Upgrading to Windows 10

As a Windows enthusiast I of course installed Windows 10 on the day it came out. Here are my observations after a couple of days of use.

Start Screen

Getting Windows 10

The upgrade process itself was extremely smooth. Once Windows 10 had booted up, most things worked right out of the box. Including modern apps such as Photos and OneDrive that hadn’t functioned the day before under Windows 8.1. Curiously enough, none of the modern apps (including the Store and Edge) could access the internet, while desktop applications such as Outlook and Firefox could. Naturally, the network troubleshooter couldn’t find any issues. I assumed this was caused by my antivirus. BitDefender offered to upgrade to a Windows 10 compatible version the next morning, and I hadn’t had any connectivity issues since.

You will be missed

So the basic functionality was there: email, internet, Office etc. I was also prepared for a few things that weren’t there anymore, most notably Media Center, since that had been widely documented before. However, there have been a number of other changes that I hadn’t anticipated.

For instance, I have an SD card in my Surface Pro that I use to sync my OneDrive to. This, however, is no longer supported in Windows 10. Curiously, it hadn’t been supported in Windows 8 but was later supported in Windows 8.1. Luckily, the solution is simple: instead of assigning the SD card a drive letter, I used Disk Management to mount the volume in an empty folder (C:\Data) on my harddrive and created a “OneDrive” subfolder inside it. For some reason, OneDrive does not want to use the mounted folder C:\Data directly, but only works with the subfolder.

I also noticed that I could no longer pin applications that were located on the SD card to the task bar. This problem, too, went away after mounting the card in a folder.

Other issues

  • On the first day or so, jumplists for applications I had pinned to the taskbar (but also the most recent ones in Start Menu) where extremely sluggish, taking a second or so to show up. At some point, the stopped working altogether. After a day or so, they worked again and I haven’t had any issues since.
  • I also experienced two blue-screens since installing Windows 10. I haven’t had a chance yet to investigate them further.
  • I’m a bit annoyed by how the Alarms app was redesigned. The old design wasn’t super intuitive, but once you learned what those circle controls did, it was extremely fast to set a new timer. It takes a lot more clicks to do the same in the new design.
  • While going through Settings, I noticed that you can now set whether you write with you left or your right hand and the system will accommodate that. Unfortunately, when you set this to right-handed this means that menus will open up to the left, the opposite of what has been the behavior on all previous versions of Windows. I understand they did this so the menu would not be obscured by your hand when opening it via pen input. Still, I changed my handedness-setting to left-handed to get back the old menu behavior. It just felt wrong.

Annoying inconsistencies

First off, Windows 10 is a giant leap forward compared to Windows 8.1 when it comes to making the user experience more consistent and have modern apps work alongside desktop applications more seamlessly. Also, the Settings app is finally a usable alternative to the Control Panel and the weird two-worlds approach the start screen was using is gone.

Nonetheless, even in the redesigned parts of the Windows, there are a number of inconsistencies and usability issues that I find extremely annoying:

  • Microsoft’s own design guidelines have always insisted that in any dialog the Cancel button goes to the right. I have no idea, why they decided to violate that rule in the prompt you get when removing items from jumplists (see screenshot).
  • This is probably rarely used these days, but for desktop applications it is possible to double-click the icon in the top-left corner of an application window to close it. Unfortunately, this feature is missing from modern apps’ windows.
  • The title bar design (e.g. icon and back-arrow color and positioning) is also a bit inconsistent among desktop applications and modern apps. In some apps (such as Settings) it is also unclear where the title bar ends and where the client area begins (since they are the same color), making it more difficult be to drag the window.
  • The back arrow in Settings works totally different from back arrows in any other application (e.g. Control Panel). It simply brings you back to the start of the settings. So when you click from one settings through to the next, you won’t be taken back to the first one, as one would expect from every other application using a navigational pattern.
  • Many times, the Action Center icon and tooltip in the notification area had indicated a new notification, even though there was none when I opened it.
  • StartMenuNormally, font sizes are used to establish a visual hierarchy, i.e. text in a smaller font is subordinate to text in a larger font. Unfortunately, the context menu you get when clicking “Power” in the start menu had a larger font then the Power button making for a weird visual hierarchy (see screenshot). Furthermore, it’s not even the same font used on other context menus, e.g. when right-clicking the desktop.
  • I know few people will use this keyboard shortcut, but I just love Ctrl+Shift+Arrow Left/Right to select entire words via the keyboard. Normally, this works on all edit controls. When renaming a group of tiles on the start menu, however, this keyboard shortcut instead changes the width of the menu. I find it extremely annoying when applications (let alone the operating system) use established keyboard shortcuts and just assign new meaning to them. I always discourage such tactics in my fellow developers. Since they can now rightfully claim, “But look, even Microsoft doesn’t follow their own design guidelines, why should I”, this makes my life so much harder.

The best parts

  • I had used ModernMix since Windows 8 was released to use modern apps in windows on the desktop. For a 5$ tool it was amazing. But since Windows 8 was not designed to be used that way, the tool had limitations. Now all modern apps run reliably in windows and I no longer need a third party solution.
  • I also like that the Most Used list of applications from Windows 7 is back complemented with a new Recently Installed list.
  • The unnatural right-click to bring up the menu bar behavior is also gone, as menu items in most apps are now just visible. The ways those menu items are spread out over the top and left edges, however, is something I think needs to be refined. It’s a bit unclear in my opinion why certain things are on the top left, the bottom left or the top edge.
  • Finally, you can use Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V and other shortcuts in cmd.exe. Finally!

Conclusion

I’m pretty happy with Windows 10. Particularly on a touch-enabled device such as the Surface Pro that you also want to use with mouse, keyboard and a big screen, it’s a welcome upgrade. I hope that the smaller releases and faster upgrade cycles Microsoft has announced for this OS will be used to address some of the issues and inconsistencies noted above.

I haven’t upgraded my parents’ computers yet and will probably wait to do so until some of the issues have been worked out.

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