As you may have guessed, Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8, is appearing to be a radical change in not only the functionality, but also in user experience. This is a look at the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.
For those who had been toying around with the Windows 8 Developer Preview, then you already know some of the changes coming forth in this latest OS version. However, there are some additional changes that many of you may, may or may not appreciate. It seems that Microsoft is banking on a more standardized approach to user interface, and certainly is trying to be positioned to stay in the game, sort of speak.
As you may have seen, there’s been a rise in mobile smartphone and tablet PC use, and a drastic decrease in the sales of desktop PC’s. Additionally, the market for laptops has stabilized. With this knowledge, the former approach Microsoft used in their PPC line is no longer valid with the introduction of the touchscreen. Therefore, Microsoft was in desperate need of making such a radical change to how it’s operating system works and interacts with the user.
Introduction - Windows 8 Differences
Without going into much detail, there are a number of improvements on the performance side in Windows 8 that would truly make utilizing this operating system less cumbersome and faster. There are also, however, some changes that have been made to the user interface that at first glance is not getting anywhere near 100% positive feedback.
I have observed feedback both ways, such as from this video comments on Switch Windows 8 Start Menu Back…
I don’t remember using this menu in any Windows. Just let it go! ~xbeforea, or…
look i normally dont give a shit about pc features and shit but get rid of the start menu wtf are they actually retarded. ~NorfolkCatKickers
Below, I want to introduce a few of these changes and will attempt to address them as a comparison to Windows 7 and previous operating systems. This way you will hopefully be able to recognize the functionality of each of these new changes and make your own opinion.
Windows 8 Welcome Screen
It truly seems that Microsoft is building Windows 8 from almost a strict mobile user perspective. So as you are familiarizing yourself with Windows 8 from your desktop PC or laptop, take into consideration how you utilize your mobile phone or Tablet PC, to have some idea of what Microsoft is trying to do.
At this point, it seems the Welcome Screen is somewhat divided into two pieces; they have an initial welcome screen with some basic information such as the date, time, and connection, then you need to go to another screen in order to sign in with your user profile.
There is something unique about how you sign in to Windows 8. Again, think in terms of accessibility when I mention the ability to simply use a PIN to gain access to the Windows 8 user interface. Though this seems to be more user-friendly, the approach to a simple PIN does reduce security a bit more, especially from an IT admin point of view.
Windows 8 User Interface
Traditionally, Windows 7, or previous versions of the Windows operating system, we were used to being transferred directly to our Desktop. In Windows 8, the user interface is basically split up between a Start Screen (Metro UI) and the traditional Desktop.
Basically, Microsoft has separated out the Start menu and Desktop; the Start Screen has replaced the Start menu, and there is no longer a traditional Start menu available to you from the Desktop. As a matter of fact, there is no longer the Start menu orb button.
For many of you, this may be a one-way ticket away from the Windows 8 operating system. In a previous article here on pcsupporthub.com, we provided a tutorial on bringing back the traditional Windows 7-style Start menu in Windows 8. However, it seems Microsoft has coded out the start menu function altogether in the latest Consumer Preview.
Let’s take a look at both the Start Screen and Desktop a bit more in detail…
Windows 8 Start Screen
We you first arrive on the Start Screen, you’ll notice a number of ’tiles’. These are applications (Apps) that are arranged in no particular order and one other key difference here is that these Apps are full-screen. This certainly is one thing that may be confusing to many new users of the Windows 8 operating system. There are traditional applications which are run from the Desktop, as well as these new full-screen Apps. My guess is, software developers in the future will look to develop a full-screen App either in addition to a traditional Desktop application, or to replace it altogether.
Windows 8 Desktop
From the Start Screen you can access your Desktop by simply clicking on the respective Desktop tile. For many, this will look not much different than the Windows 7 desktop, excluding the Traditional start menu or button, and there are some additional Start menu replacements.
Just as with Windows 7, you can pin applications to your Taskbar and you can see many of the same resources in the notification tray in the bottom right. In short, the Windows 8 Desktop functions basically the same as it did in previous versions.
Opening Applications and Settings
As we observed a bit earlier in this article, we can start applications by simply clicking on an App tile from the Start Screen, but we also have some additional options for us to open recent applications, all applications, or settings.
I want to go back for a moment to something I mentioned about how Windows 8 is different in performance handling. One of the other Windows 8-related articles we wrote here on pcsupporthub.com was how to close a Windows 8 App. The fact of the matter is, you don’t close applications in Windows 8. Think of it this way…Microsoft has changed how applications function, looking a bit more like how they run on your smartphones. Windows 8 will utilize performance enhancing code to provide necessary resources for new applications and other functionality, without having to always physically close an application just for the sake of closing it.
With that said, the next part here may make a bit more sense to you. To open applications and other, there are presently three methods. May I mention before we introduce these three methods, that they each can be accessed by simply hovering your mouse in certain areas of your screen.
The traditional Start menu has been replaced with simply a thumbnail image of the Start Screen (see image above). This can be accessed by hovering your mouse over the lower left corner of your Desktop. Once clicked, this will send you back to the Start Screen.
And at this time, your Windows key on your keyboard acts as a toggle between the Start Screen and the Desktop.
These next two methods are OS wide, meaning, they are accessible either by the Start Screen or the Desktop. If you want to see a list of recent run Apps, simply hover your mouse in the upper left-hand corner of your screen to reveal the Switch List. Once the first tile appears, you can slightly move your mouse down the screen and all the applications you have previously run should show up is in the image seen below. As a caveat, presently this function only presents full-screen Apps which have been recently used.
The last method is something new, called the Charms bar. You can access the Charms bar by hovering your mouse in the upper right-hand corner of your screen, or press the keyboard hotkey combination of ‘Win+C’. Once it appears, you can click anywhere in the area for a better view, or simply click the function you wish to use. An example, would be clicking on Settings. This then shows you a number of different of setting options you have, including the Control Panel, Personalization, PC info, Network, Notifications, Power, and more to come.
Another example would be utilizing the Search function, which basically has replaced having to sift through all the various menus of the Start menu just to gain access to an application.
Final Notes About Apps Use
There are a couple other aspects about utilizing Apps that I wish to share with you. First, if you are on the Start Screen, start typing in the application name you wish to run, and a list of those Apps will start to appear in a list as you are typing. While also on the Start Screen, you can right-click anywhere and notice an icon at the bottom of the screen that says All Apps; click on it and your Apps screen appears.
If you right-click an App on the Start Screen, there are a few application-specific options listed at the bottom of the screen, such as pinning the App to your Desktop taskbar, opening it in a new window, or running it as administrator. Basically, this is somewhat replacing the right-click context menu we are familiar with in previous versions of the Windows operating system.
Well, this has been a look at the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. If you are like me, there are certainly some aspects you like, and those you do not. Most notably, is the lack, or replacement of the traditional Start menu.
Should you have any questions about the functionality of Windows 8, or have any troubleshooting issues, feel free to utilize our FREE tech support service, or browse additional articles within pcsupporthub.com.