Windows 8 represents the biggest change to happen to Windows since 2007’s Vista. Microsoft is betting big on Windows 8 – instead of developing two distinct operating systems for mobile and desktop platforms based on the same code base like Apple, Windows 8 is a single integrated OS which promises to run across a range of hardware, from tablets to laptops to desktops.
A New Start
Users booting up to Windows 8 for the first time will be greeted by the new Start screen. Inspired by the Metro UI and the live tiles on Windows Phone 7, the tiles on Windows 8’s Start screen can display a wealth of information and updates. Websites, photo albums, contacts, and apps can also be pinned to the Star screen so you can launch them easily.
Metro was designed for touch, and Windows 8’s Start screen should prove more conducive to touch than the traditional Windows desktop. That doesn’t mean the desktop is gone however, it’s just lying underneath the Start screen – click on the Desktop tile to get to it.
No More Start Button
Perhaps the most controversial change to Windows 8 is the removal of the familiar Start button on the desktop. It’s no longer on the bottom left where it’s always been since Windows 95. Instead of the Start menu, windows 8 encourages you to use the new Start screen as your app launcher.
Placing your cursor over the space now opens up an icon for the Start screen, as well as a task switcher which will display your most recently opened apps. Moving your cursor over to the top right of the screen ill bring up what Microsoft is calling a Charms bar, you’ll find a Start icon there but it doesn’t work the way it’s done in the previous Windows versions; clicking it will simply take you back to the new Start screen.
Other icons one the Charms bar include Settings, Search, Share and Devices to help you navigate around your device. Just like you’d expect, the Share charm helps you to share content easily if you’ve signed into your online services.
Gestures & A Touch Keyboard
Gestures have been overhauled in Windows 8 to prepare four touch-screen use. Built into the next version of Windows is a touch keyboard, for when Windows 8 is installed onto a touch-screen device.
Windows 8 will come with the Windows Store, which allows developers to publish and sell their Metro-style apps on Windows 8 devices. Before apps are allowed into the App Store, they’re screened and checked for viruses by Microsoft. Apps you’ve bought on a single IS can be installed on up to five PCs.
The Windows Store can also be used to promote traditional desktop apps, but the store will only provide links to the apps on developers’ websites.
Explorer With Ribbons
Similar to Office 2010, the new Windows Explorer will come with the Ribbon interface, which will display a list of relevant commands depending on the file selection. Users who prefer a less cluttered screen can choose to hide the Ribbon interface. The ‘up’ button, which was removed from Windows Vista, makes its way back. The copying and moving window sees an overhaul, with controls for pausing transfers and managing file naming conflicts.
Connected To Your Windows ID
Sign in with your Windows Live ID and your Windows 8 device will be connected to the cloud services you use, like Hotmail, Messenger and SkyDrive. You can also sign into other services, like Facebook, Twitter, and more, to see and post updates right from inside the OS. If your personalize your settings on one Windows 8 device will port those settings over automatically.
Just like on Windows Phone 7, the People app integrates your contacts with their updates and all the different ways to contact them all in one place. Microsoft SkyDrive is a free file hosting service which gives you 25GB of free personal storage. With Windows 8 and SkyDrive, you can save your documents to the cloud, read to be accessed on another device just by signing in.
Snapping an app lets you slide an app to the lift-side of the screen, making it act like a sidebar. This works well for multi-tasking on a single screen, for example you can have the Mail app open on the right screen while you scroll through your music on the left.
Internet Explorer 10
Internet Explorer has been re-imagined for touch on Windows 8. There is much less chrome, so websites run almost full screen, and the Metro version of IE 10 moves the address bar down to the bottom of the screen, closer to where your thumbs are on a tablet – another radical change in Windows 8.
Refresh & Restart
Windows 8 makes it easy to re-install Windows without having to get your installation dish. The Refresh recover option keeps all settings, files and apps, while returning all Windows files to their original state. The Reset recovery option deletes all files and re-installs Windows, but without the need to re-agree to a license agreement.