Last Tuesday Windows 10 was publicly presented as the newest installment of the Microsoft operating system, sequential numbering be damned. The new OS aims to bring a bit of common sense back to the product by reintroducing features lost along the way in recent years or adding features that the competition has already been using for years. Even if you don’t have the new OS, though, with a little help from free third-party programs it’s possible to add many of the features included in Windows 10 to your own version of Windows right now.
The return of the Start menu
Why did it go? What crime did it commit? Is it still alive? With the arrival of Windows 8 Microsoft killed the user desktop experience in one fell swoop, and it was just a matter of time before they tried to mend their error by bringing back at least the button itself and a scrawny help menu with the launch of 8.1 Update 1, the first big update to the system. Apparently they’re now back on the bandwagon and Windows 10 will bring back the proper menu instead of the updates from the current version.
It’s precisely the menu’s absence that has prompted the appearance of many third-party programs, like Start8 or Classic Shell, that offer the option to bring back the start menu. Classic Shell, for one, is totally free and offers many customization options to leave the menu just how you like it.
That said, Windows 10 will integrate the blinking (and to a certain extent useless on desktop computers) “Live Tiles” into the Start menu, as well as the context search that until now was relegated to the Metro desktop. And from this feature, we now jump to another equally necessary one (or equally disposable, depending on your viewpoint).
Metro applications in a window
Another of Microsoft’s mistakes was to create two types of totally incompatible software: traditional desktop programs and Windows Store applications. Initially the latter could only run in obligatory full-screen mode, creating considerable havoc with its two active program bars, the one for ModernUI to the left and the one for desktop programs to the right. Luckily, now everything is going back to its proper place.
Windows 8.1 also attempted to fix this error by adding close and minimize buttons to Metro programs, but in the end the two types are simply going to be fused, so that Metro applications can run in windows and coexist with the rest of the traditional desktop. Like with the Start menu, quick-thinking developers seized on this failure, and as of a while ago released the tool ModernMix, which offers exactly the same feature.
And now the problem: If the apps for Windows Store were born as competition for the business model offered by Google and Apple for working on tablets and other portable devices, what are they good for now beyond providing a touchscreen interface? Clearly, we have to read a bit between the lines here to find the answer: Centralization and monopoly over its system services, which is of very little interest to anybody.
In the beginning God create the heaven and the earth and Linux multi-desktop support. How is it possible that only now it occurs to Microsoft to include a system of several workspaces or some alternative that offers similar services? Again, we have here loads of third-party programs that offer this much-needed feature that Microsoft was holding back on offering.
The windows in Windows 10 are “sticky”. In other words, they adapt and adjust to one another when you have several open at the same time. Yet another feature that has taken ages to arrive and whose absence we have pointed out before on the blog.
WinDock is a free tool that lets you create custom profiles with preset nodes for certain programs, as well as configure in-depth the sorts of mouse gestures you want to use to make the windows change size or adapt to other windows or the borders of your desktop. Essential for working comfortably with several programs at the same time.
The ubiquitous Alt + Tab is by now basically programmed into your fingers, but it has rarely received much development beyond letting you switch between different tasks. Windows 10 has finally given this a bit of attention and brought a new task-viewer button with a much more robust look than the one formerly available on the operating system.
Nevertheless, there are loads of other programs aimed at improving switches between open windows. In fact, VistaSwitcher is one of the best alternatives out there, displaying all the open windows in a list alongside a preview showing where exactly the window is located on your desktop. You can also move them around, size them, minimize them, or close them en masse.