Windows 8 was an awkward amalgamation of tablet and desktop operating systems. It came at a time when tablets, such as the iPad, were threatening to usurp the PC’s position as the most popular form factor. The answer –or what Microsoft thought was the answer- was to do away with all the old stuff and force users into an entirely touch-based operating environment.
However, touchscreen-device adoption was slow; most people stuck with their trusty mouse-and-keyboard devices. Windows 8 was very difficult for most users to navigate around: some apps could only be used in full-screen mode and menus could only be accessed by touch gestures that could not be performed on a mouse.
Windows 10 aims to cheer people up again –that’s probably why it’s free. The iconic Start menu is back, along with the “all apps” list from good ol’ Windows 7. Much of the OS is, once again, mouse friendly; the touch-based interface is now restricted to touch-devices.
From a design-perspective, this new version is definitely a step up. The ultra-minimalist styling in Windows 8 is still around, albeit in a much more refined form: every menu, sidebar, and button has a cleaner look and feel to it. Even the system alerts (the noises you hear when you try to make Windows do something that can’t be done) sound much less intrusive.
Internet Explorer, the world’s most hated browser, has been finally put out of its misery. In its place is the new “Edge” browser. It’s fast, and offers a note-taking mode that allows you to doodle on webpages – a tool that would be quite useful in the classroom. Microsoft built this browser from the ground up, which is why it’s still missing a lot of features.
Power users, such as myself, have something they can rejoice in, too. Just like in “Mission Control” on Mac OSX, you can now create individual, virtual desktops for each of the tasks you’re working on. The new “snap assistant” also makes it much easier to organise your windows.
Though there are still some minor bugs here and there, the fact that Microsoft is promising weekly, or even daily, updates for years to come makes this much less of a problem. If you’re a disillusioned Windows 8 user, you’d probably want to get this upgrade immediately. Windows 7 users may need some time to adjust to the new interface, but upgrading would certainly do you no harm.