Update

Windows 10 review: It's familiar, it's powerful, but the Edge browser falls short

Microsoft has listened, and Windows 10 debuts with compelling new features—Cortana, Task View, a familiar Start menu—well worth the upgrade.

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Windows apps: Sparse, sometimes great

Compared to the Android and iOS app stores, the Windows app store (known as the Store) feels rather meager. Microsoft splashes a few key apps at the top of the screen (Flipboard, Watch ESPN, Line, among others) although the enormous hero images given to each one ensure that other, equally worthy apps are somewhat buried down below. A few “leaderboards” of the most popular apps across a variety of genres help separate the wheat from the chaff.

windows 10 store front page Mark Hachman

The Windows 10 Store serves as a front page for apps, games, video, and more.

There’s no indication as to which apps are so-called Universal apps, ready to run across Windows 10 desktop PCs and phones. A few key details are omitted, including the number of downloads. There’s also a small catch: Each app can be loaded on only ten Windows 10 devices.

You’d think Microsoft would heavily promote at least three apps in the Store: Word Mobile, Excel Mobile and PowerPoint Mobile. Neither of them ship with Windows 10, but all of the universal Office apps are available in the Store for download. Be sure you do.

Microsoft has cleaned up its language surrounding in-app purchases, a problem just before Windows 10.0 dropped.

windows 10 store app updates Mark Hachman

Apps are updated via the Windows Store, not via Windows Update. (MSN News, Money, and Sports are now merely Web sites, not apps.)

But that’s not the most annoying thing about the Store. Microsoft began updating its individual Windows 10 apps separately from the main OS a short time ago, and those apps are not updated via Windows Update. Instead, you have to enter the Store, click your little account icon at upper right, and scroll down to Downloads. There, you can make sure you have the latest and greatest apps at your disposal. But there’s nothing really encouraging you to do that.

I think PC users and developers alike would hope the Store evolves into something like Steam, a general storefront for app purchases and downloads, plug-ins, mods and the like. But it’s clearly not. In fact, the only true “game” I see there is Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, a game that was ported to Windows Phone and can also run on a PC. Apple, Google, Valve, Gog.com: all of these app stores feel more robust and on-point than what Microsoft’s delivering. There’s definite improvement over Windows 8, but Microsoft needs to make the Store one of its post-launch priorities.

Photos: a powerful tool that’s worth exploring

Unlike some of Microsoft’s Windows 10 apps, Photos is surprisingly powerful. One of the first Universal apps Microsoft published, Photos looks like just a mosaic of photos you’ve shot on your camera or tablet. A recent revision in the app allows you to pull images from OneDrive.

windows 10 photos app Mark Hachman

Click the “edit” stencil in the Photos app for Windows 10 and a number of powerful editing tools open up.

On the left you’ll find two headers: Collection and Albums. Collection is just your Camera Roll, renamed: a grab bag of photos you’ve shot or images you’ve saved, organized chronologically. (Don’t be afraid to click on the monthly headers, as that will take you to a month-by-month index, terrific for finding photos of Christmases past, for example.) I also really like the option to show just one of several duplicate photos from your online collection. It’s not quite a de-dupe function, but close.

Windows 10 also invites you to upload a series of related photos to the My Photos folder on Windows 10, where it will create an album for you. 

windows 10 photos index Mark Hachman

This may be old hat by now, but the month-by-month index in Photos is still handy.

Click on a photo, and a wealth of options opens up. The Edit icon loads the editing tools: You can play with color and lighting, add effects, crop, straighten, eliminate red eye, retouch – or even do it all in one fell swoop with the “enhance” button. (Note the swirly-arrow Undo and Redo options at the very top, as well as the Compare option.) Some controls are weird, though. If a radial dial appears with a number in the middle—such as Contrast, for example—move the large circular control around the outside of the circle to adjust it.

Photos doesn’t have all the options of say, a Lightroom, but we’d say the app is on a par with, if not better than, Adobe Photoshop Express for Windows.

More Windows 10 apps: Music, Maps, Movies & TV, Mail & Calendar

At a Glance
  • Windows 10 drives the PC platform forward with its mix of powerful, productive features. Only a few bugs and design issues mar its shine.

    Pros

    • Free upgrade for Windows 7, Windows 8.1 PC owners
    • Cortana digital assistant is potentially powerful
    • Start menu takes best of Windows 7, Windows 8

    Cons

    • Still some obvious bugs at time of review
    • Thematically, some apps are just plain dull
    • Microsoft Edge browser underperforms competition
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