Windows 10 is coming, and here are 5 reasons you should upgrade

Windows 10, oddly numerated as it may be, will probably be the biggest and most crucial software launch for Microsoft in years — not least because the company has decided to make the upgrade free, at least for some, and for a limited time. Considering that, there’s not much to lose if you want to make the switch when the latest version of Windows is released to the public on July 29. Let’s have a look at what there is to gain.

Start menu

Easily the most frustrating change from the well-regarded Windows 7 to the more frustrating Windows 8 is the way it handles the Start Menu. Or rather, the way it doesn’t handle it — Windows 8 replaced one of the most consistent parts of the operating system’s user interface with a full-screen alternative designed for easier use with tablets.

The “Metro” interface is in fact very effective for touch control, but it can be cumbersome and tedious for the vast majority of people using their computers with the standard keyboard and mouse/keypad setup. Some were so desperate for the old Start menu they added it back in with third-party programs.

Windows 10

Windows 10 brings the Start menu back in a big way. Not only do you get the old-fashioned list of folders and links that dyed-in-the-wool Windows users have come to rely on, you get a more compact version of the finger-friendly Live Tile launcher as well.

According to Microsoft’s various pre-launch presentations, the key here is customization: the end user will be able to show or hide various elements to suit their own tastes. The integrated search tool, which has worked rather well ever since Windows Vista (believe it or not), is also getting web search capabilities through Bing. And yes, you can launch web links in any browser you want.

Cortana

Google and Apple have made huge strides in voice control on their mobile platforms. By all accounts Microsoft has kept pace with Cortana, the Windows Phone 7 voice assistant named after the artificial intelligence from the Halo game series. When Windows 10 hits desktops, laptops, and tablets this summer, Microsoft will bring voice control to its primary operating system in a way that far exceeds what has come before. Cortana will be so central to Microsoft’s new operating system that Toshiba is already planning to include a Cortana button on some upcoming laptops.

Cortana-Guide

Cortana can handle standard web searches and contextual information with ease. For example, asking “what’s the weather like in New York” will give you a near-instant voice reply with the current forecast. Cortana also has access to your personal information in Microsoft’s connected services (at least if you allow it), and can perform basic PC actions from voice commands. What’s more, Cortana will also be available on Windows 10 for phones (when it launches) and eventually on the Xbox One, iOS, and Android — Microsoft wants to make “her” your one-stop shop for cross-platform voice control.

Edge Internet browser

Internet Explorer has become something of a joke among both users and web developers for the last few years. That’s not entirely justified — later versions of Microsoft’s in-house browser have actually been pretty stable — but there’s no denying that the once and future king of browser market share has a lot of future left to claim. The company’s answer to falling user counts and the threat of Google Chrome is Edge, a brand new Windows web browser built from the ground up with a newer, faster rendering engine.

Microsoft-Edge_FINAL

In addition to the speed boost, Edge has a Swiss army knife of digital tools including integration with Cortana voice actions, a built-in reading list for unread web stories, support for digital “ink” from tablet styli, and a simple, clean users interface. It’s such a dramatic improvement over Internet Explorer that you might actually consider the default option for your primary browser, something that hasn’t been true for most power users for quite a while.

A better all-around interface

The Start menu isn’t the only user interface element that’s getting an overhaul in Windows 10. Latter versions of Windows 8 added the ability to collapse Modern Windows apps (the ones downloaded from the Windows Store, A.K.A. “Metro” apps) to the desktop taskbar. As of Windows 10, these apps can be re-sized and moved freely, more or less like any other app on your desktop. Speaking of which, Microsoft has also added the capacity for multiple “virtual” desktops, separated versions of your computer’s primary interface that allow different programs to be more easily grouped. This is something that OS X, Linux, and various third-party Windows apps have been able to do for years.

Other small tweaks throughout the operating system are designed to make accessing programs and information quick and easy, no matter what form factor you happen to be using. A revised app switcher called Task View makes all open windows visible with a simple gesture, and a miniature version of this appears if you use the “snap” feature to quickly re-size a program’s active window. Other tweaks throughout Windows 10 are designed to create a more seamless experience across desktops, laptops, convertibles, and tablets, blending elements of touch-friendly UI and traditional desktop OS utility.

