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Two avatars of the Windows 10 desktop -- classic and tiled
 
 
Windows 10: It's Tryout Time!

You can upgrade your Windows 7 or 8 desktop to a tech preview of Win 10. We tried -- and it's safe!
By Anand Parthasarathy
On January 21, Microsoft unveiled  a new edition of its operating system -- Windows 10 -- tailor-made for an   era of more personal  and increasingly  mobile,  computing, where users  expect to  seamlessly switch work  across  multiple devices -- desktop, laptop, tablet or  phone.
It won't be available till  the end of the year -- but   if you're itching to try it out, you can sign up for  the Windows Insider programme at  https://insider.windows.com/   which allows you to upgrade your current  desktop version of Windows ( 7 or 8.1)  to a Technical Preview edition of Windows 10.
Beta versions like these  are works in progress and   could  include a few glitches. So,  I  decided to try out Windows 10 on my second PC, a "stepney"  to my main machine. After one's week's use,  it has been quite stable,  smoothly migrating  all my programmes  and settings  without a hitch.  The upgrade comes in a jumbo  file  of  2.26 GB and it took almost 3 hours to download and  install   using my home  Internet connection  that is  not more than 10 MBPS. Here is a report on my 'test drive':
Is it worth the effort? A resounding yes!  Windows 10 is a generation ahead of  earlier avatars   and I was reassured to find that Microsoft has heard  our collective gripe  about the  rather disruptive  'tiled'  appearance of Windows 8 and 8.1 which  challenged many  users of earlier versions.  
Surprise, Surprise! Windows 10  opened  with  a home screen  that   reverted to  the  classic  pre-Windows-8 look : all my old desktop icons were  present.   Newer users  who have become used to the Windows 8 tiled look  have not been forgotten: Clicking  the new Windows icon at the bottom left of the screen  pops up the tiled menu which you can stretch across  the full screen if you  choose.
So what's new and good in Windows 10?  For me the coolest  new  thing was the search tool  which  now trawls seamlessly across the Web, your own machine and your One Drive cloud storage.  The tile menu  groups apps into Mail, Photos, Music, Video etc  and  clicking on any one, brings up all your assets  to a single  menu.  Once you identify your email accounts, Windows 10,  displays all of them, neatly tagged -- a big help.  And  as bonus, Microsoft has thrown in the Xbox  games  into the menu
There has been a lot of hype about a  very clever,  speaking assistant called Cortana  -- similar to the iPhone's Siri. But sadly this feature is not yet available in India.
With many tablets  coming with attached keyboards, Windows 10  offers a   feature called Continuum:  If the keyboard is attached, the screen goes into the  classic PC look. When you disconnect the keyboard, it switches to the  touch-enabled tiled menu.
In summary the  new operating system  brings back some of the familiar elements of Windows 7, while retaining  the good bits from Windows 8... the best of both worlds!  You can download the tech preview till  April 15. 
The good news is,  current users of Windows 7 and 8.1 can upgrade  to Windows 10 when it becomes available  for free  -- provided they do it within a year of its launch.  A tech preview version of Windows 10  for phone  will also  be available later this month.  And Microsoft's office suite -- Word, Excel and Powerpoint -- is already  a free download for tablets at the Android and Apple  stores.