Windows 10 is coming. From July 29th, Microsoft will roll out the bits for the latest operation system to Windows users who want to upgrade. Remember there’s no cost here if you do it within the 12 month timeline, the goal being for Microsoft to move as many Windows users to Windows 10 as fast as humanly possible.
In the last week, you may have noticed the Windows icon in the lower right hand corner of your machine. It just showed up one day, or it didn’t and some people who aren’t seeing it are super annoyed. This icon will take you through a reservation process which is weird, it’s like pre-ordering something that doesn’t have a limited number, it’s software, copying the bits is an infinite number.
In reality, the reservation really just shows Microsoft you want it and you want it as soon as the calendar ticks over to July 29th. To make this happen, it’s possible we’ll see the Xbox game model used where the download happen ahead of launch day but aren’t activated until the clock ticks over. There could be 10million, there could be 100 million people that want Windows 10 and without knowing the real number, it makes sense to spread the 3GB+ download across a number of days.
Even with the best CDN in the world, it’d be tough to distribute that many copies of anything at a specific time on a specific day, worldwide. Go ahead and click on the Windows icon, throw in your primary email address and then you’re done for now. Expect Microsoft to let you know (could be email, could be via the icon), we don’t know yet.
Windows 10 for Windows 7 users
Once the day comes, the update to Windows 10 will be very different based on your current OS. If you never moved to Windows 8, there’s a lot new. There’s the Store with easy to install and remove apps, just like your phone. These apps are across a large number of genres, range from free to paid and are increasingly responsive to the screen you’re running them on. There’s better file copies, there’s a great new Quick Access option at the top of File Explorer, so save a file anywhere in an app on Windows 10 and go to another and it’ll be there in the insert or open dialog. This is one of the best changes made to Windows 10.
Windows 10 for Windows 8 / 8.1 users
If you’re on Windows 8.1 and have kept up over the past few years, then there’s still plenty new in Windows 10, some changes though will have you scratching your head. Gone is the charms bar, now replaced with the Notification tray which makes notifications easier, but controlling sound volume and brightness harder. The full screen mode for modern apps is still there, but only if you’re in tablet mode, which happens automatically between keyboard attached vs removed. The start menu will take a bit to get used to as it’s now a combination of the Windows 7 and Windows 8 versions, but the best addition is the vertical groups as well as horizontal ones for organising live tiles.
New to you will also be Cortana integration which allows you to be more informed and pulls voice control of the OS out of a buried Control Panel assistive technology that nobody used, into the face of all PC users. There’s the new Edge browser which is fast and allows you to use a pen to annotate on web pages or select text, right click and Ask Cortana to explain it to you. Currently you have to set your Region and Language to the US to use Cortana and we don’t have confirmation from Microsoft that Australia will be there at launch.
Gone is Media Center, but according to the stats, you never used it anyway. There’s now circles everywhere, especially for people and users, which borrows for UI paradigms of other operating systems, but let’s just call that an industry standard now. The incomplete modern Settings is now far more comprehensive and while the Control Panel still technically exists, there’s basically no reason to use it.
Modern apps like Mail, Calendar, News, Sports, Weather etc.. have all been updated in Windows 10 to be universal. For the 3% of people with Windows Phone, you’ll be running these same apps, not the same name, but the same apps on your phone, but they scale intelligently to the phone display. Also don’t expect Windows 10 on phones to arrive anywhere close to July 29th, it’ll be months after the release and the Xbox One update to Windows 10 after that.
They’ve all changed controls to the updated Windows 10 and it’s new pill controls in options screens, as well as the move from universal app settings in the charms bar to a hamburger menu located wherever the developer decided. Gone is the horizontal scrolling, instead replaced by a new vertical scrolling.
Traditional apps like Paint, Notepad, WordPad, Character Map, are all the same as they were.
Windows Hello is new, which will leverage facial and fingerprint recognition to unlock your computer faster and easier, moving us one step closer to a world without passwords. In Windows 10 Build 10134, the option is in Settings > Accounts > Sing-on options, but it’s not yet active, but the time Windows 10 ships, it will be, but in some instances, this will require new hardware.
If you loved how Windows 8 gave you the ability to see placeholders to your files stored on the unlimited cloud of OneDrive, you’re life is about to get a lot more difficult. OneDrive in Windows 10 is completely broken now and it’s not something that will change between now and release. Supposedly there were people who struggled to understand when files were stored locally and stored remotely, so going offline, like you do on a flight would leave some people without the files they thought they had. Rather than solve this with icon overlays and education, the OneDrive team thought it was better to kill placeholders which means you have to now manually manage the folders you sync from OneDrive, to your machine.
If you use one machine with a massive HDD, then you can probably just sync all of it and you’ll be happy. If you’re like most people and use smaller capacity machines and multiple devices, then you’ll have to selectively choose the folders that will fit on your machine. Say you don’t sync your photos folder, but you do download photos to your Surface Pro 3 and save them to a OneDrive folder. If you create a folder called Photos, you’ll get a bunch of sync errors because OneDrive already contains a folder with that name and it can’t merge the two. This means you’ll go through a painful process of renaming Photos to Photos 2 so it does sync and you have a backup of your precious photos on OneDrive. Then you’ll go to OneDrive on the web, select all; those photos, move them to Photos and delete Photos 2. Basically OneDrive is completely broken, I don’t know what they were thinking, but dumbing OneDrive on Windows down to how it works on iOS and Android, just hurts Windows users.
The transition to Windows 10 will likely be a lot easy for those who stuck with Windows 7, than those that followed Microsoft on the Win8, Win8.1 and then 8.1 update. When we look behind the scenes of the development, almost the entire Windows 8 development team has moved on (or been moved on) and the new Windows team say they’re listening to user feedback (like that of the Windows Insider program) to create Windows 10. This makes sense and if you’re a power user that loves the desktop, you’ll be very comfortable.
As an application developer, you’re likely a lot less happy with the emphasis on modern apps moving from something that’s in front of hundreds of millions of users, now into a completely optional part of the OS. The challenge for developers has got increasingly hard as the development of Universal apps that run on every screen size from a single app project combined with getting people to go to the Store at all, is the challenge that faces Windows developers in 2015.