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Windows 10 Review: Daily Usage

Technical Level : Basic

Summary

Not much has changed with the Lock Screen first introduced in Windows 8.0. The log in screen presents the familiar Windows 7 style experience with profiles now shown in a spherical design. I believe part of what makes a new release a success is its familiarity. The key for Windows 10, it embraces its roots as a desktop operating system. The Desktop feels about the same as if I was sitting in front of a significantly enhanced Windows 7 in 2015. Familiar landmarks: Start button, Start menu, Taskbar are all there. These old favourites of course have been improved with new features and functionality.

Details

Previously:

Windows 10 Review: Introduction, Specifications and Setup

Windows 10 Review: Microsoft Edge web browser

Windows 10 Review: Applications and Compatibility

Windows 10 Review: Multimedia and Productivity

Windows 10 Review: Advanced features, Security and Connectivity

Windows 10 Review: Windows Update, Support, Recovery, Easy Upgrade

Windows 10 presents a familiar experience for the more than 1 billion Windows 7 users.

Immediately you will notice the new Search box, prompting you to ask Windows anything. We use computers to create, store and analyse information. Windows over the years has provided built in tools for finding our information which is sometimes difficult to discover if we have a lot of it on our hard disk. Earlier releases of Windows included basic tools for finding files, the most concerted effort at making it easy to find information on our computers and Internet was the introduction of Instant Search in Windows Vista. Windows 10 introduces some major advances that bridges the world of artificial intelligence with the power of the Internet.

If you are connected to the Internet, the Search box will display up to date information about what is happening around the world wide web. If I am not looking for something specific, I can simply enter a query and a list of relevant results will appear. I can choose to filter down where Search looks, in this case 'My Stuff'. When I click that, I am presented with all the relevant files for document I am looking, in my case Word documents, PDFs, not only on my local drive but also on my OneDrive if I have that setup. Search also lets you easily define locations too so you can make your results as precise as you want them to be. The biggest improvement to Search is the addition of the Cortana Digital Assistant. First made available in Windows Phone 8.1, users can talk to Windows and receive relevant feedback. You can also use it to control applications such as the Music Player and prepare an email message or track a package. Before you begin using Cortana, you need to configure it.

The Cortana Digital Assistant in Windows 10 uses simple voice commands to help you get things done.

To setup Cortana, click the Search box and click the Settings tab then click the turn on switch to enable Cortana. Cortana will guide you through a few quick steps so you can introduce yourself and then you can start using it. After you have done so, you will notice changes to the Search window itself, additional tabs are now added. To activate Cortana, just say 'Hey Cortana'. Cortana will begin listening; ask your search query and Cortana will begin looking for it. This will immediately be presented in the new Microsoft Edge browser. Some other cool things you can do with Cortana include find the name of a song; just click the Music tab and Cortana will listen to the song that is playing and find it. It’s very accurate! In addition to these helpful task, you can use Cortana to create reminders, ask questions, do calculations and list of other fun and mundane activities. Here are a few questions you can try:

  • Weather – “Nassau Weather”

  • Finance – “MSFT stock”

  • Dictionary – “define amazing

  • Calculator – “9+1

  • Flight Status – “UA 238”

  • Reference – “how old is jennifer lopez

  • Showtimes – “movies near me”

  • Tech Help – “memory in my computer”

  • Time Zone – “time in australia

  • Unit Conversion – “42 ft in meters”

  • Chit Chat – “tell me a joke”

If you don't want the Search Box to be displayed on your Taskbar, you can easily remove it or just display an icon. Right click the Taskbar > Click Search and choose the most suitable option which includes Disabled or 'Show search icon'. If you choose Show search icon, depending on whether Cortana is enabled or not, you will see Cortana's logo or a magnifying glass. If you don't want to keep Cortana on all the while, you can easily turn it off too. Click in the Search box and click the Settings tab and click the on switch. You can also choose additional settings from here too include changing the name Cortana knows you by, click Change my name.

