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Windows 9 will kill Microsoft's awkward Charms menu, introduce virtual desktops

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Microsoft is stepping even further back from its Windows 8 vision in the next major version of Windows. Alongside a new Start Menu and windowed "Metro-style" apps, Microsoft is planning to remove its Charms bar, an overlay used to access search, share, the Start Screen, devices, and settings. While the Charms were useful for touch machines, their implementation with mouse and keyboard has always been awkward, requiring users to mouse over the corners of a screen to delicately initiate them.

The change was first reported by Windows enthusiast site Winbeta, and The Verge can confirm current builds of Windows Threshold, which is expected to be named Windows 9, do not include the Charms bar. ZDNet reports that "Metro-style" Windows 8 apps will get title bars that include some menus with the Charms components, and developers will need to add features to enable the share Charm. The change is likely related to the fact Microsoft is making its Windows 8 apps more flexible, running in floating separate windows on the desktop just like traditional apps. This should greatly improve the mouse and keyboard experience for these apps, something Microsoft has been gradually trying to fix in Windows 8 with various updates.

Virtual desktops finally coming with Windows 9

Microsoft is also adding a virtual desktops feature to Windows 9, an addition that will be popular amongst power users and enterprise customers. Apple’s OS X has long supported virtual desktops, but Windows users have always had to settle for third-party alternatives to enable similar functionality. Windows enthusiast site Neowin first reported the addition, noting that virtual desktops will allow Windows 9 users to create separate active desktops and switch between them from a button on the taskbar. Virtual desktops shows Microsoft is serious about pleasing existing Windows users with its renewed focus on the desktop.

A preview version of Windows 9 is likely to be made available later this year, allowing businesses and power users to test the new features ahead of an expected release in spring 2015. Microsoft is also readying a combined version of Windows Phone and Windows RT that will remove the desktop and focus on a touch-optimized app and experience. Microsoft officials occasionally refer to this version internally as "Windows mobile," a nod to the name that preceded Windows Phone.