Unpopular opinion time: I didn’t dislike Windows 8 (or 8.1) as much as it felt like everyone else did. I loved how I could make the start screen experience more personal, dock apps left & right, and run apps in fullscreen mode. There are enough behavioral studies out there telling us how multi-tasking is ruining our productivity to make me a believer, but that didn’t stop me from maximizing the screen configurations for all it was worth.
Since I can’t resist an upgrade (insert Beyonce’s Upgrade U here), I’ve been counting down the days until the launch of Windows 10. I even had a reminder in my calendar! Now that I’ve spent 24 hours with the upgrade installed on my Dell XPS 13 and my Surface Pro 3, I can already tell that some of the changes are going to have a major impact on my productivity. Here are my five favorites (so far):
- The revamped start menu: The start menu has moved back to the position that you know & love, but with all of my favorite features reconfigured from 8.1. The tiles can be rearranged and resized to make finding the programs that you use every day a snap. In fact, you can any window, including the start menu, in 10. Unrelated, but I love that I could uninstall the Sports & Money apps right from the start menu. Bye!
- Cortana is finally here!: Cortana is Microsoft’s personal assist, not unlike Siri or Google Now. What makes Cortana different, especially from a productivity standpoint, is that it’s integrated right into your desktop. Today I decided to take a short nap, and while my head was on the pillow I remembered I had a 12:30pm conference call. Without getting up, I said “Hey Cortana, set an alarm for 12:25pm” and went right to sleep. Right on time, the gentle chimes of the alarm woke me up and I continued my day. It’s a great tool for keeping track of time, setting limits on time spent on tasks, adding reminders, and more. Your voice could become a third hand, so to speak, and I can’t wait to see how they expand her integration as Windows 10 grows.
- A desktop for every task: Throughout my day, I move between clients and tasks quickly, but often find it difficult to concentrate on one at a time. Creating a separate desktop for each area allows me to focus on one client at a time. Each desktop has a separate group of apps, even browser tabs, that can open & close within the desktop. It’s been great to keep Outlook, Excel documents, and graphic projects open on one desktop, while a new blog post, research, and the site’s email on another.
- Integrated search: Windows 8.1 had integrated search, but it was buried in the charms on the right side of the screen. In Windows 10, it’s front & center. If you’re not keen on using Cortana as a voice-activated virtual assistant, you can still use the “ask me anything” box to search your files and the web, all at once.
- The action center: Think of the action center as a place for shortcuts and notifications that is easily accessible from your taskbar. The ease mirrors the notification panel on my Android – and that’s a good thing. I love that I can open it up, turn a feature on or off, and continue working seamlessly. You can also use the “Note” function to immediately open a new note in OneNote.
Windows 10 isn’t perfect, but from a productivity standpoint, it’s a huge step forward from Windows 8.1. I’d love to see deeper integration with other Microsoft products, like Sunrise (my calendar of choice), but I have a feeling those connections will come down the road. The app offering in the Store is still sparse, but I’m also optimistic that with the success of 10 will come more developer prioritization of the platform. Fingers crossed!
Have you upgraded to Windows 10 yet? If not, what are you waiting for? Tell me in the comments below!