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Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Now that the Win8 CP is out in the wild, I wanted to share some of the things I found different and interesting in my trials with the new OS. Microsoft is again following the very public and very successful methodology it developed for Windows 7 by putting it in industry hands well before launch. The Win8 team is busy blogging about features while taking praise and criticism that can amount to real product change before the OS goes Generally Available. Device makers can develop drivers for their hardware well in advance so when Win8 hits shelves there are zero support gaps. With the new Windows app store, developers can build applications and games that will also be available when the OS reaches consumers. This is a very good strategy that will end with the public ultimately knowing exactly what it’s getting with a very polished product that has already been put through the paces.

Basics

Setup is a mirror image of Windows7 at this point, very clean and simple. What immediately follows is a new personalization wizard that adds many options prior to initial login. Just like on Apple and Android platforms, you now have the option to sign in using an online account for use in the Windows Store and syncing settings across multiple PCs. You can also opt out of this and sign in with a local account.

You can also turn many privacy, troubleshooting and other settings on or off before logging in.

Once the settings are finalized, you log in to be presented with the metro tiled layout to which we are becoming more and more accustomed.

Switching from metro to the traditional desktop can be done either by clicking the “Desktop” tile or clicking the lower left corner. Switching back to metro from the desktop is done by clicking in the lower left corner or using the win key + tab combination which brings up the start bar and cycles amongst running apps.

As seen before the Start button is sadly gone now and the options that previously existed to customize its look and feel are appropriately gone as well.

Metro

It quickly becomes apparent that you are dealing with two completely separate UIs within one OS: metro and the desktop UI. Apps launched in each UI are even managed differently. Metro apps that are running show up only in the new Start bar while traditional desktop apps show only in the desktop taskbar.

Metro apps can be closed by grabbing near the top of the screen (inside the app) and throwing them away at the bottom of the screen or by using the start bar to right-click and close. To make the metro start bar appear you have to slide the mouse from the bottom left corner up the left edge.

Customizing the metro interface is done via the metro settings menu. Hovering in the far right corner reveals a control overlay that provides access to search and devices as well. This overlay is accessible from both metro as well as the desktop UI.

Clicking settings from here reveals some basic controls including power control. The resulting settings menu is a good candidate for further refinement as the only option in the top settings link is to expose administrative tools. You have to click “more PC settings at the bottom right to get to a place where any real customization can occur.

Once in the more PC settings area, the options range from wallpaper to device settings.

One of the more interesting areas is “sync your settings” which controls what system settings to sync up to the cloud for use on your other devices.

Search has also undergone a significant change with the Start button/ Start Search now being defunct. The mechanism that controlled the search index remains the same but metro has taken over. Hovering over the lower right corner again brings up the overlay that contains access to search now. Just like Start Search anything in the PC can be searched for. The new metro interface breaks out the results between Apps, Settings, and Files. The count next to each shows how many matches exist in each category.

Right-clicking in the metro open space reveals a single option in the lower left to reveal all apps.

From there you can see all desktop UI apps.

From here you can pin a desktop app to a metro tile if you choose. This still results in the application executing on the desktop UI side.

The Windows Store is in place and functional. It even had a few updates for some stock metro apps.

Platform app stores seem to be judged by the number of apps available in their respective stores (regardless of quality) so I’m sure we’ll eventually see any current records broken here as well.

Desktop

All the new visual changes in metro aside, there are some interesting changes on the desktop side as well. IE10 shows itself with some security and functionality enhancements while retaining much of the traditional IE interface.

Windows explorer of course finally receives the ribbon treatment and eliminates the need for separate menu item drop downs.

Task manager received a total facelift completely abandoning the classic NT look that has endured for so long. It also was revamped for usability in which it clearly succeeds.

“More details” opens an impressive and data-rich interface where applications are grouped among those run by the user and the OS, each displaying its own consumption of the 4 core hardware metrics.

The performance tab beautifully displays the real-time resource utilization. Resource monitor can be launched from here but its UI was not updated in this go-around.

“Details” is what “Processes” is in Windows7 but with the new categorized processes tab in Win8 I‘m not sure why this was included. The ability to control apps that start with Windows in the Startup tab is a nice touch allowing easy disabling of anything you want shut off.

The users tab further breaks down what is being run by the user but seems redundant based on what is already in the processes tab. I would bet that we’ll see further refinement and consolidation before launch.

Digging through the control panel I see quite a few things that are new or have changed.

Storage Spaces is a high-level software RAID type of solution that pools external storage devices to protect your files while also providing thin provisioning .

File history is another file protection mechanism that can be used to copy important files to external storage or SMB share.

Additional refining options are available in the advanced settings.

Recovery provides the highly anticipated Refresh and Reset options that offer a virtual reset button should things go wrong with your PC.

Credential Manager has been expanded to include a delineated web credentials section for managing accounts saved in IE.

Another highly anticipated feature of Win8 is native Hyper-V. This replaces XP Mode in Win7 and provides a natural alignment with Windows8 Server. This feature requires 4GB RAM and an x64 version of Windows to host desktops.

 

All told the Win8 Consumer Preview is another very solid pre-beta release from Microsoft. Just like it was with Win7, I anticipate that Win8 beta1 will be stable enough to run as a primary OS.

1 comment:

  1. All the above is good, but how to get rid of PC settings panel?..

    ReplyDelete

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