START Menu returns - The Start menu and Taskbar have been hallmarks of the Windows desktop experience for nearly 20 years. Both have evolved over the years with features and enhancements to make users productive and more agile at their everyday computing tasks. Windows 10 introduces an assortment of enhancements and productivity boosters. In particular, both are optimized for Touch, Keyboard and Mouse; making users feel right at home, no matter the device or form factor they are using. Some commands have been revised in Windows 10.

All apps Displays all programs installed on your computer
Power Shuts down, restarts, hibernates or put your computer to Sleep.
Most used Displays all your recently used programs.
Settings Displays a collection tools you can use to change the settings of your Windows installation.
File Explorer Provides access to all your personal folders (Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos, Downloads and other folders) or your computer environment (hard disks, optical drives or attached storage).
User Name Change account settings, lock your computer, sign out of your computer or switch to another user account.

The new Start menu is also more customizable; you can easily resize it by placing the pointer at both horizontal and vertical edges, then drag it into a desired state or you can enable a full screen mode from within Settings > Personalization > Start. With the return of the Start menu in Windows 10 so are favourites such as All Apps (formerly All Programs). In Windows 10, launching a program is a common action users perform. If you are accustomed to launching programs by scrolling through your All Programs list, you can do so in Windows 10 normally. If you have a lot of programs though, it can become tedious.

Quickly find and launch programs in Windows 10

There is an even quicker way to find the program you are looking for. If you have used the Windows Phone operating system, you are aware of the swipe to left action that presents an alphabetical listing of your apps. Say I want to launch Photos on my Windows Phone, all I have to do is swipe to the left, click on any of the alphabet headers and I am presented with an Alphabetical view of my installed apps, click on the letter P and I am presented with all apps that start with P. In Windows 10, you can do the same. You can for the first time also drag Tiles to the desktop and turn them into Shortcuts. The Taskbar is another important element of the Windows Desktop; it is the first thing you see when you sign into Windows 10. Every time you start a program or open a window, a shortcut is placed on the Taskbar with a visual indicator at the bottom of the program telling you it is running. The color will be different depending on the theme accent you have applied.

At the end of the Taskbar, you will find the Notification Area. Here you will find the Peek which returns the Windows 7 like behaviours, refreshed Date and Time, Language, Action Center, Volume, Available Network, Battery and a 'Show hidden icons' button that will reveal other notifications.

Action Centre is a useful addition to Windows and was long overdue, its centralized and definitely makes it easy to remember where to check for common task and notifications users will often skip or forget about. Some of the items you will receive in Action Center include incoming email, tweets, scheduled updates, virus definition status. You can also customize these notifications from within Settings. Action Center also gives you quick access to on the fly settings such as Tablet Mode, Battery, Brightness, Wireless, VPN, OneNote, Location, All Settings and Airplane Mode.  Remaining in the Notification Area, users will notice that Windows Defender now makes a return for quicker access; there is still no context menu for scanning files or folders.

The new Action Center helps managing your incoming notifications such as email, tweets and system alerts.

Either way, it’s not a big deal since I will be replacing Windows Defender with a more effective third party Antivirus utility. Customizing the System Tray icons that appear is now done exclusively from Settings > System > Notifications.

Another feature new to the Taskbar is Virtual Desktops. You can use Virtual Desktops to gain additional space for all the programs you are running. For instance, you can create a desktop for email, productivity applications, web browsers or a desktop for personal and work. The concept of Virtual Desktops has been around for many years on alternative platforms. Windows itself has included functionality through its many revisions for managing your apps. If you have a standard Windows 10 desktop with a couple applications open, WordPad and Photos app for example and you need to run another application, you can launch it and manage switching between each program using the Taskbar. Of course, this introduces a problem of having multiple applications triggering on screen clutter. With Task View, I can simplify management of my running programs by adding another desktop. This is especially great for persons who only have one display monitor.

When Task View is activated, you have the option of creating a new desktop. If you already have an existing desktop, you can add your running application to that desktop.

