How Windows 10 convinced me that Desktop is dead

Brad Stephenson

Windows 10 customized after launch

When Windows 8 launched, I immediately understood what Microsoft was trying to do with their redesigned operating system. The desktop was where users could get work done in the traditional Windows setting while the new Start Screen was just a button press away for media consumption with its collection of games and apps like the their new full screen Internet Explorer.

A vocal group of Windows 8 users lamented the fact that the old Start Menu had been removed though I personally couldn’t even remember the last time I had used it on a Windows device. For years I had either been making shortcuts to my most used programs on the Desktop itself or simply pinned them to the Taskbar. The only time I would use the Start Menu would be to turn my computer off or perform a restart if things were slowing down and with Windows 8 eventually adding the power button directly onto the Start Screen, I had no reason to miss the Start Menu at all.

As much as I loved Windows 8’s Start Screen, I was glad the Desktop was still present however. It’s hard to beat the productive environment that it creates with its quick and easy access to different programs all within view in the Taskbar and the ability to save content directly onto the Desktop can be a real timesaver. While working, I’d spend about 80% of my time on the Desktop and it’s because of this that I’m so surprised to find that since upgrading to Windows 10 a few days ago I barely use the Desktop AT ALL.

You see, one of the first things I did after installing Windows 10 was head directly into the Personalize settings and enable the full screen Start option. I loved the Start Screen on Windows 8 and would often swipe through it, checking out the Live Tiles, even with my Type Cover attached to my Surface Pro, and really wanted that experience back. The Start Screen (well technically it’s a full screen Start Menu now) in Windows 10 isn’t exactly as rich as the Windows 8 version (more on that later) but for the most part it works the same even though there appears to be a weird Windows 10 glitch that’s preventing Live Tiles from displaying properly for a lot of users right now. That should be fixed in time though.

Very quickly I noticed that Windows 10’s full screen Start Menu had become my default home screen. The Desktop still existed somewhere under it but I had no need for it except for the odd occasion when I needed to access a file in one of the three folders I had created there or to drag an image to it from a site in a web browser that prevented the saving of its images directly. Hitting the Windows key had become second nature for exiting an app and with the Taskbar now under the Windows 10 “Start Screen”, I had all the functionality of Windows 8’s separate systems conveniently merged into one super-efficient design.

A lot of people have been raving about Windows 10’s newly redesigned Start Menu but, like the Start Menu of old, I realized that I had no need for anything it offered. After a day of giving it a chance I went into the Personalize settings once again and removed every single folder from it. Documents? I open those from within programs or find them in File Explorer which I already have pinned to my Taskbar. Settings is already in the new Action Center so its inclusion in the Start Menu is redundant and any music, pictures or video I feel like looking at I would either find in File Explorer or open within the relevant media apps.

Windows 10 Start Menu items? No thanks.

I then disabled the Start Menu’s ability to list my most recent and most popular apps as all the apps I’m most interested in are already on my Taskbar or pinned to the full screen Start. The only really useful aspects of Windows 10’s Start Menu are the power button and option to view all the apps installed on a device but with my Start Menu now running in full screen all of the time and both those options in plain view I began to wonder if Microsoft could continue to evolve the operating system in this direction, streamline the Start options more and even remove the Desktop completely.

There would still need to be some changes made to make this setup acceptable for the majority of users but it is something that could happen as Windows 10 continues to evolve over the next few years.

You can see a screenshot of my current Windows 10 setup at the top of this page and below you will find an edited version I’ve made which offers a rough estimation of what a more evolved Windows 10 could look like. One of the most noticeable differences you’ll see would be the increase in Live Tiles. Windows 10 currently limits the space for Live Tiles to two vertical columns but with the return of the default full screen Start Screen in my possible future version, we would hopefully see a return to the horizontal navigation used in Windows 8 along with more space for content which provides a much better user experience.

What Windows 10 could look like in the future

With most of the current Windows 10 Start Menu folders repeating content already in the Action Center, I’ve removed the upper-left hamburger icon which currently leads to those redundant items and have also removed the lower-left icon for the list of apps as, in this version of Windows 10, that function would be given to the Start button which, when clicked, would bring up the app list.

The lack of a traditional Windows Desktop would remove the ability for users to drag items to it or create folders but that problem is easily solved. Interactive Live Tiles are something that Microsoft is already working on for Windows 10 and it wouldn’t be too hard to create special Live Tiles that act as folders which users can dump files into. It wouldn’t be too different from how apps are placed in folders on current Windows Phones and would be a lot more visually pleasing than the folder icons which look outdated no matter how many redesigns they go through.

A more controversial change I’d like to see made would be the moving of the Search/Cortana field in the Taskbar to the Action Center. As it is right now, the search box fills up way too much space and isn’t used that often. It would actually make a lot of sense to relocate the feature to the Action Center. Cortana could even greet you when it’s activated and read that as a cue to listen for voice commands. No “Hey, Cortana” or other input needed.

What do you think? If you haven’t yet, switch your Windows 10 Start Menu to full screen for at least a day and see how it affects your computer usage. It really does make one wonder why Microsoft didn’t merge the Start Screen and Taskbar in Windows 8 to begin with. The operating system could have been a lot better received than it was if they had. Are there any other changes you’d like to see Microsoft make to Windows 10 as it evolves? How have you customized Windows 10? Let us know in the comments below.