Microsoft has launched the latest incarnation of the Windows operating system, Windows 10, as a free update for millions of people around the world.
The company is rolling the update out in stages, with users of Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 offered the update for free. Users are informed when the update is ready to be installed by a notification box in the taskbar.
Millions of people have already installed the update, but others will be presented with the option to update in the coming hours, or can speed up the process if they are a little impatient.
The update includes the welcome return of the taskbar, and fixes many of the other mistakes of Windows 8 along with a host of new features including the Cortana voice assistant and Edge, Microsoft’s first new web browser in 20 years.
Reactions to Windows 10
You really are going to love Windows 10. You’ll almost certainly want to upgrade your computers to it, especially since it’s free.
But you might not want to do that tomorrow. I’d suggest you wait six weeks. By then, Microsoft will have swatted most of the bugs, and many of your favorite software companies will have released Windows 10-compatible versions.
For those of you who, like me, have considered Cortana more of a fun gimmick than a useful tool — try thinking of her/it as a way to send yourself reminders while you’re in the middle of other tasks. Being able to type “Remind me to put those Heady Topperson ice at 2 p.m. for later” when I remember while heads-down on writing new post (while dreaming of craft beer) is pretty darn handy.
I am ecstatic the dual Windows Desktop/Metro world is no more, as of Windows 10. Universal/modern apps can run in windows, as can desktop apps, on the unified Windows 10 desktop. A PC/laptop user not in tablet mode should never have been forced into”TileWorld,” as happened with Windows 8. Those too-easily-triggered and confounding Windows 8 Charms are gone (huzzah!), but the contracts behind them, enabling users to do things like quickly share content via email or messaging, are still around.
Windows 10 is hugely exciting. I rarely touch my MacBook Air anymore as I find the combination of some good hardware (like the Dell XPS 13) and Windows 10 is a joy to use. I like the direction Microsoft is taking with Windows 10, accepting feedback and ideas from its customers along the way. It feels like the best way to shape Windows into something people enjoy using, rather than something they have to use.
That’s the nature of the Windows cycle: bad version, then a good version. Windows 10 is a great fix to the problems of Windows 8, and that’s exactly what we all expected.
The near-final build I’ve been testing proved surprisingly buggy. In particular, I had trouble with Windows 10’s sexiest new feature, the voice-controlled Cortana intelligent assistant — Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri — which has migrated from Windows Phones to the PC.
Still, some of the new features are promising, the balance between old and new styles seems right this time, and — if the bugs get erased — Windows 10 would be a good choice for Windows devotees.
However, it’s just okay, not disruptive. It’s perhaps what Windows 8 might have looked like if it had been evolutionary, not revolutionary. I doubt it will convert many Mac owners, spur a shopping spree in new PCs, bring in droves of new developers, or save the Windows Phone.
And I advise would-be upgraders who aren’t enthusiasts to wait to upgrade at least for a few months, until the product is more stable and reliable.
Before we go any further, let’s get this out of the way: You should upgrade to Windows 10. If you’re using Windows 8, 7, XP, ME, or 3.1, you should upgrade. Maybe wait a couple of weeks for the biggest bugs to be squashed, but do it. Why wouldn’t you? It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s a huge improvement on whatever version you’re using.
It is the Start menu is Windows 10’s most obvious feature and it will please Windows 7 users. It combines a list of programs similar to Windows 7 with one or two panels of live tiles pulled from Windows 8. Selecting “all programs” shows them in alphabetical order, but the search box is familiar to users of Vista and Windows 7 has been moved to the taskbar, where it is more obviously accessible.
You can run your traditional desktop programs from either side of the Start menu, from the taskbar, or from XP-style icons on the desktop. If you really don’t want to change the way you work, Windows 10 won’t force you.
Combine the early bugs with the spottiness of Cortana and the fact that third-party app developers are still updating their Windows apps for Windows 10, and the operating system still has a little ways to go before it becomes a solid all-around upgrade. But the improvements to security, along with the familiar user interface, should be reasons to grab this upgrade sooner than later (especially if you’re on Windows 7 and lacking up-to-date security tools).
I am dismayed at some of the changes, especially in tablet mode. Windows 8 did some bold things in the tablet space, and I think it advanced the way we work with those devices. Windows 10 feels lesser as a tablet platform. But simultaneously with that, Continuum is smart and overall enhances the use of hybrid devices. On balance, we’ve gained more than we’ve lost—but I wish we didn’t have to lose anything at all.
Windows 10 is the best Windows yet. I think almost everyone upgrading from both Windows 7 and Windows 8 will be upgrading to a better operating system that is less annoying and more effective. I think that everyone who is eligible to upgrade should do so; I can see little reason to stick with those older operating systems unless one has very specific compatibility or regulatory concerns. Windows 10 is without a doubt better, and with each passing month it’s going to stretch that lead and become better still.
But I’d also wait a few weeks, maybe even a couple of months, before making the move.
The biggest problem with Windows 10 is that I have little reason to use it outside of work. At home, I rely on a smartphone, mobile apps and websites that don’t require Windows—and sometimes fit awkwardly in a Windows world.
Windows 10 is a reminder that computer software alone doesn’t equal digital happiness anymore. Among the first things it will ask you to do is log in to a Microsoft account. But it feels like a ham-handed attempt to make us use Microsoft’s own less popular (and inferior) services like OneDrive and Bing.
After spending the past few years with Windows 8, using Windows 10 felt like being thrown back into the past — but in a good way. I never quite got used to the way the last OS treated keyboards and mice as an afterthought, and I’ve heard the same from plenty of other Windows power users. So you can imagine how satisfying it was to feel a return to Windows 7 levels of desktop productivity. For example, when you tap the Windows key on your keyboard, the Start menu pops up immediately. In Windows 8, it took a bit longer for the Start screen to appear. So now the simple task of hitting the Windows key and immediately typing to search for something — one of the things I do most often — feels significantly improved.
Ironically, I found my MacBook Air to be the best Windows 10 laptop. It may not have a touchscreen, but it was snappier, and beat the Dell and Surface for normal scrolling and navigating. (The three-finger swipe wasn’t enabled during my tests, however.) Windows 10 is in desperate need of a worthy PC laptop.
Another thing that’s made me a master Windows 10 multitasker is the ability to easily snap email to one side of the screen and a Web browser to the other. Microsoft included app-snapping in previous Windows versions, but now it suggests other open apps or windows to place next to it. It also lets you tile up to four windows on the screen. It’s a huge time saver, especially when helping herd the stray windows on my external monitor. The feature is so great, Apple put it in its next version of OS X and iOS for the iPad. But Microsoft’s implementation is better, in part because it has addictive keyboard shortcuts