(By Ralph Jennings)
“The computer boots with the speed of Windows 8 but to a Windows 7 -like desktop start menu with no Microsoft sign-in prompt. Windows 8.1 requires the sign-in. The desktop shows whatever icons you and your hardware provider decide to put there.“
Millions complained and Microsoft listened when it designed Windows 10. I found that Tuesday when offered a rare first-hand trial of the latest PC operating system. Per my experience on a convertible Acer tablet-notebook at Computex Taipei, Asia’s largest IT show, Windows 10 is convincingly modeled on the American software behemoth’s Windows 7 rather than its more poorly received and less often used 8. Windows 8 upset users by shifting to a new, unfamiliar interface designed for touch yet with few new features, a letdown for the common PC. Ten toggles to the metro app screen that anchors 8 — only when you want it to. This time you will want it.
Here are highlights of what users will see next month when allowed to upgrade to 10 or buy new machines with 10 already installed.
Old startup screen, no Microsoft sign-in
The computer boots with the speed of Windows 8 but to a Windows 7 -like desktop start menu with no Microsoft sign-in prompt. Windows 8.1 requires the sign-in. The desktop shows whatever icons you and your hardware provider decide to put there. The only Microsoft-preloaded icon is the recycle bin, according to an Acer staff person at Computex. A taskbar at the bottom of this screen displays tiny one-click (or touch) icons for Internet Explorer, the system’s new browser Edge and its personal assistant Cortana. Look there as well for Wi-Fi, volume settings and any foreign language keyboards. The yell0w-folder filing cabinet is back a la Windows 7.
Where Windows 8 enters the picture
A Windows icon in the bottom left corner clicks into a size-adjustable start screen packed with boxy metro apps like that of Windows 8 (and 8.1). You can still see the original desktop behind this pullout. Among the apps are the weather and Microsoft’s proprietary OneNote writing pad. Most recently visited apps, a search-my-computer option and the power management switch sit in a column on this start-up screen’s left side. A Settings function on the Win 8-style screen works like a control panel, but it’s more easily searchable. The initial pro-Win 7 start screen’s right side can turn into an “action center” with details on Wi-Fi and other external connections. All of this stuff pops up with little or no waiting around.
Three new features: Cortana personal aide, Edge browser and Snipping Tool
A Microsoft sign-in and an Internet connection (Acer couldn’t get one at Computex) allows access to Cortana, a personal assistant inspired by Siri that answers questions, finds stuff and probably sends a record of each user’s habits back to Microsoft for later in-house use. A black-and-white Cortana dialogue box takes up about one sixth of the screen. The Edge browser cuts and edits content. Snipping Tool works like an everything editor. You can compose files by dragging and dropping images or text from anywhere else in the system, then annotating it with text or Paintbrush-style strokes.
As a news reporter, Ralph Jennings have covered some of everything since 1988, from his alma mater U.C. Berkeley to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing where he followed Communist officials for the Japanese news agency Kyodo. Stationed in Taipei since 2006, he track Taiwanese companies and local economic trends that resonate offshore. At Reuters through 2010, he looked intensely at the island’s awkward relations with China. More recently, he has studied high-tech trends in greater China expanded my overall news coverage to surrounding Asia