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Hands-on with Microsoft's new Windows 10: UI changes that look great at first blush

Mark Hachman | Oct. 1, 2014
At this point, Microsoft's next OS is literally a work in progress. But some of the changes in UI are available to view, and they're both lovely and productive.

My first experience with Windows 8 inspired bafflement and frustration. But I walked away from my first few minutes with Windows 10 with a sense of jealousy. It looks like a significant improvement, and I want it on my PC right now.

Microsoft is launching Windows 10 as the new face of both Windows and eventually Windows Phone. At one point during Microsoft's Tuesday press event, Terry Myerson, the executive vice president in charge of Microsoft's OS group, called the new OS "our most open, collaborative OS project ever." Collaborative, indeed. Microsoft is looking for user feedback, and what I demo'd on Tuesday may not be the same OS that customers receive next year.

Microsoft executives didn't even characterize the system as an alpha; they referred to it as a "build." So with Windows 10 tentatively scheduled to be launched around the middle of 2015, there's quite a bit of time to change, remove or add features before the system launches.

windows10 tech preview start menu
IMAGE: MICROSOFT.The Windows 10 Start Menu fues Windows 7 icons and Windows 8 Live Tiles.

That said, we can still point to various features that embody the new Windows 10 experience, and will almost certainly make the cut. These include the revamped Start menu; the new "task view," virtual desktops and ALT-TAB features; windowed apps; and the new "snap assist" capability. Granted, I had a just a few moments to play around with each. But I quite liked what I saw, and if you sign up for the new Windows Insider program, you'll have a chance to form your own impressions beginning on Wednesday.

The revamped Start Menu: clean, intuitive
I'm not wholeheartedly in love with the new Start Menu. Aesthetically, it looks like someone surgically conjoined the Windows 7 and Windows 8 experience. Move past that inelegance, however, and it's darn useful. On the left, there's a list of frequently used apps, along with shortcuts to PC settings, as well as your documents and pictures folders. At the bottom, there's a shortcut to launch an "all apps" view. 

On the right, the Live Tiles reproduce the functionality of the Windows 8 Start screen, with resizeable tiles that can dynamically show you how much unread mail is left. It appears that you should think of Live Tiles more like notifications rather than app shortcuts, although you can use them either way. Microsoft's demo station had a large oversize tile showing the current calendar appointment, which seemed appropriate.

windows 10 start menu long
MARK HACHMAN. If you want, you can resize the Start menu, increasing or decreasing its size and adjusting its position.

 

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