The release of Windows 8 is now available to developers, IT professionals and businesses with volume licenses. The rest of us will have to wait until later this month when Windows 8 upgrades, new Windows 8 PCs and Windows RT devices will be released. If you’ve been following Windows 8 through the development process, and also if you have tried the Release Preview, Windows 8 will not be a surprise you. The changes between the Release Preview and RTM are not major, except possibly the removal of Aero Glass transparency from Desktop Windows and turning Do Not Track (DNT) on by default.
Are You New to Windows 8?
Windows 8 represents a fundamental shift in the way Windows works. Windows 8 is far more touch-screen based to use on tablets as well as traditional PCs.
Developers actually like Windows 8 now. It just took them a while to adjust to the changes and see them as improvements, but the subtle change is that your stuff is now almost all in the cloud if you fully use this product as intended. This means the entire experience is actually much more different than you realize. While we were all looking at the interface, Microsoft quietly snuck in a vastly better user experience.
We are still limited by the lack of good multi-touch, touch pads or inexpensive touch monitors currently in market, but both should hit shelves in a couple of weeks. Windows 8 will be an amazing experience on these computers and touch pads.
This is clearly not your old Windows. It is vastly different, and I expect a lot of us will struggle with the new differences. Once you figure a few things out, you will find that it is actually much more pleasurable to use than Windows 7 and different in ways you than you are familiar with for a Windows computer experience. Windows 8 is better than earlier versions at adapting to the world’s current technology.
Things to Keep In Mind
There are a few things that are very different in Windows 8, and once you learn how to utilize them, the experience is much better. Windows Key allows you to switch in and out of the different modes, so if you need to move off Metro quickly and to the legacy desktop, this is how you do it.
- The right upper and lower corners are where you get to the control menus. So instead of clicking on them, you can hover over the icons — or with a touch-screen, touch the icon and the menu slides in from the side.
- Windows key + X (hit both at once) and this will bring up items like such as the ability to get to a command prompt or the control panel. Finally, if you are in Metro and cannot find an app, type the name and it will appear – then you can pin it so you can find it again.
Once you get these few new features down, you will find moving around Windows 8 is actually much faster than earlier versions.
Mouse, Touchpad, Touch-screen or Kinect
Windows 8 will require that if you want to make things bigger or smaller or use gestures, you will have to use a pointing device that does gestures (ie. Kinect). However, if you want to use Office (even the new version) or any legacy app, you will likely prefer a mouse. Bringing up menus or executing commands in Office with your finger is questionable on a small screen with touch unless you have a stylus. Thus far a mouse remains a favorite approach even if you have a touch-screen.
The best blend right now is a multi-touch touchpad, albeit the best in the market is currently the Apple touchpad. Windows 8 does not have native drivers for it, so advanced features like multi-touch do not work.
The wild card is Kinect, and it could not only be a better solution than a touch-screen (because you can retrofit it to an existing display and you do not need to touch the screen) but also open up new ways to interact with your computer.
Kinect can “see” you and has high-resolution cameras, so it should also be able to authenticate you. This opens up a three-dimensional gesture mode, and since the vision is stereoscopic. This technology might even allow for a 3D video conferencing mode in the future.
Back-End Services and Cloud Sync
Windows 8 build remembers the user through Microsoft’s Web services. Once logged in, the user’s wallpaper and preferences will already be there. For example, the services the user likes can be selected, and much of what it typically takes users hours to do restoring a personalized experience has the work done for them. This is what made the build incredibly fast, and it largely worked because they had already been using a Windows 8 device.
This means that if you are on an older version of Windows now, you may have to do a lot of this using the normal migration tools once more — but going forward, getting your personalized experience will simply mean just logging in.
Once you couple this with Office 365, you will likely find that you will never again worry about the pain of changing PCs.
Wrapping Up: Screen Size and Office 13
The Windows 8 is all about getting the Windows experience onto an iPad-like screen, but 10 inches for an application like Office is not a great experience.
The Windows 8 platform does all the iPad-like media things within 10 inches just fine, but creating, editing and other productivity tasks require more real estate. It is likely 10 inches will seem too small during these kinds of tasks. Notebooks have never sold well under 12 inches, with 13.3 inches being the current sweet spot between size and portability.
Microsoft as usual, has decoupled Office from the OS, and Office 13 as a result was not designed around the new interface. This means it is much more similar to the Office version you are using, and you may like it better as a result. The usability improvements are pretty impressive, and you will likely find, that it is much faster.
So developers actually like Windows 8 now. It just took them a while to get over the changes and make them seem like improvements. However, the subtle change is that your stuff is now mostly in the cloud and if you fully use this product as intended the entire experience is actually much more different than you realize.