Windows 8, Windows 8, Windows 8 — everyone is talking about Windows 8, and that’s definitely a good thing. If you’re trying to get things together on the Windows 8 front, you might want to actually get a good review before you decide to buy into the hype. Like a lot of big launches, we like to wait until some of the smoke has cleared before we jump into the fray with our review. We hope that it makes a difference. Be sure to send us an email to really let us know what’s on your mind. We would love to hear from you!
The first thing that you need to understand about this operating system is that there are some different “flavors” out. You have the Developer Preview, the Consumer Preview, the Release Preview, and the RTM Build. This review isn’t as timely as some others — after all, users have had time to look at the public download since February of 2012.
The reason why reviews are needed now is because made for Windows 8 hardware has popped up, and it’s time to look at everything from a final bird’s eye view.
This was challenging for a lot of “in the wild” reviewers and observers, because Windows 8 was designed to fit onto so many different platforms — new PCs, new tablets, new devices and everything in between. We’re going to try to start with the “overview” and then work our way down.
The first thing that you will notice with Windows 8 is that it is completely all about the “cloud”. This is what makes your boot up sequence very fast — less than a minute in most cases. Sure, Vista gave us a definitely speed boost from Windows XP, but it could still get slow. Windows 7 sped things up as well, but again — it could drag if you weren’t careful.
You’ll see a quick splash screen and a brand spanking new Windows logo. You’ll get a 30 second video that’s designed to tell you what to expect — including new navigation like the Charms Bar which lets you reach some new goodies. We’ll get to those in just a second.
Basically, when you boot up Windows 8 you will need to make sure that you sign into your Microsoft account. If you’re using it for Hotmail, SkyDrive, and Xbox Live, then this is going to be that same account. Every time you sign into a Windows 8 PC, your settings and customizations will follow you. That’s incredibly powerful and shouldn’t be ignored at all. You just need to makes rue that you’re thinking about trying to get the best experience possible. Microsoft does make a lot of improvements here, and we were pretty pleased. Are there some imperfections? Of course. We get a little bugged when people expect a system to be perfect. Anyone with a background in programming will tell you that there will always be bugs. Of course, squishing bugs as quickly as possible is definitely the best reaction but it can’t always be helped.
Oh, Office Fans: Office 2013 backups up to SkyDrive by default, so any document that you edit in Windows 8 will upload to the cloud. This also means that Internet access is definitely a must. However, how many homes don’t have Internet access at home, really? These days, it’s just about the top necessity that you need to consider. Don’t give up on getting things done just because it’s a new interface. We’re not done yet.
Of course, if you don’t have a Microsoft account (we’ll be honest and admit there are probably some folks that don’t) — you can set that up quickly. You can link your account at any time and you can disconnect it to have a local account. As always, you can have multiple user accounts.
For the picky set among us, you can pick which settings do get synced across all of your Windows 8 devices, and which ones do not. This includes desktop personalization, accessibility, language, app and browser settings. You can even sync your lock screen, File Explorer settings, mouse settings, password (as long as the computer is “trusted” through a quick online verification process) and your account picture. It’s the little things that count, you know.
Security is something that has to be covered here. You can not only use a standard password but also a four digit PIN to unlock the device.
Something Android fans will notice — you get to use a picture password and make a series of gestures on it. You’re limited to taps, circles, or swipes. You also need to remember where on the picture you have to make each gesture. If you can’t repeat the pattern, then you have to come up with something else. This extra layer of security can give you some serious peace of mind — how many people will not only know that picture, but know exactly where to tap or swipe on the picture to unlock your PC?
Let’s dig into the user interface, since this is one of the top places that’s “new” on the system. The Start Screen is completely changed, with a lot of colorful squares that are supposed to easily represent everything that matters to you in life.
These are called Live Tiles, and most people that are used to Windows Phone will remember them well. It’s different but it’s still pretty interesting. It’s impossible to avoid them completely.
There’s no more Start button per se that’s visible — you’ll have to hover your mouse over where the Start button usually is. You can find a shortcut to the Start menu in that Charms Bar that we were talking about. Swipe in from the right side of the screen, and the Charms Bar will appear.
You can use a pinch to zoom gesture to shrink the Start Screen. If you’re tired of having to go horizontally through a bunch of menus, this is a great improvement from previous versions of Windows.
Multitasking is so much better in this version of Windows 9 — you get to use the Switcher gesture, as well as Snap. Snap is a feature that lets you dock a window or app so that it takes up a 1/3rd or even 2/3rds of the screen. This leaves a lot of room for a second app, which you can just “snap” into the remaining space. You can move things around with ease.
Personalization is definitely here. Even though you can’t bring back your traditional Start button, you can indeed get different color themes for the Start Screen. There’s something new called Personalization Tattoos that give you backgrounds with patterns and borders. This will follow you around as you move from device to device.
Read More →