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Next week, Microsoft launches the replacement for Windows 8, and it’ll come free for quite a few PC owners. While we can’t say too much ahead of our review, here’s what we’re excited to see.

You don’t need to touch it

Quite possibly the biggest gripe about Windows 8 was that you really needed a touchscreen if you wanted the operating system to be useful, or even to be easy to use.

Let’s get this straight: you didn’t actually need a touchscreen, and quite a few of the computers we reviewed and played with worked absolutely fine, but you did have to memorise touchpad gestures to get the most out of Windows, and you needed a decent touchpad as well, which not every Windows computer came with.

Microsoft tried to clear things up with Windows 8.1 and a sort of return to the Start button, which went walkabout on Windows 8, but it didn’t make things that much better.

So we’ll say this right now, because you’re all probably thinking it:

What were you thinking, Microsoft? You took the excellent OS that was Windows 7 and upgraded into THAT? Into an operating system that people struggled with, that made people wonder why they suddenly needed a touchscreen for regular work? 

Goodbye Windows 8. We're not sure you'll be missed.

Goodbye Windows 8. We’re not sure you’ll be missed.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, by far, the biggest feature we’re looking forward to is that you don’t need to touch your computer anymore, not unless you want to.

And to that we say “Thanks, Microsoft.”

And also “why did you bother in the first place.”

Followed promptly by “again, thanks, Microsoft.”

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The reality of Windows 10 is that it will support touch modes if you want them and have a touchscreen computer, and keyboard and mouse friendly modes if you don’t want them and don’t have that touchscreen computer.

Microsoft has made it so you can mix and match, changing when you want to, so not even Surface owners have to use that touch interface if they don’t want to. It’s totally optional here, and that’s awesome, not like that force touch thing Windows 8 pushed out. Blah.

The touchscreen variant of Windows 10.

The touchscreen variant of Windows 10.

Quadrants are king

Multitasking is one of those things we all say we’re going to do, and then when it gets down to it, you find your desktop is a mess of windows of all sizes all competing for the front view.

Windows 7 tried to handle multitasking by allowing you to snap windows to each side, which was handy if you liked programs to sit side by side. Windows 8.1 updated this to include three programs in vertical slices, and that was neat, but what if you want to get more stuff done?

From next week, Windows will get more than just split screen action, with quadrants.

Stick a window in the top left corner. Bottom right corner. Top right corner. Bottom left corner.

Don’t want all the corners? No worries, because you can have the left bottom and top corners taken over, and make the window on the right take up both quadrants, like what you see below.

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And just to make it a little different, it may not even have resolution requirements, something that was present on Windows 8.1 when you wanted to bring more than two apps in and didn’t have more than a high definition resolution, which so many computers are still sold with (a grumble for a different day).

Now that’s what we call four way computing, and we can’t wait.

Seriously, you’ll see us writing, tweeting, editing photos, and responding to emails.

We can’t wait, because right now, it’s a productivity sink hole for the windows at the back of our cascading setup.

Xbox One gaming from any computer in your home

Sony has PlayStation 4 access from its Xperia phones and tablets, and that’s all well and good, but you have to be using a Sony Xperia device in your home to make use of this.

We’ve always been surprised that Microsoft hasn’t allowed its Windows Phones to do the same thing, but the company appears to have one thing better with Windows 10.

You see if you have Windows 10 installed on a computer in the same home where an Xbox One is present, you’ll be able to plug in a controller to the PC and stream the Xbox One straight to that computer.

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We’re not sure quite what the requirements are yet, but this might be ideal for parents, as you won’t need to let the kids hog the TV in the living room if they want to play, and they should just be able to get the gaming done on the Windows 10 laptop they use for school.

Now you just have to get them to do their homework. Good luck with that.

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Did we mention it’s (mostly) free ?

We probably mentioned this at the beginning of the article, and we’ve probably said it time and time again, but Windows 10 will actually be free for quite a few computer owners out there.

The terms are rather specific, with the free upgrade being for a “limited time” which translates to a year from launch (up to July 29, 2016), and it will only be for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 devices, but it won’t be devices with all of the versions of those operating systems.

That means Enterprise editions won’t get the free upgrade, and neither will the Windows RT versions made for Microsoft’s Surface and Surface RT computers, but Surface Pro models are totally fine and will get an update.

But it does mean that if you own a Windows computer purchased in the past six years, you very likely will be able to upgrade for free in the next year, and from what we hear, will even get free upgrades for whatever comes after Windows 10 for free after that, too.

That’s a little like what Apple does now, where you get the next version of Apple’s OS free provided the hardware is supported, which makes customers very happy.

It’s not hard to see Microsoft is taking a page out of Apple’s book with this one, and that’s fine by us.