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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.

Say goodbye to the Charms Bar

There have been a number of other interface changes as well, including the banishment of the Windows 8 Charms Bar, which appeared on the right-hand side when you swiped from the right or pressed the Windows key + C.

I was never a fan of the Charms Bar. I had always found it to be an awkward mish-mash of unrelated icons, including those for searching, changing settings, sharing content, going to the Start screen and managing devices.

Thankfully, it has breathed its last — although I'm no big fan of its replacement, either. The Action Center displays notifications on the right side of the screen from Windows itself as well as from Mail, News and other apps (say, from a Twitter client) if you ask it to. It's a good idea, but even though I configured my apps to display notifications, none of them showed up. I've seen online reports from people who said Action Center notifications worked for them, so it may be something about my setup that caused the problem.

The Action Center includes at its bottom a group of icons that lets you make changes to some settings, such as switching to tablet mode, turning on Airplane mode, configuring Wi-Fi and using a VPN. That's an odd collection of settings, because they're certainly not the ones most people use frequently. How often to you need to use the Windows VPN, for example? Or switch to Airplane mode? Microsoft needs to refine which settings would be most useful to display here.

Say hello to Cortana

The last big change in this rev is the addition of Cortana, Microsoft's Siri-like digital assistant, which first appeared in Windows Phone. There's now a Cortana search bar underneath the Windows 10 Start menu. To use it, you type in a search term, question or request. If you prefer speech to typing, you can tap the microphone key and say "Hey, Cortana," or "Hi, Cortana" and speak your term, question or request.

At that point, Cortana does a universal search, looking through files, settings, email, videos, music and apps on your PC, in your OneDrive account (Microsoft's cloud-based storage service) and the Web. The way the search results are displayed varies according to what you're looking for.

So if you are looking for information on the Web, such as "How much snow did Boston get this year?" Cortana will launch Internet Explorer and perform a Bing search. If, however, you say "Show me my photos from last year," a different screen appears, which displays the categories such as Files, Apps, Settings, Photos, Videos, Music and Email (but will only show any actual files from your system or OneDrive that fit your search criteria). You can click any category to see results and click any result to launch the associated app.


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