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10 Awesome New Features in Windows 10 You Should Know

Touch-centric Windows 8 was widely panned. Windows 10 is a return to form, with some fun extras too.
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Windows 10

Microsoft's latest version of Windows is finally here, and for most of us it's available as a free upgrade. Should you be rushing to install your copy? The short answer is: Yes! (The longer answer is: You might want to wait a bit for the bugs to be patched.)

But you first might want to hear about all the improvements and eye-catching new features that await. The OS has been widely available for about a week now, and plenty of tech outlets have weighed in with their reviews. We sifted through all the announcements and hands-on assessments to detail the top 10 features to Microsoft's latest, free OS.

Cortana Jumps From Phone to PC

A built-in personal assistant capable of answering to your voice commands is a welcome step towards the future. Microsoft's Cortana, which originally debuted on Windows Phone, is easy to use and it can deliver the answers you need, set reminders, and offer up relevant information that you might find useful when you need it. The more you tell it, and the more Microsoft services you use, the more useful it's likely to be.

If you've already gotten used to Cortana, Siri, or Google Now on your phone, you'll appreciate having a personal voice assistant on your desktop or laptop. It's not yet perfect, as the Digital Trends review points out, but it's "the first voice-activated assistant bundled by default into a computer operating system."

The Start Menu Returns

When Microsoft replaced the traditional Start menu with a full screen touch-friendly version in Windows 8, it would be fair to say that it didn't meet with widespread approval. Windows 10 restores the Start menu you know and love, but also adds customization options, and retains a scaled down Live Tile launcher for touchscreen users. The Tech Radar review calls it "functionally excellent."

Edge Browser is a Promising New Tool

It's been a long time since Internet Explorer ruled the roost, and the Edge browser is the result of Microsoft going back to the drawing board. It's minimalist, speedy, and clean, with integrated Cortana and a handy reading mode. There are lots of reasons to try it out, as The Next Web points out, but the big reason to delay is missing add-ons or extensions. It's still a work in progress, but this is a very promising start.

View Open Programs at a Glance, Customize Multiple Desktops

The old trusty Alt-Tab option still works just as it ever did in Windows 10, but the platform also now offers a visual view of all your running programs. Tap the Task View button in the Taskbar and you can see what's open and switch into whatever you want. You can also set up multiple virtual desktops of apps organized just how you want them. Great for multiple projects, or for separating work and play.

Transition to Tablet-Friendly Mode in a Smart Way

With a hybrid device, the act of folding away the keyboard will automatically pitch you into tablet mode, which tweaks the user interface to be more touch-friendly. On a touchscreen PC you can choose when to switch between modes, and it happens quickly and smoothly. This gives you the best of both worlds, instead of bowing to one as Windows 8 did.

The Engadget review suggests, "Looking ahead, Continuum has the potential to completely change the way we compute." In the future we might be using our phones with the big screen TV and wireless accessories, the way we use desktops now.

Central Hub for Notifications

It has been a long time coming, but Windows finally gets a central place for notifications. They pop up as they come in, but you can dip into the Action Center at any time to see a complete archive of everything you may have missed. There are even some handy shortcuts and quick toggles in here. The Ars Technica review calls it "a good thing to have in the operating system."

Microsoft Hello: Unlock Your PC With Your Finger or Face

Forget about the PIN or the password, you can log into your computer with a fingerprint or with your face, provided it has the necessary fingerprint reader or 3D infrared camera. Usually, there's a trade-off between security and convenience, but as the PC World review points out "Microsoft Hello promises to be simpler and more secure." Newer devices are more likely to be equipped with the hardware to take advantage, but what could be more convenient than just glancing at your camera to log in?

Xbox Integration

"Microsoft's Xbox app might be my favorite new feature," says The Verge. And no wonder: It enables you to stream Xbox One games to your laptop or PC. The Activity Feed keeps you up to date with your gaming buddies, and it's a breeze to start conversations. The app also makes it easy to record video or screenshots of gameplay.

Office Apps That Transition Well to Phone and Tablet

New versions of Mail and Calendar are the same apps that will run on Windows 10 phones when they land later in the year. Microsoft's Office suite are also universal apps, potentially making it easier to pick up work on a new device, where you left off on a different one. This should also help encourage developers to create more apps for the platform as it expands the potential user base.

Command Prompt and Settings App Get an Overhaul

The ugly old command prompt has finally had a makeover in Windows 10. There are also some new options to try out, including copy and paste, text wrapping, resizable windows, hotkeys, and more.

It's not the only Windows stalwart to get the makeover treatment. No one enjoys digging around to find the right settings menu. Why can't everything be in one place? Well, with Windows 10 it almost is. The Settings app is your first port of call anytime you're looking to tweak settings and it proves to be well laid out and easy to read.

There are lots of enticing reasons to think about securing that Windows 10 upgrade. It delivers a good mix of the best things about Windows 7 and 8, with some extras thrown in for good measure. If you've got Windows 7 or above on your PC, laptop, or tablet, then you can get Windows 10 for free today. That offer is good for the next year.

