Windows 8 Review: Everything you ought to know before upgrading
Co-author: Srivatsan Raghunath
After months of beta testing and RTM releases, the next Windows operating system was released a fortnight ago. Almost every P2P website is flooded with the leaked versions of the OS. Most of you must be itching to try it out before anyone else but at the same time having some concerns – be it software compatibility or getting around the new interface, Gadgetronica brings you a comprehensive review of Windows 8, helping you in every way to make an informed decision regarding the transition to the new OS. So let’s get started right away.
Metro User Interface
Windows 8 gathered massive public attention when Microsoft announced the Metro UI. The thing that separates Windows 8 (of course apart from the name) from other Windows operating systems is the Metro user interface. Metro which was already implemented in Windows Phone makes a foray into desktop OS with Windows 8. For those of you who haven’t seen the awesomeness of the Metro UI yet; it is an interface which uses flashy and colorful tiles in place of the usual icons and lists that we’re so used to in previous versions of Windows.
Now, we’ll go over the various aspects of the Metro UI
The Start Menu: The noticeable change is obviously the obviation of the Start button from the task bar. The start menu is summoned by either pressing the Windows Button or by clicking the bottom left corner of the screen. Given below is a snapshot of the new Metro style start menu. It features the familiar Windows phone style tiles of all the installed applications pinned to the start menu. These tiles can be live or not pertaining to the application. Live tiles usually display a preview of the most recently loaded content. These tiles can be dragged to any location on the menu and can be custom aligned.
The Four Corners: This might sound like a funny heading but the four screen corners really do play an important role in navigation.
The top and bottom right corners are the hotspots for the ‘Charms Bar’. This like a ‘How can I help you?’ menu and consists of Search, Share, Settings, Devices and Start options. But again these options are polymorphic and correspond to the window in picture- meaning it operates on the location you’re currently in. For instance, the search when clicked on using the App Store searches the store whereas the same search can also be used to search a folder by triggering it while the folder window is active. So is the case with the settings and share options. The hot keys for launching the search menus are Win+Q and Win+W (The first one is for normal search and the second is for control panel search).
The top left corner is for app app switching and app management. Simply clicking on the top-left corner will switch to the last minimized window. Not to worry, the old Alt+Tab trick works too. If you have multiple windows opened, you get stacked snapshots of all the windows by moving your mouse downwards. The same thing can be accomplished by taking the cursor to the bottom corner and slightly moving it upwards. You can then switch to the window of your choice by clicking on its snap shot. You can achieve the same result by pressing Win+Tab repeatedly. Another easy way for switching windows is to drag your desktop to either side of the screen which then presents all instances of Windows explorer in a stack.
The bottom left corner as cited previously is used for accessing the Metro Start Menu.
Metro Applications: All the Metro applications (those that are downloaded from the store, pre-installed apps and certain specifically made for Windows 8 apps) get launched in a full screen mode with no task bar and the minimize and close button group, whereas the non-metro apps are launched normally. Metro apps can be closed by just dragging them down from the top. It’s pretty evident that the whole Metro design is tablet oriented but nevertheless using it on non-touch devices isn’t herculean and is intuitive enough.
App Screen Sharing: Windows 8 introduces a new and essential multitasking feature which seeks to merge the gap between the Metro and Desktop counterparts of the operating system. Basically any application can be dragged and thrown to the side of the screen where it will get squashed in at the side giving your other application the much needed screen space. This is really helpful when you want to use two apps simultaneously. I find it particularly useful when I’m typing up a new article and chatting with a friend or when I want to refer some important data for my articles. The screenshot below should give you a good idea of what this looks like.
The left side is the Desktop (squashed and showing the currently open windows) and the right side is ‘tunein Radio’ (one of the best internet music players ever).
This is what the reverse orientation looks like. Very neat and very handy if you want to use both Metro and Desktop apps at the same time.