Image 1 of 20
Desktop - September 2014
This is the earliest Windows 10 desktop to be shown to the public, and although there are similarities to how the OS looks today, there are also a lot of differences.
At this point there was no built-in Cortana, with the virtual assistant’s place on the Taskbar occupied by a system search box instead.
There are some striking design differences, with a default color scheme of blue instead of black, a bigger Start menu icon, subtly differ File Explorer icon, icons that don’t blend in with the Taskbar and no visible icon for the Action Center. Even the cylindrical Recycle Bin would get a square replacement over time.
Desktop - May 2015
Just over half a year later, and a couple of months before Windows 10’s general release in July 2015, this was how the Windows 10 desktop looked.
Several differences are evident – Cortana is now on the Taskbar requesting that you u2018Ask me anything’, there is a new look for Taskbar and Start menu icons and the Action Center is present in the bottom right-hand corner.
Desktop - June 2016
This is the Windows 10 desktop, from a recent test build of the OS available under the Windows Insider program.
It is likely close to the desktop that general users of Windows 10 will see after downloading the Windows 10 Anniversary Update on August 2nd.
You can see the Action Center icon has moved to the far right corner and displays the number of unread notifications.
Desktop - A closer look
Here you can see the changes made to Desktop’s Taskbar, with icons for applications now displaying the number of unread notifications for those apps. Microsoft refers to these notification counters as badges.
Start menu - September 2014
The default Start menu for the first release of Windows 10 was bolder and brighter than today but shows signs of being an early release.
Some of the placeholder icons look simplistic and jar against their background.
The biggest difference to today’s Start menu is the left hand column, which offers labelled icons linking to the likes of Documents and Pictures. There are also shades of Windows 7’s Start menu in the links to most recently used apps being shown at the bottom of the column.
There also appears to be less dynamically updating information showing on the Live Tiles, for example details of upcoming appointments on the Calendar tile, and overall the tile menu looks a little less busy than it is by default today.
Start menu - July 2015
By the time of Windows 10’s general release the Start menu has been tidied up.
Icons appear as simpler white outlines and direct links to Documents and similar folders have disappeared.
There’s a good deal more clarity, with the most used apps now labelled appropriately and the Live Tiles grouped under headings.
A less welcome addition were the adverts for Windows Store apps, that snuck into the menu under the Suggested heading, although these can be disabled.
Start menu - June 2016
The Start menu has undergone some notable changes over the past year, as will be evident when the Windows 10 Anniversary Update hits on August 2nd.
The ‘All Apps’ list is now visible by default on the left-hand side of the menu, with this list topped by the user’s ‘Most used’ and ‘Recently added’ apps.
The menu’s Power, Settings and User Account links have been squeezed into a rail on the far left of the menu, and by default appear as icons, rather than an icon and a label.
You can also see the Start menu has double the number of promoted apps — tiles that link to the Windows Store or to apps that have been automatically installed on your PC by Microsoft.
Cortana - January 2015
This first glimpse of Cortana early last year gave a decent indication of Microsoft’s plans for the virtual assistant.
The placeholder icons look overly large and the presentation rushed, but the round-up of personalised weather, news and upcoming appointments is the same as is found today.
Cortana’s signature circle graphic, which alters its appearances to reflect different emotions, is also present, although not set against a dark background.
The placeholder text in Cortana’s search box is also less conversational than it is today.
Cortana - July 2015
By the launch of Windows 10, Cortana’s interface had been tidied up, with topics separated by dividers and each having their own expandable menus, cleaner looking icons and a clearer distinction between news and personalised information.
Cortana - June 2016
While Cortana has been made a bit smarter since Windows 10’s launch, the design has stayed broadly the same, save for Cortana’s blue circle icon defaulting to sit on a black rather than grey background, and changes to the icons on the side rail.
Action Center - January 2015
The Windows 10 Action Center — which gathers up notification messages from apps — had a very basic appearance early in 2015, with message tiles consisting of a simple icon and text.
Even text wrapping to allow the whole message to be viewed isn’t present.
Action Center - April 2016
The Action Center looks a lot more attractive and interactive today, with large images, UI elements like buttons and drop-down menus, and formatted text broken into headings and body text.
App menus - January 2015
Microsoft has made a lot of tweaks to the look of Windows 10’s official apps, as can be seen in the design changes made to the Maps app.
In this earlier version, options are tucked away in a left-hand rail, showing as a list of icons whose labels can be viewed by clicking the u2018hamburger’ at the top.
App menus - June 2016
The UI for the Maps app underwent significant alterations, with Microsoft scrapping the hamburger and, when the window is expanded, placing the icons at the top of screen and separating icons for core features like u2018Search’ and u2018Directions’ away from those for less frequently used options.
Some options, such as Settings, are no longer visible by default and are only shown if the user clicks the ellipsis button in the top righthand corner.
Icon design - May 2015
During the just under one year of public testing that took place before the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft experimented many different looks for icons.
This collage captures the changes it made, from top to bottom it shows the icons from earlier versions of Windows, the flatter icons from test versions of Windows 10 made available in 2014 and the icons at launch in 2015.
At the time, Microsoft said it felt it had settled on icons that were u201cmode modern and lightweightu201d, and offered more consistency between desktop and mobile apps. The firm said they tried out thousands of designs for icons before settling on a look.
Icon design - June 2016
As you can see, Microsoft has continued to tinker with the look of icons since Windows 10 launched, making subtle changes such as changing the orientation of the folders.
Microsoft Edge - May 2015
While most of the changes to Microsoft’s Edge browser have related to new features, the interface has undergone some subtle tweaks in the past year.
Microsoft Edge - June 2016
As well as having new icons for sharing and annotating content, the latest version of Edge also includes a revamped Favorites sidebar, as well as an icon for pinning the bar in place.
Settings - January 2015
The early Settings app looks broadly the same as it does today, although the heading and search box have been moved since.
Settings - June 2016
A slightly tidier appearance for the Settings app, with a centered search box and title. The sub-menus have seen greater change, with more Windows configuration options moved from Control Panel into Settings.