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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.

windows10 tech preview virtual desktop
IMAGE: MICROSOFT. The new task view shows you your virtual desktops, and the apps contained within them

For now, virtual desktops are a convenience, but they could also emerge as a security feature, allowing users to assign permissions to different ones. Microsoft officials wouldn't tell me if they'll be isolated from one another or "sandboxed" over time.

Snap snaps with Snap Assist and windowed apps
And what about Snap, the nifty little feature that fills half of a Windows 8 screen? That's been improved as well. Every app in Windows 10 can be dynamically resized in a window, although it remains to be see how well this works in practice.

Windows 10 snap assist
MARK HACHMAN. Snap a document to one side of the screen, and Snap Assist will suggest some others.

In Windows 8, apps can be snapped by clicking the Windows key and the left or right arrow, snapping them to the left or right of the screen. That fills half the screen. With Windows 10, up to four apps can be snapped per screen, maximizing your productivity.

What's neat, though, is that once you snap an app, Windows 10 suggests another, similar app that you might want to snap next to it, from a small collection of windows. The feature is intended to save you the hassle of hunting about through menus to actually construct a virtual desktop. Time will tell whether these suggestions will prove useful, but it's a good start.

You can see, however, that a number of different features--Snap Assist, windowed apps, virtual desktops--all flow somewhat organically into one another. I'm honestly interested to see what difference they make in my own daily workflow.

Last but not least: Search improvements
Windows 10 also adds a search button to the taskbar, moving the other major functionality of the Windows 8 Start page to the desktop environment. If you're like me, you really don't click icons on the Start page any more (or use bookmarks when searching the Web). Instead, "searching" for recent apps or documents is often quicker. 

windows10 windows product family 9 30 event
IMAGE: MICROSOFT. Microsoft promises consistent experiences over a variety of form factors and screen sizes

That approach is also found in Windows 10. Microsoft officials say that Search and File Explorer now displays your recent files and frequently visited folders, making finding files you've worked on faster and easier. 

Granted, Microsoft's Windows 10 demonstration was somewhat orchestrated to put its best face forward. But with potentially millions of eager Windows users prepared to bang away on it beginning Wednesday, any flaws will be quickly exposed. What's refreshing is Microsoft is actually encouraging this, similar to the way in which "developers"--i.e., fans--were encouraged to take its latest Windows Phone builds for a spin.

Love it or hate it? Microsoft wants to know. But I think you'll quite like Windows 10.

 

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