Microsoft’s Windows 10 is happily a vast improvement over its Windows 8/8.1 versions. I, foolishly, installed Windows 8.0 only my old desktop computer. Suddenly gone were every single recognizable feather of Windows 7 and earlier versions. Microsoft, for all its innovation and brainpower, seems to lack the ability to move smoothly between major designs in its Windows operating system.
Windows, however, was not always an operating system. Windows was first released in 1985, version 1.0. Few people ever saw it fortunately. It was Microsoft’s clumsy attempt to mimic the Apple operating system of the day. It was simply a software program that was engaged from the old MS DOS prompt, C:\. You typed in “win” and it came up in all its glory. Windows version 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0 were more of the same but with added functionality. Windows 3.1.1 was Microsoft’s first venture into the idea of networked computers and it worked rather well. That version was released in 1992. But it still was not an operating system.
Then Windows 4.0, better known as Windows NT was released in July 1996. The Windows operating system had finally arrived! But there was one problem. Windows NT did not play well with non-Microsoft software which was still in abundance in those days. Microsoft Word, for example, had a formidable competitor in WordPerfect. WordPerfect had been developed my Brigham Young University for use on the Data General mini-computer. When the DOS world arrived it was quickly migrated. In the early days of the PC most people preferred the more robust and well developed WordPerfect to the buggy MS Word. But the writing was on the wall as the Microsoft operating system, MS-DOS dominated the PC market for all computers but Apple. IBM tried to gain a foothold with its disastrous, though very forward thinking, OS/2 operating system. There was also LINUX, a PC based version of the popular engineering operating system UNIX. That was fine if you did not mind running through some 25 floppy disks just to load the system and dedicate hours of a single day to complete the task. But by the mid-1990s all PCs were manufactured using Microsoft Windows. Other software companies followed this by making their products Microsoft compatible, first to the MS-DOS operating system and then to Windows.
In 1995 Microsoft released Windows 95 and then in 1998 released Windows 98 each of which was a more user friendly version of Windows NT. Windows NT did not go anywhere, that is, it was still being produced, but it had a number of characteristics which were baffling to the average user. Windows 95 and 98 proved to be a huge winner. They were stable, easy to use, and well-integrated with the Microsoft Internet Explorer which was also very user friendly. In 1998 the concept of the Internet as a tool for all people was still new, even though it had existed since 1983. The Internet was almost entirely the bastion of the government, large educational institutions and the business world. But with Internet Explorer, and other Internet search engines, the general public quickly became aware of its existence.
Then came the Microsoft disasters, Windows ME and Windows 2000. Widows ME, which stood for Millennium Edition, was an unmitigated disaster. I had excitedly loaded it onto my computer only to find in short order that the ME operating system had huge problems with memory allocation. Old software from other companies either worked poorly or not at all on ME. Realizing it had released a complete lemon, Microsoft quickly brought order back to the universe with its 2001 release of Windows XP. Smart consumers had stayed with Windows 98 and were reluctant to move to XP but as time passed most did. Even though it is 14 years old, the XP operating system is still being used by millions of people. Its stability and ease of use kept confidence very high in the product.
Next Microsoft came out with Windows Vista. It announced its new and wonderful system on network television commercials. We could expect a whole new world. What happened, however, was something entirely different. I loaded up Vista and suddenly felt like I had been thrown back to the hostile Windows ME. There was nothing good about this product. To be fair, it was faster than XP but it challenged you to use it. The user interface was a lot of things but it was definitely not user friendly. As complaints about that quickly piled up Microsoft, not as quickly as with ME, developed Windows 7 and order was brought back to the universe.
By 2012 the touch screen universe, driven by smart phone technology, was all the rage. Microsoft introduced Windows 8 as its venture into that universe. Trouble was, people with PCs and laptops, for the most part, were not in the least bit interested in touch screen technology adorning their non-touch screen computers. The Windows 8 user interface challenged you to use it. Of course, I loaded it onto my desktop and disappointment was almost immediate. Even though I knew the answer, I looked to see if I could revert to the user friendly world of Windows 7. Microsoft does not allow for that possibility and so I had two choices, tough it out with Windows 8 or buy a new computer. Fortunately my desktop was old enough that opting for a new computer which came loaded with Windows 7 was a great option and I took it. That computer has Windows 7 still on it. That is an important distinction for this article because I am writing this on my laptop which has Windows 10 installed upon it.
My old laptop had the bad manners to decide to go into its death throes this past week. Fortunately for me, this weekend, August 15-16, Massachusetts has a no sales tax weekend in force. I took advantage of that and got myself a new laptop with Windows 10 loaded.
Windows 10 has the look, at least in part, of Windows 7. It certainly does not present the challenges of usage that Windows 8 did. Back when I had people working for me who were developing software I always made one pronouncement to them about its development. I told them that software should always be “painfully obvious” in its usage. That means that even a person who is challenged by computer technology can with minimal trouble navigate his way around the software. The front page of the software should always have all its uses in plain view with tons of help a keystroke away.
This brings me to my assessment of Windows 10. I give it a grade of B-. That’s pretty high considering I would give the likes of Windows ME and Windows 8 an F. I am sure Microsoft developed this version with its Version 7 in mind. Windows comes, after you log in, to the desktop design of Windows 7. In the lower left corner there is the friendly “command center,” I like to think of it. You click there and up comes a menu of items to choose from including the most popular programs. But missing from the list is one item I use a lot, the “control panel.” For reasons I cannot grasp, Microsoft decided to replace, in part, the control panel with a “settings” menu. This in itself is fine but it is only a subset of a complete control panel. The control panel is where you add printers, remove software, set up home networks, etc. But, the control panel does still exist! You cannot place the “settings” on your desktop, where I like such things, but you can put the control panel there, which I have done. Microsoft should have made provision for having that settings item on the desktop.
As I mentioned before, Microsoft bundles its Windows with Internet Explorer. Windows 10, however, does not have Internet Explorer, at least as it used to exist. In its place Microsoft has, in its inimitable wisdom, placed “Edge.” This is “an” Internet search engine but a very unfriendly one. As I said, software necessarily needs to be “painfully obvious” and Edge is anything but. Even though I have only had it a short time, I have already quickly changed over to Google’s Chrome, something I had spurned doing prior to this. What is wrong with Edge? Where to start? Well, when it comes up gone are all the menus which always existed on Internet Explorer. These menus, which could be expanded or contracted as you wished, are not only not present but cannot be created on Edge. I can best describe Edge as the Windows 8 of search engines. Worse, the search engine portion of it is not particularly obvious. The default search engine is Microsoft’s Bing, of course, which can be changed to google or other search engine, but it is not at all obvious how to do.
It is my recommendation that if you use Internet Explorer a lot and are now using Windows 7, do not switch to Windows 10. Even if you are buying a new computer, many, if not most, can still be purchased with Windows 7 on them. Windows 10 is a decent enough platform but it has user interface bugs which need to be ironed out. I would suggest you stay clear of Windows 10 at least until the middle of 2016.