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Windows gr8, or Windows hate?

Fri, Aug 10, 2012

Windows 8 preview

Earlier this month Microsoft announced that their new operating system, Windows 8, would be released on October 26th. The new Windows has been in development for about two years and this means you should expect good things. The new OS is going to be a complete overhaul of Windows and is supposed to be one of the biggest reconstructions of Windows since 95 was released way back when.

If you haven’t been keeping up to speed with developments, allow us to fill you in. Windows 8 focuses on user experience. Unlike 7, Vista, and XP, this won’t be yet another legacy step from Microsoft. By which we mean you’re not just going to get slightly different colour gradients and transparency with a very similar looking system.

It’s safe to say are large portion of the population is now well adjusted to touchscreens. We use them on our phones and it’s hard to catch a train these days without seeing someone on a tablet. All-in-ones are slowly but surely invading the homes of the tech savvy. Therefore Microsoft have optimised Windows 8 for these devices, and also released their own tablet, the Microsoft Surface, on (you guessed it) October 26th.

Desktop preview

Is Microsoft thinking different?

The main thing that seems to be so revolutionary nobody can get past it, is the lack of a start button. Well, it’s not gone entirely, the point is that you touch (or click) in the bottom left hand of the screen to leave whatever app you have open and go back to the start screen.

There is also a more traditional Microsoft desktop which you access by clicking the desktop tile (the one with the fish on it). This opens a desktop similar to Windows as we know it. It’s far more minimalistic than Windows 7, they’ve put in a few extras to Explorer, like the ‘file above button’, which we’re sure many people will be happy to see again. This is a quick option for scrolling up to the next file, much easier than moving your cursor on to a tiny icon. Then again if you’ve got a touch screen you probably won’t notice that it’s there.

Data transfer has also been improved. Windows 8 systems will support USB 3.0 natively, and just because transfer will be that much quicker, Microsoft have improved the dialogue boxes showing you extra details and giving you the capacity to start and pause transfers if you have more than one going at a time.

One of the main new features of Windows 8 is that your work can now be saved to the cloud. This means that at the click of a button you’ll be able to save your work to the cloud and then start it up again at a different computer right where you left off, or perhaps switch seamlessly from laptop or desktop to tablet.

start screen

Windows 8 perfect for these touching times

The start menu is mainly designed for touch devices, particularly tablets. The scrolling system really does work fine; the preview has a snag when it comes to apps that use scroll bars. When you use the mouse wheel, the OS can’t tell the difference of whether or not you want the entire app to scroll sideways or just the single scroll bar. Instead, it does both at once. Hopefully Microsoft will have picked up on this during testing.

The preview of Windows 8 is definitely more fun on touchscreen computers, but it does work just as well on desktops. The smart menu is an excellent dashboard: When you login to a computer, it gives you all your social media and email updates and you can personalise which apps you want to be present, like weather for instance. It’s very simple to reorganise and set up sections for work, specific activities and cluster contact details for groups of friends There’s much more to play around with and we’re certain that given the effort, you can set up a start page that will give you quick access to all the features that you need.

Since the Developer Preview of Windows 8 has been available since early 2012 you can expect there to be a fair few decent apps available upon release day. The Windows store will be hope from the 15th August so if you really want to, you’ll be able to check out a few apps before you get the new operating system.

There will be a number of free apps and the pay-for ones will be released a little later. A try before you buy feature is available which we assume will mean you can try Lite versions of the apps. It’s incredibly easy to install and remove these apps. Microsoft has finally seen the light, you can now uninstall apps from the start screen with a right click, no more ‘add/remove program’ which was infinitely irritating on latter versions of Windows.

A business class operating system?

Business Windows 8

For businesses it won’t, in our opinion, be worth updating the operating system straight away. It’s common practice for companies to wait a few years in case there are bugs and such that need to be worked out. But overall the metro design won’t really lend itself to a business environment particularly well. You’ll mostly switch to the desktop and open up your spread sheets, or whatever else tickles your fancy – in which case you may as well stick with Windows 7 or XP for that matter.

Don’t get us wrong, this is definitely one of Microsoft’s more exciting updates in the past decade, but it is targeted towards tablet use and home consumers. Whenever companies with a large audience release an update, it is always met with some backlash. There’s often a lot of hatred for the new, but we have certainly seen more positive than negative in Windows 8.

Remember though, it’s never a good idea to upgrade just for the sake of it. It certainly won’t come cheap and if you’re currently running Windows 7, it only really has the new app screen to tempt, (as well as an undoubtedly better functionality). Also if you are going to run it on a laptop then you’ll be able to save your battery life considerably.

If you plan to buy a new computer, particularly an all-in-one or new tablet, then we unreservedly recommend that you wait for Windows 8 to come out. Microsoft operating systems tend to outperform their Apple counterparts in terms of sales and it cannot be denied that Microsoft have really made this one a far more enjoyable experience for their users.

Written by

Karim is a veteran writer at PC site, you'll be able to find him at product launches in London where he finds the latest and machines for review, published here...

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