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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.

At first, I found that having two types of interfaces for search results was somewhat disconcerting, but after a while I got used to it. It makes sense to display results for files differently than results for information.

You can also get the latest news and information by tapping the Cortana button on the left side of the search box. Up pops a vertical, scrollable screen. Click any item to get more information about it.

Cortana is tied to your Microsoft ID in the same way that Google Now is tied to your Google email address. So when you log into Windows on any device, Cortana already knows your preferences. I'd already used Cortana on a Windows Phone, and so Cortana knew all about me when I used it on Windows 10. When I tapped the Cortana button, it knew I live in Cambridge and showed me the upcoming weather (not so good; at the time, the winter's first blizzard was bearing down on the city). It knew I was a Patriot's fan (not so good again; plenty of articles about Deflategate). It knew the time of day and where I lived, so popped up a list of nearby restaurants where I might want to have lunch.

Before installation, I was not convinced Cortana would be particularly useful on a desktop or laptop. In my previous tests on Windows Phone, I found its ties to location-based services of most help: Telling me about nearby stores and restaurants, offering advice about driving and traffic and so on. I wasn't sure that I would have much use for information like that on a PC that wasn't used on the go. But I found its searches on my PC for documents quite useful, as well as its listing of relevant news.

Cortana is a prime example of Microsoft's attempt to unify Windows not just as a single operating system for traditional PCs and tablets, but for phones as well. Use Cortana on all your devices, and it learns more about you and becomes more useful.

Revamped Map app

The apps that shipped with Windows 8 were underwhelming, often low-powered and not particularly useful. In this Windows 10 update, Microsoft turns its attention to one in particular — Maps — and does a fine job with it.

Maps features a new layout, with the map on the right and a sidebar on the left with icons for searching, adding a location to a Favorites list, getting directions and changing your settings. Overlaid on the right side of the map are buttons for zooming, tilting the map, changing the map orientation, adding overlays such as traffic or changing to an aerial view. A My Location button centers your current location on the map. You can also control the app via Cortana by speaking directions rather than typing or tapping them.

 

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