A New Support Plan for the Windows 10 Field Guide

In November 2015, we published the initial release of the Windows 10 Field Guide, an ebook reference and guide to Microsoft’s flagship desktop platform. Since then, this book has been updated hundreds of times, often to address new features in the system and its bundled apps, and we have adjusted the content accordingly.

I’m somewhat amused to go back and read the original plans for the book, in which I initially agreed to update it through at least Windows 10 version 1809. Mostly because I continued updating the book, for free, for two more years past that, or for a total of five years. Those updates ranged from continuous to sporadic, depending on the year and the depth of the changes in each Windows 10 version. But I hope that most readers would agree that the book is, if anything, a good value.

I think it is. I also think it’s a good book. In doing a thorough reevaluation of the work, and not for the first time, I’m struck by how useful much of it feels. I know, I wrote it. But in returning to chapters that I’ve not read in a year or more, I occasionally stumble over a bit that I feel is particularly well-done. It’s something that deserves to continue, to evolve as Windows 10 evolves.

The problem, of course, is that continually updating the existing book for free isn’t worth the effort. Though we’ve done well overall, revenues for the Windows 10 Field Guide now range somewhere between non-existent and barely noticeable, and when you consider that whatever money we made was spread over 5 years, it doesn’t amount to much, especially last year. There’s certainly a labor of love aspect to this, but it also needs to make sense financially.

I considered many ways to move the book forward, but what we arrived at is simple and logical enough: Rather than continually update the same book over and over again, I will create a new version, or edition, or whatever, of the book for each Windows 10 version. So the current book can be thought of as the Windows 10 Field Guide for Version 20H2. The next one will be for version 21H1, if there is one, or for version 21H2, and it will be a new book that must be purchased separately.

This model is like that used by travel writers. If you consider a book like Rick Steves’ Paris, you may know that there is a new book for each year, so Rick Steves’ Paris 2020, Rick Steves’ Paris 2021, and so on. Each book is not completely new, but is rather based on the previous edition/version, but is completely up-to-date.

Going forward, the Windows 10 Field Guide(s) will follow this model, but with one major difference: As before, each will be updated as needed to address any changes that occur to that version of Windows 10. I see this as one major release to address the system changes and then mostly smaller subsequent updates for app updates and typos and other fixes.

At just $9.99, the book is inexpensive enough, I think, to justify what you might think of as an annual fee, but I’m also not naïve enough to expect most people to just buy it again every year. But hopefully, they will do so when needed, perhaps because of buying a new PC or because some future version of Windows 10 is a big enough change to warrant the purchase. We’ll see, but what I do know is that basically no one is “rebuying” the book now because anyone who bought it in 2015 is still getting free updates today.

That said, I’m not done yet with the current edition/version. In fact, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the past two or three weeks working on the book almost every day to get it completely updated, and thus “completed,” a term I’ve not considered for this book in the past. Existing customers will see that work in the form of updated versions of every chapter soon. Most will be subtle updates, of course. But there are a few big areas of change and additional content, like the Edge chapter while some previously planned updates are being pushed back. For example, I’ll be adding a nearly completed additional new chapter, called Command Lines, to the next edition/version of the book.

Related to this, one of the issues I experienced over the past year—and, yes, I think some of the problem here is just pandemic stress-related—is that updating the book and pursuing new programming projects have gotten in the way of each other. Writing (or even just updating) a book and learning new programming languages, frameworks, and capabilities are both difficult tasks that require a lot of attention and energy. And what I’ve finally figured out is that I just can’t do both well at the same time.

This new Windows 10 Field Guide schedule will help with this: During the time in which a new Windows 10 version is being completed and then released, I will only work on the book. During the off times, I will turn my attention to software development projects and, hopefully, writing about them as I’ve done previously with my various versions of .NETpad.

With regards to the book, however, there are a few more open items.

I mentioned previously the notion of hosting a web-based version of the book, and that is something I’d still like to do if it can make sense. How/where to do that is still up in the air, but one obvious possibility is to make it available on Thurrott.com, most likely as a feature for Premium members. I haven’t discussed this with anyone at work yet, but I will do so.

Rafael and I also discussed the possibility of creating a Windows 10X Field Guide, which would be a smaller and (even) less expensive book if it happens. Scanning over the chapter files for the current book, I can see that many of them could be converted for 10X relatively easily, and that the amount of new content would be manageable. Whether it makes sense to write a Windows 10X book at all is, of course, open to debate. We’re still doing that, debating, but it’s a possibility.

Ultimately, what all of this reflects is how important Windows is to me, and how central this product is to my professional life and career. I recognize that mobile and web computing have surpassed the desktop in popularity and usage, but as this past pandemic year has driven home, Windows and the PC are still very important and will be for the foreseeable future. And I see no good reason not to ride out this wave, given my interests and preferences. This is an area in which I feel l can still contribute in a positive and meaningful way. And so I’ll keep trying to do so.

I hope this all makes sense.