If you haven’t already, please read part one before going any further. This part will have a more personal touch. In the first half of his review, I pointed out some of the shortcomings that Windows 8 still has. Today’s look will highlight some of the many improvements. For this, a leap of faith is a prerequisite. Change always demands that we let go of conventions so that we can objectively assess the new.
After using the final version of Windows 8 for a day now, it’s easy to disagree with the mixed reviews around the net: Modern UI is not a failure, regardless of your setup. It works just as well with keyboard and mouse as it would on a touch screen. Me, I personally use the mouse just to select files or click on menu items. For the rest, there are keyboard shortcuts, which begin with the Windows key.
People seem to forget there’s a Windows key. It would eliminate the problems users now have with the missing Start menu.
So here is a little reminder for everybody:
- Windows key: opens the Start screen. Just like in Windows 7, you can start typing to search for an app.
- Win + D:closes all windows to reveal the desktop.
- Win + C:opens the new Charms menu, where you can search, share, and change settings.
- Win + I:opens the Settings panel, where you can change settings for the current app, change volume, wireless networks, shut down, or adjust the brightness.
- Win + H:opens the Share panel.
- Win + Q:brings up the Search screen.
- Win + W:brings up the Settings search.
- Win + F: brings up the File search.
Just because it worked great for me doesn’t mean you’ll have a similarly positive experience. Not every computer is equipped with an SSD, so the actual installation maybe extends beyond 10 minutes. All in all, though, Windows 8 should be faster on the same machine that ran Windows 7 smoothly. Don’t take my word for granted; it simply served the purpose to illustrate how well Windows 8 runs on my three-year-old machine.
One feature that I cannot test, unfortunately, is Windows To Go. It’s pretty similar to a Linux Live CD, in principle. However, this is not just a simulation of Windows 8, but rather a fully functional Windows partition. It’ll adapt to any computer, and load directly from a USB stick. According to some reviews online, it works very well and is seamless to the experience, but this feature is only available in Windows 8 Enterprise. For those interested in testing that particular feature, you can download a 90-day trial edition of Windows 8 Enterprise.
Right now one of the biggest mysteries is how the puzzle will fit together. A new SkyDrive, Outlook email service, and Modern UI elements everywhere are already in place. However, one big question mark remains: the apps in the Windows Store. Will there be enough? From now until October 26th, developers will have the time to assess Windows 8 and, it is hoped, start filling the store with meaningful apps.
The SkyDrive Modern app looks identical to the newly updated website. It’s easy to navigate. In fact, there’s a lot of polish when using the preinstalled apps. Sometimes there’s a bit of a disconnect between Modern UI and the traditional desktop, but it’s only a matter of breaking habits.
Many of the games are fun and visually appealing. On a Windows 8 tablet I can imagine them to be great fun, even for more than one player. Other, more practical apps, like the iCookbook app, could also prove to be very useful on a tablet. I can imagine having this app open while cooking dinner. Visually, it lends itself beautifully to multi-touch. Also, don’t worry about resource hogging. I found it much better to just leave your most-used Modern apps open. When you switch to the desktop mode, they go into a sleep mode; as soon as you switch back, your apps are waiting.
To be honest, I see no reason why the general public should not upgrade to Windows 8 — especially if they can buy it for $39.99. In an enterprise environment, it’s a different matter. However, if people simply let go of previous conventions, then daily computing routines will be greatly simplified.
Am I biased? I have used every consumer version Since Windows 3.11, including the great Windows 2000. I dare to claim this is the best version of Windows as of yet, but only if you’re able to try something new. If you’re already stubborn about not liking the new Modern UI, well, then you’re limiting yourself. Yet I’m not saying that Windows 7 is archaic. On the contrary, I believe that Windows 7 will become the new XP. I just pray that people don’t refuse to upgrade for silly reasons, like not warming to the new interface design.
If you don’t like the “Metro” look and feel, then don’t use that part. It’s that simple to still enjoy all other improvements Windows 8 brings with it. Human beings are able to adapt to almost anything, so I predict that in less than a year, no one will ever be complaining about the missing Start button, or tile-based Start screen. Windows XP also looked like a product from Fisher Price, yet it became the most dominant OS for a whole decade.
In two months, Windows 8 goes on sale for the whole world. The Windows RT Surface will appear, alongside a whole array of Windows-based tablets. This Christmas season users will have the first serious choice between an iPad and a competing device. Let the users choose, because they decide the market, too. However, I hope that Microsoft continues on its new journey; everybody benefits from it.
Image sources: The Verge and Microsoft