The vintage Alt-Tab keyboard shortcut for switching between different windows on the desktop gets a makeover in Windows 10, as well as a button on the taskbar to encourage more people to use it. These thumbnails of your windows show up in several places in the interface.
The Windows-Tab shortcut gives you the same thumbnails of open windows, but adds the option of arranging them on multiple desktops. Start by adding more desktops on which to arrange windows…
…and then switch to the new desktop and open more applications. Windows that are open on another desktop are marked on the taskbar and you can click to switch to them, or use Alt-Tab and Windows-Tab. Pressing Ctrl-Windows with the left or right arrow key jumps you from one virtual desktop to the next.
The immersive version of IE is gone in Windows 10. In its place is a new version of the desktop browser with HTTP 2 support (but not Google's SPDY version). Having two versions of the browser confused some users, especially as the immersive version didn't load plugins apart from Flash — but that's also a security protection you're losing.
The new option under PC settings is the only visible indication so far of the sweeping identity changes under the surface in Windows 10, which give enterprises the option of using Active Directory accounts (including Azure AD accounts) even for Windows Store app downloads.
Windows 10 takes the Recent Folders link in previous versions of Explorer and turns it into a fast way to get to files and folders you use the most — you get both frequently used folders and recently opened files. If that sounds familiar, those were views in Windows Explorer all the way back in Vista and they're making a welcome return.
With the trend to large, high-resolution desktop monitors, the ability to snap not just one but four windows into place on the desktop sounds like a great idea. In practice, it's fiddly and annoying because you have to grab each window's title bar in exactly the right place and drag it just far enough into the corner to get the snap you want. A grey highlight shows you whether the window will fill half or a quarter of the screen, but if that's not the snap you want, moving the window doesn't always change it.
When you snap a window to use one half or one quarter of the desktop, Windows 10 assumes the next thing you want to do is snap another window next to it and shows these thumbnails. That's handy if you do want to snap another app, but annoying if you were happy with the way they were already laid out on-screen. If you size a window so it's more or less than half of the screen, snap will usually work out that you want to use the rest of the screen for the window you're snapping, but not always. It depends on how soon after you resize a window you try to snap another window next to it. Generally, the new snap features sound useful, but are a little too clever for their own good in practice.
With modern Store apps running in windows on the desktop, mouse users don't want to go all the way over to the side of the screen and back to trigger the Charms bar just to look at the app settings or print something. With a modern app selected, the Windows-C shortcut brings up this small context menu right on the app with the charms on. The only problem is the Settings bar still opens over on the right and the App Commands menu is still a bar of finger-sized buttons right across the app, so you still get a mix of two different styles.
The Windows 8.1 'super search' experience is toned down in Windows 10: there's a Search icon on the taskbar you can't unpin that searches files, applications and settings as you type (but still not email — something we miss from Windows 7). If there isn't a match locally, it suggests Bing search terms that open in the Search app, which now looks like little more than a browser page.
IT pros and power users will be delighted with the command-line improvements — just being able to copy and paste with standard keyboard shortcuts, and without having everything you copy concatenated onto one line, will make using scripts and batch files far easier. You can also turn on this experimental transparency setting, if you want to concentrate on the results of your scripts rather than the window they're running in, but still keep the focus on the command window so you can type commands.
Currently even the enterprise version of the technical preview only lets you choose what time of day new preview builds get installed. Further down the line you'll be able to decide whether to take new features as soon as they're available or more slowly to prioritise stability.
The technical preview of Windows 10 is generally stable and although Microsoft warns it's not designed for production use, we had very few problems during testing. The Windows Store app was the least stable app we tried out, sometimes appearing blank and at one point asking us to restart Windows. The app store is a strange place to see system messages: if enterprises are going to use Windows Store to distribute their own apps, it needs to be reliable.