Windows 10 is here! Well, almost…

If you follow the fun-filled world of computing, you’ve probably heard that Microsoft announced the next version of Windows on September 30th. During their event, Microsoft showed off a few of their biggest features, and released a public beta.  If you’re a Windows fanboy like me, you can download in install it through Microsoft from here.  While you can install it to your computer, remember that this operating system is nowhere near complete, and you’re going experience many bugs and unfinished features.  Also remember that Microsoft is using this to see how people use the operating system, so the company collects a lot more information about the user than normal.  If you still have your heart set on trying it out, I’d recommend installing it on a virtual machine using VirtualBox or something similar rather than replace your daily driver.

From Microsoft's blog post announcing the new OS

Windows 10 Announcement

What Happened to Windows 9?

Kinda strange, huh?  For reasons unknown, Microsoft seems to have “skipped” the next logical number and went straight for Windows 10. Microsoft never officially mentioned a reason as to why, but there’s a rumor that it was done for coding reasons.  A lazy way to check if a computer was running either Windows 95 or Windows 98 was to see if the version string began with “Windows 9”.  Again, there’s no official reason why, but this seems like a pretty reasonable explanation.

Enough about names, Let’s talk about features!

The Return of the Start Menu

If you’re one of the many people who absolutely loathe the Windows 8 Start Screen, then you’ll be happy to hear that the the Start Menu is back!  It’s a nice merge of the tried-and-true start menu with the program list and search bar and the “Modern tiles” from Windows 8.  The tiles update and scroll through information and right clicking the button brings up a sort of power-user menu.

The Start Menu’s Back! We’ve missed you.

One thing I noticed was the lack of links to common system settings.  It isn’t really a big deal, but it’ll take some getting used to.

Another thing to note, if you’re on a touchscreen device or if you’re like me and the start screen has grown on you, you can get it back in the navigation settings.

Virtual Desktops

Windows 10 will finally have this wonderful feature that I’ve grown to depend on in both Linux and OSX.  Virtual Desktops organizes your open windows to different screens.  It’s a lot like having the organization benefits of multiple monitors on only one display.  If you’ve never seen Virtual Desktops, you can see it in action below. Currently, you can access this feature from a button in the taskbar, or by pressing WIN+TAB.  It still needs work to be as functional as Linux and OSX, but its a great start and I’m looking forward to seeing how this progresses.

The Command Prompt

Believe it or not, Microsoft has actually spent effort to edit the Command Prompt! While this isn’t relevant to most users, for IT folks like us, this is pretty big.  The text-based interface now come with all sorts of new little features like being able to wrap text, resize horizontally, and paste using CTRL-V instead of having to right-click.

Overall

Windows 10 seems like a bit of a step backwards compared to Windows 8’s touch oriented interface, but that’s not nessesarilly a bad thing.  The vast majority of people still use a standard mouse and keyboard so it’s nice to see that Microsoft is listening to its users.  There weren’t a staggering number of new features announced, and the few that are here still need quite a bit of work, but remember that Windows 10 is still in its very early stages.  I’m looking forward to seeing the operating system mature from this preview to its final release.