Initial Review – Windows 10 Technical Preview

windows10

This is going to be a fairly quick, initial and not very deep review of Windows 10 ‘Technical Preview’ build version 9926 (which can be found at the preceding link, at least for now).  And maybe a little disorganized.

That’s because any and all things in this version may change at any moment’s notice and/or before the next version, not to mention that any feature may change drastically before the release version which is quite a time away.  So if I mention this or that feature or setting it may or may not continue to be the same/work the same in later releases.

Keep in mind that Windows 10 ‘Technical Preview’ build version 9926 is not a Beta version, it’s not even an Alpha version, it’s a ‘build’.  So you shouldn’t use it as your primary OS, at least according to MS and most anyone else, and you want to make sure that you back-up everything on your computer if you are going to install it on any computer that has anything of value already on it, even in dual-boot form.

I hated Windows 8, and 8.1 was very much not better for me.  I tried, indeed I tried.  I kept an open-mind, unlike so many others, and gave it a fair evaluation – twice for Windows 8, once for Windows 8.1.  For Windows 8.1 I gave it an even longer try, telling myself I was going to stick with it at least for a while.  But after finding my productivity had fallen off due to A) awkwardness of doing anything in it, B) trying to tweak and customize it so I could more easily do things C) trying to learn to do things a new way which were time-consuming and non-productive to do.  Eventually I gave up.  I don’t normally give up on things.

Using 8 on a tablet was better, but still a bit awkward.  The immaturity of the touchscreen interface shown through.  But after working on a laptop that had a touchscreen I found that I liked 8.1 much better – the dualness of using the touch screen for quick access and the physical keyboard and touchpad for more productivity vastly improved my use of it.

So I came into the process of trying Windows 10 with trepidation, but also with excitement  and hope.  As I said above with Windows 8 – I tried to keep an open mind and a resolution to give it an extended try.

win10download

To get Windows 10 previously you had to be signed up to test Windows 10 but no more, the link gets you right there where you can download an ISO to burn to a DVD or thumbdrive.  To burn an ISO to a DVD I like ImgBurn and for making a bootable thumbdrive from an image I like Rufus normally.  Though this time I used the Windows USB/DVD Download tool, which works just as good as Rufus I think.  Basically you are preparing your thumbdrive as a bootable device with the disk image on it, just the same as a DVD.

upgrade

Pick this option if you are upgrading an existing version of Windows.

If you are not dual booting then you can just boot the DVD or thumbdrive and start installing, picking the first option (“Upgrade” – like above) on the Windows 10 install and update your existing Windows, keeping files and settings for the most part.  A bit risky possibly, and I personally like a clean install rather than updating an existing Windows version.

control panelIf you are dual booting you want to first create a partition  for Windows 10.  You can use Windows’ own Disk Management which can be found under your Control Panel‘s Administrative Tools, look for Computer Management and then Disk Management under Storage.  Alternately you can try a third-party disk manager like Easus’ Partition Master Free or a commercial drive partitioner – there’s many.

If you’re not familiar with the process then you might want to try Windows 10 a different way, though setting up a partition isn’t hard.  You can install it to a virtual drive or in a virtual box.

If you’re going to use a physical partition you want to create a partition and then you can let Windows 10 do the rest of the job.  For Windows 10 you would want at least twenty-five GB, just for testing Windows itself.  Double that at least if you are going to start installing things, copying documents over, and generally giving it a good workout with lots of software.

Once that’s all set, you can reboot, press whatever key(s) you need to get to your boot menu, and then boot the thumbdrive, once Windows 10 install starts just walk through it but pick the Custom option (like below) for installing, and select the partition you made in the earlier step.  You can do a little rudimentary partition editing right in the Windows 10 set up but you probably should have had everything set up from the partitioning in your previous version of Windows.  Then let it rip.

custom

Pick this option to install to another harddrive partition.

I did a bunch of pushups while I waited 😉 but really installing from the thumbdrive didn’t take all that long.  A few automated restarts, at which point you will see the nice dual-boot screen that Windows 10 has created for you, after a few seconds it will automatically boot into Windows 10 and continue the install process.  Mine had to do this twice.

choose

Note here, clicking the “Change defaults…” lets you adjust the time delay for this boot screen, as well as which OS you want as default, and a few other options, including some diagnostics and troubleshooting.

Once it’s installed everything you eventually will be given the option of using the express setting or customizing it.  I always customize just for fun.  Then you can sign into your Microsoft account (you do have one, right?  If not you can create one on this screen).

After a bit you will finally get to the desktop screen.

desktop

If you’ve used any Windows version previous to Windows 8 things won’t look too much different.  Until you click the Start Menu.

It’s okay but fortunately you can do a lot to make it much more productive and useful.  There’s a lot that can be done now, in this version, but I suspect there will be even more in the future as MS gets more feedback on what people want.

If you like the Metro type screen you can have it back too, of a sort.  A button in the top right of the Start menu let’s you make the Start menu pop up full-screen, and any of the apps can be made visually larger or smaller, the program apps can be resized somewhat also, so with a little re-arranging and tweaking you can have your Metro screen back, if you really want it.  At least in a way.

metro

Metro-like Start Menu, note apps can be resized.

