As you all know, Microsoft has unleashed its biggest and baddest weapon, so far. A great addition to their impressive collection of Operating Systems and the one that is truly unique. They call it simply: “Windows 8”, I call it “The best Windows so far”.
Windows 8 has much more than a face-lift, nicer graphics and a few transition effects; it’s been completely remade and Microsoft had to rethink it from the ground up, albeit a lot of its actual architecture and security is based on Windows 7. And so, after putting their thinking caps on, the brainiacs from Microsoft came up with a mind-blowing concept, packed full of new features and better than ever.
Introduction to Windows 8: Main Features
I don’t even know how to begin describing Windows 8 and all its features, but bear with me and I’ll try to point out every new and interesting thing about it. First of all, I’ll start with the installation process. Microsoft have simplified over the years the installation process of Windows. I remember back when I had to install Windows 95’ or 98’, it was a big pain in the a** (pardon my french), but as we saw, in Vista and 7, the process was over simplified. Now, it’s even more simpler, and the setup of Windows 8 is so much better than the previous versions. Now you have a great wizard setup that lets you make just about all your settings with great ease.
1. Metro UI
After the installation, you will be welcomed by the new Metro UI (User Interface). This is where you will see the real change in Windows: a smartphone/tablet set-up of your apps and information. This style is designed to make Windows browsing much more faster and the information on your computer much more accessible. And it truly is.
Apps Always On, Faster Booting and Shut-Down
You can scroll with your mouse wheel through your apps. A great feature that Microsoft have made, is the App Always On feature. This means that the apps are always open and minimized. This saves time in loading each app and makes the overall feel of Windows 8 very fast. This, combined with the faster booting and shut down, make Windows 8 the fastest Windows OS ever.
2. Windows Store
A new feature you will see in Windows 8 is the App Store . This store is something similar to Google Play or iTunes Store, where you can find developer apps to maximize the productivity of your Windows 8 Metro UI. The store has an excellent search engine, with filters that allow you to rapidly find whatever app you are interested in. And after you download these apps, you will notice that Internet Explorer 10 is better than ever, because it will be connected with these apps.
It integrates web browsing with the apps to make the experience using Internet Explorer 10 much better and faster. Also, Microsoft have tried to fix some security issues by making Windows Defender better than before. The best thing about the store is that developers will soon start to add apps to the Windows Store. Mozilla will have a Firefox browser up in not time, and it’s safe to say that Google Chrome is not far behind. A good thing, because Microsoft will not limit you to IE10.
3. Internet Explorer 10
When we talk about Internet Explorer 10, we talk about 2 different browsers, actually. The first one is the one available from the Metro UI, developed to work for touchscreen devices, it looks nothing like the old IE. It has an address bar on the bottom of the screen that resembles the browser from an Android app and most of the time, you can only see the web-page you are accessing, and not tollbars or address bars. The video player of IE10 has also taken a face lift. Now you can watch your video and do other things at the same time without pausing or minimizing your video.
The multitasking in Windows 8 is simply great. This IE integrates seamlessly with your other Metro apps to give you the best experience available. On the other hand, the other IE10, the Desktop Version, is the old fashioned IE, complete with plugins and toolbars. This is where you can see flash videos and other media files that require a certain plugin installed. The security of IE10 has been also upgraded. Now you can feel more secure when browsing the web on IE and it might just be the browser every Windows user was looking for: fast and secure.
4. Explorer Ribbon, Desktop Experience
After managing to move away from Metro UI, you will be greeted by a more familiar desktop, where you will see the old school start menu and icons. Some changes have been made to the Windows explorer also, and the major one you will notice is the Explorer Ribbon. This is the menu you probably know from Office 2007 and 2010, and now it’s available on every folder.
It contains folder options and application options that you will normally have to search for in other menus and sub-menus. Explorer Ribbon is a great addition to the Windows 8 and it makes the experience much more pleasurable and the interface much more user friendly. Although, what I do not like about the new interface is the fact that they have removed the Start Orb from the start bar. Now you can access it from the right side of the screen, which is kind of weird, but as time passes, you’ll get used to it.
