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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.

Another difference: The width of the Start menu has increased, so more apps are visible. It takes up a much larger portion of my screen.

On the upper right of the Start menu is now a Power button for shutting down or restarting Windows. And there's also a button for expanding the Start menu. Click it, and the Start menu takes up the entire screen. This is, in fact, the interface that touch devices eight inches or larger will use by default instead of old Windows 8 Start screen. The same button will shrink the Start menu back to its previous size.

There's another new feature as well: Continuum, which performs a kind of shape-shifting that allows Windows to automatically sense what type of machine it's running on, and alter its interface to reflect that.

Let's say you use a 2-in-1 device such as the Surface Pro 3 that can work both as a keyboardless tablet and a laptop. With Windows 10, when you use the device as a laptop, the interface has the smaller Start menu. Detach the keyboard, and a notification appears asking if you want to change the Start menu to full-screen mode, so that it has a tablet-oriented interface. Re-attach the keyboard, and a notification asks if you want to use the smaller Start menu.

All in all, I found this new arrangement went a long way towards unifying the OS into a single interface. Windows no longer feels like a Rube Goldberg contraption — a tablet-oriented operating system for which traditional computers are an afterthought.

Unified settings

One of the more maddening aspects of Windows 8 was the way in which settings were spread throughout the operating system: Some were found in Windows 8-style Modern apps and others in the Control Panel on the desktop. It was difficult to remember which settings were found where, and annoying to have to constantly switch between Windows 8's dueling interfaces.

This preview of Windows 10 now has a single place you're supposed to go for all those settings: the Modern-style Settings app. It's logically organized and simple to navigate, so you can easily drill down into system settings, device settings, network settings and more.

However, those who really like deep dives into their settings (like me) won't find the new Settings app up to the task, and will still need the Control Panel — which hasn't been killed. For example, if you want Windows to display files that are normally hidden in Windows, or display file extensions for common files, you're still going to have to go to the Control Panel and dig into File Explorer options.

Still, the new Settings app is a big improvement over the Windows 8 version. For most things, you'll be perfectly content using it. It may be that there will always be a place for the Control Panel, because to fit all of Windows' obscure settings into a single Settings app could possibly make that app too complex and difficult to use for most tasks.

 

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