Monday, July 06, 2015

Windows 10 Start Menu Review

This review was written for Windows 10 Home Insider Preview Build 10162.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has reintroduced the start menu to its flagship operating system. This is a welcome change and I'm excited to get rid of the terrible Windows 8 start screen.

The Start Menu now looks like the Windows 7 and the Windows 8 Start Menus had a baby.

The Windows 10 Start Menu

One the left hand side, we have the familiar frequently used apps from Windows 7. But on the right hand side we have the Windows 8 style app launchers with live tiles. This marriage is somewhat useful. It was hand to be able to press the Windows key and be able to see the weather. But, I suspect, some people might continue to be confused by this setup. How exactly does one distinguish the Windows Universal apps from the traditional desktop apps?

The Start Menu has transparency, just like the rest of the Taskbar theme. There is a blur effect added to the background which improves readability. It can be resized both vertically and horizontally. Horizontal resizing happens in steps, which creates better harmony with the Windows Universal apps launchers.

The new Start Menu can be resized both horizontally and vertically.

Like Windows 7, some of the frequently used items have menus. In Windows 7 these would show the frequently used file or subcategories for that app or shortcut. In Windows 10, these show the jumplists for the corresponding apps. I actually like this change for the visual consistency that it brings. Jumplists can be configured by the app itself and should be canon.

Child menus for items in Start Menu show the jump list for that item.

The Taskbar jump lists are the same as Start Menu jump lists.

The right click menus have also been expanded. App items now show an 'uninstall' action.

Right click menus in Start have been expanded to include additional options such as 'Uninstall'.
The right click menu on the Start button itself is vastly expanded, giving access to several settings items and shortcuts to Task Manager, Search and Run among others.

Right click on the Start button is also vastly expanded.

One of the most important tasks of the Start Menu in Windows 7 was search. Search in Windows 7 was not bad but it was somewhat lacking. Often, it would not be able to find files on my desktop unless I typed in the exact file name. On other desktop and mobile operating systems, the game has been upped significantly by the likes of Siri, Google Now and Spotlight on OSX. 

Microsofts answer to this is Cortana. Cortana has been neatly integrated into the Start Menu. The search box has been made more prominent by moving it from Start to the Taskbar itself. However, it can still be activated by tapping the Windows key and typing, just like Windows 7. Triggering search hides the Start Menu and presents the dedicated Cortana UI. 

Search, along with Cortana gets its own dedicated UI.

Cortana is probably a topic of a separate review. Here I will just look at the desktop search features.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that search can now has has various built in utilities such as calculator, unit conversion, time and weather. This is no doubt powered by the Cortana engine.

Unit conversion in search.

Search time around the world.

Look at weather.

Make calculations.
Search overall feels terrific. It lists both files on your desktop and searches within apps. (For example, any available apps within the Windows Store.) Web searches are also integrated and links open in your browser. Search is fast and responsive. Of course, as with all tools of this nature there are privacy concerns. There doesn't seem to be a good way to turn online search off. However, you can manage and delete the data Cortana collects about you in your Microsoft account.

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