The 8 best features of Microsoft's Windows 10

Microsoft's Windows 10 is looking to break free from a Windows 8 OS that received mixed reactions and generally put too big an emphasis on touch-based controls.

So far, the new update has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. And this isn't because Windows 10 just fixes some old bugs, it adds totally new features and smartly scales back and pushes forward the right things.

Here are eight of the best things about Windows 10.

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Start menu:
Windows 10 takes a wonderful step backward with the return of the start menu.

Windows 8 ditched the long-loved menu that lived in the corner of your screen for the tiles that took up your entire desktop. The new-and-improved start menu returns to the bottom left corner of your display and features a neat column of programs, complete with fly-out menus when appropriate.

The tiles haven't been ditched entirely though. You can still pin tiles to a portion of the start menu that juts out from the familiar column, giving you quick access to your most frequently used apps and programs.

Cortana:
Microsoft's answer to Apple's Siri, Cortana, has now made her way to Windows PCs.

Cortana lives in a search pane built into the taskbar and can be activated by the voice command “Hey, Cortana”. From there, she does everyhting you'd expect a virtual assistant to do. She can open apps, schedule reminders, and perform web searches.

What really makes Cortana noteworthy is that she is available on Windows and Android phones and can sync between devices. So if you set a reminder while browsing your computer, she'll still make sure you remember six hours later when you're on the train, nowhere near your PC.

Task-Switcher:
This has always kind of existed, but has been mostly ignored by Windows users. Like the Mac's F3 command, Windows now adds a dedicated button to the taskbar that launches a task-switcher view that shows all your open apps. The task-switcher used to live in the Alt-Tab keyboard shortcut, but moving it to the taskbar should help users discover the feature.

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Snap Assist:
Apps no longer live in separate screens, and that means it won't be hard to get your desktop cluttered with open windows. The new snap assist helps.

Now when you snap a window to half of your screen, your other open windows are displayed as thumbnails in the other half so that you can easily choose what else to snap.

You can also snap windows into corners of the screen, increasing your snap capacity from two to four.

Edge Browser:
Let's be honest, Internet Explorer died a long time ago.

Windows' new Edge Browser is supposed to be much faster, having removed years worth of code that existed in IE but had been utterly outdated. The browser is also integrated with Cortana, and lets you draw and write on webpages and share your new version with friends.

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Multiple Desktops:
If you don't have enough room on your desktop for everything you're doing, and you don't multiple monitors to move things to, now you can have multiple desktops to keep things on.

Using the Alt-Tab shortcut, followed by Windows-Ctrl + left or right will let you cycle through your desktops. This allows you to work on multiple projects at once without having the windows for each constantly cluttering the other project. You can also have a desktop for things you don't want others to see when sharing your screen over chat services.

Universal Apps:
It will largely depend on the feelings of developers whether this feature reaches its potential or not, but universal apps are wonderfully intriguing.

Universal apps are designed to work across Windows PCs, phones, tablets, and even Xbox Ones. Initial universal apps are Microsoft's Word and Excel, along with the calendar and mail apps.

Scheduled Restarts:
The days have having Windows tell you to finish whatever you're doing in fifteen minutes, and then decide to restart your computer are over.

Now you can have Windows tell you when an update is available and you can schedule when you'd like that restart to take place, this way it doesn't interrupt you when you're trying to get things done.