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A new Start for Windows 10

22nd Jul 2015
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As Microsoft prepares to launch Windows 10 next week, Richard Hattersley previews the new features that will be included and how they’ll affect your business.

It would be hard to summarise the wider public reception for Microsoft Windows 8 more succinctly than in the words of AccountingWEB member jon_griffey: “Windows 8 sucks.”

News that Windows 10 will be available for a free download for existing Window 7 and 8.1 users will be a relief to those of a like mind. “If it means ditching Windows 8 free of charge then it seems to me a no brainer,” he decreed.

Microsoft is looking for a better reaction to the new version of Windows slated for release on Wednesday 29 July. Windows 10 will be accompanied at some point in the near future by an upgrade to Microsoft Office 2016.

As always happens at this point in the Microsoft product lifecycle, users have to stop and think about the pros and cons of migrating. This article sets out some of the main ingredients you can expect to see from the new versions, but also acknowledges some of the downsides to upgrading.

AccountingWEB member Stevie_G, for example, is reticent to upgrade due to Office compatibility issues: “I think the main problem I will have is that my accounting programs are linked to Office 2007 so will I be forced to upgrade this and have to get used to new Office”

Back to the Start

One of the most welcome developments for many will be the return of the old Start menu. If you’re comfortable using Windows 7, Microsoft wants you to know you should be happy with this update, which has been designed to retain the best features of Windows 7 while blending in the most useful innovations in Windows 8. 

The Start button will be integrated with the Windows 8 “tile” interface, giving users a choice in how much screen space they’d like to devote to this launch button. The live panels can be expanded, or apps can simply be unpinned. Alongside the Start menu, Windows 7 style “jump lists” were brought back to simplify navigation to previously opened documents.

AccountingWEB’s go-to Microsoft Office expert Simon Hurst commented, “If Microsoft had done that originally, there wouldn’t have been all that fuss about how awful Windows 8 and 8.1 were for desktop users.”

What the interface changes do indicate is a more customer-focused attitude from Microsoft. “The Windows 8 debacle was due to Microsoft thinking it knew best,” said Hurst. “”The Windows 10 preview and consultation process do show a much greater readiness to listen.”

Having many tabs open at once can be confusing, and it is easy to be overwhelmed. By entering task view, you can see all of your tabs open at once, so you can click what you need without being burdened by a succession of open tabs. This option allows you to zoom out, snap two windows to each side of the screen to compare. You can even view four windows open at once by dragging whatever you’re after to each corner. This would be perfect for comparing spreadsheets.

Continuum - the same software on multiple devices

Windows 10 continues Microsoft’s tradition started in Windows 8 of supporting PCs and phones with the same underlying operating system. So whether you’re using your PC, tablet or smartphone the operating system will be able to detect whether a keyboard is attached and select the right mode. With all your peripherals attached to a smartphone, you could work or give a presentation on a much larger screen.

Microsoft Edge and Cortana

As Internet Explorer passes on to the big browser home in the sky, Microsoft Edge debuts as its successor. With an eye on user productivity, Edge boasts several features to filter out distractions. If you wanted to look up, say, the weather, the search bar will help you by offering quick answers - much like Google Chrome. Other features include writing directly on the web, which is useful for highlighting information to send to your clients, and an Evernote-like facility to save websites to read later.

Another innovation the Microsoft team picked up on was the voice-activated digital assistant - which goes in other circles by the name Siri (Apple) or Google Now. Microsoft’s Cortana will let you do all the same things on a Windows PC or mobile phone, including content searches via Bing, linking up with your other devices (including iPhone) or digging out documents from your archive.

Microsoft Office 2016

Microsoft is still testing Office 2016 and a formal release date has not be set yet, but when it arrives the system will extend the seamless user experience to collaborative Microsoft Office documents as well.

Office 2016 will allow users to create, open, edit saved files in the cloud from their desktops and to work on the files simultaneously. This feature was initially to be supported in Word documents only, but following user feedback this facility is likely to be available on Excel and PowerPoint too before long. The potential for accountants to share Excel spreadsheets, seeing the edits that their colleagues are making, will be extremely welcome within the profession.

Google Docs users will point out that this capability has been available in that system for years. In spite of the “me-too” accusations, the development is important, according to Simon Hurst.

“The advantage MS has got is Apple and Google have never caught up with the Office applications, particularly for accountants and the way they use Excel. This is probably the first time you’ve got the cloud and device flexibility of Apple with all the fully formed features of Office that people are used to.”

There are some interesting new additions coming within Excel, according to Hurst. These include a range of new chart types that accountants have been begging for, including waterfall charts, tree maps, histograms.

Of much more interest to Excel reporting and analysis experts will be the incorporation of Power Query into the main Data ribbon section. The things that Power Query allows you to do “is up there with PivotTables in its significance”, Hurst said.

There will also be a new Forecast sheet, backed with a set of forecasting functions.

Office 2016 won’t be quite as significant a development as the 2007 or 2013 versions, but this reflects a subtle change in how the programs are being rolled out. Since the latter half of last year, updates to the Power Query tools in Excel have been happening incrementally.Like most cloud developers, Microsoft will add bug fixes and enhancements to the central code when they are ready. And after its early experiments it is likely to extend this approach to the entire Office suite.

So enjoy next week’s big launch. It may be the last of its kind.

Simon Hurst will be back with more detailed assessment of the new Excel tools once the product is ready for its commercial release. Until then, will any of the new features tempt you to upgrade?


Replies (1)

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By Gone Sailing
23rd Jul 2015 19:04

Bug fixes - here's one for the list .....

IMAP Emails - W8 Outlook 2013:

> Stop duplicates

> Empty the draft folder after sending

> Display the paperclip when there is an attachment.

Y'know, just like XP / Outlook 2003, ah the good old days.


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