Everything you need to know about Windows 8

Kartik Iyer        Print Edition: May 2012

It is finally here. The consumer preview of the most talked about operating system from Microsoft is actually a major upgrade from the developers preview launched last year. Since 90 per cent of computers still use Windows, Microsoft has lots at stake with Windows 8. Unification is the new buzzword - Microsoft has seriously taken to the "One OS for several devices" concept.

So with an optimised-for-touch OS, MS is actually building on its Windows Phone concept announced in 2010, but made popular only now by Nokia's Lumia series phones. No old static icons and files in Windows 8, instead you have metro tiles delivering live updates every time you are connected to a network. I tried the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on my Acer Timeline Notebook and here are the first impressions.

The Home Screen is now called Start Screen, and is where the new live tiles and the old desktop coexist. Like our current generation smart phones, the lock screen can be unlocked with a swipe, but this can be a bit tricky if you are using a traditional laptop/desktop. Once unlocked, you are presented with a new screen showing up the name you initially registered. Just type in the password and you are done.

This is where Microsoft scores - no big stuff, all you need is a minimal 1 GHz processor, minimum native resolution/colour depth at 1366x768px, 1GB RAM and 16GB HDD free-space, all standard for current generation computers.

The very problem with every Windows OS was the boot time, but with Windows 8 everything is superbly fast. The Start Screen actually loads in less than 10 seconds. Yeah, you read it right. This is an achievement in itself.

The Metro Interface goes beyond looks-though you will spend time admiring the Start Screen. This interface will indeed force you to touch your screen which eventually means that we'll witness multi-touch enabled laptops/netbooks in the near future.

Internet Explorer 10, in metro style, is way faster than IE9. A webpage is displayed on the entire screenspace. To counter Apple's iCloud, there is SkyDrive app, to sync all files.

The Maps tile failed to recognise my current location, ditto the Weather app. You'll love Messaging, a one-stop shop for Facebook, Twitter and email. Mail app too is awesome.

If you own an Xbox 360, then the Xbox Companion will come in handy. Preloaded games include Solitaire and Pinball FX2, both in their XBox avatars.

Windows 8, like all Microsoft programs, is a multitasker. Now you can have two apps displayed simultaneously in a single window-you can have a major part for Internet Explorer and the rest of the screen for music or the media player.

You can easily switch between multiple apps. Gone are the minimise, maximise and close buttons. You can resize the app at will and even have two windows on a single screen. Closing the app is an art now-just drag it from top to bottom to shut.

Here is where Microsoft needs to get its act right quickly. When you setup the preview, you'll find enough apps to make you happy, but most of them don't work in India. You have apps for music, video, photos, but no sign-in for users from India.

When you look long enough at the Start Screen, you'll notice that there is no Start button. You won't need this button anymore. Windows 8 is primarily intended for devices sporting a touchscreen, but it works seamlessly with the traditional keyboard and mouse too. The Charms Menu makes its debut with a set of five different functions-Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings. Taking your mouse pointer to the top right-hand corner/ bottom right corner will bring on Charms Menu or else you can use the WINKEY+C keyboard shortcut.

SEARCH: The search-activated either from Charms menu or by using WINKEY+Q- clubs the results search into various categories like Apps and Settings.

START: The remains of the old start button is now embedded in Charms. Clicking on this will take you back to the Start Screen.

SHARE: If you are reading an article or using a new app, clicking on the share button will enable you to share it with friends. Not very useful until there are more people using new OS.

DEVICES: A sweet spot that shows all the external devices like flash drives, external hard-disk drives, printers, scanners, etc and their status.

SETTINGS: Move the cursor over this to see network status and time. Click this charm (WINKEY+I ) to see details like network options, power options, notifications, display brightness details, loudspeaker settings and Language Options.

TO SUM UP: Windows 8 is a leap that is bold, beautiful and extremely customisable. Hope the final version that is released to consumers is even better.

Courtesy:Gadgets and Gizmos

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