That headline, by the way, comes as high praise from someone whose past columns include an effort entitled, “It’s Great to Hate Windows 8.” Let’s see why.

To be completely honest, I’m not running a final release copy of Windows 10. If you’re willing to be a Microsoft (MS) guinea pig, you can sign onto the “Windows Insider Program” and download Beta versions of various software packages. Since Windows 10 was scheduled for release on July 29 (just before this issue of The Business Monthly hit the streets and the Internet), that download has been shut down — but I got one of the final versions before the door slammed.

Unless something drastic happens, I expect only minor tweaks. First off, the start button is back. Yes, a truly functional start button that, among other things, allows you to see a full listing of all your installed programs, so you don’t have to use the Search function to find what you just installed, as you often had to do in Win8.

Of course, it couldn’t be a full return to a Win7 style where we knew where everything was, but it’s usable. When you click the “All Apps” icon, you get an alphabetical listing of everything, including MS’s choices of apps for Calendar, Mail, Money and a Settings page that looks much like a simplified Control Panel. It’s interesting that, in keeping with the tablet and phone orientation that MS has adopted for everything lately, it is called “All Apps” and not “All Programs.”

For those familiar with Win7’s setups, right clicking on Computer will bring up a Properties choice that has Device Manager and other usable troubleshooting features. It takes a little wandering to find familiar and desired things in between all the MS fluff, but they’re there.

That’s all on the left side of the Start menu. On the right side are the now famous Win8 tiles, with rotating News, Photos and Weather choices, along with the always present Store (as in “Show me the money”).

The main desktop hosts your choice of icons. It starts off blank, but adding things to it was easy — although you have to left click and drag, instead of the right-click we’ve been doing for decades. Why? Only MS knows.

Compatibility

Office 2007 loaded right on and worked just fine, so you can use your old software and avoid having to get Office 365 or any other subscription service. The Chrome browser loaded seamlessly and Google Earth worked well also. So, compatibility seems good.

The built-in Calendar syncs with Outlook.com and a Windows phone, but not an iPhone or Android, so that’s a serious bummer. I haven’t tried syncing using iTunes and the Outlook program, which is what I use for Windows 7 and older machines. iTunes did load correctly, however, and recognized when my iPhone was attached, so that’s a good start.

Browsing

The “new” Edge browser is standard (Was “Edge” chosen so they could reuse the same old “e” symbol? Could be). You can also download and install Windows Explorer 11.

To tell the truth, it was hard to tell one from the other. Edge does have some new features, such as “Hub,” which stashes favorites and downloads in one place; and “Web note,” which lets you add your own comments to web pages and then save them, which might be useful if you want to share something, but wish to add your own comments. There’s also a Share icon to let you share a page directly on Facebook.

No speed tests yet on Edge vs. Chrome, although my initial impression of Edge was that it was faster than the old Internet Explorer. In the meantime, I’d advise sticking with Chrome, just because its security features are better worked out, and wait until we see what the hackers have discovered as holes in Edge.

Networking, Printing

Win10 found all the computers on my home network, and accessed the shared folders on them without problems. It also recognized an external drive when plugged into the USB. All good.

Win10 found the shared printers on my home network as well. I did have to go to HP.com to get updated drivers, but was happy to see that HP’s web site already recognized Win10 and had drivers ready. No problem with a test page.

Overall Impression

Overall, I’d say this is a decent release. Most drivers appear to be in place and working, which is an enormous improvement over the Windows releases that MS would like to pretend never existed (like Vista and Win8), where that was a plague. It shouldn’t take too long to sort through the extra added non-attractions on the menus and be accustomed to finding things, thanks to a semi-return to comfortable layouts.

But, as I’ve said so many times in the past, do not (repeat, not) jump into the upgrade if you’re happily running Win7 and don’t need to run something that requires Win10 (and it will be awhile until that happens). Win8 users should also resist until enough users have tried it and let the rest of us know if it is trash or treasure.

Cliff Feldwick is owner of Riverside Computing and does networking, troubleshooting and data recovery on PCs, when not reading Microsoft tea leaves. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or at cliff@feldwick.com. Older columns are online at http://feldwick.com.