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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.

Also, if you want to resize the Start menu itself, you're free to do so.

As some leaked videos foreshadowed, you can revert to the Windows 8 Start page, if you so choose. But that option wasn't checked off, leading me to believe that most people would prefer the desktop experience.

A new Windows world: Task view, virtual desktops, and ALT-TAB
One of the Microsoft executives I talked to referred to the new "task view" as a "poor man's multimonitor setup." I can understand why. 

Virtually all Windows users use ALT-TAB to quickly shuffle between windows. It's a great way to move from one task to the next. That capability is still available in Windows 10.

windows 10 alt tab
MARK HACHMAN. Using Alt-TAB to cycle through windows isn't that different than Windows 8, but you can see more of what each window holds.

What's different, however, is the new "task view" button. Down in the Windows 10 taskbar, third from the left, is a button that, when clicked, brings up an array of "virtual desktops."

What's a virtual desktop? Think of it as a virtual display.

If you're running a multimonitor set-up, chances are you're already allocating different applications to different screens: a browser window on one display, Outlook on another, and maybe a chat app on your docked notebook. But with Windows 10, Microsoft allows you to snap more than one app to a screen. So if you choose, you could fill a secondary monitor with an Outlook pane and a PowerPoint file that you're referencing in an email to the colleague.

windows 10 taskbar
MARK HACHMAN. The Windows 10 taskbar includes the Windows button, which launches the Start menu, the new Task View button, and the Search button. To the far right, the "underlined" apps show that they're located inside a virtual desktop.

But if you have one monitor, tapping the task view button--or more usefully, Windows+TAB--swaps between desktops, which are displayed on the bottom of the display. So if you have a "project screen" with PowerPoint, a browser window, and OneNote all contained within it, you can swap to an entirely different virtual desktop, or workspace, perhaps with Facebook and Xbox Music. You'll also notice the apps themselves are shown above the desktops themselves, so if you can't remember what virtual desktop actually owned that app, you can just jump into it regardless.

There's also a feature that may or may not make it to final release: On your taskbar, you're probably used to instances of multiple browser windows stacked on one another. But in Windows 10, you may also see that app "underlined" by a horizontal bar, showing that it's in a virtual desktop.

 

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