Monday, October 13, 2014

Hands on with Windows 10 Technical Preview

windows-10-feature-vs-window-8 It's no secret that Windows 8 was a complete flop. From market share to feedback from end users, the response has been pretty bad. The successor to Windows 7 introduced the Metro UI (now called Modern UI) to the desktop which has previously been introduced with Windows Phone 7. With this new version, Microsoft decided to kill the start menu which was introduced back in the 90's on Windows 95. The iconic menu system was replaced with a touch centric start screen which was filled with live tiles. Month's after Windows 8 was released, Microsoft realized where they got it wrong and started to fix things up by introducing back the start button and an option to boot straight into the desktop.

Despite that, the reception was still not there because of the supposedly high learning curve windows 8 imposes; from the windows store apps to the hidden charms bar, users were scratching their head. I can relate to this because when I first used windows 8 I didn't even know how to shut down the PC without punching in ALT + F4. Two years into the introduction of Windows 8, someone in Microsoft decided that this has to stop and last week, Microsoft revealed their master plan for the future of windows. They're calling it Windows 10 and for obvious reasons, the new operating system was such a leap ahead that they're skipping a number. In actual fact, they wanted to call it Windows One which would play nicely with the XBOX One and OneDrive name but Windows One has already been done 30 years ago.

"Why 10 you ask, because 7 8 9"
Today, they're starting off with the desktop version and other versions of Windows 10 (eg. Phone, IoT, server, etc) will be detailed during BUILD 15. The Windows 10 technical preview is now available for anyone to try out the suggested capabilities of the new desktop operating system. Why did I says suggested, well because this is the first time ever Microsoft is announcing an operating system this advance. Usually when they announce a new OS, the features are already locked down and what users say about it won't be taken into account. Microsoft is targeting a late 2015 launch of the full version of windows 10 and that gives them a solid year to gather information about the things users want and optimize it further.
start screen new For the past few days I was playing around with the technical preview and besides the random crashes and slow boot up time, Windows 10 felt a lot more like Windows 8 than Windows 7. Installation was quite simple, if you've installed windows before, the process is identical. As you may already know, in Windows 10 Microsoft is reviving the start menu as well as give it a more modern approach. The star menu itself works the same like on Windows 7 but Microsoft has cleverly implemented live tiles on the right side of the start menu. Personally, I've gotten used to the Start screen on Windows 8 after using it for a few months now and the Start menu on Windows 10 is like the best of both worlds. Another staple feature of Windows 10 is the improved multitasking capabilities.

Building upon Windows 8, Microsoft has made snapping multiple windows much more easier and you can even snap windows into 4 quadrants for the utmost productivity. Besides that, there is also a new tab switcher which is a combination of the Windows Vista 3D switcher and Windows 7/8 tabbed based switcher. The one present on Windows 10 will display all the open windows in a grid layout and I have mixed feelings about it. Some part of me says it's a modern approach and suits Microsoft's Modern UI and another part of me is like thinking, this is definitely made for touch.
windows-10-snap-view Another notable addition to Windows 10 is virtual desktops, this is very much similar to multiple spaces on Apple's OSX operating system. This feature came in handy because I was installing the technical preview on my laptop and there wasn't much screen real estate. I went the distance by outputting my laptop to an auxiliary monitor to try out how this feature scaled up. I was impressed with how it worked, both displays had their unique virtual desktop and opening two virtual desktops on each monitor means I have space for four desktops. Again, despite the "coolness" of this feature, it still needs some optimizations for special scenarios because currently you can only open one instance of a program only once even if you are in another virtual desktop. Overall I am quite happy with Windows 10 at it’s current state and I can't wait to see the final version next year. Below here are a couple screenshots of the Windows 10 features I talked about.
window-10-search-comparison
Currently, you can search both on the Start menu and a dedicated search app which is pinned on the taskbar 
window-10-snap-view-store-apps
Microsoft has taken away the touch friendly snap mode on Windows 10 and you can now even snap Windows Store apps
window-10-snap-view-store-apps-small-monitor
But despite that, the Store Apps will need to be further optimized to scale better on smaller displays
windows-10-store-apps-window-charms-menu
Windows Store apps now open on the desktop and are no longer opened fullscreen, the charms options has also been moved to the window 
windows-10-taskview
I went all out to open 20+ applications to see the limit of the task view (ALT + TAB)
windows-10-virtual-desktops
As you can see each virtual desktop has it's unique view