Microsoft website. I have installed it in two machines at home, one a Windows 7 upgrade in a desktop and another a clean installation in a Dell Latitude laptop.
Microsoft designed Windows 8 as single OS across all the hardware platforms, as a desktop OS, as a Tablet OS and a mobile OS. Initially you will find it very hard to see the improvements since most of the features are hidden, much improved task Manager, virtual drive running .iso files directly, integration with skydrive etc. Once you dig out all of those hidden features Windows 8 becomes interesting and you will understand it is a big improvement over Windows 7. These features will be discussed in successive parts of this article.
Introduction to Windows 8Installation is very easy and needs hardly any input once you pop in the installation CD. You can choose either clean installation or upgrade your Windows.
In either case, one of the tiles brings you to the "desktop," which looks essentially identical to the traditional Windows 7 desktop, except that the Start menu isn't there anymore. Instead, you click on the lower-left hand corner and go to the Metro Start screen, or “Windows” key brings you to the same place. Metro is something which is designed for a touch screen and not exactly for a mouse and track pad. Unfortunately you will be reminded of this painful truth while navigating between applications. With start menu missing you will wonder how to start any programs. So let us solve this mystery of start.
StartNeed to get back to the Start screen or toggle between the Start screen and an app? Simply use the new Start experience, which replaces the old fashioned Start button and now works in both the desktop and Metro environments. Here's how:
Keyboard: Tap the Windows Key (WINKEY) on your keyboard, or CTRL + ESC.
Mouse: Mouse into the lower left corner of the screen to display the Start tip, and then click it.
Touch: Activate the Charms by swiping in from the right side of the screen and then tap the Start charm.
Windows UI has lot of hidden elements which will pop up different option menus when you move around the corners of the screen.
Charms BarWindows 8 Desktop view and Metro Start Screen let you open Charms bar – a right-side bar menu that gives system-wide access to Search, Sharing, System Settings and Basic Actions. To access the Charms bar
- Just move your mouse pointer to bottom- or top-right corner of the screen
- Use Windows + C hotkey combination to access the charms bar.
It also shows the current time, day, date, and Internet status and battery level at bottom-right side of the screen.
Charms menu in the right side of the screen
How to shutdown the system?In the absence of Windows style start menu you need to relearn how to shutdown a Windows machine! You will get Windows 8 Settings pane which can be selected from the Charms bar which contains power button options (marked in red circle), such as, Shutdown, Restart, Sleep etc. It also contains many shortcuts of system-related settings including, Network, Volume, Notifications, Power, and system notification toggle.
How to run a program?You can run the program in Windows 7 style desktop if you wish. Click on the desktop tile in the start screen and you will get your old Windows 7 style desktop with all the short cuts as before. Now you are ready to launch any program.
You can run a program in Windows 8 native style by just clicking the corresponding tiles.
Windows 8 Start SearchYou can search for may program by typing the first one or two letters in the startup screen and it brings up an interesting menu which list the programs installed in the machine as shown below. You can click on any of that program to launch it.
How to switch between programs? SwitcherSwitcher is a new task management UI that helps you switch between the currently running Metro-style apps and desktop applications. You invoke Switcher as follows:
Keyboard: WINKEY + TAB (or WINKEY + SHIFT + TAB)
Mouse: Move the mouse cursor into the top left corner of the screen. When the thumbnail of the previous app appears, move down the left edge of the screen.
Touch: Swipe in from the left side of the screen, and when the first app thumbnail appears, swipe back toward the left
Windows 7 vs Windows 8 : ComparisonNow, I will continue my discussion by seeing some of the features which are very different from Windows 7 and is hidden from a causal user.
1. Task ManagerThe following figures give you an idea of the extent to which Microsoft revamped Task Manager in Windows 8. You may be familiar with the first two screens in Windows 7 but the details on the subsequent screens are entirely different.
2. Windows 8 can read ISO files and mount VHDs - Virtual Hard DrivesThese are not ground breaking features and we had it for older Windows with third party plug in. But now it is a built in feature of Windows 8. ISO images are images of CD or DVD and using Windows 7 you could burn them into a CD. Windows 8 allows you to mount these ISO images as if they are a separate drive and allows you to browse through files. ISO images are mounted as optical drives and unmounting them is as simple as clicking the eject option in the ribbon menu. This is really handy in real World scenarios where you need not search for your CD or DVDs; you can point to the stored image in your HDD and play. This feature enables you to copy the ISO image of CD to a Tablet using USB/ wireless and touch it to open.
3. Windows StoreSimilar App store in Mac OS X Lion Microsoft has launched Windows 8 store supported by the OS. You can download apps from Windows 8 store and install it. There are a few differences though. In Apple App store, there is no trial period of any apps, instead you need to download the lite version for free and play with it to decide on spending for the full version. Microsoft store allows you to download the trail versions with full features for a limited period to enable you to decide on the purchase. This is good for the developers since they do not have to create another feature stripped “lite” version like in iOS store.
Revenue Sharing: In Apple store 30% of the revenue is retained by Apple for the life time of the apps and 70% is given to the developers. Microsoft is little more lenient it cut 30% for first $25000 worth of purchase or subscriptions and after that it will be reduced to 20% cut. The sale price is determined by the developers not Microsoft. Microsoft not alone permits in-application purchases but encourages such transactions.
4. SKY Drive IntegrationFor years many years Microsoft offered SKY drive for free up to 25GB but it was not really very popular like DropBox. Now it is tightly integrated with Windows 8, you can save to Sky drive as if you are saving to any other local drive from any applications. But MS decided to give only 7GB free for the new users and you need to pay ($50 for 100GB) for more space. Existing users of Sky Drive will enjoy the 25GB for some more time, how long it is not sure.
5. Windows 8 Lock screenWindows 8 Lock Screen is not static like earlier Windows lock screens; it gives out lot of information and is optimized for both tablets and PC users. The new Lock Screen includes two main components; the lock screen image with dynamic battery and network icons & application status message badges and login screen to enter password in order to login to Windows 8. Another noteworthy aspect of Windows Lock Screen is that it allows applications to show notification related to their different tasks and functions. The notification feature is highly configurable; you can either all supported applications to send notifications to Lock Screen or manually choose applications from App list.
6. Revamped File copyingMicrosoft revamped the Copy Dialog box in Windows 8. Now you get useful visualizations of the progress and speed of your file copy. You can also pause / resume individual copies if you're doing many in parallel. Another interesting thing to note is that the file copies now properly resume if you put your system to sleep and wake it up later. If you are trying to copy /over write to an existing file you are presented with preview of the files for easier decision.
7. Built-in AntivirusMicrosoft has bundled an Antivirus along with the operating system called Microsoft Security Essentials.
8. Cross device SynchronizationLike Apple iOS devices MS offers synchronization across Windows devices, PC, tablet or phone.
9. Restore PCs/ Reset PCWhen your PC running Windows 8 is becoming slower you may plan to make it faster by redoing the entire thing like what we used to do in Windows 7. Luckily Windows 8 comes with two options.
a. Restore PC
This leaves all the files, including metro style apps downloaded from the store, menu settings etc intact and clean the rest of the apps which clutter your PC. You have option to decide which one you need to reinstall. You do not have to start from scratch like in Windows 7.
b. Reset PC
This option is used if you want to sell your PC or start from a clean PC again. It wipes out the entire content and re install the OS alone.