Well Windows 8 has now been released to Microsoft Partners and Volume License subscription holders and as such I felt the need to remove the release-preview version on my PC and Laptop and upgrade to the final build.
- User-Interface Overhaul and Start Menu Screen
In all honesty, not much has changed from the release-preview version, although it appears Microsoft have now swapped out the Aero-Glass transparency look for a substantially more flattened image. The end-result is a more toned-down but equally eye- pleasing user-interface.
For those of you who haven’t seen Windows 8 yet, you may be in for a bit of a shock, the Start button that has been with you for the past 17 years is now gone and has been replaced by a tiled “Start Screen”. This encompasses “Live-Tiles” and Apps so that real-time information is available to you immediately on-screen. The Start screen can be customised by “pinning” and “unpinning” applications or shortcuts to the screen, to access the entire application list, simply right-click and select “All Apps”, from there you can pin items on the main screen by right-clicking the application and select “Pin to Start”.
- Apps & The Store - The modernisation of Windows
As well as Microsoft’s own Apps being pre-installed, there is a wealth of 3rdparty apps available via the Store, from eBay to Fruit Ninja to CNN News, it’s all there and its content appears to be growing fast, especially considering it is not readily available for average-Joe just yet.
For example, the “People” app can sync contacts from Microsoft Exchange, Google, Facebook and others, and then display a shortcut tile on the start screen that shows you pictures of your contacts and will update as you update your contacts as well as scroll through your various friends facebook status’
The “Weather” app will display a full forecast when you open it, however the tile will display current forecast information, just not as detailed.
In order to appreciate this layout, you have to bear in mind that this is supposed to be a more universal operating system, so no matter what you are using, be it a touchscreen all-in-one PC, normal workstation, laptop, tablet or Windows 8 Phone, the experience and the usability will remain the same. The downside of this of course, is that everyday PC users have been forced to engage with an operating system that looks to be orientated around a touchscreen interface. Take a step back and you will realise that without this compromise, Windows 8 would not work and there would continue to be fragmentation amongst devices.
- Charming your way through Windows 8
One of the new features of Windows 8 is the “Charms” bar, this a function where you can either swipe from the right (assuming you have a touchscreen) or simply hover the mouse in the bottom-right of the screen, this will then display the bar, from here you can change the settings of whatever app you happen to be in, share an item of content you may be viewing at the time with others, activate the start screen, search for applications or get an overview of your attached devices. In my opinion it has the same use as the menu button in Android, and as such will be used a lot as it provides custom menus dependant on what you were doing at the time.
- What’s in it for my business?
As well as all of the above, there are further features that can help businesses, such as Windows-To-Go, this facility (Unique to Windows 8 Enterprise) allows you to carry a fully configured Windows 8 operating system and all of your Line of Business applications on a USB Flash Drive. Simply take the Flash Drive home, plug it into your PC and within minutes you could be running Windows 8 with all of your work-related applications. Once you have finished, simply shutdown your PC, disconnect the drive and start up again, your home-pc will then start normally again. This could prove invaluable for people that need to work from home from time to time or in emergency cases such as being snowed-in. This can also work in conjunction with Bitlocker to ensure that the data is encrypted, needed in situations where security is key.
Windows Refresh and Reset is also a valuable addition, have you ever got to that stage where Windows is running slowly and pondered over reloading the PC but found the prospect too daunting? Well this no longer needs to be the case, simply select the refresh facility to reset Windows 8 back to how it was when the PC was new, without losing your documents!
Client-Side Virtualization is also offered with Windows 8, allowing you the freedom to create “Virtual PC’s and Servers” on your own desktop PC, this feature could prove to be extremely useful for companies involved in software development, networking and other areas where purchasing a PC for testing purposes would normally be needed. Essentially this could save money in equipment costs as well as increase productivity.
- Anything else?
These new additions as well as a boost in performance are just the tip of the iceberg, there are lots of changes in Windows 8 as well as lots of shortcut-keys that is for sure! Like everyone else seems to be, I was sceptical at first, but having used Windows 8 for a couple of weeks constantly, it now feels more comfortable than Windows 7 to use, a winner of an operating system if people just give it a chance.