Windows 10 review: Apps
There's a new web browser in Windows 10, and it offers some unique features. As well as the reading mode you may already be familiar with from other browsers, which strips away page furniture so you can focus on the content, there's a new annotation feature which lets you highlight things and add notes and crop to a certain area of the page before sending them to others.
Having these capabilities natively in the browser is a compelling reason to use it over Google Chrome or Firefox. It has also been a decent performer in our testing.
Edge has been designed to have a minimal interface, leaving as much screen real estate as possible for web pages: the whole reason you’re using a browser is to view them, of course.
With the Anniversary Update in August 2016, Microsoft enabled extensions in Edge browser - a feature that's long been needed. Now to install extensions you won't have to go through a tedious process to have it included in your browser. The update also brought web notifications to Windows 10, meaning you can now have Facebook notify you through the Action Center if you've received a new message.
Windows Media Centre - gone
Some may mourn the loss of Windows Media Centre in Windows 10, which was the built-in application for video, music and photos. It could handle built-in TV tuners and play DVDs, but these days few laptops (and no tablets) come with optical drives for playing video discs anyway.
If you have a media centre PC which relies on Media Centre for watching and recording TV, then you're probably best off sticking with Windows 7 or 8. This affects so few people, though, that it's not a major black mark for Windows 10
Music, Movies & TV
You do get media playback apps, of course. Instead of the Xbox branding which proved a little confusing in Windows 8, the apps are simply called Music and Movies & TV.
The Music app combines your local music with any stored online in your OneDrive Music folder. Plus, it also integrates Microsoft’s music streaming service called Groove – formerly Xbox Music - which you can access by buying a Music Pass. This (currently) costs £8.99 per month, or £89.90 for an annual subscription, making it a bit cheaper than the Apple and Spotify alternatives.
The Movies & TV app lets you buy or rent videos from the new Microsoft Store but, like Apple, Microsoft currently lacks a streaming service to rival Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video. The app is split into three sections: Movies, TV and Videos, the latter of which monitors your Videos folder and shows them in the same easy-to-use interface.
Photos has been updated but will be familiar to Windows 8 users. The old Windows Photo Viewer is still there if you prefer, and you’re prompted to choose a default app the first time you open a JPEG. It’s worth using the Photos app, however, as in addition to a decent viewing interface, it also lets you edit photos and pulls in photos from your OneDrive.
It's a surprise that Skype isn't pre-installed, now that it’s owned by Microsoft. Instead there's a Skype advert in the start menu which takes you to the store where you can download it for free.
Mail + Calendar
While Office isn’t included – it was only ever bundled with Windows RT – you do get the Mail and Calendar apps.
Mail is a clean-looking email client which has the ability to handle multiple emails accounts including Outlook.com, Google, iCloud and Exchange (plus pretty much anything else, as long as you can configure the settings yourself).
OneNote is also part of Windows 10. If you haven’t used it, you should certainly try it out. It’s a powerful Evernote-style app which lets you create notes that are a mixture of text, lists, images, maps and more. Again, OneDrive integration means that you can access your stuff from other devices – even if it’s an Android or iPhone.
Maps has been improved too. Microsoft has added Streetside – the equivalent of Google’s Street View – so you can take virtual tours of places, as well as getting directions and finding nearby places of interest. For directions, you can choose driving, walking or public transport.