Later this month, Microsoft will officially ship Windows 8 beginning the next era of Windows computing. People have been talking about the upcoming update to the Windows operating system for awhile now. Some people think the update is a good thing while others think it is the worst thing Microsoft has done yet. Well, this is the Internet, so I’m not surprised to see the opinions ranging from the really positive to the really negative. I have actually avoided forming any opinion on the new operating system until I could give it a try, and I have been trying it since last night.
My first impressions of Windows 8 are primarily positive. I love trying out new operating systems (mainly Linux), so I actually looked forward to giving this one a try. Once I had it installed, I was surprised to be greeted by the Windows 8 Start screen. Unlike previous versions of Windows, you don’t immediately go to the desktop. That happens to be one of the options (apps?) that you can click on in the Start screen. If you check out my current graphic header, you can see a partial screenshot of the Start screen. It took me a few minutes to figure out what was going on. This new screen is quite a departure from the usual desktop/Start button interface I have grown used to in Windows, but I was able to start navigating around after a few trial and error clicks.
The best way to explain what using Windows 8 is like would be to compare it to applying a smartphone or tablet interface on top of Windows 7. Many of the Windows 7 features I have gotten used to do hide within Windows 8, but you have to figure out where they hide. I realize this operating system has been designed for touch screens, but I don’t have one of those. However, I was able to navigate the interface just fine using my mouse. The scroll wheel on the mouse becomes a big part of navigating the interface on many different screens and Windows 8 apps. Since I have been using a tablet for a few months now, I was able to figure out how parts of the new Windows 8 interface works, which means that people who have not used a tablet or smartphone may find themselves stuck and frustrated when they try to navigate around in the new operating system.
For example, I was completely lost when I first opened the new Internet Explorer (IE). I wanted to start installing some of the programs I enjoy using, like Firefox. I liked the fact that the new IE opens up full screen because I like browsing at full screen, but once the address bar (which is at the bottom of the screen) disappeared, I couldn’t figure out how to bring it back for a bit. Hint: Press F4. I’m sure there is some mouse gesture that brings it up to, but I never figured it out. I’m willing to try pressing buttons to figure things out because that is what I have become accustomed to. I like experimenting. However, I know many people will not like the fact that there is no clear directions on how to access things. Hopefully Microsoft has developed a really helpful FAQ or help area that people can access (assuming they can figure out how to access it).
Once I had my bearings and installed many of the programs I enjoy using, I have been having a lot of fun. I rearranged and set up my Start screen to meet what I like to do and click on. I connected the desktop to my Windows Live account to take advantage of the connected features like email, messaging, and notifications. Much like tablets and smartphones, you can connect Windows 8 to a variety of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to stay connected. One big feature is the ability to share stuff easily with others. Once you connect your Windows 8 computer to an account like Facebook, you can easily share photos and post status updates directly from inside of Windows.
Trying to locate things I am familiar with has been a challenge. It took me a bit to figure out that you can right click on the Start screen to get the option to see all the Apps on the computer. Once I did that, I found a lot of the stuff that I am used to like the Control Panel, File Explorer, and others. It is possible to pin those to the Start screen. Programs that do not connect in with the new Interface flawlessly like IE take you to the Desktop to run, which looks almost exactly like the Windows 7 desktop except for no Start button. You can access different options like the sharing feature, Start button, and new settings feature by dragging the mouse to the top-right corner or bottom-right corner.
My one complaint is the missing close option in the apps. That frustrated me for a bit because I don’t want a bunch of stuff running in the background if I don’t have to. Basically, the interface mimicks a tablet interface by keeping something open in the background after you go back to the Start screen. This is supposed to make it easier to multitask from one app to another, but what if I am done with the app? Well, there is no easy way to close an app that I could find, but I did figure out that the key combination Alt-F4 still closes programs. I found myself using Alt-F4 a lot to close down apps I was done with. Hopefully Microsoft makes an easier method to do this, but I don’t really mind if they don’t because I don’t mind using my keyboard to do stuff. Other people may not like this at all, and a computer that does not have a lot of ram could easily be bogged down by multiple apps open and running in the background. I guess an app killer may become common in Windows now like it is on an Android tablet. I should mention that programs that run on the desktop still have the usual X to close them down for now, but it will be interesting to see what happens when program developers try to integrate their programs into the new interface and how that will affect what people are used to.
There is still a lot for me to figure out, but I have been fairly happy with the new OS. It will be interesting to see how others respond especially when the new computers start selling with Windows 8. People who are uncomfortable with change will definitely not enjoy the new OS. I can also see how the new OS will frustrate people who have never really tried anything outside of Windows and don’t really use a tablet or smartphone. People who do use tablets and smartphones will probably pick up the new OS quicker than others.
Windows 8 comes out later this month, so I guess time will tell.