Calling it Windows 7.5 isn't that far off

A first look at the Windows 10 Technical Preview




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Using the Windows 10 Technical Previews feels a little bit like going home. It’s as if I had just spent the last three years in some sort of bizzare-o world filled with buggy, nearly useless full screen applications; like I’m enjoying a swim in a refreshing, crisp, blue pool after spending an eternity in the fiery depths of Hell.In this scenario, Hell is, of course, a stand in for Windows 8 – and I think the sooner we admit the similarities, the sooner we can all recover from its abuses.

The Windows 10 Technical Preview is kind of like the anti-Windows 8 – indeed, some have taken to calling it Windows 7.5, and I don’t think that’s too far off. If you’ve not seen it in action yet, picture this – all the Desktop improvements that shipped with Windows 8 minus all of the horrible Start Screen garbage. Oh, and the Start Menu is back, so that’s pretty nice.

Microsoft is saying that this represents only a tiny fraction of the features, design, and functionality we’ll find in the final version of Windows 10 – due sometime late 2015 – and I believe it. Essentially, there’s only a couple of things worth getting really excited about here thus far, if you appreciate the fact that Microsoft is reverting back to the “classic” Windows 7 way of doing things.

Read more to hear our early impressions of the Windows 10 Technical Preview build.

First, as previously stated, the Stat Menu is back. And while it may look a little different, with those floating Metro tiles pinned to the right side of the menu, it functions almost exactly as you remember it. You get a list of pinned and recently opened Shortcuts and Applications, with an “All Apps” button acting as home to a list of everything installed on your PC, including both “classic” programs and “Metro” apps. Alternatively, just clicking the Start Button and begin typing to search your PC. Just like the old days.

That right side of the Start Menu essentially acts like a miniaturized version of Windows 8’s Start Screen. You can pin shortcuts and applications there, complete with Live Tiles that display rich, glancable pieces of information (like the weather, or the latest news). If you really want to remove yourself even further from any trace of Windows 8, you can go ahead and hide these Tiles entirely, giving you the closest thing still possible to a stock Windows 7 install – though I find the Tiles more useful than annoying, to be frank. But Microsoft really wants you to be happy, so if you really have a thing against Metro, Microsoft is willing to do it your way.

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The second big change comes in the form of those “Metro” applications, more commonly referred to as “Windows Store apps”. These are the things that you downloaded from the Windows Store and had to run full screen or docked on one half of the screen in Windows 8. Finally, Microsoft is going a long way towards making these sometimes compelling, but often easy to ignore applications actually something you might want to use. Windows Store apps now run windowed on the desktop alongside all of your other programs.

Unfortunately, there are still some annoying bugs; because Windows Store applications as they’ve always been written expect to run full screen on big, high resolution monitors, the extent that Windows Store app windows can be resized is frankly pretty pathetic. They take up most of your screen estate even at the smallest size, and things can get pretty messy, especially on the 15” 1440 x 900 laptop monitor I’ve been running Windows 10 Technical Preview on. Another small but glaring issue is the inconsistent window chrome design between classic programs and Windows Store apps, with each sporting slightly different Exit, Maximize, and Minimize button designs. It’s a small thing, but hard to un-see once seen.

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Window management has gotten a huge boost in the Windows 10 Technical Preview. While competing platforms has had virtual desktop support baked into the operating system for literally years and years, Microsoft is just now getting around to adding it to Windows. It works mostly as you’d expect – launch a couple of applications, click the desktop switcher button in the task bar, create a new virtual desktop, and launch a couple of more applications there. I wish it were faster and easier to change which desktop each window “belongs” to after opening; on Mac, you can drag and drop Windows between desktops from the virtual desktop switcher, something I think Microsoft should consider in future builds of Windows 10.

Everywhere else, Windows 10 feels basically just like bits of Windows 8 and Windows 7 mashed together. Internet Explorer 11 is still included, with the IE12 announcement apparently coming in 2015. Xbox integration is still fairly lacking, but third party driver and software support appears near perfect, with all of my usual games, applications, and peripherals working just as they always have. The one thing I miss is the Windows Sidebar, which allowed you to keep gadgets running on the desktop; however Rainmaker, which goes a long way towards replacing Sidebar, works on this build as it should.

I’m running Windows 10 Technical Preview as my primary operating system on my desktop PC and on a secondary partition on my notebook, so I’ll be sure to report back with any other change, for the better or otherwise, that I come across in the coming weeks. Microsoft says that the Windows 10 Technical Preview is an extremely early look at Windows 10 (its basically an alpha build on the roadmap), and that it’ll get regular updates going forward. Microsoft is currently planning on launching a Consumer Preview (beta) build in early 2015 and a Developer Preview (release candidate) build in mid 2015.