The wait for Windows 10 is over. You can upgrade your tablet from Windows 8.1 to the newest version of Microsoft’s iconic operating system right now. But should you?
Microsoft is making this a free upgrade for everyone who has a computer running Windows 8 or Windows 7, as long as the new version is installed some time in the next year. So millions of Microsoft, Dell, and Lenovo tablet users are asking themselves, is now the right time to make the move?
The right answer for you depends on what you use your tablet for. Are you a casual user, who primary uses this device for accessing the Internet? Or are you a hardcore user to whom your tablet is productivity tool you use daily?
Casual Tablet Users
For many, their Windows tablet is a convenient way to check their email, access the Web, catch up on Facebook, and maybe pay a game or two. They don’t use Office on this computer, and probably don’t have an external keyboard for it. If this sounds like you, you probably should hold off upgrading your device for a few months… just not forever because Windows 10 has some great new features.
To understand why you can wait, you need a bit of history. Windows 8/8.1 was designed with tablets in mind, and it has generally worked quite well on computers with touchscreens. The situation was quite different for laptop users, as many frequently-used features were hard to control with a mouse. And because laptop users make up the lion’s share of Windows users, Windows 10 is intended to make them happy… and stop them from switching to Apple’s OS X. So tablets aren’t the focus of this new version.
But that doesn’t mean Microsoft ignored tablet users when creating Windows 10. There’s a Tablet Mode that bears many similarities to the Metro interface of Windows 8. So, for example, pushing the Start button when in this mode brings up the Start screen with the familiar collection of Live Tiles. And applications that were in windows go to full-screen mode, though these can be set up so that multiple apps share the screen.
The Charms Bar is gone, but sweeping in from the right with your finger now opens up the new Action Center, which includes both notifications of alarms, incoming emails, and similar items, as well as buttons to toggle a variety of settings.
Plus there are improvements for tablet users. The jarring switch from the Metro interface to the Windows Desktop needed to access classic Windows software is gone. Any application can be run in Tablet Mode, not just Metro apps. Even better, switching between running apps is as easy as pushing an on-screen button.
Casual users might like Cortana more than business users. This voice-activated virtual assistant makes the jump from Windows Phone for the first time, and has the potential to become very useful, once you get used to its quirks and limitations.
Windows 10 has a new browser called Microsoft Edge. This is one of the weaker features of the new operating system, but it will surely improve with time. And it lets you draw on web pages and save the marked up version to OneNote, something tablet users are likely to find a use for.
What it comes down to is Windows 10 is a good operating system for a casual user to have on their tablet. The same can be said of Windows 8, though, and there’s wisdom in the philosophy of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” There’s no burning need for casual users to change to Windows 10 any time soon, especially as Microsoft will still be finding and fixing bugs for months.
But the free upgrade to this new version is available for only a year. Sometime before July 28, 2016 you should install Windows 10. Microsoft will have ironed out all the wrinkles by then, and it will be time to start trying out the new features.
Hardcore Tablet Users
For many, a Windows tablet is their primary computer, or at least a close second. Their device is frequently combined with an external keyboard so it can function as a 2-in-1 laptop, with professional software like Microsoft Office in frequent use. If this is you, the upgrade is something you should do as just soon as you feel comfortable.
As mentioned, Windows 8 emphasized tablets at the expense of laptops, but it isn’t particularly easy to use with a tablet and add-on keyboard, especially when combined with a mouse. Windows 7 was a much better operating system for 2-in-1s and laptops than its much-maligned successor, so in hopes of getting people to upgrade to the brand new version, Windows 10 is a merger of the best features of Windows 7 and Windows 8.
Windows 8 included the touchscreen-friendly Metro interface, as well as the classic Windows Desktop for running software written for Windows 7 and earlier. The centerpiece of the Metro interface was the Start screen, which controversially replaced the Start menu and forced the Metro interface on everyone, even when the Windows Desktop was the better option. Windows 10 does away with all that, and brings back the Start menu, though this is not exactly the same, as the Live Tiles from the Windows 8 Start screen have been added.
Even better, any application can be run in a resizable window on the Desktop, including Metro apps. A handy Snap feature makes it quick and easy to set up applications so they share the screen equally, but this is optional.
Disconnecting an external keyboard gives users the option to switch to Tablet Mode, so that all apps become full screen. But those who don’t want to use Tablet Mode don’t have to.
Windows 10 isn’t just a combination of versions 7 and 8; it brings some new features to the table as well. Among the most notable is Virtual Desktops. With this feature, you can have one desktop with your personal email and Facebook open and arranged just as you like them, and also have a second desktop with Word, Excel, and Outlook open and nicely arranged. Switching between the two requires just a single key combination. There can be as many virtual desktops and open applications as your hardware is capable of handling.
The bundled applications for email, photos, calendar, etc. have also been revamped with noticeable improvements in usability, whether they are being controlled with a mouse, pen, or finger.
As mentioned, the new Edge browser is not quite finished yet, and people who need serious performance are going to need to install Google Chrome or another third-party browser. This is one of the most significant limitations in this new operating system version, although the classic Internet Explorer is buried deeply in the OS.
Hardcore users are the people that Windows 10 was made for. Even if you’re nervous about jumping to this very, very new version now, you shouldn’t wait too long. There are a lot of improvements waiting for you to take advantage of.