In part three of our five-part series on the changes to Windows 10 running this week, we stop to look at some of the changes to Explorer, as well as some enhancements to how you use multiple windows and the bundled applications. Microsoft’s not been known to bloat Windows with things that no-one will ever use in their right minds (cough *McAfee virus scan* cough), and Windows 10 is honestly as lean as can be.
Idling on the desktop with no apps running, I’m using only 1GB of system memory, while the 64-bit install only takes up 24GB of drive space on my netbook. With a few tweaks after a fresh installation, I’m sure I could manage under 8GB, as claimed by others on the internet. Windows 10 is meant to be found on a range of devices, which also includes those cheap-as-chips 7-inch tablets with only 16GB of storage and 1GB of RAM, so its good to see that its as lean as it is.
Lets get into some of the changes to Explorer. Opening up Explorer from the taskbar brings you to Quick Access, where you can pin specific files and folders for quicker access later on. You can pin them in frequent folders, which also has the unfortunate side effect of displaying what folder you were last in while using Explorer. That also applies to your “recent files” list, which generates the list not only from files you’ve recently accessed, but also new ones that you’ve just copied or downloaded to the disk.
In other words, if you don’t want your Hatoful Boyfriend porn fan art to appear here, remove both the “recent files” and “frequent folders” sub-groups from this window by right-clicking them and selecting the option to remove them. Likewise, doing this for “recent files” will hide the fact that you have recently updated the file “kill list.txt” a few minutes ago.
Explorer is also a bit more intelligent in Windows 10 than previous OSes. Clicking on a folder that only contains pictures now also highlights a “Tools” icon on the ribbon that gives you options to start a slideshow of only the pictures in that folder. This goes the same for folders that mostly contain video files or music, which will bring up the default music player.
In the past, one of the best tricks for Explorer was window stacking. If you had four windows open on the desktop, right-clicking the taskbar and selecting “Stack windows” would put them all at equal size in all four quadrants on the screen. Microsoft improved on that with Aero Snap in Windows 7, and now its been made even better. Snap a window toa side of the screen, and it’ll take up half of the screen, but now you’ll also be prompted to choose a window to occupy the other half. Drag any snapped window into a corner, and it’ll take up only that quadrant of the display. Wonderful.
You can also achieve this with the Win+Arrow keys. First snap your window to the left or right, then press up or down to choose which quadrant you want it to snap to. Using the left or right keys can also swap which side you want to switch to later on.
Some of the bundled applications in Windows 10 are very useful, and I’ve seen no indication of any sort of bloatware you’d really need to uninstall, aside from the default apps you’ll never use. The default OneNote app is one such example – all notes that you take with it are available online on OneDrive and saved locally for later use. Using OneNote is free, and doesn’t require any subscription fees on your part.
The Weather app has also received an upgrade, but doesn’t add much functionality over the older one. Adverts no longer show up here, which is welcome. Notice that all applications have their own settings menu – as with Windows 8, the menu is now contextual, and changes based on the application you’re using.
The Photos app now fully replaces the Windows Photo Viewer we’ve been used to for years. This decision has its own pros and cons. One of the cons is that Photos is slower, especially if you don’t have a SSD in your computer. The other is in the way it handles photos. Notice the overall fuzziness? It shows all pictures this way, and the reason for it presumably is to save on bandwidth to the GPU, thereby also decreasing power consumption. You can, however, see the pictures in their original condition through starting a slideshow.
Fully expanding photos gives you access to quick editing tools that you can use to enhance the images. When you do this, Photos does the other thing that annoys me greatly – it runs a sharpening filter over the photo while in the editor, which may make some edits a little problematic because you can’t see the final photo before signing off on the edits as you’ve made them in Photos. Perhaps it would be better if everyone sticks to using Adobe Photoshop Express for some of the light editing that you’ll be doing, as that updates the viewer in real-time and doesn’t do anything weird with the photos before you’ve retouched them.
You can also share photos through the Photos app to other apps and services you’ve set up, like the Twitter or Facebook apps. That functionality isn’t there yet, but its coming.
The Music app is now called Groove. It is stylised with a white theme by default this time around, but you can use a dark theme from the settings menu. This has most of the functionality of Windows Media Player (WMP), and you can leave it playing in the background, even with the lock screen active. However, its not as powerful as WMP, nor does it have the scope of a player like Media Monkey, and there’s no way to edit metadata while you’re in the app.
Windows Media Player is still around. It hasn’t changed at all. It still has the memory bug that occurs when you leave it open for an hour or more, but don’t play anything. As more people move to streaming services like Spotify, so WMP is left to age and grow stale, doomed to suffer the same fate as Winamp and Space Pinball as it sees no further updates or bug fixes or rewrites for newer and better hardware.
In fact, the situation is so dire for WMP that the options available in the Jump Lists for it haven’t changed since it was last updated for Windows 7 way back in 2009 – that’s a six-year gap during which no major features have been added to it. In that same time frame, we’ve all but lost Nokia Music, Spotify has taken over everywhere, Apple has moved from the iPhone 3G to the iPhone 6 Plus, Netflix has grown bigger than most US TV stations and Microsoft is now headed up by a CEO born in India. A lot has changed.
The Video player is now called Movies and TV. Like the Groove app, there’s a light and dark theme, and you can select which folders the app must watch to generate the database. Videos can play on in the background with the lock screen on, although I’m not sure why you’d want them to. If you make purchases online for music or videos through Microsoft’s portals, signing into these apps specifically allows you to have those purchase available. I’m not sure if the app will stream any movies you’ve bought, though that would be an interesting option if it was possible.
One of the reasons why people flock from Windows Media Player in droves is because it has always been a resource hog. That doesn’t seem to be the case for Movies and TV, which even beats what I’ve seen from VLC Player in the past. It is very light on resources, consuming just 48MB and 17% of CPU time to run a 3GB 1080p DVD-rip of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
The player is almost entirely GPU-accelerated, and there’s a lovely MadVR-like smoothness to the video playback, along with some mild sharpening filters applied that I’ve seen used in Media Player-Home Cinema. I can’t tell if frame interpolation is being used to smooth over video playback, but it looks pretty good to me. I haven’t tested which containers its compatible with, or if it can play any 48Hz content, but I’m fairly sure that Microsoft covered those bases already. I’ll have to revisit this in the future.
Here’s the new News app. It runs just fine. I’m not much of a news app person, but its not a bad one. The only remaining bug that I’ve discovered that hasn’t yet been fixed, is that when you only have one interest selected (technology for me), the “All interests” page will only show the top two headlines, with the rest of the page remaining blank. Additionally, making any changes to my interests requires me to restart the app, as the changes aren’t made on the fly.
However, the reading mode clearly suits portrait use more than landscape. Clicking the left or right buttons will skip to the next news item in your list of interests. Swiping from left to right to do the same doesn’t work on my netbook, but that may be a driver issue with the trackpad. Its not a big deal, really.
That’s all for now! We’ll have more on Windows 10 later this week to keep you up to date. Windows 10 launches on 29 July 2015 for Windows Insiders and those of you who’ve reserved their upgrade copy, and a fully packaged product launch is expected around the end of August 2015.