Microsoft released the Consumer preview of their highly anticipated Windows 8 operating system. At the first glance, Windows 8 OS came across adeptly designed for tablets. We wished our monitor could turn into a touchscreen of an average tab. The tile-style applications, lock screen and the start screen have been designed to instantly call for a smooth swipe to move forward. We’ve picked all its aspects one by one,
Until now, a lockscreen was something we saw only on smartphones; a legacy that was passed on to tablets. This clearly shows how closely Microsoft is looking at a seamless experience for mobile to desk devices. However, the lockscreen doesn't get an approval from us, as moving the mouse or sliding (on touchpad) upwards isn't a smooth experience. It just leaves you wondering whether future laptops will call for a touchscreen or Windows shouldn't keep this feature for desktops.
The default Metro UI interface on Windows 8
The images of the Start screen flashing the Metro UI have been appearing on the web from sometime now. They look as vibrant and lively on the screen, as you may have imagined. The UI showed bright, lively tiles when we downloaded the app from the Windows store, but adding other shortcuts to Windows app (from Windows Explorer) gave a dull look or they rather do not support Metro UI. The icons can be re-sized, as single right click shows options to uninstall the tile, unpin it from start and make it small or large and even turning the live tile feature on/off. The right lower corner has a zoom icon, which displays the entire Metro UI start screen in a single view.
The traditional Windows desktop – minus the Start menu
Incase you choose to move away from the Metro UI, the Desktop tile may come to your rescue. However, the missing Start button could take you by surprise. The tile takes you to the homescreen that you are used to by now. The desktop shows the Recycle icon on the screen and the Windows Explorer folder at the task bar that takes you to essentials, like Network, My Computer and so on. You can also choose to pin these attributes on the Start screen. Switching from Desktop to the Metro UI can be done by simply clicking on the Windows button or by moving the cursor on the right edge, which will then display Start icon, along with Search, Share, Devices and Settings.
The Metro UI is what makes Windows 8 and on the PC it might be the thing that breaks it. Things have changed, ever since the Windows 8 Developer Preview came out back in September 2011. The traditional desktop and the Metro UI were two completely different elements, not so much in sync with each other. Things have gotten better now in the Consumer Preview. The Metro UI has more apps and things appear more complete. The Start menu on the Windows traditional desktop has disappeared.
As always, users are able to scroll through the tiles and quickly load the apps as well as Windows software from the interface. Users can start typing the name of the application they want to load and the search tool does the rest. Switching between the two interface happens quickly – by simply pressing the Windows key on the keyboard. Many of the other programs on Windows have been designed to run for the Metro UI. For example, Internet Explorer 10 exists on both the Metro UI and the traditional Windows desktop.
Charms – allowing quick access to some of the key Windows 8 features
Charms on Windows 8 is like an on-screen display found in games. It pops up on the right hand side of the desktop and has some of the basic Windows controls present there. For example, volume controls for each application can be set using this tool. Volume control Notifications and Wi-Fi settings are some of the things that can be quickly set from the utility.
That’s not all – the left pane is utilized, too. Instead of depending on the traditional Alt-Tab shortcut to see all currently running applications, the Metro UI lets users see all currently running applications by hovering the mouse to the left side of the screen. As of now, users can choose to close certain applications on demand.
Windows 8 ensures that cloud is the core of all the functionalities people access. On signing in with the Microsoft e-mail ID, Windows 8 is capable of moving your data to cloud and also allows you to access it using other Windows 8 device. For instance, you can save all contacts, phonebook, photos and so on, using the cloud storage ability.
The Windows 8 app store
Accessing the Windows Store would require one to sign-in with a Windows Live, Hotmail messenger Id. The store shows separate clustered tiles for Games, Music & Video, Social, Entertainment and so on. The Windows Store experience is something similar to what you’ve seen in the Windows 7 Phone. We downloaded Cut The Rope and another game, but the gaming experience on the monitor seemed a little off.
The Ribbon makes an entry on many Windows applications, including Explorer
The Windows Explorer has been an essential part of every Windows operating system in the past. The basics of the popular file manager hasn’t changed a lot, except for the interface. The biggest change can be found at the top of the window. The ribbon can be found in the Microsoft Office suite of recent years – it’s an easy way to access the most essential functions without having to go through complicated menus and submenus. For example, now you can smiply select a folder and choose the Copy to – tool in the ribbon to quickly copy that data to one of the most popular folders. Similarly, adding folders to your favorites or libraries can be done much quicker. Of course, those using keyboard shortcuts will find themselves at home, but when it comes to mouse users, sure, the ribbons help reduce one or two clicks. The file sharing feature isn’t hidden away in a menu deep inside, either – it’s present now in the ribbon, and so is the CD/DVD burning tool. A fax access tool is also built into Windows Explorer for those who still depend on it.
Many existing Windows 7 users feel that the new Windows build only offers Metro UI and a few apps with it. A key part of Windows has been the task manager that allows power users good control over the programs being run. Over the years, more features have been added, but into a separate program called Resource Monitor. Now, the new Windows 8 Task Manager tries to combine both those components together. For example, the user interface has changed a lot. The same old boring graphs are replaced with more elegant looking ones. The processes list shows program icons, along with stats on CPU and memory consumption as they always have, but also disk and network bandwidth usage – key resources these days. Switch to the Performance tab and graphs are present for disk, CPU and network components. In case of devices using multiple network interfaces, separate graphs are present for each one.
A more detailed, but less complex Task Manager
An App history tab keeps a count of which apps consumed how many resources over the days. The old task manager would list all of the processes run by all users in a single view, the new task manager, however lets you view processes run by different users. If the massive, complex view is too much to take in, Windows 8 also offers a minimalistic view of the Task Manager.
Internet Explorer 10
The Internet Explorer 10 comes bundled with the Windows 8 Consumer preview, which has been especially crafted for the new operating system. As it comes bundled, you currently can't use it with other versions of the operating system. In this testing browser, Microsoft doesn't let you install toolbars and add-ons and you will also not find the Favorites option. So, instead you need to Pin to start the webpage. But it allow you to mark it as favourite and bookmark the page on opening it on the traditional desktop. The address bar is on the lower edge, with back, refresh, pin and forward icons. It also has a button that lets you view the page accessed on Metro UI on the traditional desktop.
Advanced PC settings on Metro UI – without using the Control Panel
Windows users have been used to a complex Control Panel, that has a whole bunch of icons and menus to pass through. For example, changing a simple IP address for a network adapter involves a number of clicks on Windows 7 and previous versions of Windows. The Control Panel on Windows 8 is still present, but a simpler version disguised as the More PC Settings menu that is brought up by the Charms interface. This interface is much like the one found on an HTPC software, for example, All of the key sections are clearly labelled on the left panel, while the actual settings can be seen on the right. Obviously, you don’t get control over the most minute of settings, but it’s enough to quickly turn off certain components on and off.
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