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Windows 10 review: Hold off if you use Windows 7

Woody Leonhard | July 30, 2015
After the truly wretched Windows 8 and marginally less wretched Windows 8.1, Windows 10 comes as a breath of fresh air.

Windows 7 upgraders can take advantage of many Windows 8-era ease-of-use improvements: a better Task Manager, more functional File Explorer (though it still doesn't support tabs), Storage Spaces to manage all of your drives in a group, File History, built-in antivirus, and the considerable plumbing improvements in Windows 8.


Even as Windows 10 rolls out to the world at large, big new features are still evolving. Some of the features are due for updates in or around October, in the Threshold 2 timeframe. Whether Microsoft dribbles some of the improvements out in the interim -- as one might expect with "Windows as a service" -- remains to be seen.

Edge, Microsoft's first modern browser and arguably its most advanced Windows Universal app program, looks poised to take on Firefox and Chrome head-to-head. It has a sleek new design, runs fast, and is closing in on its rivals in HTML5 support. Edge is infinitely (I say that in a clinical, measurable way) more secure than Internet Explorer because it doesn't support any of the offal that Microsoft has been foisting on us for years -- no ActiveX, no Silverlight, no custom navigation bars, no Browser Helper Objects, no VBScript, no attachEvent. For those of you stuck with that technology, Internet Explorer 11 will also ship with Windows 10.

Edge has a simple switch to turn Adobe Flash Player on and off. It also serves as the Windows default PDF reader, which is a huge improvement. Slightly ahead of RTM, Edge loosened its grip on Bing; you are now free to choose Google as your default search engine. Edge still doesn't have support for extensions or add-ons, similar to what you find in Google Chrome and Firefox. Microsoft promises that Edge will get extension support, but we have no idea when it will come.

The much-anticipated Cortana has its ups and downs. We've seen demos of Cortana sending messages and descriptions of Cortana firing off short emails. I can get it to compose an email, but not send it; your mileage may vary. With the version shipping now, we don't get much more than a note-taking, reminder-generating app with easy weather reports and a search front end -- you still have to click in Bing to get results. But the potential is there to make voice input the equal of other input methods. Many logistical hurdles await, including problems with sound pollution in offices. Think of a dozen Scottys picking up the mouse and saying, "Hello, computer."

Some features are frozen in limbo. Windows Settings still hasn't subsumed everything from Control Panel, so we have an awkward situation where numerous tasks -- for example, maintaining user accounts -- are split between two entirely different apps. Task view/multiple desktops is nice and useful -- as it has been since the days of Windows XP -- but you still can't assign different backgrounds to different desktops, and moving among desktops is still clunky.


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