The Windows 8 Consumer Preview release is just around the corner, and while you get ready to see what features Microsoft decided to scrap, which ones it decided to keep, and what’s new, you will either be reading a recap of its new features or what the general expectations are. This is neither of those two. This article looks to address what the initial expectations and reservations were that circulated the web and how much truth there is to them. Be warned that the post does not address anything on the developer end, and is based on my perception solely (which includes my giddy excitement for new things). It does offer you some insight on what it’s really like to use Windows 8, and will hopefully put you at ease about using the new system, and perhaps at arms, if you hadn’t taken them up at first.
Metro UI is for tablets, not PCs
Once everyone had stopped ogling the newness of Windows 8 Metro UI, people began wondering if the interface would even work on a PC, sans a touch screen. For many, there was the reassurance of having the traditional desktop to use and never be bothered with Metro tiles, but it also meant no shiny new UI. The truth is, Metro UI works perfectly fine on a PC. Sure, you’re not swiping to the right or left but you can still move across the interface using nothing more than the mouse wheel. If you think about it, using a mouse wheel seems pretty intuitive and convenient. There is nothing that you need to get the feel of, and it isn’t a hard to learn gesture either. The tiles are easily clickable and there is nothing to stop you from using the interface to its full potential. If anything, the tiles make it easier to spot an app and launch it.
Windows 8 Is A Choice Between Metro UI And The Desktop View
The presence of a desktop must, no doubt, have put a lot of people at ease. Knowing that if they didn’t hit it off with the Metro UI, they had the reliable Desktop to turn to. The truth, however, is that you will be switching between Metro and Desktop. The Desktop you knew isn’t there in its entirety; what you get is a hollow shell of its former self. Enough drama, but the truth is that the Desktop is just that, a space where you can view and launch non-Metro apps, or applications/programs, as they were once called. You no longer get the same list of programs that you used to get when you clicked on the Start button (you actually switch to the Metro UI instead). The reality is, if the app you’re using has a Metro Interface (these will be apps you install from the Windows App Store) they will be accessible through it. Apps that do not have the Metro UI, will install like they do in Windows 7; you will see a desktop shortcut and launch the app as a simple window. Simple, right? While all this is true, there is the fact that some apps support both Metro and the Desktop mode. Example: Internet Explorer! You can run it on the Metro and on Desktop, both run as different apps/programs.
The same quirk exists with the Control Panel, and while you will be able to customize your account, manage app settings and more in Metro, you will still be visiting the Desktop mode for some other settings. Perhaps you will do less switching between the two views once the every single Windows app gets a Metro UI, good luck with that!
Closing An App, Suspending An App & Switching Between Apps
Windows 8 Metro UI doesn’t ‘close’ apps, it ‘suspends’ them. It’s similar to not being expelled from school, but being suspended, you have to go back. Metro apps are not meant to be closed, when you switch to another app any time and the one you were previously using is suspended, and this isn’t as smooth a process as you would hope (at least not on the Developer’s build), since soundtrack from a game app continued to play for a pretty annoying while before it was ‘suspended’. You can always quit the app using the good old Task Manager (you will switch to the Desktop mode when you launch it) but don’t go looking for a close button. So far as switching between apps is concerned, click the left side of the screen and you will switch to the previous app. In the event that you’ve got over 5 apps running, have fun remembering which order you opened them in. Apps that support only the Desktop mode will work normally (with a close button) like they did in Windows 7.
Internet Connections and Live IDs Are Not Mandated To Setup Windows 8
Windows 8, thankfully, did not do what Google initially did in Chromium. An internet connection and a Live ID is not mandated for using or setting up the device. The OS can run in airplane mode, free of any Wi-Fi connections, and you can set up a local account (create a user like you did in Windows 7) faster than you can ‘meh’ – well, not that fast – but it’s fairly quick. The only thing you will miss out without a Live ID is Microsoft’s integration of its cloud services throughout the system, If you’ve enjoyed those services, then you must already have a Live account, hence nothing to complain about. If you use other services , then you’ll never miss Microsoft’s cloud solutions; hence, nothing to complain about.
Lock Screen, Picture Passwords, Internet Explorer 10 and Charms
This represents just about everything that is great in Windows and initially got me as excited as the ice cream truck when I was little. The lock screen is amazing; it is the same one you see on a Windows phone, but is looks like it was meant to be on a PC. You can enable any six apps to show notifications on the screen, which is in addition to the battery/power and connectivity status that is shown. Sliding it up is perhaps not so fun with a mouse, but for the visual benefit, it is well worth it. Since we’re talking sliding open a screen with your mouse, there is also the picture password, which many think might not work with a mouse. It actually works great; you can create a picture password and unlock your screen with it easily.
Internet Explorer 10, I very grudgingly admit is very good. It is faster, loads quickly, has gone towards a more minimalistic interface in Desktop mode, and is good. Just plain good. Will I switch from Chrome, no, not until I get all my extensions and a pet giraffe.
Charms is another one of those things that are just amazing. The reason being, they give uniformity to app settings. When you first start getting used to Metro apps, finding their settings might have been confusing had it not been for the omnipresent Charms that you can access by simple bringing your mouse to the lower left corner. It isn’t just the app settings, though; it’s also easy access to the Search feature and to connected devices.
Will It work?
The OS seems good, albeit the annoyance of the Desktop and Metro modes (a big one at that), and the interface is impressive. You will be hanging between the two until more apps start supporting Metro, but don’t think you wont be able to use all your old programs. While life will be a compromise between Desktop and Metro, you will still have most, if not more, of the apps you always worked with. Rest assured, this isn’t just for tablet PC users – it is for suitable for any PC!