Chief among the new features on display:
- Start menu with cascading menus on the left and Metro tiles on the right. Menu items can be dragged to the tiled side, tiles can be resized, and the Start menu can be made taller or shorter by dragging, with excess tiles popping out to the right.
- Metro apps running in resizable windows on the desktop. The resizable Metro apps can be snapped left and right, exactly like plain, old-fashioned Desktop apps.
- Snap Assist, which presents you with (snappable) thumbnails of all running programs as soon as you snap one program to the left or right. You can now snap to four corners of the screen, as well as side-to-side.
- Multiple desktops.
- The new Task View icon shows thumbnails of all running apps in the middle of the screen and, at the same time, thumbnails of other desktops just above the taskbar. (See Figure 1.) Swiping from the left brings up Task View, too. The ancient Alt-Tab "coolswitch" also cycles through all the desktops.
- New support for the Command Prompt. (What, Ctrl-V actually pastes at the C:> prompt? Be still my beating heart.) Rafael Rivera has a good overview on his WithinRafael blog.
The Charms bar is still there, but Belfiore says it will "evolve."
Belfiore also showed a "design motion study" (read: video) that covers the thorny question of how to switch between touch and keyboard input -- basically, tablet and laptop modes -- on convertible devices with detachable keyboards. Microsoft's goal with Continuum, which hasn't yet been realized, is to bring up a dialog when you attach or detach a keyboard, asking your permission to switch from touch to keyboard and back again.
Like IE12, Cortana -- Microsoft's intelligent personal assistant -- was conspicuously absent from the presentation, as was the sorely missed Notification Center. Storage Sense and Wi-Fi Sense, two Windows Phone (er, Windows on the phone) features destined for Windows 10 were also not mentioned. We also heard nothing about packaging, prices, upgrades, or downgrades.
What you can do now to prepare for Windows 10
Those interested in getting a taste of the new Windows experience, and what it could mean in corporate settings, can join the Windows Insider Program and download the Windows Technical Preview bits for laptops and desktops. In theory, that link will be live by the time you read this. Myerson says he's looking for input on the design of Windows 10 -- an enormously refreshing change from the days when Windows designers worked with study groups and telemetry. Don't get me started on steering a boat by its wake.
"We plan to share more than we ever have before and, frankly, earlier than we ever have before," Myerson said. "Windows 10 will be our most open, collaborative Windows project ever." That's Myerson's promise, and I believe him.
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