Hands-on at the Windows 10 UK Launch Event
Windows 10 is here. We went along to the UK launch event to discover what´s new...
Unless you’ve been keeping your curtains very firmly closed of late, you’ll have heard there’s a new version of Windows out. Windows 10 has been hailed as something of a return to form, taking the best elements of Windows 7 and 8 and combining them with lots of user feedback to produce what should be the most intuitive version of Windows so far.
Microsoft worked with a huge number of “insiders” while developing Windows 10. These insiders tested preview versions of the new operating system, feeding back with suggestions for improvements and changes. As a thank you, Microsoft held a special launch event for Windows 10 in London to showcase some of the key features and give some glimpses of what the future holds.
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Is Windows 10 any good?
One of the first things you notice when you start using Windows 10 is how natural it all feels. If you’ve spent any time with Windows 7 or 8, you’ll already be familiar with most of the concepts. For example, the much missed Start menu makes a reappearance, and you’ll recognise the Tiles from Windows 8.
However, this time round, everything runs on the desktop. There’s no fiddling around with two different screens depending on what you’re running, like there was in Windows 8. It’s much more intuitive and feels just right, especially if you’ve had some experience with Windows 8. Users coming straight from Windows 7 may find it takes a little more time to get to grips with, as several features that made a first appearance in Windows 8 return.
Windows 10 on all your devices
Windows 10 is very clearly designed with multiple devices in mind. This is most obvious if you’re using a 2-in-1 and switch between laptop and tablet modes. Using a feature known as “Continuum”, Windows seamlessly makes subtle changes to the sizes of icons and screen layout so you get the best experience, no matter what mode you’re using. For example, in tablet mode the taskbar vanishes and the screen resizes slightly for a better touchscreen experience.
Something to look out for is Universal Apps. These are designed to be the same code on whatever device you’re using, with only the user interface changing to suite the screen size. This means you’ll find the same features across all your devices – computer, tablet, phone, and even Xbox One or Hololens.
For the more technically minded of you out there, you can even run Windows 10 on a Raspberry Pi 2 which can make developing and deploying your code even more simple.
Microsoft’s old web browser, Internet Explorer, had fallen out of fashion in recent years, with newer browsers such as Chrome and Firefox gradually eating away at IE’s user base. Edge looks like it could be the browser that brings people back to Microsoft.
For a start, Edge is pretty zippy. Some reports have indicated that Edge beats the speed of Chrome and Firefox in some ways.
The first key feature we really liked was the ability to activate a reading mode. This removes all the distractions from a webpage, all those menus, sidebars, etc, and just leaves the main text and images on a soft sepia background for easy reading. This works really well and makes text feel much less cluttered and easy to digest.
Another great feature of Edge is the ability to annotate and share selections from web pages. You can use a highlighter or pen tool to circle text, draw notes and add silly moustaches to pictures, then share your selection as an image file or on social media. This works especially well if you have a touchscreen and stylus.
One thing to note is that Edge doesn’t yet feature extensions, but these have been promised in a future update.
Games and entertainment
One thing was clear at the launch event – games and entertainment are big on Microsoft’s agenda. For a start, Minecraft featured heavily and the Windows 10 Minecraft beta was running on a variety of devices. There are a number of differences to the previous PC version, including support for games controllers and touchscreen. Some hardcore fans may be disappointed to hear that the beta is more like the Pocket Edition, but the Windows 10 version is still in Beta and can grow – just like the original Minecraft did.
We didn’t get to see Microsoft’s own VR technology, HoloLens, at the event, but did get to experience an Oculus Rift Star Wars demo. This was extremely immersive and was a good demonstration of the potential VR tech has for gaming – although you'll need a powerful system to get the full effect.
Something we’ve yet to see is the cross platform streaming from Xbox One to PC. You’ll be able to wirelessly connect to your Xbox One from your Windows 10 computer, including the Microsoft Surface. Once connected, you can stream games onto the screen and play them with your Xbox controller. Not only does this let you free up the TV so someone else can catch their favourite show while you game, you also have the ability to record your session with a simple keyboard shortcut.
While it’s early days for Windows 10, the potential for greatness is already visible. Microsoft have listened to the users and looked at the key features previous versions of Windows have been missing while retaining much of what was already right. This is a much more holistic experience than we’ve ever seen from Microsoft before – a Windows for all your devices that’s designed to be as seamless as possible.
Should you upgrade now? Well, the future months and weeks will be the real stress test for Windows 10, but Microsoft have created a very solid launch for the latest version of the world’s most popular operating system.