How Windows 10 plans to win back PC power users: Bribery and compromise

Windows10 logo

In Windows 10, you’ll finally be able to paste in the Command Prompt using Crtl + V.

Yes, it’s a silly little feature that only the slightest sliver of power users will ever touch—but it epitomizes just how wholeheartedly Microsoft is trying to woo desktop diehards back after a Windows 8 launch so disastrous that it apparently tainted even Windows 9’s good name. Windows 10 is Microsoft saying “Sorry, PC enthusiasts; won’t you please take us back?” using a mixture of compromise and outright bribery.

Expect the collective answer to be a resounding YES! if Tuesday’s preview is any indication. The previous two years of misery and complaining will soon be behind us. Windows 8 is on the way out, Windows 10 will soon be here, and hot damn does it look good.

Further reading: Hands-on with Microsoft's new Windows 10: UI changes that look great at first blush

The sins of our fathers

Windows 8’s greatest sin lay in tossing everything everybody knew about Windows out the window to introduce a new interface with new apps and a new touch-friendly focus, to the detriment of usability. It was all so different. Microsoft forcibly converted us to Metro, often sacrificing the desktop experience at the altar of the touchscreen. Enthusiasts shrieked. Casual users screamed. And they had every right to!

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Windows 8. I can’t even.

But a funny thing happened soon after Windows 8’s launch: Microsoft embraced the modern age’s ethos of rapid-fire updates. A year after Windows 8’s release, the sweeping Windows 8.1 update smoothed over the operating system’s roughest edges. A mere six months after that, this year’s spring update for Windows 8.1 made Microsoft’s Metro future palatable for PCs by adaptively changing its behavior depending on the type of device you’re using—instantly fixing some of Windows 8’s worst issues.

Windows 10 crystallizes that approach, further letting a PC be a PC and a tablet be a tablet, while adding new desktop features that seem to be there solely to give PC enthusiasts a virtual high-five.

Further reading: Windows 10: The 10 coolest features you should try out first.

Computers and continuum

If you’re using a PC, laptop, or keyboard-equipped tablet, Windows 10 will boot right to the desktop. Sure, Windows 8.1 already does that, but Windows 10 has something its predecessor does not: a proper Start menu. Hallelujah!

The Windows 10 Start menu contains everything you’d expect: A search box, shutdown options, links to desktop programs and common folders, et cetera. It also contains Live Tiles for launching Windows Apps.

windows10 tech preview start menu Image: Microsoft

Windows 10’s Start menu.

Wait! Before you sneer and grab a torch, Windows 10’s Live Tiles are constrained to the customizable Start menu on a PC—yes, the contentious Start screen is gone. What’s more, Windows Apps reside inside desktop windows on a proper Windows 10 PC, which—when paired with the mouse-friendly menu bar introduced for Metro apps in Windows 8.1’s spring update—make Microsoft’s Windows Store apps downright useable on the desktop. (Don’t take my word for it; you can try it for yourself with third-party software today.)

Windows 10 also lets you Snap Windows Apps and desktop programs side-by-side, while introducing a new horizontal snapping ability. In Microsoft’s example at Tuesday’s event, it snapped different windows to the four corners of the display. Previously, Snapping could only occur left-to-right on the screen, even when using the feature on the desktop.

windows10 tech preview virtual desktop Image: Microsoft

Windows 10’s new Task View feature should set power users’ hearts a-flutter.

Speaking of desktop improvements, Windows 10 augments that newfound (refound?) focus on the desktop with features power users have craved for years: the ability to use keyboard shortcuts like Crtl + V in the Command Prompt, and multiple desktop support, via a new “Task View” that lets you quickly leap between open programs across multiple virtual desktops.

Even better, this is just a brief tease of Windows 10. Microsoft says it will reveal more consumer-facing features and tweaks in 2015.

Further reading: Windows 10: The best tips, tricks, and tweaks

A makeover for a pig

There’s no two ways around it: Windows 10 appears poised for success by enthusiastically embracing its desktop legacy while integrating mobile-compatible Windows Apps in a far more seamless way. 

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No, Live Tiles aren’t eradicated completely, which will be sure to irritate some irrational diehards. But they never will be, not in today’s mobile-first, cloud-first age (as new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella puts it). With Windows 10, it looks like Microsoft will finally put down the Metro bludgeon. You still won’t have to use Windows Apps, just like you don’t have to use Windows Apps today. But when you do decide to do so, the experience will be vastly improved for PC users.

And did I mention copy-pasting into the Command Prompt? I’m really excited about that, even if it is a blatant appeal to power users.

Staring at Windows 10, you can’t help but wonder what history would have been like if Microsoft had given us this in Windows 8. It’s ironic that Windows 10’s greatest features are designed to make it behave more like Windows 7. But roll up your sleeves and stop your whining, folks: Windows 10 proves that Microsoft has heard your howls, and the tumultuous Windows 8 era is drawing to a close. Mid-2015 can’t come fast enough.

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