Computer settings in Windows 8 were a hot mess: they were split between PC Settings and Control Panel, two completely separate ways to change most settings, but with enough differences that you had to use both. Windows 10 makes things better, but I still wouldn’t give the engineers a gold star.
The one big improvement I notice in Windows 10 Settings (the replacement for PC Settings) isn’t anything to do with the new app at all. It’s actually to do with ‘Metro’ apps vs desktop. In Windows 8, the PC Settings app, which handled most of the lighter, more tablet-friendly settings, was a Metro app.
That meant I found myself occasionally booted from the safety of the desktop into the confusing world of Metro UI, when all I ever wanted to do was add a Bluetooth keyboard. Windows 10 fixes this, because the new Settings app isn’t a full-screen ‘Metro’ app — it pops up in a window on the desktop, just like it should.
Sadly, that’s where I stopped being impressed by the changes. Sure, the fancy new Settings app has a shiny new face with snazzy icons, but the same problems still exist as with Windows 8 — there are two freaking places on this computer to control the same thing! Want to mess with your mouse settings? Well, you’ve either got ‘Mouse & touchpad’ in the Settings app, or ‘Mouse properties’ in Control Panel.
I would accept this as a passable (if terrible) fix if Settings and Control Panel offered identical settings with a different user interface, but they don’t. Settings only offers surface-deep options for most stuff, kicking you randomly into Control Panel when you want to mess with ‘advanced’ settings. And it’s not always a two-way street — Settings harbours some options, like the new Battery Saver mode, or offline maps, that just aren’t there in Control Panel.
I see what Microsoft was getting at: Settings is for touch-friendly devices, and Control Panel is for boring non-mobile 20th-century desktop users like me. But it doesn’t actually work that well at all: some settings that I definitely need for a desktop setup, like the multiple-monitor display scaling, only show up in Settings.
Even if that wasn’t the case, the (mostly excellent) Windows Search directs me to the Settings app by default, only giving me Control Panel results on the rare occasion I’m specific enough to get the right result. (And even then, Search is throwing up Settings results that don’t lead to anywhere.)
The incomplete Settings isn’t enough to ruin Windows 10 for me. Not even close. It’s a mild inconvenience, and one that doesn’t even slow down my day-to-day work by a measurable percentage. But jumping between two settings apps, never quite knowing where to find something (or where that bloody checkbox lives) manages to make something that should be simple and boring anything but.