Note that in the Start Menu, just like the previous Windows 8 Metro interface, there are live tiles for apps that support them.

notificationsI couldn’t find any option to turn off the updating of these live tiles in the Start Menu.  Maybe I’m missing something as there doesn’t seem to be an option by right-clicking them in the Start Menu, nor are there options in the apps themselves except for things like regular Notifications for when they are running or minimized to the background.  Turning these off did not seem to affect the live updating of the apps in the Start Menu.

In fact turning off Notifications for something like Facebook as well as blocking it from running all the time seemed to do nothing, as the Notification icon in the taskbar kept popping up Facebook updates and such.

It would be nice to be able to turn them off in both places for those who are  annoyed by the updating, don’t need or want it, or have limited computer specs or bandwidth.  But as I said above, this is an early version of Windows 10 so there are going to be many tweaks.

At left you can see the Notification pop up window.  It’s like the one on your smart phone, and just like that you can click items (sometimes) to be taken to the item you are being notified about, or clear it all.  You can also access a few other commonly used settings along the bottom.

This Notification icon pops up messages as needed, which then disappear after a time and end up in this expanded Notification area.  You can reach it any time by clicking the little icon beside the clock along the right of the taskbar.  There doesn’t seem to be any way to disable or hide this at this time.

notifications2

From what others have told me this version of Windows 10 is somewhat different than the preview version from last year, whether this evolution is good or bad I will leave up to the future to decide, as this is the first version of Win10 I have tried personally.

My first impression was that I needed to install a dock, like my favorite – Objectdock from Stardock, or something like 7Stacks and embed the stacks in the taskbar.

I did both but as I learned to customize the taskbar and Start Menu I disabled both Objectdock and then 7Stacks, so that I could test the stock abilities of Windows 10 to present me with productive and quick access to whatever I needed.  Which it has for the most part, pleasingly.

Being able to pin little apps and program apps to the Start menu works well, and of course pinning to the taskbar – not a new ability in Windows – as well as the search function, takes up the overlap.

cortanaI tried Cortana for awhile and while she, er I mean it, worked well I turned it off for the time being, just because I wasn’t using it.  I find voice recognition useful, but I use it in addition to other forms of input. And Cortana is  a bit lacking at this point, compared to something like Google’s Voice Search.  It was fine, just not great. It’s learning ability is, well, fine so far, but not spectacular.  She, er I mean it, isn’t going to carry on much of a conversation with you, past a few phrases.  Asking for the weather gives you a visually run-down, but a lot of results are non-verbal; giving results from the computer or your history or a Bing search.  Cortana can’t actually run the programs you ask for it to search for either, at least not in this build.  You can enable the “Hey, Cortana” feature which is like “Okay Google” – Cortana will pop up no matter what you are doing.  It worked okay, not perfectly but adequate in this build.  I imagine it will improve.

Some people have been a bit confused or frustrated with the search function and the results that come from everything on you computer, from your mail to news items to your search history, in addition to programs and files you are looking for.  They all are presented in categories form.  I think this will be able to be tweaked, I know that some of the file search options can easily be changed in the Control Panel under Indexing Options.

From what others have told me there are some of those who may not have customized their Start Menu or found it awkward are using the search function.  Personally, I want to be able to quickly click something and not have to start typing it in to find a program that’s not pinned somewhere.  I don’t mind that allappsfor seldom-used programs and files but the stuff I want to access at least fairly often should be right there.  Somewhere easily accessible. That’s why I went through the “all apps” list in the Start Menu and started adding what I wanted pinned to the right side of the Start Menu.  You’ll find all the apps that came in Windows there under “all apps”, alphabetized for you, as well as all the software you have installed, apps or programs.  but not folders it seems.  You can also resize things, move them around, organize them into sections, name the categories, etc.

greyedUnfortunately in the version of Windows 10 I have the actual Start Menu Customize button is grayed out, as you can see at the left.  I anticipate in future versions this will come back, as it is there and was usable in earlier versions of this early pre-release.  For those who are interested this would be the place where you could REALLY make the Start Menu look more like Windows 7 or previous versions, and customize the look and feel.

Will I want to?  There are some things I would like to add or change, but the new Start Menu is growing on me and I likely wouldn’t go completely retro on it and make it look exactly like Windows 7 or anything like that.

Unlike in Windows 8 I find myself much more able to access administrative settings and controls in Windows 10 – the things that only a techy might want to tweak.  These are some of the things that took an extra few steps, to say the least, in Windows 8 to get to.

I ran into a bug in the auto-hide option of the taskbar itself, turning on auto-hide resulted in the search field overlapping the Start Menu at the bottom instead of being more ‘docked’ to it.  No big deal except for visually.  Switching the search fields to a search icon didn’t help either.  Turning off search in the taskbar properties didn’t affect this bug and it wasn’t there when the taskbar is not set to auto-hide.  Docking the taskbar anywhere else besides the bottom was fine also.

