Re: Microsoft middle(nuisance)ware.
"I guess it depends what you're actually doing all day"
This is almost certainly true. I use Windows because I develop Windows applications. I don't use Windows on my personal machines, though, so my entire Windows experience is through the lens of a developer doing his job.
"If anything, Windows 10 is slightly nicer to use"
This is clearly a matter of personal taste, but I find Windows 10 less pleasant to use.
"being able to layout the applications I use the most (that aren't pinned to the task bar) the way I want in the start menu"
The start menu is one of my major gripes about Windows 10. Fortunately, that's easy to fix by using a replacement start menu. You and I clearly use the start menu differently, though, as I don't think I've ever reorganized the recently used list.
"the applications list is infinitely better than the All Programs menu from earlier incarnations of Windows."
I am of the exact opposite opinion!