A new and improved Command Prompt

For years the command line tool in Windows has lagged behind its contemporaries on OS X and Linux in terms of utility. Maybe Microsoft assumed that anyone with enough know-how to actually use Command Prompt and command line programs simply didn’t want any creature comforts. Windows 10 finally makes Command Prompt a little more usable, with new “experimental” options including copy and past functionality, resizable windows, text wrapping, and an opacity slider. Finally!

Conclusion

These are just a few of the more visible changes in Windows 10. The new OS will really come alive if you pair it with a phone running Microsoft software and a fancy new Xbox One, which will be able to stream games directly to Windows 10 machines via its own app. Check out more coverage of Windows 10 for a complete breakdown of what to expect in July.

Product Review

The HP Chromebook x2 takes Chrome to the next level

HP’s Chromebook x2 acts a lot like Microsoft’s Surface Book 2, with a well-equipped tablet that plugs into a keyboard base that’s heavy enough to keep the combination mostly stable. Is this premium Chromebook the best one you can buy?
Computing

Edit, sign, append, and save with 12 of the best PDF editors

There are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, and though the selection is robust, finding a solid solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here, we've rounded up best PDF editors, so you can edit no matter your budget or OS.
Computing

Photoshop isn't required to resize images. Here are 6 ways to do it in seconds

Resizing an image isn't the toughest thing in the world, even if it may seem like a hassle. Here's how to resize an image using six tools that allow you to make quick work of any photo, regardless of your operating system.
Home Theater

Google Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra: Everything you need to know

Google's Chromecast plugs into your TV's HDMI port, allowing you to stream content from your tablet, laptop, or smartphone directly to your TV. Here's what you need to know about all iterations, including the 4K-ready Chromecast Ultra.
Computing

Tap Strap wearable keyboard gains support for VR applications

TAP System's wearable keyboard gains support for virtual reality, now compatible with Windows Mixed Reality, Oculus Rift, and HTV headsets. Type and tap for up to eight hours in VR without needing to look at a physical keyboard.
Computing

Wi-Fi vulnerability could allow attackers to steal your data on unencrypted sites

A 20-year-old security flaw in the design of the Wi-Fi standard and how computers communicate using the transmission control protocol could allow hackers to perform a web cache poisoning attack to steal your data and login information.
Product Review

The powerhouse Alienware 17 R5 will leave your desktop in the dust

With a 17-inch display and a chassis weighing in at nearly 10 pounds, the Alienware 17 R5 is truly massive. Between its weight and its hardware, it’s certainly outfitted like a gaming desktop so let’s find out if it performs like one.
Deals

Walmart takes $380 off the MacBook Air for a limited time

Walmart is offering a steep discount on the MacBook Air. Though the $380 discount is lovely, this offer comes with an extra charger to sweeten the deal. If you're looking to pick up an Apple MacBook for less, now is an excellent time.
Computing

PDF to JPG conversion is quick and easy using these simple methods

Converting file formats can be an absolute pain, but it doesn't have to be. We've put together a comprehensive guide on how to convert a PDF to JPG, no matter which operating system you're running.
Computing

Documentation shows data recovery possible for Macs with T2 coprocessor

New documentation from Apple shows that data recovery is indeed possible for Macs with T2 Coprocessor thanks to internal diagnostics software, giving users of the 2018 MacBook Pro new hope in the event of a system failure.
Computing

Smart Reply not smart enough? Desktop Gmail users can soon opt out

Google will soon give desktop Gmail users the ability to opt out of Smart Reply. If you'd prefer to compose a short email the old-fashioned way, you can do so without seeing the auto-generated suggestions in the future.
Computing

Pain in the wrists? Type in comfort with one of these great ergonomic keyboards

Long typing sessions can leave anyone's wrists aching, but if you have one of the best ergonomic keyboards, that doesn't have to be the case. Our list of favorites will support good typing posture while being comfortable to use.
Gaming

Dive head first into the best experiences available now on the Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift brought back virtual reality and put a modern twist to it. Grab your Touch Controllers, put on your VR headset, and jump into the fun with some of the best Oculus Rift games available now.
Computing

Ripple cryptocurrency jumps 70 percent in 24 hours after news of bank deal

The Ripple cryptocurrency has seen its value reach the highest point since late 2017 after a tease from a Ripple Labs regulator suggested it could soon be adopted by banks for international money transfers.