The Windows 10 Start Menu and Features
The Start menu is very Windows 8 like in that it features Live Tiles for at-a-glance information in apps. These were largely redundant for many Windows 8 users because of the lack of decent apps. But that’s changed in Windows 10, as the available apps are much more useful and a good many have been completely redesigned.
The remainder of the Start menu is more like the Windows 7 version, with controls for turning your PC off and restarting, as well as most-used apps and the ability to scroll down through all your apps in alphabetical order through an All Apps menu. File Explorer and Settings are also present.
You can scroll down through the Live Tiles. The tiles also animate (as if the tile itself is rotating) if there’s new content for you to check out. You can group and rename the live tiles just as you could in Windows 8.
You can resize the start menu itself by dragging the sides, which is a handy new feature. However, you cannot switch the live tiles section off completely.
The taskbar itself is mostly unchanged, but open apps have a subtle coloured bar below them, while the new Search bar (which you can reduce to an icon or get rid of completely via the taskbar right-click menu) and Task View icons are there to stay, alongside the Start button.
Once again, you can minimise everything by clicking in the far right-hand corner of the taskbar.
Multiple Virtual Desktops
Unless you have a multi-monitor setup it can be easy to run out of screen space. For that reason, Windows 10 provides multiple desktops that you can work in and quickly switch between.
To use this feature, just click the new Task View button on the taskbar. This is located between Search and the new Edge Browser. This brings up the Task View interface, where you can see your open windows on the virtual desktops you’ve added.
When you open the Task View interface for the first time, and you only have one desktop, the new add a desktop button is available. Click the plus sign to add another virtual desktop.
You can create an unlimited number of multiple desktops, and switching between them is just a matter of clicking the Task View button again and moving your mouse over the thumbnail of the one you want. You can also switch between your desktops by pressing Ctrl+Win and tapping the left or right keys. When you have highlighted the desktop you want to switch to, press Enter.
Moving open apps and windows between desktops is very straightforward. Right-click the window to move (in the desktop switcher screen), select “Move to”, and then choose the desktop you want.
To close a virtual desktop, hover your mouse over its thumbnail and click on the X that appears.
The Action Center
The former Charms functions of Windows 8 are contained in a new Notifications panel, called Action Center.
This is launched from the notifications area of the taskbar. When you launch Action Center, a full-height bar appears on the right of the screen – it’s designed to match the Notifications setup in a Windows 8.1 Phone.
A raft of individual settings (called Quick Actions) resides at the bottom of the Action Center. This includes features such as toggling Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or Location on and off or switching in and out of tablet mode. If you’re coming from Windows 7 and have no idea where to find some of the settings you are used to, there’s a good chance you’ll find them here, in the Action Center.
You can also get to Settings from here as an alternative to the Start menu, and there’s also now a Note feature for instantly launching OneNote ( OneNote is a powerful Evernote-style app which lets you create notes that are a mixture of text, lists, images, maps and more).
Maps have been improved too. Microsoft has added StreetSide – the equivalent of Google’s Street View – so you can take virtual tours of places, as well as getting directions and finding nearby places of interest. For directions, you can choose driving, walking or public transport.
You’ll also notice that other connectivity features are available from here, such as the ability to connect to devices such as Bluetooth speakers. You can also lock rotation if appropriate – this option is context sensitive, so on a non-touch device it’s just not there.
In the Settings app you can select which of these Quick Actions appear in the Action Center, as well as which apps can send you Notifications. When notifications appear, you can swipe them away on touch, flick them with the mouse or just click the X to close. Tap or click the down arrow to see more detail. There’s a Clear All option, too.
If you’re coming from Windows 7 and have no idea where to find some of the settings you’re used to, there’s a good chance you’ll find them in the Action Center.
Note: The free Windows 10 upgrade offer is only available until 29th July 2016.