Windows 10: the 8 biggest new features coming to PCs and tablets

From Cortana to a new browser and huge gaming perks, Microsoft's latest revelations all look really promising
Windows 10
Microsoft closed its consumer-focused Windows 10 event with a bang yesterday by revealing the HoloLens headset. But before all of that futuristic hoopla, the word of the day was the company's big new operating system, and how it aims to atone for the divisive shift seen in Windows 8.

Yes, giving it away to even Windows 7 users is a great start. However, it's clear that Windows 10 plans to bring in the best parts of the Windows ecosystem – what worked in the very different Windows 7 and Windows 8, as well as handy elements from the mobile side – and then make everything much smoother and easier to use. And from what we've seen so far, the results look really positive.

We've already had a run at some of Windows 10's previously-revealed changes and combinations, but here's a quick primer on all of the important new features announced this week - and how it will affect your PC and tablet experience starting later this year.


1. Hey, Cortana

Cortana in Windows 10
No real surprise here: Microsoft's voice assistant, which premiered with Windows Phone 8.1, will make the leap over to desktops and tablets with Windows 10. While that info leaked a while back, it was still great to see it in action and get a glimpse at how it will work in a PC environment.

Cortana has a dedicated text input box in the taskbar, where you can type a query – or simply speak it, as on phones. She'll pull up the information you need from the web, dig through your files, suggest available apps (owned or in the store), and even let you speak out an email and send it. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.


2. She knows your stuff

Cortana in Windows 10

Truly, one of the most compelling aspects of Cortana's addition to Windows 10 is the ability to quickly aggregate files that fit a certain theme. For example, if you want all photos taken in December (as shown in yesterday's event), just say that and she'll pull everything up within seconds.

And it's not just your local files in play: she can also search any linked personal and professional OneDrive cloud accounts. If you found searching to be a chore in past Windows versions, it seems like Cortana is ready to fix that. And it reminds us of a patent Apple has to bring Siri to Mac, which still hasn't panned out.

3. Like Windows 8 (in one respect)

Full-screen icon collage in Windows 10

Are you one of those rare folks that really enjoyed the large icon-centric design of Windows 8? While Windows 10 sees Microsoft largely deemphasizing that approach to focus on the classic desktop design, the grid of icons remains available in the newly redesigned Start menu.

And what we saw yesterday is that you can expand that menu out to fill the entire screen, offering at-a-glance access to all of your favorite apps, games, and shortcuts. It's optional, but for anyone that loved that bright, minimal look, it's still here as needed.

4. Project Spartan

Project Spartan in Windows 10

Goodbye, Internet Explorer. Hello, Project Spartan.

While the codename is sure to be scrapped for something a little more marketing-friendly (New Internet Explorer?), Microsoft confirmed the leaked news that the browser in Windows 10 will indeed feature a brand new rendering engine and look, with a very minimal UI that makes the content the star of the show.

It'll also pack in a couple of handy new features. There's a note-taking mode, which lets you scribble on a webpage or insert comments with a keyboard, and then save or send that copy (you can also clip just a segment of the page).

You'll also find a reading-friendly mode, which strips out the ads and navigation and just gives you text and pictures. It also has a reading list that transfers between devices and saves offline copies. In essence, Instapaper in your Windows browser.

READ MORE: 6 things we love about Windows 10 - and 3 we hate