It has been over a year since Microsoft first announced the future of Windows, skipping Windows 9 in favor of Windows 10, the last version of their popular OS. During the press conference back in September of 2014, Microsoft gave the world a preview of Windows 10 with the Windows Insider program, introducing the world to a slew of ambitious new features that got the tech world excited about Windows again.
When Microsoft officially launched Windows 10 back in July of this year, there were a number of features noticeably absent from the first public build, but Microsoft addressed many of these missing features with November's update. As we close 2015 and await the release of Redstone, lets take a look at some of Windows 10's best features--according to me, of course, and without incorporating the thoughts or opinions of the rest of the team.
1. Windows Hello
In an age where cybercrime runs rampant and clever evil-doers prey on unwary computer users, cybersecurity is extremely important. Yes, I am being dramatic; however, security is and should be a concern for everyone. With Windows Hello, Microsoft wants consumers to feel more confident in the security of their devices.
Windows Hello comes in a few forms. With a Real Sense camera, Windows Hello can unlock a computer, tablet, or smartphone (insert Lumia 950 or 950 XL here) by scanning a user's iris. Windows Hello also works with a fingerprint scanner. Security is provided by storing all biometric information locally on the device, meaning that hackers cannot gain access to it through a network as with traditional passwords. Even if a device is stolen, the device and its contents are useless without the owners biometric authentication.
In my case, my primary device is a Surface Pro 3. Instead of making the leap to the Pro 4, updating my keyboard to the newer Surface Pro 4 type cover with fingerprint scanner seemed like a logical step. Not only does Windows Hello make logging into my computer easier, it also makes creating multiple accounts on my device much simpler. Rather than switching user profiles and creating a password for my wife or daughters, Windows Hello allows them to log into their separate profiles with a simple swipe of the finger.
2. Start Menu
For the record, I was a huge fan of Windows 8.1, although I will admit that the radically different Windows OS came with a rather steep learning curve. From charms to not-so-intuitive gestures, Windows 8.1 certainly catered to a younger, tablet- and touchscreen-oriented crowd. With the introduction of Live Tiles and the Start Screen, Microsoft began its venture into making Windows more modern.
Let’s be honest: Live Tiles, much like icons on a smartphone, are much more functional on a mobile device, as opposed to searching through menus to find applications on a smaller screen. However, as the primary means of searching for applications, they are a bit less convenient on desktop computers--not to mention, Windows users have become accustomed to the Start Menu since its introduction in Windows 95.
With that said, Windows 10 merged the functionality of the Start Menu with the versatility and ease of use of the Start Screen, creating a uniquely functional experience. Having moved from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10, I find that I would never give up Live Tiles for just a Start Menu. However, the combination of both creates a much more cohesive and fluid experience than Windows 8.1 provided.
One of my biggest complaints with Windows 8.1 was the experience of using both Modern (Metro) apps with legacy programs. This made the OS feel like an invention from Dr. Frankenstein. With the UI geared for tablets and touchscreen devices, I never felt as though the OS provided an overall a better Windows Experience as opposed to just a difference Windows experience. Microsoft’s solution to this issue is Continuum, whereby Windows 10 adapts its UI based on the device being used and the mode in which it is being used.
With Continuum and an attached keyboard, my Surface Pro 3 is suddenly a traditional desktop. When I remove the keyboard or flip it behind the device, however my experience transforms into what I would expect from a Windows tablet. The transition is seamless and users have the ability to even customize how Continuum functions for them.
Coming from Windows 8.1, I was a fan of Windows Charms for quickly accessing menu options from within applications. While I'm not completely sold on removing the Charms in favor of hamburger menus, I am a huge fan of the new Action Center in Windows 10. With quick access to notifications from calendar alerts to Facebook posts to quick toggles for various settings, the Action Center is a much appreciated source for accessing useful information. Additionally, with November’s Windwos 10 1511 update, Action Center even allows for users to be notified of missed calls on supported smartphones.
5. Voice calling and text messaging
Although these features are still in their infancy, I have to say that the prospect of voice calling and text messaging from my PC/tablet is extremely exciting. As of today, users can see missed calls in the Action Center and have Cortana send text messages. Granted both a messaging and video app through Skype are built into Windows 10, but they can only be used with Skype directly, meaning that if the recipient doesn’t have a Windows Mobile device or have their Skype app running, they will not receive messages right away. With that said, Microsoft is certainly working to integrate full calling and messaging features through Skype in updates to come, which is good enough to make it into my top five.
Of all the new features in Windows 10, the five above are the ones that stood out the most. That's not to say that other features, such as improved multitasking with snap and Task View, Multiple Desktops, Quiet hours, and Cortana, weren't worthy enough to be in someone's Top 5 list. Let us know what are your top Windows 10 features in the comments below.