Windows 10 Hands-On: What You Need To Know

The New Start Menu

Please keep in mind that  this is an early preview of the OS. Since we've already discussed certain options, like the new integrated Start Menu, we're going to focus on how these new capabilities work and whether or not they bridge the Desktop-Metro gulf that existed in both W8 and W8.1. Hit the Windows Key on a system with a mouse and keyboard, and all you'll see a combination of the old Start Menu and the Live Tiles from the Start Screen. Live Tiles still update automatically. In practice, this blended approach works beautifully.

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In the screenshot above, you can see that we've actually added two additional icons to the Live Tiles -- Control Panel and the Camera app. If you keep adding icons, the Start Menu (Start Screnu?) grows horizontally to accommodate them. Control Panel should be part of the default list, but adding it requires that you type the name once, then right-click and "Add to Start Menu."

The inline search function blends the W7 and W8 displays, but with some questionable results. Look at what happens when we begin typing "Calculator (left-hand image), and then finish the word (right-hand image).

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The first image is a standard search box, with nothing particularly new or fancy. The second shows a completed search string and you'll note both the Metro and non-Metro versions of the program are popping up, with two additional Windows Store applications presenting as well. We're dubious as to whether or not this is a step forward -- Microsoft has prioritized the desktop version of the calculator and kept the W7-style icon, but adding install options and a Metro app to the above-bar sheet seems like it could confuse some users. Some differentiation of the results could would be useful.

Just as in Windows 7, clicking on "Programs" leaves the right-hand options static. The only enlarged button by default is the News app, which makes sense, given that it was one of the premiere applications of Windows 8 and one of the best ways to demonstrate what the Metro interface was capable of. In the past, Metro apps had to run in either fullscreen mode or stuffed into static snapped panes. In Windows 10, these apps can be opened in their own windows and moved around the desktop.

The News app, with accompanying drop shadow, sitting directly over a standard Desktop browser session

Note that there's no border to speak of -- content display goes to the bottom and far sides of the page. Huge drop shadows are a major thing in the new Windows 10 after being virtually eliminated in Windows 8.1. If you actually need the Charms-style sidebar on a non-touch desktop, the same menu functions are available by clicking on the three dots in the upper left.

Overall, the new Start Menu gets a major nod for integrating the W8.1 and W7 style concepts gracefully. The gap between interfacing with Metro applications and desktop applications just got a great deal smaller, much less jarring, and more useful.

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