The 10 best new features
1. The best of what's new
Let’s not beat around the bush: Window 10 is wonderful. It’s head-and-shoulders better than Windows 8.1, at least for traditional PC users. The fact that it banishes full-screen apps and the Metro Start screen to the aether, focusing instead on the tried-and-true desktop, should be reason enough to make PC purists smile
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. If you’re fresh to Windows 10, these are the cool new features you’ll want to check out first.
2. The Start Menu
Windows 10 atones for one of Windows 8’s greatest sins by returning the Start menu to its rightful spot in the lower left-hand corner of the desktop. But rather than focusing on desktop apps alone, the Windows 10 Start Menu mixes in a dash of the Metro Start screen’s functionality, sprinkling Live Tiles of Windows 8-style apps next to shortcuts to more traditional PC software.
You can turn off that Live Tile functionality if you’d like, and even unpin all the Metro apps from the Start menu, returning it to purely desktop-focused glory. Or you can choose to have the Start menu expand to the full screen, and resize Metro apps to recreate a more Windows 8-like experience. The choice is yours.
3. Windowed Windows Store apps
As you might have caught onto by now, those reviled Windows Store apps from Windows 8 haven’t been eradicated—but they have been remolded to fit desktop sensibilities. In Windows 10, launching a Windows app on your PC opens it in a desktop window, rather than dumping you into a full-screen app. The windowed apps have a mouse-friendly toolbar of options across the top, and even alter their interface to best fit the size of the window. Nifty.
I never used Metro apps in Windows 8, but Windows 10’s windowed Windows apps (whew!) have coaxed me into using them on a daily basis, especially Mail, Calendar, and Photos.
Cortana, Microsoft’s clever digital assistant on Windows Phone 8.1, makes the jump to PCs with Windows 10, where she assumes control of the operating system’s search functions. Cortana will want to access your personal info, then use that info along with her Bing-powered cloud smarts to intelligently surface information you’re looking and perform other helpful tasks.
Cortana can help you find all sorts of online information via natural language queries you ask using text or voice commands. Cortana can also apply those natural language smarts to use search your hard drive, OneDrive, and business network for files that meet certain filters, like “Find pictures from June.”
The digital can also play music, create reminders, set alarms, and even crack jokes.
5. The Edge browser
Forget Internet Explorer. Well, don’t forget it entirely—it’s still tucked away in a corner of Windows 10 for legacy compatibility purposes. But the star of the Internet show in Microsoft’s new operating system is clearly Edge, a brand-new browser built from the ground up for speed, slickness, and trawling the modern web.
Spartan uses Microsoft’s new Edge rendering engine—which isn’t being included in IE in Windows 10—and packs some nifty extras. Cortana pops up with supplementary information while you search the web, such as Yelp reviews and Bing Maps directions when you’re viewing a restaurant website. Digital inking tools let you easily mark up a website and share it with others. Finally, Edge also includes an awesome clutter-stripping Reading View, and allows you to stash articles in the complementary Reading List app for later perusal.
6. Virtual desktops/Task View
It’s time to stop begging, enthusiasts: Virtual desktops have finally come to Windows. The poor man’s multimonitor setup allows you to go back and forth between either open apps or multiple virtual “desktops” of apps, organized how you like them.
Task View, as Windows 10’s virtual desktop implementation is called, won’t appeal to everybody but it provides deep new functionality for power users. (The integration with windows snapping is especially handy!)