The Next Windows

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Today, Microsoft started showing off the next version of Windows, and they’ve decided to jump from Windows 8 to Windows 10. I guess 9 is the loneliest number this time. Are they skipping a number to try and get some distance from Windows 8? Do they not want Windows to be thought of as “odd” or “square?” (Get it?)

The numbering scheme is probably a marketing decision. Terry Myerson, the executive VP of Microsoft’s Operating Systems group, was quoted as saying “Because we’re not building an incremental product, the name will be Windows 10.”

Sorry, Mr. Myerson, but it IS an incremental product. Lots of neat things in it, sure, but it’s still built upon, and improving on, stuff we’ve seen before.

So what’s new about Windows 10?

BN-EU230_WIN10S_G_20140930151727The Start Menu is back – for real, this time. Windows 8.1 Update 1 has a Start Button, but it just takes you to the Start Screen. Windows 10 has brought back the basics of the Windows XP/7 Start Menu, and has also folded in the Live Tiles feature of the Windows 8 Start Screen. It’s not a bad idea: You can bring up all of those spiffy, updating tiles, without having to depend on them to launch your programs.

One possible downside I see to this is that it might delay opening the Start Menu, if your computer also has to display all of that extra stuff when you just want to run a program you have pinned to the Start Menu, or open the My Computer window. We’ll have to see how this runs, once the preview version of Win10 is available.

The full-screen, “Windows Store apps” that came along with Windows 8 will now run inside of windows, just like programs have done for a couple of decades. Instead of taking over your whole screen, you can size them down, move them around, and easily move between apps. I imagine you’ll still be able to maximize these windows, so you can go into full screen mode when you want to.

Microsoft is also adding a feature that some folks have been clamoring for – multiple desktops. This lets you keep from having a huge pile of overlapping windows on your screen, by letting you put individual programs or folder windows into focus, and hiding all everything else. For instance, you might have one desktop with only Outlook open, and another with only Firefox, and another with your Documents and Pictures folders, and another with only Microsoft Word and Excel.

tech-preview_virtual-desktop-500x281Multiple desktops is also tied into some changes in the way you switch between programs. While the long-standing Alt-Tab keyboard shortcut to change programs still remains, it will be taken up a notch, by giving you small previews of all your open windows across your different desktops. You’ll be able to drag windows from one desktop to another, and even to a new desktop.

Today’s announcement didn’t tell us everything about Windows 10, but it gave us a look at what to expect. Tech enthusiasts were invited to download and start trying out a preview version, and I expect that we’ll hear a lot from them over the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you’ve been avoiding Windows 8, you’ll have to keep nursing your Windows 7 system along for a while; Windows 10 isn’t expected to be released until well into 2015.