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Windows 10 review: It's familiar, it's powerful, but the Edge browser falls short

Mark Hachman | July 27, 2015
We may as well refer to Windows 10 as a date, or an hour, as much as an operating system. It's a moment in time. A month from now, it will have changed, evolved, improved. But right now? Microsoft has shipped an operating system that was meticulously planned and executed with panache, but whose coat of fresh paint hides some sticks and baling wire.

Keep in mind that Hello is always looking out for you. To keep your PC from watching constantly, turn Hello off in the Settings menu.

Meet the new-old Start menu

Windows 10 newcomers, Microsoft has a treat for you. Click the Windows icon in the lower left corner, or tap the Windows key on the keyboard. The new Start experience appears, combining elements of both Windows 7 and Windows 8. You'll find a list of your most frequently used apps to the left, along with the tile-based Windows 8 approach to the right. The live tiles periodically rotate, refreshing themselves with new updates. It's a motif that was a little overwhelming in Windows 8, but seems more appropriate in this context.

Right-clicking and pinning apps to the Start menu will be intuitive for Windows 8 users, but it's going to feel a little strange for longtime Windows 7 devotees. You can't manually add apps to the left-hand list; Windows 10 picks those for you, based on your most frequently-used apps. Fortunately, you can also launch apps by typing their names into the Cortana search box at the bottom left, or scrolling all the way down the lefthand list to the tiny "All apps" link.

Oddly, some apps don't show up in the "All apps" list--like Paint, the venerable, quick-and-dirty image editing app. I know it's there, but Windows 10 doesn't show it to me.

Microsoft will be judged on first impressions. However, not everyone will find the new Start menu intuitive. The Get Started intro app should probably be front and center to lead new users by the hand.  Tips pop up occasionally, offering guidance, and the familiar toolbar sits at the bottom of the screen. There, you should see a row of icons you'll recognize: the Cortana search bar, followed by the new Task View, an Internet Explorer-like Edge icon, and more. But the Edge icon is the only visual hint that answers the critical question most new users will ask: "So how do I get to the Internet?"

Next: Deep into Windows 10's settings

Windows 10's hidden depths

Despite Microsoft's efforts to meld the best of Windows 7 and Windows 8 into Windows 10, some aspects of the new operating system are unfamiliar. Windows 7's desktop gadgets are gone, for example. In Windows 8.1, you could access the Settings by swiping in from the right to expose the Settings charm. Microsoft killed off the Charms in Windows 10, and settings can be found in multiple places. 

Let's say you want to select a Wi-Fi hotspot to connect to. In Windows 8, you would swipe in from the right to expose the Settings charm. In Windows 10, you can click the little Wi-Fi or networking icon in the bottom right corner. Job done. But wait: To the right of the Wi-Fi icon is the Notifications icon. Click it, and it opens up a handy Windows 10 Mobile-ish array of shortcut icons, including a button to choose the Wi-Fi network--and a button to select a VPN. Why wasn't that VPN option available in the networking shortcut? I don't know. The Wi-Fi menu also includes a link to go to the Network Settings portion of the Settings menu, where you can specify proxies, or monitor data usage, or VPNs. By hitting Win+X, you can pull up the Control Panel with even more settings.


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