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Review: Windows 10 Insider Preview -- a nearly finished OS

Preston Gralla | May 27, 2015
This review talks about the major changes to Windows 10 since the big January release.

Microsoft has been racing to put the final touches on Windows 10 before its expected release date in late July. There have been three public updates in the last month: Builds 10061, 10074 and 10122. At this point, the interface and features for the new operating system are essentially set — on May 20, Gabe Aul, engineering general manager at Microsoft, wrote about build 10122 on the company's official blog: "From here on out you'll see fewer big feature changes from build to build, and more tuning, tweaking, stabilizing, and polishing."

So now is the ideal time to catch up on the state of the operating system since we looked at the last major release in late January. At this point, to a great extent what you see is what you'll get.

In this review, I'll tell you in about the major changes to Windows 10 since the big January release. As you'll see, they're mostly to the good, although there are still some rough edges left in the operating system.

The new Start menu

Microsoft's decision to kill the Start menu in Windows 8 was one of the more controversial decisions the company ever made — so in Windows 10, the company decided to backtrack and build it back in. Since the late January release, Microsoft has changed the menu several times.

In Build 10074, the menu was made easily resizable. You clicked a small double-headed arrow on the upper-right of the menu to grow it to take up the entire screen or shrink it back to its original size. You could also make it larger or smaller by dragging the top or right side.

However, in the newest build, 10122, that behavior has changed. There's no longer a double-headed arrow to switch between the full-screen Start menu and smaller-sized Start menu. Instead, users with traditional PCs and laptops get the smaller-size Start menu by default, while those with tablets get the full-screen Start menu. (I haven't had a chance to see the phone version yet.) To change the size between a smaller and larger Start menu, you have to go to Settings / Personalization / Start and make the adjustment in the "Start behaviors" section.

That's a smart move, because it cleans up the Start menu by getting rid of the double-headed arrow, and it's not likely people will want to switch between full-size and smaller-size Start screens very often. However, Microsoft made another change to Start menu behavior that made it worse, not better. In build 10122, you can resize the height of the Start menu, but not the width. Previously, you could change both. I found this frustrating, because it didn't let me have tiles in as many horizontal columns as I'd like. I'm hoping that this behavior will be changed in a later build.


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