The 10 best new features (next)
7. Action Center
Notifications are one of the coolest features of modern operating systems, with popups reminding you of all sorts of useful information. Windows 8 had them, but those notifications disappeared forever as soon as they faded from your screen—an issue if you weren’t actively sitting in front of your PC when one popped up.
Windows 10 cures that ill with its new Action Center. As notifications slide into view, they’re archived here. The Action Center also provides quick-action buttons for common functions, like activating Bluetooth or connecting to a VPN, as well as an option for shifting the interface to Tablet Mode.
8. Revamped core apps
Windows 10 introduces overhauled Mail and Calendar apps that are vastly better than their Windows 8 counterparts. While the Windows 8 apps were pokey, the Windows 10 variants are speedy and responsive, and they manage to fit much more info on the screen while still being friendly to mice cursors and fat fingers alike. The new apps also dynamically shift their interfaces to fit nicely into windows of all shapes and sizes.
The Mail app adds swipe gesture controls so you can quickly sort your inbox with just a few swipes—and what each swipe does is user-configurable, too. But more important for practicality, the revamped apps include key functionality that was missing in their Windows 8 predecessors: POP email support in the Windows 10 Mail app, and Google Calendar support in Calendar.
The new Photos app is surprisingly robust, as well.
9. The Xbox app
Windows 10’s new Xbox app should feel deeply familiar to Xbox One fans: The center point is your Activity Feed, which is populated by your Xbox Live Friends’ activities, such as unlocking an achievement or launching a Twitch stream. The right side of the app lists your friends; selecting one offers options to view their game clips, invite them to a party, send an IM, and more. You can also view your own achievements, manage your profile, and more all right within the app. You can even stream your Xbox One games to a Windows 10 PC or tablet.
We can’t help but shake the feeling that this app is more benificial to console gamers who happen to have a PC than to true PC gamers, despite the Xbox app’s Game bar, a system-wide tool that lets you snag screenshots and video clips of your PC games ( and more). But it’s a very handy tool indeed if you fall into the former camp.
Yes, Windows 10 is vastly improved on PCs, but Microsoft didn’t forget about touchscreen users. The operating system includes a handy “Continuum” feature that dynamically switches the interface between the PC-friendly desktop and a Windows 8-like mode that’s better suited for fingers (pictured above), depending on how you’re using the device.
Windows tablets will default to the latter; PCs to the former. Hybrids will intelligently switch between the two modes depending on whether you have a keyboard attached. Windows 10 Mobile phones will even ape a full-blown PC when they’re connected to an external monitor (though Windows 10 for phones won’t be released for a few more months).
In tablet mode, the Start menu expands to fit the full screen, as do Windows apps. If you’d like to force a switch, the new Action Center has a dedicated “Tablet Mode” button that you can enable or disable at will.
11. (Mostly) Unified settings
Windows 8 split system settings down the middle, dropping some in the traditional Control Panel and some in the Metro-fied PC Settings app—forcing you to check in two separate places if you needed to tweak things. Windows 10mostly does away with that irritation thanks to its options-stuffed new Settings app, though you’ll still need to wade into the still-there Control Panel to tinker with some obscure power user options.
12. But wait, there's more!
These 10 awesome features are only the tip of what’s new in Windows 10. Check out PCWorld’s comprehensive Windows 10 review for a deep dive of the operating system, and our mammoth compilation of the best Windows 10 tips and tricks for info on how to make the OS your own. Finally, one of Windows 10’s most major changes can’t be overtly seen whatsoever: The new DirectX 12 graphics technology promises to revolutionize PC gaming.