Windows 8: The Good, The (Mostly) Bad, and the (Somewhat) Ugly

Windows 8: The Good, The (Mostly) Bad, and the (Somewhat) Ugly

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Microsoft has finally given birth to it latest operating system Windows 8. It has gone through a very large make over since it much older brother Windows 95 looked like. What Microsoft focused a lot on was the visual appearance to the users attempting to open their product into the market of touch. the interface is built with tiles which makes touching then when using a touchscreen a lot easier but they also remembered to allow for mouse and keyboard input to which is a little hard then it was in previous versions of Windows as Microsoft was aiming more to hit areas like tablets and more familiar computer systems. Microsoft first called this look Metro when it was in development but now they have just called it Windows 8. So that we could product this review we installed Windows 8 on a standard desktop system.

Windows 8 Start screen

Where is Start menu?

The first question that we had to ask after installing Windows 8 was where do we find the start menu. as we could see the start menu has been replaced with what is called a start screen. it looks just like the picture above shows. Anyone that has used or owns a Windows Phone 7 will feel right at home with Windows 8 as just like the phone it works on the tile system only difference is that these tiles are larger to work better with larger devices touchscreen PC and Tablets. they call them Live Tiles which are used to replace icons which were used in ever version of Windows since the release of Windows 1.0 to Windows 7 but Microsoft thought it was time for a change. These Live Tiles can be used so you can pick and choose the tiles in which you want to see on the Start Screen by pinning them there. If you want to access any of the other tiles you have to click on the all apps button which will show you everything you have installed.

Other than opening the program associated with the tile it also so continuous updates which shows information relevant to the program. A few examples of the type of updates the Live Tiles will do could be something like the calendar Live Tile which will show the next appointment that is due so you are aware of it without looking at the actual calendar, or it could be the Mail tile which will show information like the amount of unread emails you have in you inbox awaiting for you to read so it attracts you attention. This is where the name Live Tiles come from due to the live updates.

Where in most cases touch o/s work on vertical scrolling Windows 8 works on a horizontal scrolling instead. On a normal touch device like tablet you would swipe the screen so that you could scroll, but Microsoft had to make sure that the o/s was compatible with older input devices like a mouse and keyboard. With these form of hardware you can use the mouse wheel, scroll bar or even the arrow keys to before the same task of scrolling.

where normally in previous versions all task done on start menu they are done from the start screen from tasks like accessing settings to quickly searching for programs and files. Microsoft has used a simplified and colourful interface which is startlingly different if you are used to using windows 7. The Start Screen is not just the replacement for the Start menu but also it was a whole new way of using any Windows computer. Any of the software that is made to be compatible with Windows 8 like Internet Explorer or an email client software has a tendency to take up the whole screen make it really annoying as it shows none of the menus and toolbars that you would normally be familiar with on the version made for Windows 8. To access the extra buttons and controls you need either swipe down from top to bottom of the screen in the event you are using a touchscreen device. In the event you haven’t got a touchscreen device then you just need to right click with the mouse button on the program. Whereas previously you went to shop brought disc or downloaded the installation files so you can install programs now in Windows 8 Microsoft changed it the make you get hold of all programs from the Microsoft Windows app store.

Other tasks like system wide options like going back to the Start Screen there is another tools that is new called Charms menu. The way to make this appear is that you swipe from the right hand side on the touchscreen or you hover the mouse in the top right side of the screen. In metro there is no taskbar so if you want to see what programs you have got open you need to use a fiddly touchscreen gesture on the left hand edge of the screen or just hover the mouse there. One of the other changes is the fact that the clock is no longer on show in Metro apps unless you have first activated the Charms menu.

Hair Ripping Interface

Even though Windows 8 is supposed to feel smoother and more responsive then Windows 7 which it does the new way of working Windows 8 with the Start screen and its apps feels very strange with the use of a traditional input like keyboard and mouse after time you do get used to using the system like this but it still a pain. The pre-installed apps are very basic and very stripped down and when using them in full screen on a high resolution screen it fails to take advantage of this.

In Windows 8 you still are able to have two programs running side by side but the disadvantage is that the second program has the problem that is will only run in a narrow strip on either side of the screen. The only time we saw that this worked best was when you had apps that use lists of information such as Twitter feeds or email programs and like you can guess to get the two apps to run at same time are very fiddly to do in both touchscreen gestures and mouse usage.

Traditional Desktop

Traditional Desktop

Surprisingly the traditional desktop and familiar apps can be gotten to still on Windows 8 by clicking the desktop icon and the old-style interface will return. Once you have installed Windows 8 you may feel dedicated to the new Start Screen and metro apps you still need the old desktop to undertake simple and essential task like accessing USB memory keys or to install drivers for hardware like printers or other peripherals or maybe if you want to use programs that are not Metro programs. Due to the fact you have to keep flicking between the two back and forth all the time it begins to feel disjointed and can start to become confusing especially for a novice. This is very true when you are trying to access files from within programs as Metro apps have an alternative way of opening and saving files to how traditional programs do.

Sadly though even though you go back to the traditional desktop you still don’t have a start menu. If you press the start key or windows key is just takes you back to the start screen and hovering over the start button and a thumbnail appears of the Start Screen when you click it opens up.

Some of the changes that can be made to the traditional interfaces are things like being able to add tabbed office style ribbon toolbars to windows explorer and even though this can look intimidating it can make a big difference on how easy it is to find various options.

Split vision

for those users that have computer setup with multiple monitors you will be pleased to see that a few new features have come to Windows 8 which makes is possible for you to have the Start Screen on of the displays and then the traditions desktop on the other. another feature is the fact that different monitors can have a different taskbar. So a monitor could have a taskbar that just shows all the open programs icons on that 1 display.

A very useful feature that Microsoft needs to take further is the integrating of Microsoft cloud services. when you first setup Windows 8 you are encouraged to sign in with a Microsoft account as you install it. The reason for this is to allow you to synchronize your settings but not apps and files on HDD as between multiple Windows 8 computers any files that are stored on Microsoft SkyDrive storage services will be accessible from any of the Windows 8 systems you have automatically.

Different Versions of Windows 8

Like all of the Operating Systems Microsoft release they come in several versions the first is the standard versions which they are just calling Windows 8 and is well suited for home users and will only cost £25 to download but the media centre doesn’t come as standard anymore which you could use to record TV as it is now seen as an ad on. Some of the other versions are the Pro and Enterprise versions which are perfect for medium and large business. They come with specialist features aimed at those type of users. The final version is the specialist version called Windows RT. It is only available preinstalled on a tablet that uses power efficient ARM processors rather than traditional Intel or AMD chips. Windows RT is identical to Windows 8 but can’t run existing programs on it.

Tipping Point

When Windows 8 was released it was a massive gamble for Microsoft to take. The reason for this is due to the fact that they changed an interface that millions of users have become so familiar with over the last 20 years or so which meant that is alienated a lot of it custom. As there has been an increase shift of sales from Laptops to Tablet device it meant that Microsoft had to think of a big way of making Windows work with touchscreens which every operating system before Windows 8 couldn’t do. We will have to see if it can do better than Apple or Android on the type of devices it is place on but it will depend on two things. one of them being the quality on the apps that are made for it and how fast the users can become familiar with Windows 8 Interface.

Overall a desktop or laptop without touch and Windows 8 interface is confusing at first to control and some of the important tasks are very fiddly to do. which makes it a shame really as there is some features that look interesting in Windows 8 it just getting ready and used to them for the change to work properly. We must say for now if you got a desktop or laptop without touch your better to stick or upgrade to Windows 7 instead of moving onto Window 8.

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