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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.

Some features have been yanked entirely. The Metro OneDrive app from Windows 8.1, which supported "smart files" that showed thumbnails of all files in File Explorer, whether they were synced or not, has been yanked in Windows 10. The old Windows 8.1 Metro Skype app was pulled. In Windows 10, there's a link to install the old, underwhelming Windows desktop version of Skype, but no Universal app.

As for advertising, Microsoft showed off its Spotlight capability for running ads on the lock screen early in the beta testing process. It even touted Spotlight as a new advertising medium for big-budget companies. Microsoft also included a "Highlighted app" capability, at one point putting a Microsoft-selected app on the left side of the Start screen. A couple of months ago, the Universal Weather app sprouted a display ad. All of those have been quashed in the current version. Whether they'll come sneaking back is anyone's guess. Perhaps advertising will become the price of using Windows 10.

Many other new features aren't yet fully functional. Continuum, which enables you to switch from touchscreen mode to mouse and back again, seems to be waiting for hardware improvements that will arrive with a new generation of devices. Windows Hello -- the face, finger, and retina log-on recognition feature -- similarly needs new hardware and drivers. Although fingerprint recognition reportedly works with some existing fingerprint scanners, face recognition requires a specific kind of camera typified at this point by Intel's RealSense technology. It's going to take a while before such cameras become commonplace.

Windows Media Center is gone. Windows 10 can't play DVDs. Minor irritations for most, with VLC an obvious free choice.

The rest of the apps are going through massive last-minute changes. Windows 10 Mail and Calendar are reasonably usable touch-enabled mail and calendar programs, but nowhere near Outlook.com or Google's new Inbox. People compares quite favorably to DOS-era contact managers, but doesn't set any new bars nowadays. The Photos app is a cobbled-together extension of the Windows 8.1 tile-based app, with some new smarts, but doesn't come close to what's widely available -- particularly when compared to Google Photos. The future of Music, renamed Groove, remains in doubt, and the app has a very convoluted method for managing playlists. It can't even add metadata. Movies & TV follows in the same rut. The Bing apps -- News, Money, Sports -- have improved modestly from Windows 8.1 days. The old Food & Drink (formerly Food), Health & Fitness (formerly Fitness), and Travel apps have all been pulled. 

On the flip side, Contact Support offers easy access to Microsoft support techs. If it's still free and still readily accessible in two or three months, that will be an enormous boon to beleaguered Windows users. DirectX 12 promises to bring new levels of reality to gamers.

 

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