GROOVE, PHOTOS, MOVIES & TV, Groove music app and Movies & TV apps feature significant improvements that I can safely say, it’s time to retire Windows Media Player (which is still bundled with Windows 10) and forget about using third party apps like VLC. The great thing about Groove in particular it actually looks and works like a modern juke box. Of course, its touch optimized, but it feels right at home on the desktop. Groove is of course part of Microsoft’s Cloud mantra and the app integrates with Microsoft’s Cloud Storage OneDrive, you can sign in and access your synced music library from OneDrive itself.
The app features standard jukebox features such as music categories for your library: album art, artiste, songs, now playing and options for creating play list or importing from third party apps such as iTunes. At the bottom, you will find common player controls for scrubbing through a track, play, forward, volume, shuffle and repeat. Of course, Groove app also includes some of the small but unique features of Windows 7 such as Jump List support and Live window controls such as (fast forward, play).
Music and the Windows Store: You can also sign up for a Groove Music Pass subscription – a premium ad-free listening experience with no interruptions. $9.99/month or $99/year gets you complete access to stream and download music from the Windows Store — one of the largest music catalogs on the planet with over 40 million tracks*. Subscribers can also create custom radio stations based on their favorite songs, albums and artists.
Photos and Groove Music
The approach to managing your photo library in Windows 8.0 felt disorienting, but I liked the premise of bringing in everything from the different sources such as Flickr, Facebook and other services. That has ended and Microsoft is focusing exclusively on making the Photos app a mature, robust app for library management and editing. The integration with OneDrive is also a critical component, providing syncing with the service, so not only are your photos backed up to OneDrive, but they can also be accessed naturally from within the app. Navigating the application is so much more logical than its predecessor. You are greeted by a Library view with all folders in which you store your pictures displayed in thumbnail view.
Editing a picture using the new Photos app
One of the things I still need to get use to is navigation in these modern apps. For instance, getting out of a folder requires that I right click to activate the back button which takes me to the main folder. It’s a small learning curve and at the same time you learn that Microsoft is trying to appease two audiences here. Photos app is not just library management, you can also edit your photos by accessing options for adding effects, adjusting colour, lighting and basic corrections. An albums view provides an organized collection of your photos by date, camera app, and screenshots. For the first time, Microsoft has built in support for animated GIFs a highly requested function. Can Photos be a replacement for something like Photo Gallery? It offers most of the functionality you would expect to find in Photo Gallery, you can import photos directly into the app from your digital camera, organize them, edit them and even play a slide show. Will you like it is another question?
Film & TV supports MKV files
The OS now comes with out of box support for standards such as .MKV and FLAC which would have been nice 10 years ago, but I guess better late than never. As you might notice, Music and Video are separate apps. The app features all the standard functions you can expect it in a video player, you can manage your video library, easily import videos, watch them full screen, drag and drop videos between collections. Movies & TV has direct integration with the Windows Store, where you can buy or rent the latest movies and TV shows in HD, as well as thousands of other favourites. This includes weekly new releases, access to TV shows a day after air, deals and discounts, and personalized recommendations. And on Windows 10 devices, Xbox and the web, the Movies & TV app lets you start watching purchased or rented content on one device, and pick up where you left off on another device.
Groove supports functions such as Live Thumbnail player controls
Users of Media Center which was Microsoft’s major push for bringing the PC into the living room should get the message early that Windows 10 is the end of the road. Unlike Windows 8 which still offered support, Microsoft decided to end all support with this release. Users running Windows 8/8.1 or Windows 7 editions with Media Center will have it removed automatically when they upgrade. If they need this feature, they should think twice. Apart from that, legacy applications like Windows Media Player are still around, but are hidden. Microsoft has promised to provide a modern DVD Playback app later this year.
Windows 10 features two come back apps now bundled with the OS, Mail and Calendar. Versions of Windows dating back to Windows 95 included a Mail client. Windows Vista was the first to include a Calendar app. Windows 7 removed these apps and bundled them as part of the Windows Live Essentials package you had to download. The new mail and calendar apps are clean in design and are easy to use. Account setup is quick and easy especially if you are already using a Microsoft Account with your Windows 10 setup, just connect and that’s it!
The new Calendar app built into Windows 10
Mail allows you to add accounts for Microsoft’s popular enterprise mail server Exchange or other popular third party services such as Google Mail or even Apples iCloud. You will notice that both Mail and Calendar are separate modern apps too. Unlike Outlook which includes an integrated calendar, if that is something you prefer, then Outlook will remain the best choice. Although I don’t see it as a disadvantage, sometimes all you need access to is just your Calendar. Both apps are touch optimized and features large icons that will be more friendly for Tablet users. They work just as well with keyboard and mouse. Microsoft has also added TLS support for better security especially with most mail servers deprecating support for the older SSL 3.0 protocol.
The new Mail app in Windows 10 supports Exchange Server, iCloud and Gmail and its touc friendly too.
In celebration of its 25th anniversary, Windows 10 also sees the return of the popular time killer, Solitaire. Windows 8 did not come with built in Games like previous versions of Windows and I believe it riled up a lot of Windows users who loved having their favourite card games. Although you could always download these from the Windows Store, I believe it was lost on persons they could do so it’s now bundled for convenience.
Windows 10 sees the return of the classic, Solitaire
Windows 10 includes the latest version of DirectX version 12 which will be an exclusive. The new version includes significant performance and optimization updates. Microsoft has noted there is a 20% performance improvements in GPU bound games. Microsoft said ‘In DirectX 12 the app has lower level access to the hardware and when combined with higher level app knowledge of when things like resource synchronization need to happen, the app has the power to make optimizations specific to its use case.
Windows 10 and XBOX ONE will support streaming games to your various devices such as a Tablet or PC. After setting up, an XBOX app on Windows 10 will present all games available on the console so you can stream them to your PC or over the network. Your XBOX Controller can be paired to your PC so you can interact with your games. The XBOX app will let you capture and share 30 second clips.
OFFICE FOR WINDOWS 10 - Windows finally sees a modern touch optimized version of Office and its only for Windows 10. If you are using Windows 10 on a desktop/laptop form factor with no touch support, you are not missing anything. The Office universal apps for Windows 10 will be available for free from the Windows Store app in Windows 10 but require an active Office 365 subscription for business use.
Windows 10 sees the release of a touch optimized release of the worlds most popular productivity suite.
Word for Windows 10, includes document review and mark-up capabilities, real-time collaboration, and the new Insights for Office feature in Read mode.
Excel for Windows 10, features new touch-first controls that let you select cell ranges, format charts and manage workbooks.
PowerPoint for Windows 10, with a Presenter View to prepare and present, and Ink Tools to annotate slides in real time.
OneNote for Windows 10, which was previously available, with a new ribbon UI and collaboration via shared notebooks.
Office for Windows 10 will require an active Office 365 subscription
Only Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote (which comes bundled with Windows 10) are supported. Makes sense, I can’t picture Project, Visio and Access having a pressing need to be touch optimized. The apps are extremely basic and features just the essential tools necessary for a touch environment and that’s the way it should be. The key here is document fidelity that is optimized to work with touch. If you have content to prepare that requires the precision of a mouse and keyboard, desktop Office remains the best choice. If you own a device like Microsoft’s Surface 3, I am sure these new revisions of Office apps will be a welcome.