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Most Improved Award for Windows 10

If there was an award for most improved in the world of tech I would award it to Windows 10. While I am a daily Mac user, I am no stranger to Windows. Actually, let me correct myself. I live inside iOS, work in Mac OS, play around on Windows, and occationally find need of an Android device. I think that makes me a good judge of where Windows 10 sits in comparison to all the major operating systems offered today. (Linux, yes I used to be into you, but Mac OS is more than enough UNIX for me.)

I’m old enough to remember when Macs were relegated to the less serious passions, graphics and science labs, while Windows machines were the sturdy beasts that bore our burdens during work. Ironically the situation seems to be reversed. If I have a job to do, that can’t be done on a phone, I need a Mac. If I want to fool around in virtual reality or inside an MMO at 60 FPS, I need a Windows PC. Windows 10 is Microsoft’s near miss at reclaiming the dull and boring world of the workhorse personal computer.

I had reason to buy a non-gaming PC laptop last week. I’m following along with Handmade Hero and since Casey Muratori is using a Windows machine to demo how to write a game from scratch I wanted to do the same. Via Amazon I bought a decent Dell XPS 13, refurbished, at a 50% discount. It’s a lot like a MacBook Air: Light, beautiful no-touch screen, and well constructed feel. The keyboard is a little loose as compared to a MacBook. And like a MacBook Air the graphic card and CPU are under powered but it’s totally usable for software development and the processing of words, numbers, emails, and webpages. This blog post is being written on it.

Windows 10 is Microsoft’s response to Mac OS and iOS. And it’s pretty easy to see that Apple is watching closely what Microsoft is doing with Windows 10 and discovering new ways to improve Mac OS and iOS. However, Redmond has to do a better job of learning from Cupertino.

Windows 10 is innovative and interesting but has many odd holes, rough patches, and weird leftover bits from Windows of the past. It feels rushed and as if there is only a small band of engineers behind it. It’s a tad ugly as if the UX designers called out sick a few days before polishing the new look and feel. If I wasn’t a 30 year veteran of Windows and PCs I’d be lost and confused when it comes to navigating around and installing software. As it is, I’m “Binging” basic operations where on the Mac I’d just be able to wing it.

Let me give you a concrete example…

Windows 10 has a system wide spell checking feature. While I was typing this blog post, in the sleek Edge web browser using the web-based WordPress text editor, I had to turn off Windows 10 spell checking. It was underlying entire paragraphs with red wavy lines! And yet I still have spell checking. So who is doing the spell checking if I turned it off? A mystery!

Another mystery is that at first I could not find the place to turn off spell checking in the Windows 10 Setting panel. I had to ask Cortana. She’s a nice lady and all but I pride myself on being able to find things in computer operating system. I now know that spell checking is found under Settings->Devices->Typing. What threw me was “devices” (that makes me think of something like a printer, a separate device) and the lack of the term “keyboard” anywhere in the UX.

It’s as if the person who designed the Windows 10 Settings panel is a young AI just figuring out object from subject and parts from wholes. I keep running into little stumbles like this along the way as use Windows. I’m sure there is a punch list at Microsoft with a thousand tiny little fixes that are not mission critical but would make a big difference in how the end-user’s experience of Windows 10 flows.

So, good job Microsoft. Better than I expected. Keep it up. I suggest hiring a really mean, obsessive, and uncompromising UX designer and putting her or him in charge of Windows 11.