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Windows 10 deep-dive review: Finally, a unified operating system

Preston Gralla | Jan. 30, 2015
The new release reveals a single operating system that shape-shifts according to the device it's running on, be that a PC, a tablet or a phone.

The second preview release of Windows 10 begins to flesh out Microsoft's vision of an operating system that bridges the gap between traditional PCs and touch-based tablets — something it failed at dismally in Windows 8. More than that, the new release reveals a single operating system that shape-shifts according to the device it's running on, be that a PC, a tablet or a phone.

Several new features and design elements refine Windows' overall look and feel; they also show off a significant addition, the Siri-like digital assistant Cortana. All in all, this version of Windows 10 is still not a finished operating system, but it's shaping up to be a winner.

The Start screen leaves and Continuum arrives

The return of the Start menu, first seen in the previous Windows 10 build, is at the core of Microsoft's commitment to providing an operating system that works as easily on a traditional PC as on a laptop. Microsoft made several changes in this new release that moves it even further towards that goal.

When I first installed this revision of Windows 10, I thought that perhaps I had done something wrong — maybe even grabbed the wrong ISO file for installation. Where was the dreaded touch-oriented Start screen? All I saw was a desktop.

Clicking the Start button or pressing the Windows button on the keyboard brought up the new Start menu, but not the touch-oriented Start screen. I nosed around various Windows settings to see if I could get the Start screen back. But no setting could be found.

And that's because the Start screen has been relegated to the dustbin — except for devices with screens smaller than eight inches. In its place are just the desktop and the Start menu. And that's a very good thing.

The Start menu in this version of Windows 10 is much like the one seen in the last technical preview. On the left-hand side of the menu is a list of apps, while on the right-hand side are live tiles of Modern apps (previously called Metro apps) that can display changing information, such as weather and news.

However, there have been some changes. The left-hand side is now organized into two groups. At the top are "Places," including File Explorer, Documents and Settings. Below it are "Most Used" apps, which you would expect to list the apps you use most frequently. In practice, though, I found that not to be the case. After several days of use, my "Most Used" list hadn't changed. It still had the Snipping Tool at the top, which I hadn't used once, and didn't include the Maps app, which I used quite frequently.

 

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