Windows 10 Technical Preview

Naturally, I couldn’t resist taking a look at Microsoft’s Technical Preview of Windows 10. I signed up to the Windows Insider Program and downloaded a copy of the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

I’ve installed it on my Desktop PC (homebuild) in a Dual Boot configuration. Dual Boot seems the safest option at this stage; Windows 10 is nowhere near complete, and you can’t revert back to Windows 8.1 without doing a complete fresh reinstall of Windows. While I could have run Windows 10  in a Virtual Machine, I prefer to see what happens when running on actual hardware. With the Dual Boot configuration, I can choose to start up either the Windows 10 Technical Preview or the tried and trusted Windows 8.1 operating system. (Addendum: if you’d like to install the Technical Preview in a Virtual Machine, then Ludwig Keck has a “How-to” post over at his This ‘n That blog.)

The main thing to bear in mind is that at this stage, it’s very early days; the focus of the Technical Preview is on Enterprise users (who are probably still running Windows 7 on their PCs) and therefore using the traditional Desktop interface with mouse and keyboard. Touch devices are not the focus of this first Technical Preview. I’m already reading in forums of people who have installed it on touch-enabled devices (e.g. the Microsoft Surface Pro range) and who are reporting that the touch experience is in fact degraded…

For this and other reasons, there is no way that I would install the Technical Preview on my ThinkPad Tablet 2 at this stage. Knowing my luck I’d end up with a useless brick.

I suppose the big news of this Technical Preview is that the Start Menu (familiar to Windows 7 users) is back. This being Windows 10, the Start Menu also has elements of the Windows 8.1 Start Screen tacked onto it in the form of App Tiles:

W10 003

It’s possible to customise this Start Menu (Start Panel?) in a variety of ways (resizing the panel, resizing and shuffling the Tiles) to arrive at your desired configuration. This could be a pure Windows 7-style of Start Menu, or a combination of Menu and Panel:

W10 006

I have to say that, frankly, for me, this all seems like a step back into the past. I’ve got very comfortable with the Start Screen on all my devices (PCs and Tablets), and going back to the damn Start Menu doesn’t thrill me at all. Clearly, there are many for whom the Start Menu is a good thing, but I’m not one of them. I just hope that Microsoft don’t remove the option of having a Start Screen even when Windows 10 is running in Desktop mode.

What I also quickly noticed is that, in this Technical Preview, the Charms Bar has been removed from the Desktop as well. My muscle memory kept expecting to bring out the Charms bar, and I found it irritating that it was not there. This may be an issue with the Technical Preview build, because there’s a Control Panel setting that seems to imply that it should be possible to have the Charms Bar present, even in Desktop mode:

W10 002

However, in this build of the Technical Preview, that checkbox doesn’t work.

One thing I do rather like is that Desktop Windows are now almost borderless, with just a faint shadow effect on underlying Windows:

W10 001

This seems to be a nod to the “flat” design language of the Modern UI. As I say, I rather like it, but I see from the forums that Desktop traditionalists hate it.

If you fire up a Modern UI app, then it displays almost fullscreen (by default, the Taskbar and a Title Bar still show):

W10 004

The big news here is that it is possible to resize the Window of the app. The trouble is, that the content doesn’t resize. It may get reshuffled a bit (but not always, as the Store app shown here illustrates), but fonts and graphics remain at their original size:

W10 005

I don’t really think this works. The Mail app, for example, is really designed for a tablet-sized screen in fullscreen mode. Resizing it on a large desktop, and it looks overblown, even when in a smaller window. When in Desktop mode, I tend to stick to the traditional Windows Live Mail, which is a traditional Desktop application. That’s comfortable. When I’m using my tablet, I use the Mail app. That’s equally comfortable.

Microsoft are making a play that Windows 10 will be one platform that supports a tailored experience for a range of device form factors:

Windows_Product_Family_9-30-Event-741x416

However, at this stage, it is clear that the experience is not tailored, it’s procrustean – at least as far as the current generation of Modern UI apps are concerned. This has to improve.

I’ll be following the developments with interest, but this first Technical Preview is addressing an area that I personally have moved beyond.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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9 Responses to Windows 10 Technical Preview

  1. Ludwig says:

    Thanks Geoff for a very nice overview. I will link to your post in a comment on my posts as your views should be viewed by my readers too.

  2. Matt Healy says:

    You are correct that many Enterprise users are still running Windows Seven; my wife’s company and my company both migrated from Windows XP to Windows Seven during 2013. In both cases, I believe it was the imminent end of support for XP in 2014 that prompted the migration.

  3. Matt Healy says:

    As for the Procrustean issue with Modern Apps, I think there is a severe mismatch with programs that are accustomed to having all of a tablet screen — as opposed to Desktop programs that have always been required to handle resize events. Maybe the best approach would be to have a configuration option where the user could specify the preferred window size for all Modern Apps. Then when an app is launched, the OS would give that App a simulated tablet screen of that size.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Either that, or have it possible for Apps to work in the same way as the Modern UE IE11 – support font/graphic resizing on the fly…

      • Matt Healy says:

        Getting resizing to work right with Modern Apps may depend more on authors of individual Apps than on the OS itself. Windows Desktop program have always needed to handle WM_RESIZE events, but under Windows 8 the only on-the-fly layout change a Modern App will see is when the user switches between Portrait and Landscape orientation. I dunno anything about the Modern API equivalent of WM_RESIZE because my world is still the Desktop. But I expect a typical Modern App is not currently prepared to handle changes in window size while it is running, and I don’t see how the OS can do that for the App.

        • Geoff Coupe says:

          Yes, I agree it’s mainly down to the design of the App. That’s what I meant by my comment that this generation of Modern UI apps don’t fit with the new Universal paradigm of Windows 10…

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