Windows 10 features

Windows 10 Start menu

Having caused a great deal of upset by ditching the iconic Start menu with Windows 8, Microsoft has apparently realised it is best not to mess with a classic and reinstated it for Windows 10.

It is not an exact replica of the venerable Start menu that ran from Windows 95 to Windows 7, though. While the location of the button and search function both remain, Microsoft has also incorporated an element of the Windows 8 Start page into the new menu, bringing Live Tiles into the interface.

The Live Tiles appear alongside the traditional menu when a user clicks on the Start button. They are set to feature Skype, Weather, Mail and Store by default, but can be added to, swapped or even removed completely as desired.

The background can also be customised, as can which system applications appear in the traditional section of the menu.

For those who actually preferred the Windows 8 Start screen interface, that is also available to launch from the Start menu.

Windows 10 Cortana

Cortana is Microsoft's answer to Apple's Siri virtual assistant. Named after the AI character from the flagship Halo franchise for Xbox, Cortana first appeared on Windows Phone 8.1. Now, with Windows 10, she has been incorporated into the desktop both as a search function within the OS and in the new browser.

She can also be used to set reminders, alarms and open apps via voice command.

Windows 10 comes with Cortana already installed and ready to go in the UK, China, USA, France, Italy, Germany and Spain. On 20 July, Microsoft announced that the software will become available to Windows Insiders in Japan, Australia, Canada and India "over the coming months". Before the end of the year, it will also be available to Insiders in Brazil and Mexico, with a Canadian French version also being rolled out.

Windows 10 browser: Microsoft Edge

After 10 years as the default Windows browser, Internet Explorer is finally being retired, to be replaced by the new Microsoft Edge.

During development and in some Technical Preview versions, Edge was known as Project Spartan. However, in the end, Microsoft said it had opted for a name starting with "E" because of user familiarity with the "e" icon from Internet Explorer, meaning they would know at a glance what the icon in the taskbar represented.

That is pretty much where the similarities between Edge and Explorer end, though.

In feel and design, Edge is much more similar to Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox than its predecessor. Indeed, it has a level of interoperability previously unseen in a Windows browser and can use Firefox and Chrome extensions natively, although this feature will not be available at launch.

Other additions include the ability to annotate web pages and consult Cortana not just for search, but also richer features like restaurant reviews or maps to a venue. She is also able to customise the information she presents based on data gathered about the user's interests over time.

Finally, there is the new tab layout, which will present suggested apps to download from the Windows Store, based on user interest and behaviour. It will offer varying degrees of detail ranging from plain icons through to headlines from media apps, and will also show news from regularly visited or subscribed sites, as well as a Bing search toolbar positioned at the very top.

Microsoft's focus on continuity between Windows 10 devices also means it is likely Cortana's personalisation will be carried over from one device to another, such as from laptop to smartphone, rather than it having to learn everything separately again.

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