One year after the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft tried to fix some of the problems that were highly criticized in the core operating system with a major update called Windows 8.1. The Start button was brought back, along with some other changes that were supposed to make the operating system easier to use for everyone.
Just like its predecessor, Windows 8.1 had only a small impact on the market share of modern Windows, so it was pretty clear that Microsoft needed a new start. A new Windows that would be specifically built to address the complaints and feedback of customers.
In late September 2014, Microsoft announced Windows 10, deciding to skip Windows 9 for a yet unknown reason. Together with Windows 10, Microsoft also launched the Windows Insider program, a new effort that allowed users to download and install pre-release Windows versions in order to test them on their own devices and send feedback to the company.
As part of this program, Microsoft rolled out a total of 15 preview builds of Windows 10, each coming with new features, apps, and improvements that are or are not available in the stable build.
Windows 10 reached RTM on July 15, 2015, but Microsoft has never confirmed it. Windows 10 build 10240 was said to be the eagerly anticipated RTM version scheduled to launch on July 29 with the final build of the operating system.
On July 16, Microsoft rolled out 10240 to Windows Insiders, giving testers the chance to try out what was supposed to be the final version of the OS before its public launch. One of the signs that 10240 was RTM was the removal of the watermark from the desktop, with Microsoft confirming that only app updates and small improvements would be shipped before the launch.
Windows 10 was supposed to completely overhaul the experience you get on all devices, bringing together PCs, tablets, smartphones, Xbox, and IoT devices. A single store supposed to provide access to apps developed to run on all these devices thanks to the universal app concept was also introduced, along with a new UI and new categories for TV shows and music.
But let’s take the biggest changes one at a time and detail them.
The Start menu/Start screen
Although it’s not so important for some users, Microsoft has developed some sort of obsession with bringing back the Start menu in Windows 10. Microsoft uses the Start menu to promote Windows 10 all over the world, indirectly confirming that removing it in Windows 8 was a huge mistake.
The Start menu is back in Windows 10 with modern features. The traditional design available in Windows 7 was improved with live tiles borrowed from the Windows 8 Start screen, but also with new context menus, icons and fonts for a fresh look.
The Start menu is extremely easy to use, and those who don’t like it can always turn to the Start screen. A small option included in Windows 10 allows you to expand the Start menu in a fully working Start screen, just like in Windows 8, but again with modern tweaks that make it look, work, and feel better.
There are plenty of customization options and visual tweaks available for the Start menu, as well as new effects when opening/closing it. Colors, transparency, and effects can all be customized and enabled or disabled.
A search feature is also offered in the Start menu, and although a search box is included in the taskbar, you can simply start typing in the menu and it’s instantly launched. The same behavior was used for Windows 8’s Start screen, where you could start typing to get results in real time.
One of the most requested features in older Windows versions, already available in non-Windows operating systems, such as Ubuntu, is multiple desktops, which allows users to work and organize running apps in a more effective way.
Task View is finally implemented in Windows 10 and it can be easily accessed from the taskbar with just a single click, but keyboard shortcuts to jump from one desktop to another are also being offered.
Microsoft describes this feature as an improved Alt + Tab app switcher, but it’s a lot more than that. You can organize desktops depending on the type of apps you launch, so you’ll always know where some specific apps are running.
Task View lets you use a single taskbar across all desktops and view all running apps in a single place, but there are also options to have a clean taskbar for each individual desktop.
The personal assistant launched by Microsoft for Windows Phone users is now available on the desktop too with exactly the same feature lineup. This is part of Microsoft’s effort to offer a similar experience across all devices running Windows 10, so you can wake her up by simply saying “Hey Cortana,” let her track your interests and provide you with information when you need it.
Cortana can be easily launched from the dedicated icon/search box in the taskbar, but if “Hey Cortana” is turned on, you can simply call her by name.
The same features available on Windows Phone are also present on Windows 10, but additionally, you can also send emails, control your music playback, and search for files stored on your computer.
Cortana is thus the perfect personal assistant for your PC, so if you thought that talking to your computer was awkward, you should really get used to it.