The official release of Windows 8 is getting closer and closer, but should consumers be excited for the new operating system? Sure Windows 8 may be the boldest move that Microsoft has ever made with their desktop operating system, but does that make it good? Let’s check out some of the top features of Windows 8 and you can decide for yourself.
1) Metro interface
The biggest and most noticeable change by far has to be the introduction of the Metro interface design that consumers first saw with Windows Phone 7. In fact, the Metro design is a bold move by Microsoft to incorporate the design across all of their user interfaces from phones, Xbox, and PCs.
The Metro interface is centered around flat, colorful tiles that update with live information, similar to what we’ve seen with Windows Phone 7. Windows 8 is Microsoft taking tablet interfaces very seriously while still trying to please desktop and laptop users. There are a ton of gestures for laptops and especially tablets.
2) Cloud integration
Microsoft is taking cues from both Apple and Android with its heavy emphasis on cloud storage and seamless sync with their Microsoft Live service, SkyDrive, and even Facebook. When you first log in to your Windows 8 computer, all of your contacts, calendars, and mail accounts will be synced automatically, allowing users to use their computers right out of the box.
3) Features for both novice and advanced users
Many of the design changes in Windows 8 are made to make the operating system easier to use for newbies, but many power users are worried that the whole operating system will be overly simplified.
While the Metro interface is targeted toward tablet users and novices, the backbone of Windows 8 is still filled with features that power users will find useful.
For example, when you first fire up Task Manager, it can be shocking to see such a spartan view. You can end tasks and that’s about it. Click on the ‘More details’ button and everything changes. The Windows task manager is more powerful than ever, giving power users more information about processes, performance, and running services.
4) File History
Microsoft has really taken a hint from Apple with the introduction of File History. Apple’s OS X introduced Time Machine and more recently, Versions, where changes to documents are automatically save and multiple versions of a file can be accessed. It’s like having a mini Time Machine within apps like Word and Text Edit. File History works much the same way as Versions by allowing access to previous versions of documents. There are options to change how often revisions are saved and how many versions to keep. Users can use an external drive or cloud storage like Microsoft SkyDrive to house these versions.
5) Multitasking with Metro apps
While Metro apps look beautiful and work well with tablets, their purpose seems to diminish while using Windows 8’s desktop mode like a traditional PC. Fortunately, you can have a blend of both Metro and the standard desktop UI by multitasking with Metro applications.
While using the desktop interface, you can hover your mouse over the top left to activate the recently used apps list. Right clicking on one of them will give you the option to close or snap the program to the left or right. This allows you to throw up a Metro app on the side of the screen for persistent notifications and interaction. For example, you can have the weather app sit on the side while working to see how the weather changes.
6) Better multi-monitor support
One of the more subtle features that Windows 8 Consumer Preview introduced is better multi-monitor support. This is great for the power user who uses more than one monitor for their workflow. Each monitor will feature a taskbar, something that was suspiciously missing from Windows 7. This makes keeping track of where your program windows are much easier. Each monitor’s resolution, orientation, and personalization can be change independently of one another.
Windows 8 Consumer Preview has shown us just how polished Windows 8 has become. The final product is just weeks away from shipping and Microsoft has shown a lot of thought and more importantly, how many risks its willing to take to capture some of the tablet market share from Apple. Still, there are a lot of quirks that I will be covering in a feature post.