Readers, have any of you upgraded to Windows 10 yet? What do you think of the new OS? Would you recommend switching? What are some of your favorite features? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Contributing Writer

Simon is a technology journalist with a background in games development. He is fascinated by all things tech, particularly mobile and videogames, and he loves to share that passion with other tech fans.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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14 comments
Easytokill
I upgraded my Windows 7 to 10 yesterday to give it a whirl. I was a very seamless upgrade, but after completed I found that my Office 2003 no longer worked and was not supported. I did not care for the useless tiles on the start menu, but it is still better than Windows 8. And when I did find an "App", which we use to call "programs" that I wanted desktop access too, I had to go to the .exe file to make a shortcut to the desktop. I also did not care for the new internet explorer program or "edge" browser, because when I tried to customize the toolbar or change the home page it was several unnecessary steps in the process. But the big kicker was the directx crashes while playing online every few minutes. That was the deal breaker. After spending several hours looking for solutions I found there is just not enough information on Windows 10 issues. But the good news is that when I reverted back to Windows 7, it only took a few minutes and I only had to adjust a few things.
fullofcrazies
Many of these functions don't apply to me. I no longer use consoles and I never jumped on the google now, siri, and cortana bandwagon. I am a heavy user of cmdline and it didn't need to be changed. Focusing on running Linux on all my systems.
Al-in-SoCal
I've installed it on 3 old "dead" laptops and they all came roaring back to life!

Win10 is by far superior to Windows 8 and much less "heavy" than Windows 7. I'm impressed .. especially at the price of ZERO! =)
rnphilips
Definitely wait unless you want to risk fighting problems. earlier this week I tried upgrading to 10 from 7 Ultimate and it was a disaster. Microsoft was unable to help me, so I rolled back by 7 by following the instruction that came with 10, and that was a disaster as well. The user privileges that were messed up in 10 rolled back to 7. I was a good thing I made a system image before upgrading. I restored my system using the image and I'm back to where I was before attempting the upgrade. As suggested in the article, I'll be waiting a while before trying to upgrade again. By the way, a friend recently upgraded three systems from 8.1 and had no problems. His machines are running smoothly with 10.
ronaldafloor
I've been running Windows 10 Pro Insider for about a month on a laptop. A few problems I've encountered: 1 my iPhone and iPad are not recognized using the latest version of iTunes. A funky Windows window pops up and is useless to me. 2 No CD/DVD software or driver is included in Windows 10. I have to use VLC Media Player. I wish they would have kept Windows Media Center. Apparently Microsoft wants us to buy a DVD Player app for $15. This is where they are going to make their money. Probably not going to upgrade on my HP OMNI AIO which is happily running Win 7.
boater96
I have been using the real Windows 10 for a few days now, and it works great for me! I'm still getting used to the program "tiles" in the start menu, but I like being able to customize it, and all of my programs that worked on Windows 7 & 8 before, are still working fine on W10, including Office 2013, Adobe Photoshop CS6, FileMaker Pro 13, my printer (HP LaserJetc CP2025dn), my scanner (CanoScan LiDe 70), and my webcam (Logitech Pro 9000). I didn't like having to wait to install until I was told that it was okay, but there is a way to get around this online. Overall, very happy with Windows 10.
theTorrey77
I'm also on Win7 and will probably avoid upgrading as long as possible.
tguichar
Too bad it's still Windows...
Jonathan Y (DealNews)
I know that others have said that Office 2007 will work with it. I'm guessing that software you can run under 7 or 8 should be compatible. I couldn't guarantee 2003 since it's from back in the days of XP.
bhennon
Thank goodness for the return of the start menu! The majority of the time i use my PC is when I don't want to complete my task using the smartphone experience and windows 8 was just a larger version of the smartphone experience.
zucchinibrain
wonder if my Office 2003 will still work with the new system., or will it be an additional purchase for new after install..., ?
bkaupp
I'm still happily on Win7, running stable and bug free. Unfortunately when I bought my girlfriend's laptop you couldn't get many Win7 computers anymore, so she is hating life with 8. Hers will get an upgrade eventually, but I just finally got it able to print over wifi. Ah, choices.
Mrcrunch08
Most of the features above will work with most any computers. I have been using windows 10 for about a week and my laptop isn't that new. About 3 years old and the only thing missing for older computers is directx 12. Even without that I have noticed a performance increase with everything. It made my laptop much snappier. I love being able to stream my xbox one to it. I do wish I would have waited to upgrade though. Imo that only applies to people who own a samsung laptop with the samsung settings tool. Windows 10 disabled alot of the features that made me choose samsung like being able to turn my laptop into a hotspot in a pinch. Yes it still can be done by setting up a vpn but it's much more difficult then it needs to be. For those who don't need that and can't stand windows 8 then upgrade the second it becomes available for them. Just be prepared to spend a long time watching you computer installing amd potentially having errors like mine and repeated attempts at installing.
lcbrownz
So if someone over age 50, has 3 year old desktop computer, most of things the author is sanctifying will not apply. They most likely stay with Internet Explorer 11 and get their mail from other than Outlook.