In 2015, software titan Microsoft released its newest state-of-the-art operating system, Windows 10. Each iteration of Windows has come loaded with new features and functionalities designed to make it superior to rivals and predecessors. Windows 10 is no exception.
New features make this version of Windows even more user friendly. As hardware becomes more powerful and complicated, it continuously requires key components, like Intel Core processors, to operate at whole new levels of speed and computing power. Simultaneously, the software to harness this power is also increasing in sophistication.
Earlier this month an update called Windows 10 Anniversary was released, and it is jam-packed with an impressive array of cool features ready to be explored by Windows aficionados. Let’s take a peek at 10 of these handy features.
[Editor’s Note: This column has two parts. Five cool features will be explored here, and five more in Part Two.]
1) New Start Button and Menu
The Start button, bearing the well-known Windows icon, is conveniently located in the lower left corner of the screen. It’s mostly been in that location since Windows was first introduced way back in 1985. Then, following misguided assumptions about its user base and in a Quixotic quest to tag-team the mobile and desktop versions of its flagship OS, Microsoft removed the Start button in Windows 8. After not-at-all-surprisingly widespread user outrage, the company hastily relented and released Windows 8.1, which restored the start button.
In Windows 10, the power and feel of the Start button is amplified, better reflecting the true power of the OS. The functionality of start button gives you convenient access to an easy-to-read plethora of apps and other software products along with a host of shortcuts to different locations on your Windows 10 device. It’s comforting that for the most part, in Windows 10 everything starts with the “start button”.
2) Desktop apps
Compared to previous Window versions, the app window size is more flexible. Depending on your preference, you can view the apps full-screen or make the window sizes smaller on the desktop. Do note that, with what appears an effort by Microsoft to popularize the name of Windows 10 applications, regular software like MS Office, Adobe Reader, Mozilla Firefox, and so forth are also being named as “apps.”
Continuum allows for a consistent user interface by sensing your input method. For example, if you are using a Tablet with touch screen functionality, Continuum detects the method and enlarges the size of tiles according to the screen size so your fingers can more easily navigate the screen. If you plug a mouse into your tablet, the tiles automatically adjust to a smaller size for your mouse pointer enabling you to easily open and work with apps. A “handy” feature top say the least.
Cortana, for the time being, is a technology under evolution. The initial objective of the Microsoft team that developed Cortana was to create an efficient artificially intelligent search tool for Windows 10. In the process, however, they soon realized its potential for future applications, particularly as it pertains to how humans interact with digital machines.
Being omni-active Cortana is dubbed as the digital assistant or a personal assistant for Windows 10 users. Cortana can function with a number of mobile operating systems other than Windows 10 including android and iOS. Cortana is free to download from the Google Play app store for Android, and the app store on Apple iTunes for iOS.
She can do a number of very useful things to assist you, like fetching lost files in your hard drive, adding appointments to your calendar, grabbing up-to-date traffic information for your commute, opening a URL in the default browser, and getting information for you from the Internet and from your desktop without you needing to open any browser or folder.
Access is also simple, via keyboard or voice input. Perhaps the most fascinating (some might say unsettling) aspect of Cortana is its ability to learn from a user’s profile and interactions — much as humans over time come to know and anticipate each other’s wants and needs. The development of Cortana is directed towards creating an artificial intelligence that will personify digital machines in the future, just like in science fiction films.
5) Windows Hello & Microsoft Passport
Windows 10 has an awesome new authentication feature, “Windows Hello,” a great way to access your computer quickly and easily, without the hassle of typing a password. Windows Hello enables you to log into your computer in a manner that is more secure, convenient and private than using a password.
Setting up your security protocols is also a snap. The first time you access your system through Windows Hello, Microsoft Passport takes your authentication information and logs you securely into your online apps and websites that you visit. The image of your face, fingerprint or iris is not stored anywhere on the device — rather, the user is authenticated locally and then Windows Hello unlocks the Microsoft Passport. This information is then encrypted and used to unlock your applications and websites eliminating any chance for replication or reproduction of this sensitive information.
Microsoft’s vision is to make user interaction with devices more like communicating with another human being. Again, a sleek move towards the age of artificial Intelligence.
You will, however, need to purchase biometric devices for your computer to use this Windows feature. Just be sure that your computer is compatible with the biometric device that you intend to buy. Windows Hello technology is currently available in Windows PCs with a RealSense camera, as well as Windows PCs with a fingerprint scanner, the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book.