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by Andrew Cunningham – Oct 6, 2014 5:00 pm UTC Enlarge / The Windows 10 desktop isn’t all that different from Windows 8.1’s, but it’s more important for the OS to replace Windows 8’s damaged brand. Andrew Cunningham The desktop environment in Windows 8.1 is pretty good. This was not the message that Microsoft conveyed at its Windows 10 launch event lastweek, a presentation that had Microsoft’s historically change-averse but financially important business customers in mind. Whether the companywas looking forward to multiple desktops and Continuum or backward to the Start menu and the command prompt , Microsoft’smessage was clear: we have finished undoing all that stuff you didn’t like. But regardless of the message, theWindows 10 desktop is really only buildingon the foundation Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Update 1 laid. These updates restored the Start button, alloweddesktop and laptop users to boot into the desktop environment by default, and gavethe familiar Windows taskbar the ability to launch and switch between full-screen Windows Store apps. After using the new desktopfor a few days, I can say that it really feels more like Windows 8.2 than Windows 10 (the software isn’t nearly done yet, but the point stands). And there’s some indication that this was Microsoft’s plan all along; the Start menu and the ability to run Windows Store apps in resizable windows were originallyrumoredto be part of an “Update 2″ for Windows 8.1 , though those plans were obviously scrubbed. So why is Microsoft calling this one Windows 10 rather than continuing to build on top of the two-year-old Windows 8? The answer is in the name. Vista was fine, tooeventually When Windows Vista launched, it had real problems. It required significantly more resources to run well than XP did. It was slower at certain things than XP was. It ushered in several new driver models, breaking compatibility with older peripheral devices. The drivers that were updated were often rough in the beginning, and they contributed significantly to Vista’s general feeling of instability . But by the time Service Pack 1 (and especially Service Pack 2) rolled around, many of those problems had evaporated. Drivers had improved, and PC OEMs had beefed up their systems with more RAM and the dual-core processors that quickly invaded the mainstream market in the mid-to-late 2000s. And yet after three years, Vista had peaked at about 19 percent of the desktop operating system market (bycomparison, Windows XP had about 71.5 percent of the market at the time, and the just-released Windows7 had crept up to about 1.5 percent). It took just two years for Windows 7 to hit 40 percent market share and displace XP as the most-used version of Windows. This happened even though Windows 7 was very much a refinementbuilt directly on top of Vista’s foundationjust as mild a change as the jump from Windows 8.1 to the Windows 10 preview. One could argue that those refinements were what won people over, althoughby 2009, XP was feeling long in the tooth in a way it didn’t feel back in 2006. But again, a big part of the problem was the name. Microsoft highlightedthe problem in a circa-2008 series of ads called the ” Mojave Experiment .” Microsoft’s point in these ads was that when people actually used Vista instead of just hearing about it, their opinion of the operating system improved .
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The Coolest Windows 10 Features Microsoft Didn’t Announce
Keyboard Shortcuts Make Virtual Desktops Super Easy to Use If you’re an avid Lifehacker reader, you probably had one key question when Microsoft debuted multiple desktops: will it have keyboard shortcuts? Well, good news! You get two. The first is Win-Tab. Those with long-term memories might recall that this shortcut was used in Vista as a fancier version of Alt-Tab. Now, instead of alternating applications, Win-Tab will bring up the Expose-like interface where you can create or switch between multiple desktops. Additionally, you can press Ctrl-Win-Right or -Left to move between virtual desktops immediately. In the Technical Preview, there doesn’t seem to be any animation to convey that you’re changing desktops like OS X has, but it’s still a very welcome method for switching. File History is Now Its Own Tab in Properties One of Windows 8’s own cool, hidden features was File History, which was essentially OS X’s Time Machine for Windows . While this backup feature isn’t new, you can now access a particular file’s previous versions by right-clicking it, selecting Properties, and clicking the brand new Previous Versions tab. Super handy. When we checked Windows 8.1, it wasn’t there, and the File History feature has evolved over the years so a form of this may have existed in past versions. Cortana Is (Probably) Coming to the Desktop When you consider Windows alongside mobile operating systems, its antiquity becomes more apparent. Android and iOS, for example, can both accept a wide variety of voice commands and do many functions directly from search. Microsoft has been working on a voice assistant called Cortana that’s allegedly supposed to appear in Windows 10 before its released. The feature is, unfortunately, not available right now. However, proof of its existence has already surfaced online , and other news sources have reported that they’ve seen it in action . Obviously you shouldn’t install the technical preview in the hopes of playing with it just yet, but it couldn’t hurt to make sure your computer has a microphone before the full version drops. Microsoft has created a feedback app specifically for users of this Technical Preview. While using the OS, Windows will occasionally ask you for feedback for certain features, but you can also leave your own. If you’ve ever complained in a comment thread or written a twenty-paragraph article venting frustration over Windows (I’m guilty of both), now’s your chance to let them know exactly how you’re feeling. It’s not uncommon for Microsoft to solicit feedback from a beta, but the system for submitting input is incredibly easy, so it’s worth mentioning on its own. There’s never been a better time to tell Redmond what you want.
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