Task View introduces Virtual Desktops to Windows, making it easier to manage your apps.

After clicking New desktop, you can do several things with it; you can launch a new application or put an existing running program there. When Task View is activated on the desktop with your running programs, miniature copies are created. You can move a program to a desktop using either drag and drop or right click the program and move it to that desktop. Another great benefit of Virtual desktops is the ability to manage them. For instance, if you have finished using one desktop or a program from one of the desktops, you can close it on the fly without leaving the active desktop you are in. The Snap feature introduced in Windows 7 includes improvements for managing on screen windows much easier. Called Snap Assist, when you snap a window to either side of the screen, Snap Assist intelligently collects all other windows into thumbnail gallery and lets you easily select a window you would like to snap to its opposite.

Snap Assist first introduced in Windows 7 adds intelligent enhancements in Windows 10 for managing on screen windows.

File Explorer - We use computers to create information. Over time, we accumulate a lot of information that are stored on our hard disk. A critical part of how Windows does this is by using a File System, which manages how files are stored and accessed on your computer. The part you and I see when we interact with the files we create on our computers such as (documents, audio files, pictures and videos) is the File Manager, in the case of Windows, File Explorer. Over the years, this essential part of the Windows experience has evolved from its roots as File Manager in early releases then into Windows Explorer until its rechristening in Windows 8. Windows 10 includes subtle improvements, not dramatic, but welcome none the less. File Explorer is used for a variety of tasks, in addition managing and organization of files and folders, it it is also used to view and manage the resources of your computer too such as internal and attached storage and optical drives.

Quick Access Toolbar Here you can pin your most frequently accessed commands.
Ribbon Toolbar If you are familiar with Microsoft Office or apps such as Paint and WordPad, the Ribbon toolbar command is used to manage your files and reveals often hidden commands quickly. When you select a file or folder, this will display a contextual tab with additional options. You can copy, move, delete, rename and host of other task using the Ribbon.
Navigation and Address Bar You can use these to easily navigate through a folder hirarchy or back and forward between folders. The Address bar also has a bread crumb menu that makes it easy to navigate to different folder path.
Quick Access Here you can find your most frequently accessed folders and you the ones you pin.
OneDrive synced folders If you have a Microsoft Account setup with your Windows 10 PC, you can have your files stored in the online storage service and have them synced to your computer.
This PC In previous versions of Windows, this was called Computer Explorer. Here you can view and manage your internal storage and attached storage devices including optical media.
Search Use the search command to find files stored with the current folder.
Status bar Displays information about the contents stored in the window, such the amount of files, size, file selection and quick access to folder layout.

When you launch File Explorer, you are presented within the Quick Access window. Formally called Favorites; here you will see your most frequently accessed folders and files you created. If you would rather see your computer environment now called 'This PC', click on it in the left pane or you can change it to the default from the Folder Options dialogue. To Do so, click the View (tab) on the Ribbon and click Options under Show/Hide group. 

Click in the Open File Explorer to: list box and select This PC

Then click Apply and OK

If you don't like to see your most frequently access folders and recently access files, you can adjust those settings from the same dialog. Under Privacy, uncheck the following:

- Show recently used files in Quick access

- Show frequently used folders folders in Quick access or you can choose to clear all traces by clicking the Clear button.

User Folder In Windows 7 and earlier versions, you had a User folder directory which was used to store and organize your files in folders by content, such as Documents, Audio files, Pictures, Videos and other types of data. Some of these folders can still be accessed from This PC. Other folders that might be part of your User Folder created by third party applications can be accessed from within your user directory from the Bread Crumb menu. To do that, click the arrow within the address bar (see above) and click your user folder represented by your account name. If there are folders you commonly access, you can have them pinned to Quick Access pane. Right click the folder you want pinned and click Pin to Quick Access  or select the folder and click Pin to Quick access under the Home tab. Microsoft says it uses a special algorithm to determine your most frequently accessed folders and will automatically do so.

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