New Windows 8!
2012 sees a milestone and a brave stride from Redmond’s Microsoft. It is the year of Windows 8, a completely redesigned operating system (OS); Windows 8, Metro interface, Live tiles and the birth of its first personal computer hardware; Microsoft Surface tablet.
With Windows 8 Microsoft has almost said byebye to the desktop as we know it and has completely said byebye to the Start button, one of windows features that stood supreme for almost 30 years. In place of Start button is now metro interface and the traditional desktop has been shelved to a much insignificant role of just another tile.
Microsoft has designed Windows 8 to run in all PC hardware stretching from smartphones to desktop computers. Windows based phones run Windows Phone OS, the new Microsoft Surface tablet run Windows RT (runtime) or Windows 8 Pro and the remainder of the PCs run full versions of Windows 8 operating systems.
The decision to run Windows 8 and its metro interface in all its products are what Apple’s Tim Cook said was like converging toasters and refrigerators.
All being said however, the new operating system is definitely a brave decision and definite game changer from Microsoft. It may seem a little out of line for the time being, but everything is always out of line and strange when first unveiled. But users normally catch up and get used to new ideas. It is like getting used to a new baby. It only gets better with time.
Windows 8 Features
Below is a look at popular Windows 8 features that are going to influence computing from 2013 and onwards.
1 Metro Interface (Start button)
Perhaps the most controversial and brave decision Microsoft took was to shelve the Start button. The button has been part of Windows for as long as it existed, until windows 7. In Windows 8 it is absent and you are presented with a blank space where it once stood.
The reason why the Start button is missing is very simple: Metro interface. You can safely say the Start button is now the tiles. As soon as your computer logs on the metro based tiles are the first things that show. All your programs are tiled in one long page that scrolls horizontally. Scrolling of pages can be done via touch (if you own a touch screen), scroll button on the mouse, or by tapping the left or right keys on the keyboard.
Unlike previously where you had to weave through the Start button, then Programs and eventually to the desired program file, Metro interface gives you all your program files in one page as tiles.
The good point here is that you can move and re-position the live tiles as you wish and even remove the ones you do not want. Ultimately, the metro interface look of your computer will be what you wish.
Until Microsoft and programmers provide enhanced tile experience for locally installed apps, users will be stuck with rather unsightly assembly of tiles as seen in the image below.
It is also worth noting that software installed via Windows 8 App Store have been designed for the interface, an indication that all future software including Office suite will preferably be installed via Windows 8 Store portal.
2 Live Tiles
With Windows 8, Microsoft decided to shelve aside absolute focus on traditional Windows desktop, a feature that users had become accustomed to since Windows 95. The new interface code named Metro interface, is based on live tiles an idea that was adopted from Windows Phone.
Metro interface has its advantages and of course disadvantages, but I should say the advantages quite outweigh the disadvantages.
For starters, the ease with which a user can access program files or apps is un-rivaled. Upon starting the computer everything faces you in form of tiles and it is up to you to tap or click.
Live tiles are much more like apps that are synonymous with other interfaces like the iPhone. The difference is that tiles in Windows 8 are a little bigger and are live!
What this means is that you have the choice to link every tile with an online service and begin receiving information as they come straight from the internet.
- For example the live Mail tile email client can be configured to receive mails from all your mail services as they come in. You can set to receive live mail from Gmail, Hotmail, Exchangeetc.
- The People tile can be configured to show details and information from all your friends and business partners from Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Linked In and Live account.
- The Messaging tile can be configured to receive messages and chats as they come in. New messages will pop up on top of any app that you are working on and prompts you to switch to the messaging tile in order to chat.
- The Weather tile can also be configured to receive and update live weather information of your location as they come in.
The above examples are just some of the many live configurations that can be achieved courtesy of Metro interface.
3 Simplified search
I must admit this is one very important feature that comes embedded in Windows 8. Search as we have always known it has been had to get because it is hidden somewhere in start menu or Explorer, and it was not giving the user the desired experience in what really was supposed to be just search. The new search is as simple as ABC.
For example, upon login into the metro interface, the user is faced with live tiles which is probably intimidating for some. Hope the keyboard is not intimidating because everyone has used it since time immemorial.
At login, simply type the name of any application that is already installed in the computer. No need to set anything like the prompt! You don’t need to prepare where you are to type, because Windows already knows that you are typing. Just type and then press the Enter key.
For example typing NOTEPAD or MICRSOFT WORD followed by the Return key or Enter key, will open Notepad or Microsoft Word.
4 Snap Multitasking
Snap multi-tasking is a feature that allows you to divide your desktop into two and therefore run two different tile apps almost simultaneously. As shown in the inset image, an MS Word file is running on the left pane and the right pane shows headline snippets from Bing website.
Only one task can however run and in the illustrated example the task from the right pane can be activated by simply tapping or clicking on any of its headline. The tapped article will then expand to a larger pane on the right.
To activate Snap Multitasking, simply move the cursor to the top of your active tile until the cursor changes to the shape of a palm as shown in the inset image. You can then drag the app to the left or right. Follow this by opening another tile from the Start of Metro interface page. You should now be having two apps running side by side.
Charms is a new and crucial feature of Windows 8. It is like the overall toolbar and access point to your system. It is from within Charms bars that you can access files, control panel, users, devices and even files. (Of course this can also be done via the traditional desktop, in the Computer icon).
Upon activation Charms bars protrude from different parts of the screen. In the illustration, Charms protrudes from below to show time and date, and on the right to show Settings, Devices, Start, Share and Search options.
Charms can also be activated by pressing the Win key + C on the keyboard
6 Windows 8 App Store
In order to make Windows 8 exciting and popular, Microsoft unveiled Store and also provided apt environment for developers that wanted to design and upload software. Microsoft availed Microsoft Visual Studio Express 2012 RC and other tools free of charge to developers to allow them design as many apps either for free and for money on Windows 8 App Store.
This super charged developers by promising them 7 day trial of apps before committing to payments. Microsoft also promises developers that it will take 30% of profit from an app sold and will cut the figure down to 25% once the app sells over 25,000 times.
As of 26th July 2012, Windows 8 Store had received a total of about 400 apps. Not a very good figure but a promising one none-the-less.
7 Windows to Go and Live Syncing
Windows To Go and Live Syncing are new Windows 8 features that let you carry your operating system and files wherever you go.
Windows To Go, allows you save your operating system, apps, live tiles configuration and files, in your USB stick. You can then use the stick to boot into another computer running Windows 8 and should be able to access your files and continue working on them as if you were in your home personal computer.
Live Syncing configures your system and Live ID or Hotmail account. If you are interested in optimizing and having all your apps synced across all platforms, simply configure to access your computer using your Live ID or Hotmail. You will then have the same information wherever and in whatever computer you login using the same account.
You technically don’t have to update anything. Microsoft does it for you.
Other Windows 8 Features
Windows 8 has many goodies that cannot all be expounded here. Other pertinent ones that have not been looked at include:
- Improved boot time.
- Use of multiple monitors.
- Improved personalization.