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9 things to look for in Windows 9

Tim Greene | Sept. 30, 2014
Virtual desktops, Cortana and of course a Start menu are expected.

windows 9

Microsoft is holding a press briefing Tuesday to broadly discuss the future of Windows, but the expectation is that the company will also introduce specifics of Windows 9, including features such as Cortana and virtual desktops.

The first two iterations of Windows 8 met with resistance from customers, and the changes made for Windows 8.1 seemed geared toward making traditional mouse-and-keyboard Windows desktop users more comfortable switching over to a system designed for touch. With Windows 9, Microsoft seems bent on improving this further.

Here are nine things rumored to be in Windows 9 or that would just be nice to have.

Start menu -- There will be a setting to pick either the start menu or the start screen to appear when the start button is hit. It's not a Windows 7 start menu, but it does contain most of the same features. This includes a search/run box at the bottom.

Both desktop and Modern apps on the Start menu - When the Start menu appears, half the window that pops up is the menu and the other half is an abbreviated version of the Start screen, so it's really a hybrid. Apps appearing in the all-apps list on the start menu can be pinned to the start-screen half of the start-menu box to make them more accessible to touchscreen taps.

Virtual desktops- This enables setting up multiple contexts of Windows 9, with their separate logins, unique sets of apps and their own preferences. This lets multiple users of the same machine to have their own custom versions or for an individual to have multiple virtual machines for different uses.

Modern apps run in a desktop window - Now Windows Store applications occupy the entire screen, but Windows 9 promises to run them in a window. So there's a taskbar at the bottom and a toolbar at the top that just look more approachable to classic Windows users.

Charms bar removed ­-- This hidden tool set is gone from the desktop interface and perhaps from the tablet interface, too. The bar is the set of tools that pops out from the right side of the screen when that side is flicked on a touchscreen or tickled by the cursor in the upper right corner of the screen. The charms include Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings.

Cortana -This plain-speech digital assistant can help with search, calendaring, reminders and more. It lets users talk to their devices rather than type in commands and queries, although keyboard entry is an option with Cortana.

Different desktop and tablet versions - One version of the operating system for mouse and keyboard operation and one for touchscreen. It makes sense since full-time desktop users have trouble learning and carrying out mouse and keyboard navigation and input for the touch-driven OS. Trying to execute touch commands with a mouse is unwieldy and frustrating. It would be odd, though, for Microsoft to have separate versions given that it sells a tablet, Surface Pro 3, which doubles as a laptop, but stranger things have happened.


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