A major aspect of Windows 10 is a focus on harmonizing user experiences and functionality between different classes of devices, along with addressing shortcomings in the Windows user interface that were introduced in Windows 8. Continuing with this pattern, the successor to Windows Phone 8.1 unveiled at the same event is also branded as Windows 10, and shares some user interface elements and apps with its PC counterpart.
The Windows Runtime app ecosystem was revised into the Universal Windows Platform (UWP). These “universal” apps are made to run across multiple platforms and device classes, including smartphones, tablets, Xbox One consoles, and other compatible Windows 10 devices. Windows apps share code across platforms, have responsive designs that adapt to the needs of the device and available inputs, can synchronize data between Windows 10 devices (including notifications, credentials, and allowing cross-platform multiplayer for games), and are distributed through a unified Windows Store. Developers can allow “cross-buys”, where purchased licenses for an app apply to all of the user’s compatible devices, rather than only the one they purchased on (i.e. a user purchasing an app on PC is also entitled to use the smartphone version at no extra cost).
On Windows 10, Windows Store serves as a unified storefront for apps, Groove music (formerly Xbox Music), and Movies & TV (formerly Xbox Video). Windows 10 also allows web apps and desktop software (using either Win32 or .NET Framework) to be packaged for distribution on the Windows Store. Desktop software distributed through Windows Store is packaged using the App-V system to allow sandboxing.
User interface and desktop
The “Task View” display is a new feature to Windows 10, allowing the use of multiple workspaces.
A new iteration of the Start menu is used on the Windows 10 desktop, with a list of places and other options on the left side, and tiles representing applications on the right. The menu can be resized, and expanded into a full-screen display, which is the default option in Tablet mode. A new virtual desktop system known as Task View was added. Clicking the Task View button on the taskbar or swiping from the left side of the screen displays all open windows and allows users to switch between them, or switch between multiple workspaces. Windows Store apps, which previously could be used only in full screen mode, can now be used in self-contained windows similarly to other programs. Program windows can now be snapped to quadrants of the screen by dragging them to the corner. When a window is snapped to one side of the screen, the user is prompted to choose a second window to fill the unused side of the screen (called “Snap Assist”). Windows’ system icons were also changed to a new, minimalist design.
Charms have been removed; their functionality in Windows Store apps is accessed from an App commands menu on their titlebar. In its place is Action Center, which displays notifications and settings toggles. It is accessed by clicking an icon in the system tray, or dragging from the right of the screen. Notifications can be synced between multiple devices. The Settings app (formerly PC Settings) was refreshed and now includes more options that were previously exclusive to the desktop Control Panel.
Windows 10 is designed to adapt its user interface based on the type of device being used and available input methods. It offers two separate user interface modes: a user interface optimized for mouse and keyboard, and a “Tablet mode” designed for touchscreens. Users can toggle between these two modes at any time, and Windows can prompt or automatically switch when certain events occur, such as disabling Tablet mode on a tablet if a keyboard or mouse is plugged in, or when a laplet is switched to its laptop state. In Tablet mode, programs default to a maximized view, and the taskbar contains a back button and hides buttons for opened or pinned programs; Task View is used instead to switch between programs. The full screen Start menu is used in this mode, similarly to Windows 8, but scrolls vertically instead of horizontally.