What's New in Windows 10

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What's New in Windows 10
Learn about top new features in Microsoft's latest operating system

For end users, Windows 10 introduces a new Start menu, web browser, personal digital assistant, and more. For IT admins, the latest version of Windows includes features like Azure Active Directory support and Windows Update for Business.

Windows 10 is here! And for current Windows 7 or 8 users, the upgrade is available from Microsoft free for a year from 29 July 2015. Learn more about upgrade options.

If your nonprofit organisation or library is considering upgrading your systems, check out some of the most important new features for both users and IT professionals in this version of Windows.

Start Menu
The Start menu has returned to Windows. Windows 8 users know that the Start menu was replaced in that version by a collection of tiled apps known as the Start screen.

The new Start menu in Windows 10 combines the features of the Start screen with the classic Start menu from Windows. Your most-used Start menu items are listed in one column, right next to a place where you can pin your favorite live app tiles.

The new Start menu in Windows 10

Microsoft Edge
Windows 10 includes a new web browser called Microsoft Edge. Internet Explorer is still included, but Edge is the default browser for most tasks.

What makes Edge unique is its save-for-later and markup features. You can save a page for offline reading in your Reading List, similar to the way Instapaper and other apps allow you to read web content offline. The markup features allow you to write, draw, highlight, or type directly on a web page and save the annotated page to OneNote or share it with your friends.

Microsoft Edge markup tools

Multiple Desktops
Windows 10 supports multiple desktops, similar to the "Spaces" feature in Mac OS X. This means you can have one desktop filled with spreadsheets, another desktop with information about a new fundraising project, and another covered in cat photos and switch between the three easily.

You can also move applications from one desktop to another by dragging and dropping. Or you can create a new desktop just by dragging an application to the "New desktop" button.

Demonstration of multiple desktops

Windows 10 has several Snap features that allow you to quickly resize application windows so you can be more productive. In Windows 7 or 8, you could drag a window to the left or right side of the desktop and "snap" it to that half of the screen. If you snap an application to half of the screen in Windows 10, the Snap Assist feature brings up a carousel of thumbnails of other running applications so you can choose one to fill the remaining portion of the screen.

In Windows 7 and 8, you could only snap application windows to the left- or right-hand side of the screen. In Windows 10, the Corner Snap feature allows you to snap applications to all four corners.

Another nice feature is Snap Fill. You probably won't always want to snap your windows into two equal halves or four equal quarters. With Snap Fill, you can resize a window and then snap a second window adjacent to it. The second window will fill the remaining screen space appropriately.

Snap Assist in action

Like Apple's Siri, Cortana is a voice-controlled personal digital assistant built in to Windows 10. So now you can talk to your computer, just like in the movies! Probably not just like that.

But you can use Cortana to search for things on the web, find files on your computer, check the weather, and perform other tasks just by talking. You can also turn it off if you are the type who works better alone.

Image of Cortana in Windows 10

Battery Saver
This feature from Windows Phone is now part of Windows 10. You can turn on Battery Saver for your notebook or tablet to conserve power when your battery is down to a certain percentage. It's set to 20 percent by default, but you can change it to whatever you want.

Windows saves battery power by shutting down certain background processes. Which ones? Windows allows you to specify which processes should always be running, even when you shift to Battery Saver, so you don't have to worry that you will stop getting email updates, for instance.

Azure Active Directory Support
Azure Active Directory is Microsoft's cloud-based Active Directory (AD) service. Windows 10 support for this feature means it's possible for an organisation to deploy Office 365 (which nonprofits can get for free) in combination with Azure AD to completely replace on-premises servers. An entirely cloud-based solution won't work for every organisation, so you can also get the same functionality and keep your servers with Azure AD Connect.

One benefit of Azure AD is "single sign-on," which means users can log in to Windows 10 and have immediate access to any AD-compatible cloud applications that your IT department has configured, like Office 365, Box, Citrix ShareFile or GoToMeeting, and Salesforce.com. For IT people, deploying any of these cloud services for users is much simpler.

You get access to a free edition of Azure AD with Office 365, or you can purchase additional features in higher editions.

Some of the apps that can integrate with Azure Active Directory

Windows Update for Business
Windows Update for Business is a free service from Microsoft for Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise devices. It gives IT departments more ways to control how to deliver security and feature updates to end users.

Windows Update for Business allows IT admins to create distribution rings and maintenance windows so they can create policies about which users or devices receive updates and when they will receive them. They can also configure updates to be delivered peer-to-peer rather than over the Internet if bandwidth is an issue.

If you are already using System Center Configuration Manager or Windows Server Update Services to provide those services, you can continue to use those along with Windows Update for Business. The benefit with Windows Update for Business is that updates are coming to the clients from Microsoft's servers instead of your on-premises servers.

Enterprise Data Protection
New security features in Windows 10 Enterprise provide both data-loss prevention and encryption at the file level.

Data-loss prevention distinguishes between your organisation's data and a user's personal data and protects the organisational data through encryption. The software encrypts your organisation's apps, data, email, website content, and other sensitive information on the device. It also helps users determine if new documents are personal or organisational and should be encrypted.

IT admins can also create policies to further protect corporate data by making sure it can't be transferred externally.

Windows Hello and Passport
Windows Hello is a new feature that allows users to unlock their devices using their fingerprint, face, or iris. If you use your face or iris, a recent device with a 3D camera is required. Microsoft says it can guarantee enterprise-grade security with any of these methods, which it says are more secure than traditional passwords.

After unlocking the device, Passport authenticates users and allows them to access websites and other services without entering a password. If you are worried about Microsoft having your fingerprints, pupils, or face on their servers, you don't need to worry. Microsoft says your biometric information is only stored locally on your device to unlock it and authenticate you with Passport.

Authentication with Windows Passport

Images: Microsoft