If you are currently using Windows 7 -
you will want to upgrade for free to Windows 10
If you are currently using Windows 8 (or 8.1) -
they are giving you a free upgrade to Windows 10.
Even if you don't think you will use the new features; you might as well upgrade to restart the technical support clock!
Windows 10 is expected to be one the biggest overhauls of a Microsoft operating system since they abandoned Windows Millennium Edition. We are going to look at what is coming to a PC near you and why you should be considering your next OS upgrade.
In order to tell you about Windows 10, also known by it's codename of Threshold, I have played with the Windows Technical Preview that has been available to download and install for some time. The rumor is that this preview is going to be locked down soon so not everything will be from the horses mouth (or rather my horse sized fingers) and I will also look to what everyone else is saying as well.
This is going to be an article that I consider "living" and I will update it as often as I can so that you can make an informed choice that you want to upgrade to Windows 10.
It was Quick - but don't read too much into that
Now the most important thing to remember is that the installation process is definitely going to change. I started at Evaluation Build 9841 which is the first public beta preview. This is probably an edition of Windows that you would be familiar with as Windows 7 (or 8) Pro; there are other editions available for previewing if you are more likely to be heading for use in an enterprise environment.
The first installation of the Windows Technical Preview took less than 15 minutes. That is not surprising as most of the final code is being written and only some of the apps and features were included.
To Tie or Not To Tie?
If you already use Windows 8 or 8.1 then you will know that Microsoft prefer you to set up a Microsoft Account. There are actually great benefits to doing this such as easily accessing your Skype, e-mail and cloud storage with a single sign-on, as well as of course Microsoft also being able to selectively target you with advertising or storage add-ons.
You can set up a user account that is completely local and I have yet to decide whether my Windows 10 administrator is going to be cut off from the online world. The thing is though that Windows 10 is that it is increasingly tailored to be idiot proof like it's rival Apple OS's. I doubt the Windows Store will ever be as strict as the Apple "iFranchise" but I bet someone somewhere with Windows 10 will eventually prove themselves to be a better idiot.
During the installation process there were a number of options that are clearly tailored to making it as easy for first time installers as possible. Simple slider switches asking you if you want to enable "Do Not Track" as default on Internet Explorer and whether you want Bing as your default search engine were prominent. I wonder if this quiet push to re-engaging users with Microsoft products is going to be a long term issue.
The Windows Store allows you to install many programs and apps directly from the shop window like you can for your most popular smart cell phones; and for those that are already familiar, most of the apps and games seem to be similar to those found for Windows 8.
I tried out the new store downloading a few games and I found that for the games I downloaded there was no way to play the game with your keyboard. It was clearly optimised for a touchscreen.
The Facebook app I also downloaded from the Windows Store is modified from the common mobile phone apps. It looks awful and Windows clearly needs to avoid a "one OS for all" policy.
The Start Menu
For the new Windows 10 desktop though, our Start Menu is making somewhat of a return albeit with subtle changes and incorporating metro style tiles in the new install.
Now I should really bring in my good lady wife. She is severely sight impaired and has to use her gadget and devices on low resolutions. She has said she like the ideas of a tiled start menu though, so when the newer updates are ready we should hope for this to stick around.
As you can see left, metro-style tiles will still be size adjustable, allowing a bigger preference to programs you use the most or are more likely to need when you are inebriated and using the touch screen on your laptop or tablet.
New in Windows 10 (albeit not to other operating systems) is the virtual desktop. I can keep all my games on one virtual desktop (I have an ever-increasing Steam library) while working on web development on another and my InfoBarrel tasks on a third.
Something I am wondering though, because I have not thought about it while logged onto Windows Technical Preview, is whether the computer ports will work differently. Now the reason I ask this out loud is because I have recently been using a local server stack called XAMPP and the default ports for Apache (I am digressing onto web servers for a moment) is the same as Skype. Not good when you want to use the same computer and don't want to go fiddling with ports!
Task View, which to be honest is similar to using good old ALT+Tab window switch, will allow you to switch through these virtual desktops. As you can see to the right, I have started up a few of these virtual desktops but I wonder if there is a bit of work to be done.
You see when I go into "desktop 2" and open something like the Windows Store then it opens in all the later desktops. Now that might be because I have opened up a number of virtual units, but then when I want to open a new instance of Internet Explorer the computer insists on going back to my first screens where I have an IE window open.
If this is the intended feature then I can not see half of the point of it.
There is one problem though - and if they don't change it I probably would not use Task View.
The virtual desktops that are created are not permanent. When you log off, they are gone. The third party solutions on Windows such as VirtuaWin already offer a vast extension of the new Microsoft "feature" and lets be honest, if you are already a virtual desktop power user then you are probably already using Ubuntu or another Linux distribution.
If you are thinking that you will need different desktops because sometimes you use a Bluetooth keyboard with your Windows 10 tablet then fear not; Microsoft have thought of that too. Continuum, from the demonstrations I have seen, show a Microsoft Surface tablet-hybrid and the basic idea is that when you attach the keyboard then it works like a netbook/laptop, but when you disconnect the keyboard then it will work like a tablet computer.
Now I think that this is a great idea and would certainly appeal to me when I am working away from the office; but there is no mention as to whether this is also going to work with Windows 10 tablets that you then connect a keyboard to using Bluetooth!
This great thing is though, this is going to make it so much easier for the likes of you and me to go out and take photographs using the tablet's camera and then almost immediately publishing them to InfoBarrel and connecting the keyboard to do all the writing!
A Demonstration of Continuum
Published by Microsoft
As you can see, there is so much going on now with the new Windows 10 previews that I have had to start writing and as I experiment with the new features then I will update this piece as I go along.
It is worth pointing out that there is a new build which has been released in the last few weeks. That means that some of this information might be slightly out of date while I catch up and see what we have here.
Windows 10, codenamed Threshold, is coming though.