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Windows 10 is swimming with Linux features

October 6, 2014


Microsoft says the Technical Preview of Windows 10, released freely to the public on Tuesday, October 2, is meant to showcase productivity features for business. Otherwise the operating system is unfinished and missing many final features.

What the Technical Preview is actually about is the almost complete return of the Start menu and the familiar Windows 7 interface, spiced here and there with Windows 8 bric-a-brac. Proving to business that Windows 10 will be a safe upgrade their employees will be comfortable with.

In keeping with the “old is new” theme underlying Windows 10, all of its so-called new features are tried-and-true elements borrowed from other operating systems — some from Apple’s Mac OS X but mostly from the open source Linux operating system.

New Windows 10 features are at least new to Windows

Almost all the new features announced for the final version of Windows 10 or on show in the Technical Preview are derivative meat-and-potatoes features long-standard in the Linux and Mac OS X operating systems:

New feature in Windows 10 Original or not
1. Single codebase across all devices Apple
2. Start Menu Windows, Linux
3. Virtual desktops or workspaces Linux, Apple
4. Cortana intelligent personal assistant Apple’s Siri
5. Universal search Apple’s Spotlight search
6. Task View (see all open windows) Apple, Ubuntu Linux
7. Snap View multitasking Linux
8. Paste into Command Prompt Linux
9. Ultra High Definition support Apple, Linux
10. Internet Explorer 12 supports extensions Firefox, Chrome, Safari
11. Storage Sense (manage storage devices) Sound like iCloud but might be new
12. Wi-Fi Sense (auto connect & authenticate) Might be new

Tech websites have been praising Windows 10’s new productivity-boosting features, notably the ability to set up multiple desktops for different kinds of tasks.

Virtual desktops, the ability to create multiple custom desktops and easily be able to toggle between then is a very handy productivity feature. Linux has almost always included basic virtual workspace functionality but specific implementations vary between Linux distributions. Apple added the feature as Spaces to Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) in late 2007.

Task View is a selectable view of open windows. In Ubuntu Linux there are two such functions: the keyboard shortcut Windows key + W enables the “scale” effect which shows all windows from the current workspace. And Ctrl + Alt + Up Cursor shows all open windows and allows the user to select one.

Apple’s implementation, called Exposé, was introduced in 2003 in OS X 10.3 (Panther). Both Exposé and Spaces have since be incorporated in a newer OS X application called Mission Control.

Imitation is the sincerest form of GUI design?

Ubuntu Linux styled to resemble Windows 7.

Ubuntu Linux styled to resemble Windows 7.

Many Linux developers consciously or otherwise have treated Linux as a sort of suburb of Windows. Over the years Linux has fairly shamelessly expropriated a lot of Windows interface elements in order to make Windows users more comfortable with the open source operating system.

Because Linux maintains a distinction between the operating system and the desktop environment, there have always been myriad ways to make any Linux distribution look like one of several versions of Windows or Apple’s Mac OS X.

Many Linux distributions have gone to considerable lengths to deliberately mimic specific versions of Windows. Zorin OS is one Linux distribution well-known for offering graphic user interface skins to mimic the look of either Windows XP or Windows 7.

Now Microsoft has made it that much easier for a Linux distribution to ape Windows 10. In fact, by incorporating so many look-alike Linux features, Windows 10 already looks like a Linux distribution trying to look like a version of Windows. Click the images to enlarge them.

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