Windows 10—positively surprising

It’s been a couple of years since I last saw or used Windows. Back then it was my office operating system, Windows 7. I remember when it was first released, I tried it out and was quite surprised at Microsoft’s accomplishment, even though it looked like Microsoft had tried really hard to copy OS X when they designed the 7. But that was all right, as the end result was, at least after the miseries of many previous versions of the Microsoft operating system, a huge step forward. Windows 7 was—and probably still is—quite pleasant to use.

So when I had to use Windows 7 at work, I was quite grateful it wasn’t Vista, another Microsoft FUBAR that made millions of people’s lives miserable every day. Indeed, people who were using Vista at the time were envious of the new employees who got their hands onto newer PCs with Windows 7 pre-installed. But at the end of the day, I still went home to my MacBook and turned on the operating system I most enjoyed using—OS X.

The thing about OS X is, it’s faster and prettier than Windows, and, most importantly, it does not crash when you’re just about to save your work, but haven’t yet. Also, OS X is, whether due to its built-in measures or the fact that virus makers don’t bother writing malware for less used OSs, quite secure. I mean, you can have an antivirus program installed on your Mac, but truth be told, you don’t really have to, even though these days there are more viruses for OS X, too.

And now that my Mac is my everyday tool, I haven’t even looked at Windows. I let Windows 8 go by unnoticed, especially because of all the reports on how unimaginably shitty it was. Not for a second was I even curious. However, now that Windows 10 came out, I actually was curious. After having read a few reviews, most importantly the one in the Wall Street Journal where the writer, a Mac user, says she’s fallen in love with Windows again after a month of using it. Another review I read said that one of the best laptops to run Windows 10 on is, indeed, the MacBook—something the WSJ article also mentions. So my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to try it out.

The easiest way to test drive Windows on your Mac is via a virtual machine. Programs like VirtualBox (free) or VMWare (not free) enable you to create a virtual machine within your OS X and run different operating systems pretty much like any native apps. You can, of course, create a dual boot machine where your Windows and OS X both reside on your hard drive, but for that you would need to repartition your hard drive and you will be stuck with a startup menu to choose which operating system you’d want to use. And, with a 256GB hard drive, who has the space for that.

So, I chose VirtualBox and created a 20-gigabyte virtual machine to test out the new Windows. The good thing is, you can try Windows for 30 days for free, after which you will have to pay for whichever version of Windows you want to keep using. Windows 10 is technically free, but it’s only free if you own a previous version of Windows, otherwise you have to cough up $100-$200, depending on the version you want.

You can also test drive the new Office 2016 for 30 days for free. The catch is, however, that unlike Office 2016 for Mac, the Windows version is still in beta. Nevertheless, I am writing this very blog post on Word 2016 for Windows.

Installing Windows 10 is a really painless process, even though on a virtual machine it takes too damn long. But after making the initial choices of location, language and whatnot, you can pretty much sit back and relax (pun intended, even though I don’t think I’ve seen this phrase since Windows 98) like it’s always been with Windows (and OS X, too).

This is the Windows 10 lock screen, displayed, for some reason, right after booting up. Click anywhere and you'll arrive to the login screen.

This is the Windows 10 lock screen, displayed, for some reason, right after booting up. Click anywhere and you’ll arrive to the login screen.

When the installation finishes, the settings you have to set are fairly straightforward, too. You can now connect your operating system directly to your Microsoft account, and from then on, when you log into your computer, you use the same password that you use for other Microsoft services (like Outlook.com, OneDrive or Skype for that matter).

You can log in to Windows using your Microsoft account credentials.

You can log in to Windows using your Microsoft account credentials.

One of the most amazing aspects about Windows 10 is its boot time. From the moment I start the virtual machine to the login screen, it only takes a few seconds—quite comparable to starting up to OS X. But when the newer OS X operating systems take a few to load all your settings and apps after logging in, Windows does this in a few seconds, too. I would say, therefore, that it takes less time to boot up Windows 10 than OS X to the point you can start working.

Once you've logged in, you see an empty desktop. By default, the Recycle Bin was still there, but you can remove it.

Once you’ve logged in, you see an empty desktop. By default, the Recycle Bin was still there, but you can remove it.

Microsoft’s new web browser, Edge, is nothing new really, just IE in a new outfit. Works pretty much like any web browser these days, even though sometimes it seems it takes a while to load some websites. And, a major downside is there’s no adblocking plugins available for Edge.

My Twitter feed on Microsoft's new browser, Edge.

My Twitter feed on Microsoft’s new browser, Edge.

The Internet Explorer hasn’t vanished, though. Probably because Edge’s rendering issues you can open a website you’re viewing with IE—just choose the option from the menu in the right-hand upper corner.

For some peculiar reason Windows isn’t including Skype in the base installation. Maybe the reason is the outcome of the European lawsuits that have banned bundling software like this for the sake of freedom of choice. In any case, you do get a shortcut called “Get Skype” that lets you download the latest version of the communication app quickly.

You can also “Get Office,” but the productivity suite isn’t, naturally, free.

Windows 10 boasts a new start menu in the lower left-hand corner—something that was apparently missing from Windows 8 (as I said earlier, I have never even touched Windows 8). The menu itself functions like it used to in the past, but now you can pin your favorite apps to it to easily find and start them. Like before, you can pin your apps onto the taskbar as well.

You can pin your most used apps on the start menu to access them quickly.

You can pin your most used apps on the start menu to access them quickly.

There are apps for connecting with your XBox or at least its online service—I don’t have a gaming console, so I can’t test this out, nor am I really interested. But what is, indeed, brilliant from Microsoft’s part is that you can connect to your iPhone or iPad with your Windows 10, and sync everything as if you were working on a Mac. On the other hand, Microsoft’s Mail app, nor Outlook 2016, can connect to your Apple iCloud account for anything other than email—if you have your calendars and contacts on iCloud, you’re pretty much left in the cold there.

Speaking of apps, there are dedicated ones for Facebook and Twitter —something that OS X lacks (or, well, there are something, but they are really useless). Now, these apps, that you can download for free from the Windows Store, aren’t particularly well designed, but if you want to reduce your browser load and divert it to other apps, they definitely do that.

All in all, Windows 10, for me, is a bigger surprise than Windows 7 was back in 2009. When Windows 7 looked great and worked great, Windows 10 takes one step forward and gives you an ultra-fast power tool that can pretty much become your digital life. Don’t get me wrong—I think OS X is all that, too. It’s just Windows 10 does it… in a different way—in a new and pleasing-to-the-eye way.

Microsoft Word 2016 looks really beautiful on Windows.

Microsoft Word 2016 looks really beautiful on Windows.

Of course, the next logical step for Microsoft would be making its operating system free for all, like OS X is. Not just upgrades, but new downloads, too. Naturally I realize it would be a long shot because, unlike Apple, Microsoft does not produce all the hardware its OS works on, and thus cannot subsidize its manufacturing costs like Apple can. But it would be nice—if Windows were free, I would, actually, install it on my MacBook as a second operating system, at least until I get bored with it.

9.5/10 (And it’s the same score I would give to OS X. On that scale, Windows 7, right when it came out in 2009, would’ve gotten 9/10.)

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