As in previous versions UAC is turned on (I turn it off, but it is good for those who might be at risk for spyware and such) and Smartscreen, both in IE as well as for file operations (I also turned that off, as I install and test a lot of things, and work with files a lot – and it makes it annoying to do so, but again; some people can benefit from Smartscreen) and all the other security-minded items like Defender and Windows Firewall.  All seem fairly standard so far, or with small tweaks.

I found that Panda Antivirus Free 2015 was incompatible (according to Windows 10 – and I wasn’t going to force it, Bad Things Can Sometimes Happen) so if you’re a Panda fan you might want to wait until Windows 10 is officially released, as I’m sure the company will have something available then.  All of the other antivirus programs I tried ran just fine on it, and so did most everything else except for a few programs here and there, the same for Apps.

A function called Task View allows an almost virtual multi-desktop view of what’s running, with an “Add a desktop” under it, allowing you quick access.  You can also shut down programs from here, almost like the Task Switcher.  With a multiple monitor set up this is stretched out over all monitors.

snap

Two map apps snapped side-by-side.

One thing that I did find interesting and useful was the ability to ‘snap’ apps as well as programs to the edges of the screen, nothing new in Windows except in Windows 8 and 8.1 you couldn’t do this with apps.

All pretty quickly done for arranging programs and apps.  It’s especially nice also that apps can now be full-screen or windowed.

I’ve done my best to try to use some of the apps, something I’m not real used to doing on a desktop.  Some are excellent, like the Bing Maps app.  Others like the MS photo app are okay, providing some good and useful functions; but not good enough for me to want to use day-to-day over the regular quick photo display programs that I use often.

settingsUseful thing I ran across on a website, sorry not sure which; if you need shortcuts to all installed programs and apps you can open a Run box and type “shell:AppsFolder”.

From there you can create shortcuts, Pin to the Start Menu, pin to the taskbar, uninstall, unpin, open, etc.  Good for if you are organizing things on your taskbar, in a docking programs, or what-have-you.

Some options and settings in Windows 10 are changed around and in App form, like Windows Update.  You’ll find this in the Settings app instead of in the Control Panel.  Though you might be confused because there is a Devices section in the Settings App, as well as the conventional Device Manager that can be accessed via the Control Panel.  Playing around with the Settings | Devices app will show that it is a bit more basic.

devices

Heading toward wrapping this up, as it was supposed to be a quick review/overview of Windows 10 without delving into it too deeply…

The task manager is pretty familiar, with a few tweaks.  Your start-up programs are shown in a tab and there’s even the ability to quickly open up a search in your browser to search for a particular start-up file or program that you might have a question about.  Tasks are grouped in their window, there’s an app history tab that shows historical resource data for apps and programs you have run, services tab, performance tab, etc.  I’ve found that this has done well to be a better native alternative to something like Process Hacker, which I normally use.  Still not quite as good as that bit of software but getting better.

filemanager

The File Manager, one of the things I use quite often but which probably many others rarely see – is also improved with easier access to power user functions, easier customization, and now with something called Quick Access in the left pane – a smarter favorites replacement.  Good ol’ Libraries are still there too.  The best of both worlds I think.  Libraries work as they have in the last versions of Windows, and with Quick Access you can pin directories and files to it, and Windows itself will put some commonly accessed directories there also, you can unpin them if you like.

There are many, many other points of interest that I have not touched on here, like Tablet mode.  But I think this is enough for now, especially since many features will be differing in later versions of Windows 10.

Of course when discussing Windows 10 we can’t neglect to mention news from MS that is probably as big or bigger than Win10 itself – that MS will be giving away Windows 10 to those who are going to upgrade their Windows 7, or 8/8.1 machines in the coming year after the release, with some caveats.  At least this is how I understand the process so far.

Anyway, back to Windows 10 – I find that I am liking Windows 10 pretty well, quite well in fact.  I won’t say it is ‘growing on me’ because right away I could tell it was light years ahead of the WIndows 8 concept.  And I find that I like it enough to be using it day-to-day, despite a few bugs here and there – while still keeping all of my stuff backed up of course.

Nothing in Windows 10 has negatively affected my use and productivity while using it, including web design and using Photoshop.  There does seem to be a slight memory leak so every few days after extensive use of Photoshop and other software the system needs to be reset – the hazards of using preview software.

There are of course some things I don’t like but these probably will either be changed or customizable at some point in future versions.  And there are things that don’t work quite right, as I said, but nothing major and it is expected.

I have high hopes for the future of Windows 10, and for the future of Microsoft if they continue back on what seems the correct path.

win

WINDOWS 10

2 Comments:

  1. Excellent review, Marc!

    Today it was announced that for $35 you can get a new, significantly more powerful version of the Raspberry Pi, Model 2, with Windows 10 on it. A +5V Plug In Power Supply ($10) and case ($5) for the ‘RPi’ must also be purchased, but the special version of Windows 10 that Microsoft has created for the RPi is free (i.e., free as in $, but not as in ‘liberty’). Very decent high definition touchscreens can be had for under $200 so we have a much appreciated lower entry point for computer users.

    Having been a touchscreen interface developer and user for 30 years I can appreciate the comments that people have about the ups and downs of computer interfaces which companies such as Microsoft have recently made available.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Gene!

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