Windows 10 – Start, Settings and Multitasking

The Return of the Start Menu

The single most referred to feature of Windows 10 is the return of the Start Menu. Yes, the Start Menu has its charms and uses, but more than anything, I think this is a case of “don’t touch my stuff!” mentality (very common). There are many cases of other habituated behaviors, that people clamor to maintain, such as transmission “creep” in a transmission-less car. That’s not to say full-screen Start in Windows 8 was ideal; it wasn’t, at all.

So, yes, it’s back, and by default, it’s an amalgamation of old and new. The left 1/3 is essentially the old Start Menu, the right 2/3 is a shrunken Live Tile Start. You can change the height of the Start Menu, by resizing it, like you would an application window, from the top. While some folks say so, as they’re hidden within a menu, I’m not sure Live Tiles have become any more or less useful; on my home desktop, or even laptop, I rarely found myself sitting at Start, with Windows 8.1. I didn’t see those tiles until I invoked Start, even then. My primary use of either Start Menu implementation continues to be WinKey – appname.

At the top of the Start Menu, a power options button and user badge allow for quick system state changes (sign out, restart). That’s a nice affordance and should help with the utter disarray caused by hiding it in the settings Charm. You can click “All Apps” to get an alphabetical listing of apps on your system.

Pop-up Feedback Request – Do you prefer Control Panel to the Settings App?

Yes.

In more than a single word, the modern Settings app is missing the most important feature of any setting utility: Search. Control Panel is pretty good at surfacing what it is you want to do, via search. Want to know how to adjust display brightness? Just type “display brightness”. Running out of drive space and want options? Just type “disk space” and you’ll be presented options to clean up your drives. If I actually navigate the setting hierarchy, I find that I am surprisingly faster at finding what I want, via the Control panel, in large part due to the iconography, versus the purely textual menu system in modern Settings.

This is getting significantly mitigated, as the search function in the Start Menu deep links into specific settings. At this point, I hope there’s a significant push to get to query-based activities, making the need to memorize menu hierarchies or setting diving a thing of the past.

Multitasking

With a focus back on polishing the desktop, it makes sense to spend time enhancing its primary attribute – multitasking. Although some amount of multitasking was available in the Modern environment, flexibility to place apps side by side was in 1 dimension only, and even then, without overlays.

You can see the importance of multitasking immediately, from the new Task View button in the taskbar (alternative, you can also invoke it using WinKey+Tab). Clicking it provides a sort of more visual Alt+Tab experience, where each application is not only represented by its icon and name, but also a thumbnail view of the running application itself. The app thumbnails are also shaped the same as the actual windows, helping identification. You can switch to a different app from this view, or you can also do some app management and close some windows.

“Virtual desktops” are also now available, similar to a feature that has been available with various Linux window managers and OS X. You can group apps you frequently use together on a single desktop surface and then switch between them, as opposed to managing on a single surface what apps are first in the z-order. One tip: in the graphical Task View, if you mouse over a different desktop, you’ll see the apps change to those on that desktop. Mouse up and over one of the apps, and you can not only switch to that desktop, but jump straight to a particular app.

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