5. Task Manager
Another big upgrade you will most likely notice is the new and improved Task Manager. The new one is much more user friendly, it shows all the information you need to know with much more detail and not as compact and hard to find as the old Task Manager.
And with Task Manager, Microsoft have also upgraded Control Panel. They made it look like the Android Settings, where you can customize your settings much more faster than before, but also, you have at your disposal some new customization tools. One of the coolest in Control Panel is the Refresh Your PC function. This allows you to get a fresh start in Windows 8 without the loss of any of your files.
6. Microsoft Office 15
Together with Windows 8, Microsoft has plans to re-invent MS Office, as well. And so, Microsoft Office 15 is now in the center of attention. The feel and look of MS Office 15 screams Metro all around. The welcome screen is the first thing you will notice in Office 15, it’s inspired by the Windows 8 start-up screen, and the main window of Office 15 has the new Metro look. The Ribbon is minimized by default to maintain the clean Metro look.
Office 15 has been engineered to work on tablets and touch-screen devices, and so it features a full screen view and a “touch mode” for better use when using it on smartphones and tablets. Microsoft has gone to great effort in integrating the online capabilities into its products, and so, Office 15 will be able to log in automatically to Microsoft ID, where you will have access to your:
- Windows Live Photo Album
- My Office (which is a new feature in Windows 8)
- Windows Live Hotmail
- Windows Live Messenger
7. Windows 8 for Business
Windows 8 comes with many advantages over the previous versions of Windows. Client Hyper-V is a good example, it is “a flexible, robust, and high performance client virtualization technology that enables IT pros and developers to run multiple operating system instances simultaneously on their Windows 8 computer”. For those of you that would love to port Windows 8 on your new iPad, you should know that it is possible!
AppLocker is a powerful tool for developers to create privacy polities that allow or deny specific applications to be run by certain users. Bit Locker helps businesses to reduce the risk of unauthorized access. This feature has been greatly improved in Windows 8. We are sure that with the official launch, there will be much more features for business and personal users.
Other Features in Windows 8
- Keyboard Shortcuts
Microsoft made Windows 8 for full mobility, now you have lots of keyboard shortcuts for different features, such as Search (Explorer Key + Q) or Settings (Explorer Key + I) and many others. These allow users to browse the Internet and their computer much more quicker. You can see the whole collection of shortcuts on this link.
- Windows Live USB
Also, Windows 8 is designed to work from an USB flash, called Windows Live USB, that lets you take with you all your Windows settings and installed programs on a USB dive and run Windows from any terminal. And because it only uses 300 MB of RAM memory, you can run it from basically anywhere. Now, you can enjoy Windows 8 on just about any device you can think of. This is where Mobility really comes in. You can run Windows 8 on your PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
Microsoft is trying to implement the concept of cloud storage. And Windows users have the possibility to use Microsoft’s SkyDrive. It grants 25 GB of storage (More than Apple’s iCloud) and a file size limit of 100 MB. Now there is not much known about the integration of SkyDrive in Windows 8, but as the OS progresses, we might see a migration towards cloud storage.
- Pictures and Videos
There is not much to tell about the picture viewer, but in the video category, Microsoft have made some changes. Videos can be viewed in Metro UI with high fidelity, and IE10 seems to migrate towards the use of no plugins. But flash videos can still be viewed in Desktop IE.
- Using Windows 8 With Mouse and Keyboard
Windows 8 was developed to be used with a touchscreen, but the fact is that it’s just as versatile if you are using a mouse and keyboard. The first thing you will have to adjust is the missing start button, now replaced with the start screen. To access it, just click the lower left corner, where the start button used to be. That will bring up the start screen (a.k.a Metro UI).
Also, the Windows 8 has the Picture Log In feature that replaces the old fashioned password with a picture where you have to click on predefined points or gestures. This feature works great with a mouse, so no worry there. Now, another problem is that I’ve been seeing people ask is how to switch between apps, since the UI was developed for touchscreens and we do not know if the well known Alt+Tab will be available.
To switch apps or files, hover the mouse pointer in the upper left corner. This will show you all your recent apps or files. The right side of the screen is the Windows 8 Charms Bar, which contains a set of system commands such as Settings, Search, Devices, and a link back to the Start Screen.