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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.

Cortana's reminders and other updates pop up as notifications that "fly in" from the lower right. I particularly like the way Microsoft handles these. A reminder will plop itself into my peripheral vision and squat there until I deal with it. But email appears only briefly, sliding in with the sender's name, subject, and first lines, then vanishing--tucked away in Outlook or Mail for later.

If you miss a notification, though, don't worry. You'll find them all archived in the Action Center notifications tab, accessed by the speech balloon icon in the lower right.

Reminders, though, still can be a bit flaky. On a Surface Pro 2 test machine, a reminder that I set on that machine popped up as a small alert on the bottom of my screen. But the same alert only appeared in the reminders tab on the Spectre--which, since I had it minimized, never appeared.

I suspect Cortana will be one of Windows 10's more polarizing features. Home users won't mind yelling at Cortana for the answer to a question, but workers in a busy office will probably think twice about asking Cortana to email their doctor about that strange rash.

Next: Exploring the new frontier of virtual desktops

Task View/Virtual desktops: A cool tool

Working with Windows 10's virtual desktop mode or Task View takes some work. It's a bit intimidating in the sense that the Windows 8 Start screen was: It's an unfamiliar interface, and requires some effort to use efficiently. In the end, though, it pays off.

You're probably used to opening up as many apps as will fit in a window, with the remainder either unopened or minimized to a desktop. If you want to work with more apps at the same time, you invest in another monitor. Task View doesn't necessarily minimize those unused apps; it just hides that entire screen of apps, keeping everything the way it was.

This has two practical advantages. Say you have a nicely ordered screen of apps: a spreadsheet in one corner, email in another, with a PowerPoint document taking up the other half. Suddenly, you remember that you need to cull some client feedback from an email thread. Yes, you could rearrange those apps again--or you could open Outlook on a new virtual desktop using the Win+Ctrl+D command. (You can also click the Task View icon and the "+" icon in the lower-right corner to create a new virtual desktop.)

Task view also allows you to multitask more efficiently. Take a typical Sunday night. The weekend's winding down, you're not quite ready to give up Facebook and Amazon, but there's work to be done. By creating a separate virtual desktop with Task View, you can create a separate work and entertainment space, and then flip back and forth between them using the Ctrl+Win+the left or right arrow.


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