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5 more killer features Windows 9 should steal from Linux

Chris Hoffman | Sept. 19, 2014
If the latest Windows 9 leaks are any indication, some of the operating system's coolest new features will look a lot like what Linux users already enjoy: Like the virtual desktops Linux users have had since the 90's, and a centralized notification center like the one available in GNOME Shell.

For example, when you install Google Chrome, Valve's Steam, or even Microsoft's own Skype on Linux, the package enables Google's, Valve's, or Microsoft's software repository on your system. Software providers can add their own software to the package manager for easy installation while still hosting the software on their own servers.

This also means you can get all your application updates in one place. Your operating system updates, Google's updates, and even Microsoft's Skype updates all arrive in the same software-updating tool. Imagine if Windows Update were a streamlined application that let you easily see, install, and schedule updates for all of your installed applications — not just ones from Microsoft. Every desktop application shouldn't need its own separate software updating-system.

Easy always-on-top

This may sound like a little feature, but it's a huge one for window management. Every popular Linux desktop environment lets you right-click a window's titlebar and select "Always on top." That window will then appear always-on-top of other windows on your desktop, so you can easily look at it while using another application.

On Windows, you either have to rely on each application having its own separate always-on-top option or seek out an always-on-top utility that just isn't as integrated. Windows desperately needs to steal this basic desktop window management feature.

Web app integration

Look, let's be honest. Most Windows users aren't touching those new "Store apps." In fact, they're probably using fewer traditional desktop apps, too. Desktop users are increasingly using web apps like Outlook.com, Facebook, and Google Docs.

Ubuntu realizes this and offers "web app integration"—an easy way for web services to integrate with your desktop environment. They're given their own shortcuts and taskbar entries, they display desktop notifications, and they all-around integrate with the operating system.

Gmail and Twitter are integrated in Ubuntu's desktop "messaging menu" so you can see new emails and tweets in one place. Rdio and Grooveshark are integrated with the music menu so you can see playback information and control music playback with the desktop environment's standard interface and hotkeys, too. You don't have to do anything special to set this up — just head to the website in your browser as you normally would, and Ubuntu will ask whether you want to "install" the web app.

Windows needs to do this sort of thing. Users shouldn't just have an almost-empty taskbar with everything running in their web browser. Microsoft should make nice with the web app ecosystem and help Windows folks use those web apps they're already using, instead of focusing all their efforts on trying to kick-start another new proprietary app framework. The Amazon website is way better than Amazon's "Store app," and the same is true for many other services — including YouTube and all those Windows 8 banking "apps" with far fewer features than the banks' official websites.

 

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