First look: Windows 10

Microsoft's first glimpse of next year's new Windows fixes obvious flaws and borrows from Apple's OSes

Windows 10
Credit: Microsoft
The new Windows is the old Windows, improved

Although Microsoft is skipping a whole version number for the next Windows version, which will ship some time next year, the early version of Windows 10 it showed off Tuesday was mostly composed of commonsense fixes to Windows 8, better integrating its Desktop and Metro halves and being smarter about adapting to keyboard and touch environments.

Microsoft promises more details later as Windows 10 evolves, such as how the retooled Charms bar will work.

• See Microsoft's video introducing Windows 10
• Read Galen Gruman's take on Windows' make-or-break moment

The Start menu is back, Metro-style
Credit: Microsoft
The Start menu is back, Metro-style

A big complaint about Windows 8 was the lack of the familiar Start menu that debuted in 1995. Windows 8.1 brought a Start button, but all it did was switch between the Metro and Desktop halves of Windows.

Windows 10 brings back the real Start menu, but with the Metro tile look from Windows Phone and Windows 8's Metro screen.

Metro apps now run in windows like other apps
Credit: Microsoft
Metro apps now run in windows like other apps

Another complaint about Windows 8: The Metro environment was divorced from the traditional Desktop, so you had to switch back and forth depending on the apps you were running. Windows 8.1 added the ability to put Metro apps side by side, but didn't address the underlying issue.

Windows 10 will let Metro apps run in Desktop windows like any other app, getting rid of the duality of Windows 8. That leaves the question: How's a Metro app different from a Desktop app beyond the look and feel?

Apps that snap
Credit: Microsoft
Apps that snap

Windows 10 brings Windows 8.1's snap feature to the Desktop, so you can arrange app windows in a tiled view. Yes, Windows has long supported a tiled view within apps (for their document windows), but now you get the capability among apps themselves.

The Windows 10 taskbar now looks like the iPad's
Credit: Microsoft
The Windows 10 taskbar now looks like the iPad's

Microsoft has reworked the taskbar to be a floating tile bar, similar to the iPad's App Switcher. In Windows 8, it was a column of smaller thumbnails on the left side of the screen.

The Windows 10 Desktop gets multiple desktops
Credit: Microsoft
The Windows 10 Desktop gets multiple desktops

OS X users will recognize this Windows 10 addition: the ability to have multiple desktops to organize your apps.

More on InfoWorld
More on InfoWorld

It's been a pivotal year for computer operating systems, with new versions of OS X and Android to debut soon, a new version of Windows Phone earlier this year, and now Windows 10. A year ago, InfoWorld proposed a set of commonsense fixes to Windows 8, which we dubbed Windows Red. You'll recognize several of these concepts in Windows 10.

Windows Red: A serious plan to fix Windows 8
6 reasons you'll love Windows Phone 8.1
The best new features in OS X Yosemite (so far)
First look: Android L's fresh new face