Touch & Type, Windows 8 Style

Nandagopal Rajan        Print Edition: August 2012

Within a couple of months all the buzz will be about Windows 8 , the new operating system from Microsoft. Operating systems are nothing new for or from Microsoft and you might wonder why this will be special. To start with, this will be the first OS that works for both a full-fledged computer as well as a tablet. And Microsoft has a strong pitch going for a common user interface-for both mouse as well as touch inputs. The tech giant thinks it is time we stopped choosing between devices depending on the kind of work we had to do. So, Windows 8 will strive to be an OS that is good for content creation and content consumption.

HOW TO DO IT

SYSTEM COMMANDS
TOUCH: Swiping from left to right opens recent apps, from right to left this opens the charms menu
MOUSE: Point to the lower right corner of the screen top open charms, click top left corner to cycle through old apps
KEYBOARD: Windows key + C

OPTIONS
TOUCH: Press and hold and element
MOUSE: Point to an element
KEYBOARD: Context menu key

APP COMMANDS
TOUCH: Swipe from top to bottom of screen to close app
MOUSE: Right click for commands or drag app to lower edge
KEYBOARD: Windows key + Z
We tried the first preview of the OS on a laptop a few months ago. Now we are trying Windows 8 on a device that is capable of taking both touch as well as typed inputs. We, like many others, were skeptical about how the same OS could work in both a tablet and a PC as there were no good reference points. While those who have seen a Windows Phone have a vague idea of what to expect, this is a very out-of-the-box take on operating systems, definitely for a laptop or desktop.

ON THE TABLET
The Metro style UI is different from the iOS and Android interfaces. There are no home screens to swipe through. The Metro tiles here, each an app that updates live, flow on like a big mosaic. You can swipe to get to the other end, or just pinch the screen to initiate a semantic zoom which will fit all your tiles on the screen. Simple.

The design is minimalist everywhere; the stress on Helvetica font and white is hard to miss right from the set up. You can unlock your screen with a picture password if you want, and this we thought was a great idea. On the start screen, the basic apps like Mail, Calendar, People and Photos come preloaded. Interestingly, even the old Windows desktop is an app. It looks and feels just like it has always been, but it relegated to an app avatar. You can download progammes to the desktop, but they will also appear as Metro tiles. You can save folders there too, just like old times. And one of the best features of using Windows 8 on a tablet is the ability to use keyboard commands with the help of the virtual keypad or a Bluetooth keyboard.

Windows to go is an external drive that can be used to fully boot a secure Windows 8 environment. So you can use any Windows 7 device to open a managed environment by just restarting the PC with the USB plugged in.
And, yes, there is no chrome-or virtual keys-anywhere. They pop up only when called upon using different finger moments. The natural two-hand holding position has been used for the menu access. A right thumb swipe opens the charms menu, while the left thumb takes you back to the last app-actually a high-speed cycle though all the recently opened apps. The charms menu also lets you search within an app as well as files saved on the device.

ON THE PC
The interface and all other aspects of the UI stay the same. But until the next generation of hybrid devices become popular there won't be a way to use touch as an input method here. So, for now, the corners hold the key to Windows 8 on the PC. They give you access to the menus, which otherwise lie hidden from view. The top right corner opens the charms menu for access to the Start screen. You can also click the bottom right corner to open the Start screen, just where the old Start button would have been. The top right corner meanwhile lets you cycle through apps. The bottom right corn is the one-touch access to the Start screen, settings, search and share. Mouse scrolls let you flip through the screen, while the new 'modern trackpad'- which will be standard in new devices meant for the OS-incorporates touch motions and gestures.

If the release preview is anything to go by, there is no doubt that Windows 8 will be really worth the wait. There are some glitches, like the lack of a time or network bar on the screen-you have to swipe to see even these. But then this is a whole new take at building an OS, a design driven initiave. It won't take us long to get used to.

Courtesy:Gadgets and Gizmos

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