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A look at the Windows 10 user experience

Now that Windows 10 is out it's time to evaluate how the OS will work for users, including how they can upgrade and what Cortana brings to the table.

The latest, and ostensibly last, operating system (OS) in the venerable Windows line is here: Windows 10 is out,...

and users can finally see what Microsoft has done to right the wrongs of the past and pave the way for the future.

Microsoft has said Windows 10 is the last Windows OS. The company has moved away from its traditional model of releasing a new OS every few years, and instead it will perpetually update Windows 10 the way Google constantly updates its Chrome OS. Ultimately the change should be welcome news; IT administrators won't have to deal with new licensing fees or the problems inherent to migrating to a new OS after Windows 10.

In addition, admins can control the updates. Don't need a particular feature or want to wait and see how others shops react to it? Simply skip adding that update. And security updates are a completely separate entity, so admins can keep up with those and still pass on any feature updates they don't want.

If it really is the last branch on the Windows family tree, the Windows 10 user experience and features had better deliver. Take a look at how to upgrade to Windows 10, how Cortana fits in, what the Action Center does and more.

How can you upgrade to Windows 10?

Upgrading to Windows 10 is actually pretty easy, and if a user already has a qualifying version of Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 it's completely free. To see if his version qualifies, the user has to turn on and run Windows Update. Once Update is on, the user must run it until his device downloads all of the latest updates.

Once the device is confirmed as qualified for the upgrade, Windows will install the Get Windows 10 app. As the name suggests, it allows the user to get Windows 10. He just has to launch the app, which is represented by a Windows logo located on the task bar in the notification section, and follow the instructions. To start the upgrade, the user selects Reserve your Free Upgrade and his download request enters the upgrade queue. Once the user reaches the front of the line, he will receive a notification that it's his turn to install Windows 10. The user can either upgrade right away or wait until it's a convenient time.

Where does Cortana fit in?

Cortana, a digital assistant and Microsoft's answer to Apple's Siri, first debuted on Windows Phone 8.1. Named for a character in the Halo video game series, Cortana is integrated directly into Windows 10. As a result users can employ Cortana for standard Internet searches, but they can also use it to find local resources, such as files and settings on a computer.

If it really is the last branch on the Windows family tree, the Windows 10 user experience better deliver.

Cortana is also extensible, meaning developers can integrate the digital assistant into their apps to include voice commands, Cortana-based searches and any other capabilities the assistant can perform, including setting reminders and locating data.

Cortana uses natural language to conduct multi-tier queries to locate something based on a specific set of requirements.

How does the multiple desktop feature work?

The multiple desktop feature improves the Windows 10 user experience with multi-monitor capabilities on a single screen. With this tool, users can open multiple Windows desktop screens on their computer to eliminate clutter. So if a user needs a couple apps to work on a particular task he can open them in one desktop window. If he's working on another task simultaneously, he can open the apps for the second job on another desktop window. Now, when he wants to focus on one task instead of the other, he doesn't have to worry about superfluous tools getting in the way, and he doesn't have to deal with minimizing or restoring windows.

When the multiple desktop tool is in use, workers can click on a button at the bottom of the screen to switch between desktops. And whenever users launch an app, they can choose which desktop to open it in. Users can create as many displays as they need and arrange them however is most convenient.

What is the Windows 10 user experience like on different devices?

If users have smartphones, they can use Windows 10. If they have laptops they can use Windows 10. Heck, if they have Xboxes they can use Windows 10. And all Universal Windows apps, which can run on any device that runs Windows 10, will work across any of these devices and more. The user interface is almost identical across all devices, but the screen resolution will differ. The app code formats the app based on the screen resolution of the device in question, so a smaller-screened smartphone will have a low-res version of the app, whereas a top-of-the-line tablet will offer high-res imagery.

One other important fact to remember is Windows 10 desktop mode only runs on PCs and some tablets.

How does Windows 10 incorporate the Action Center?

The Action Center in Windows 10 is inspired by the user-favorite feature of the same name on Windows phones. Although the tool is similar in Windows 10 -- it aggregates all of a user's notifications in one place -- it is not identical to its smartphone counterpart. The tool eliminates the problem of toast notifications, which only pop up for a few seconds before they are gone forever. Users can now find anything they missed by clicking the speech bubble icon on the task bar to open the Action Center.

In addition to notifications, users will find a set of tiles labeled Tablet Mode, Display, Connect and All Settings at the bottom of the Action Center. Users can click on any of the tiles to open a shortcut to certain tasks. Display, for example, will take the user directly to display settings in the Control Panel. Under the tiles, users can click Expand to see more options, including Wi-Fi configuration options. The tiles change depending on which ones the user selects most often. If users do not want to receive Action Center notifications, they can turn them off for a set period of time.

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