive and usable.

  92. The more they fool with Windows 7 ,the uglier it seems to get.
    Surely someone has mentioned those daggy old yellow folders could use a refresh?
    Where are the new “gee wizz”,new functionality features one should expect when buying a brand new 21st Century operating system also?

  93. So after years of trying to give the UI a 3D-look, MS are trying to flatten and simplify most elements back to 2D.

  94. I fail to understand why right clicking on the start menu to get to control panel is less convenient that left clicking on the start menu then searching through a much larger and busier applications menu.