I suppose I should start by laying my cards on the table, I am a Linux user, have been for years, and probably will be for years to come. Now that’s out of the way, on with the show. Windows 8 is probably the biggest change in the Microsoft provided working environment since Windows first launched. Gone is the infamous start button that every Windows user knows so well. Instead MS have adopted to use a homescreen style setup that is more familiar on smartphones and tablets, and I have to say that on a touch screen Netbook it works fantastically well. As you can see in the picture MS have used the same live tile idea that they introduced in Windows Phone 7 to portray snippets of information on the home screen.
WINDOWS 8 HOMESCREEN
Large tiles and icons, as well as oversized control buttons (user interface element sizes can be adjusted) make touch control a breeze coupled with extended touch zones mean that you don’t need a finger end shaped like a pencil point to select what you want. Windows 8 knows it’s your finger on the screen, an obvious point missed in a lot of desktop operating systems which expect pin point mouse accuracy. As W8 was very obviously designed with touch in mind, how does it cope on a standard PC setup with keyboard and mouse/trackpad as the sources of input? Surprisingly well is the answer. MS could really have messed up big here, but instead they have again given a lot of thought to the problem and opted to keep things simple. Hot corners give you access to the main areas you want, and as anyone who has used this method before knows, it is a very quick way of doing things. Top and bottom left gives you your open apps and return to home, with top and bottom right giving the control menu.
A long overdue and welcome addition to W8 is the Store. Other operating systems have had central application repositories for what seems an eternity now, and it really is about time that MS caught up. The choice of available apps is very limited, but as I am only using the preview edition, and the full version is still to be released that is to be expected. Apps that are available through the Store will have to follow the W8 design guidelines to keep everything working and looking the same. W8 also introduces another smartphone style element where you don’t actually close apps, instead they are left in the background, and only removed if the system needs space for a currently in use app (don’t worry, it won’t close anything with an ‘open’ file or document). One of the design guides for new apps is that they run in full screen, and while this goes against everything that you will be used to in your current windows setup, on W8 it not only works, but also makes sense. Switching between apps is easy, and you can also split your screen giving your main app 2/3 and an additional app 1/3. This is a little compromise that makes viewing a twitter feed while working on a document possible.
SPLIT SCREEN DESKTOP & tweeTRO
As I mentioned, I am using the preview release, and expect the full version to come with a few more nice little features. I have to say I would recommend Windows 8 to any average home user, it really is a very simple interface to learn and is also very intuitive. Windows 8 sees MS take a great step forward to making a PC a home appliance. With more and more touchscreens coming to the market it is the only sensible way to go right now. As for power users, well we tend to be a little more fickle, and for us it will be the ultimate Marmite UI. But I do believe that as time goes by, even the most anti W8 will eventually come to see it’s strengths.