Windows 10, which is available now for a free download, is an incredible step forward in a lot of ways for Microsoft. The design utilizes some of Windows’ classic features as well as incorporating new elements that seem to be a better fit than previous updates.
First of all when reviewing Windows 10, it has to be addressed that this update is free for most people. That is an incredible change of direction and business philosophy for Microsoft, which has almost always charged users for updates.
While Windows 10 won’t be free forever, this move is an acknowledgment that Microsoft is trying to adapt to a world where more and more people have some experience with Apple devices, such as iPhones or iPads that do not charge users for system updates. This is not the only feature that Microsoft seemed to mimic, but most of the improvements seem to really aim at being easy to use rather than being different from Apple.
With Windows 10, the main layout has shifted back to a traditional Windows set-up, compared to the tile format we saw with Windows 8. The Windows Start Button is back, featuring a hybrid of the traditional start menu and the flipping tiles. While Windows 8/8.1 did receive a lot of criticism for the flipping tiles design, they actually work well in a contained, regulated area on a small portion of the computer screen. The way it works here in Windows 10 is great—the tiles can be expanded or be reined in according to your taste, but they don’t invade your entire screen.
Next to the Window Start icon is Cortana, Windows 10’s AI personal assistant. You can type in a question or phrase or just speak into a microphone. Cortana is fairly solid, overall. It’s kind of difficult to review an AI because you have to determine what you are comparing Cortana to (or whom, really).
Does she compete with Siri? Yeah, she can run simple programs or find information when you ask and if she can’t, she’ll search BING for you. Does Cortana compare to Sam, the AI operating system from Spike Jonze’s film Her, or other advanced AI programs from science fiction? No, because that is science fiction but I think a lot of users have a really high bar set for AI and what defines them as efficient or useful. Cortana will probably follow in Siri’s footsteps for most users. She will be fun for a week or two, but after that it will just be easier to search your question yourself rather than using an AI middleman.
The Windows Taskbar was given a makeover. You can easily pin or unpin your most used programs for quick access. You can easily see what programs you have open and with just a simple click on the Task View icon, you can see each one of your programs and windows. This is probably one of the best parts of Windows 10 on a practical level.
Multitasking is just easier now. You can see everything all at once and you can switch back and forth between programs even quicker than before. From Task View you can even drag opened programs into a new desktop. You can have multiple desktops running different programs and switch between each desktop depending on the programs you need.
Lastly, a review of Windows 10 can’t really be complete unless Microsoft Edge is discussed. The main gripe, really, with Edge is that it feels very bare-bones. This is really the only part of Windows 10 that feels slightly out of place and slightly underplayed by Microsoft. Yes—Edge is a decent browser. But is it just the next version of Internet Explorer? Truthfully, Edge takes some basic design ideas from far superior browsers like Chrome or Safari, rather than Internet Explorer—and that’s a good thing.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing added to it that really separates it from a very generic web browser, though. Those familiar with Chrome will have very little reason to not quickly install Chrome as their default web browser.
However, you can see that Microsoft is looking for new directions to take and targeting younger users. This is seen mainly in the Web Note feature. Web Note allows you to doodle, highlight, or write on a web page and then save your work to send to your friends. It’s marketed as a fun tool that can be efficient, but if it takes off, it’ll mainly be used for memes or defacing priceless works of art.
Overall, Windows 10 is an incredible improvement. The new features are really useful and the design looks great. In the few places where Windows 10 might be lacking, Microsoft has at least set itself up for room for revision and upgrades without needing to scrap any new features entirely.
Windows 10 is more than just a standalone update to Windows—it’s a new foundation on which the next few generation of Windows will be built. Because of that, I can think of very few reasons not to upgrade from either Windows 7 or Windows 8. Did I mention that it was a free download?