As it’s quickly become the new Windows standard, like XP before it, Windows 10 gets better and better with each major update. At its core, Windows 10 combines the best features of Windows 7 and 8 while ditching some of the more controversial features — like the full-screen Start Menu — to create a fresh and understated operating system experience. So, whether you’re leery of making the jump to Windows 10 or if you’re just getting started on the Creators Update, let’s dig into some of the major differences between Windows 8 and Windows 10.
The Start menu is back
One of the most common complaints about Windows 8 was that Microsoft abandoned those who loved the classic desktop and Start menu, which makes up most of the Windows user base. With Windows 10, they wanted users from XP up through 8.1 to feel at home. A big part of that campaign is rooted in the return of the Start Menu, which works much like the old version did, but also added Windows 8’s tiles to the mix.
The tiles are movable and re-sizable, and the Start menu is highly customizable overall. The tiles in the new Start menu function a lot like the tiles from Windows 8. Windows 10 also carries over live tiles from Windows 8, which display personalized information. The search bar in the Start menu is much more robust than in previous versions of Windows as well. As soon as you begin typing, the OS will start trying to find search results for your topic on your local machine, and on the Web as well.
“Classic” vs. “Universal” apps
In Windows 8 and 8.1, apps from the Windows Store took up the whole screen, which made multitasking more difficult. While Microsoft tried to force the mobile-centric Start screen on people, many users felt like the classic desktop was stripped of essential components. Windows 8 offered two distinct experiences, neither of which appealed to its target audience.
In Windows 10, apps downloaded from the Windows Store are usable in Windows. Combined with the ability to run multiple virtual desktops at the same time, working in Windows is much easier this time around. The same Windows Store apps are already available in the Windows 10 Technical Preview. Surely, as the OS evolves, there will be new additions and improvements that make multitasking even easier.
The Windows Store houses a bunch of useful applications designed specifically for the Windows 8 Start screen, but that left Windows 7 users out in the cold. Microsoft is working to make the Windows Store a tool that all users will appreciate, bringing the functionality of Windows 8 together with the feel of Windows 7, which a lot of users missed with the upgrade to 8.
In Windows 8, big icons and simple choices were at the forefront. The Start screen allowed you to easily arrange and resize live tiles, increasing their functionality and ease of use.
With Windows 10, the classic desktop and tiled UI are no longer distinct interfaces. Instead, elements of both are present, and highly configurable. Live tiles are now integrated into the Start menu, rather than in their own interface, where they can be moved, set to show quick information, or launch programs. Applications can be pinned or moved to the menu for easy access.
One OS for all platforms
Between Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Phone, there are just too many iterations of Windows, which is confusing. Windows 8 was closer to RT and Windows Phone than previous versions, making it easier to create cross-platform apps and utilize features like Live Tiles. They were still distinct operating systems, however, and required separate apps and programming in order to function correctly.
Rather than creating an entirely separate operating system for touch and classic keyboard and mouse controls, Microsoft is focusing on creating a user experience that is satisfying and useful across all platforms. While Windows 10 won’t look exactly the same way it does on your Windows Phone as it does on your desktop, it will have much of the same functionality and shared applications. The big buttons that provide quick shortcuts are sure to please anyone who uses the touchscreen with their Windows device. The whole idea is to make Windows 10 feel like one OS that’s just responding to whatever device and environment you use it with.
While Linux and Mac OS X have explored the world of multiple desktops already, Microsoft has declined to support the feature in its desktop operating systems until now. The introduction of the Start screen in Windows 8 seemed to confirm that the Windows organizational strategy was focused on better single desktop management.
In Windows 10, you can simply add or remove new desktop environments, and open programs in them when you do. The functionality is easily accessible from any screen, including from within Windows Store applications.
Task View spreads out all your processes and running applications, even across multiple desktops, so you can easily move between active programs. In Windows 8, the reliance on full-screen Windows Store apps limited the number of ways you could organize your applications, and tools that allowed you to quickly do so fell by the wayside.
Task View seemingly combines OS X’s “Expose” feature, and a more sophisticated version of the current “Windows-tab” option. Along with Task View, Windows 10 features a “snap assist” feature that pulls up previews of all your other windows when you snap an app to either side of the screen. You can easily select the paired application, making it easier to organize your workspace.
Improved Command Prompt
It’s not all about improving functionality for every user. Microsoft clearly still has a place in its heart for the power user. Among the developer and power user tools that will be updated is the Command Prompt. If you haven’t used it before, you probably won’t be impressed to know that functionality like copy and paste has been added. However, if you’re a seasoned Command Prompt veteran, you’ll be glad to know that it’s getting some love too. There are a large number of new options and hot-keys which make it even easier to execute commands and launch programs.
Whatever your feelings are about Microsoft and the ubiquitous Windows OS, it’s clear that they listened to their users when building Windows 10. There’s a return to focusing on the user experience at all levels, rather than the Start screen that turned so many power users off of Windows 8. The classic layout, return of the Start menu, and other features provide an experience that feels much more familiar to users of Windows 7 and XP.
Windows 10 will please everyone, from the most basic computer users, to the biggest enthusiasts, and everyone in between.