Last summer, Microsoft (News - Alert) shook up their Windows design with the release of Windows 10. They offered the update to users for free for a year, giving everyone the opportunity to try out the new design. When it was first released, there were quite a few issues that needed fixing. Over time, though, these problems were resolved and eventually more and more people got the confidence to download the update. Since then, there has been what seems like a never ending narrative surrounding Windows 10—some people hate it, and others love it; I fall into the latter category. Now, to commemorate the one year anniversary of the release, Microsoft has unveiled the Windows 10 Anniversary update.
Overall, Windows 10 proved to be a solid overall update when it was released. It seems to combine the best features of Windows 7 and 8 by bringing back the Start Menu but also keeping the tiles and tablet compatibility. Justin Verrastro, Technical Operations Manager at Apex (News - Alert), also thinks Windows 10 has a lot to offer: “So far my experience with Windows 10 has been enjoyable. From what I have been able to tell, it runs faster and leaner than Windows 7, while also feeling a little more stable. I think it’s great that they’ve combined both a comfortable desktop experience with something that’s easy to use with touch as well. “
So, an update to Windows 10 could have held a lot of potential. Well, if you’re like me, you might not even notice the majority of the changes available through this update. My computer automatically downloaded the new version, and all I noticed at first was that the Start Menu is now different. However, there are others who noticed these changes right away and, like the first time around, there are plenty of positives and negatives to take away.
One update Microsoft seemed to have dropped the ball on is Edge. They have been pushing their new browser on Windows users for a year now, yet it never stacked up to other options like Chrome and Firefox. Not much has changed with the anniversary update. Edge now has the ability to install extensions, which is good, but the extensions available are extremely limited—so, basically not much has changed here. However, the few that are available have proven to be helpful; all of the ad blockers do their job well, as do the Office, Translator, and OneNote extensions. And, I will say this: as someone who hates Adobe (News - Alert) Flash ads, Edge is now superior to other browsers in that it determines whether Flash content is essential to the page you're on. If not, it auto-pauses the non-essential Flash content—this means no more annoying ads. Any Flash content that is important to the page, such as news videos, won't be auto-paused.
On the bright side, the Start Menu continues to improve. The links to Power, File Explorer, Settings and your Microsoft account have all been moved to a narrow list on the left side of the menu, which is convenient because they’re always visible. You can also now auto-hide the taskbar when you’re in tablet mode, even if you haven’t hidden it in desktop mode. Previously, if you hid it in one mode, it automatically hid it in the other mode, which could be pretty annoying. So this is a much-appreciated update.
Finally, there have been changes to Cortana. This is perhaps one of the more controversial updates—not that any of them are particularly revolutionary or life changing—because Cortana has gotten smarter. You can now use natural language requests to send email, for example. It can also add information to your Windows 10 calendar based on emails you receive, and it integrates better across multiple devices. There are plenty of changes to Cortana that make it more convenient, but one change is proving to be a turn-off for many people: you can no longer turn the service off. Previously, you could turn Cortana completely off, but no longer. Now there’s nothing to stop it from pestering you as soon as you log on.
Other updates to the system include features like Windows Ink, which lets you use a stylus to write on touch devices, minor changes to the Action Center and a dark theme. There’s still plenty of room for the system to grow.
Case in point, when I spoke with Verrastro, he provided some insight into how Windows 10 can be further improved by saying, “The only real complaint I have about Windows 10 is that if you have it on a tablet, and need to use the on-screen keyboard, it’s not like Android (News - Alert)/iOS where the operating system is designed to work with the keyboard, making it easy to see what and where you are typing. In Windows 10 on a tablet, when the on-screen keyboard comes up, the desktop doesn’t change at all to deal with the fact that there’s a keyboard covering ½ of the screen, so it makes typing difficult.”
Overall, there’s really nothing dramatic about the Windows 10 update. The changes made were good, but nothing is so impressive that it’ll make you want to use a feature if you hadn’t previously. Essentially, whether you liked or disliked the system before the anniversary update, your opinion isn’t likely to change after updating.