by Doris Beetem

Windows 10 Undoes the Disaster of Windows 8 (Mostly)

David Pogue Sep 30, 2014

Today, Microsoft took the wraps off the next version of Windows. You’ll be able to install a free, unfinished “technical preview” version this week, or get it in final form sometime next year. It’s called Windows 10.

Windows 8 was a mishmash of two operating systems. There was the touchscreen-friendly TileWorld interface, as I called it. (Microsoft called it Modern or Metro; it has officially retired both of those terms.) Underneath, there was the regular desktop:

Each environment has its own Help system, its own Web browser, its own email program, its own control panel, its own conventions and gestures. Worse, each runs its own kind of programs. Regular Windows programs open at the desktop — but TileWorld apps open in TileWorld, with no menus overlapping windows. Like iPad apps.

Microsoft believed at the time (2012) that sooner or later, every PC would have a touchscreen. It bet wrong. Most computers still don’t have touchscreens. Windows 8 was a massive flop with critics. Windows 8 was a massive flop with consumers, too. According to Net Applications, 51 percent of desktop PCs still run Windows 7; only 13 percent have “upgraded” to Windows 8 or 8.1.

The answer has always been screamingly obvious: Split up the two halves of Windows 8. As I once wrote, “Put TileWorld and its universe of new touchscreen apps on tablets. Put Windows 8 on mouse-and-keyboard PCs.”

In Windows 10, Microsoft has done just that.

Windows 10 Tiles
Windows 10 Tiles

Mouse-and-keyboard mode

If you use Windows 10 with a mouse and keyboard, the Start menu is back. Not just the Start button, not just the secret Windows key+X utility menu of Windows 8.1 — the real Start menu.

TileWorld is gone. No more screen of big flat tiles taking over your monitor.

Tiles aren’t gone completely; they still pop out of the regular Start menu, a little weirdly.

What about all those TileWorld apps that could run only in TileWorld? These apps now open up on the desktop, in regular windows with regular title bars and window controls. You can still see your desktop, and you can see TileWorld apps and regular Windows programs side by side.

Tablet mode

If you don’t have a mouse and keyboard, then you still get TileWorld — a Start screen and apps that fill the full screen.!

New features

There are also some useful new features (new to Windows, anyway). Search results now include listings from the Web as well as from your computer. There’s a new “task view,” modeled on Mac OS X’s Mission Control, which shows you miniatures of all open windows when you click a button on the taskbar.

 Windows Phone will resemble Windows 10, although it won’t have the desktop view. Microsoft says that laptops, tablets, and phones will all get their apps from a single, unified app store. (It’s not clear if that means the same apps run on all those platforms; I’d guess not.)

Windows 10 looks as though it will be far more usable and less confusing than Windows 8 and 8.1. It’s too bad the whole tile design is still mixed in there for desktop PCs, but at least mouse-and-keyboard folks won’t sacrifice productivity in the name of the touchscreen revolution that never came, and tablet fans won’t have to work (much) with tiny window controls.

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