Windows 8 Release Preview offers an insight into what users can expect when the final version of the Windows OS is released this fall. If you have not yet downloaded the operating system and are curious to get a sneak peek, in this post, I’ll take a look at some of the top features of the Windows 8 Release Preview what users can expect from the most talked about release of 2012 from Microsoft.
A Look at Windows 8 Release Preview
The Start Screen
Windows 7 users who are familiar with the clean desktop that loads at startup are in for a surprise. The Start Button, which used to be a big round inconspicuous button on the Taskbar, has actually transformed into an entire screen. The Start screen is better known as the Metro UI and it features live or interactive tiles that display the names of various programs or Metro Apps. The Metro UI is the single biggest talking point of Windows 8 and definitely overshadows other features of the OS. Mail, Calendar, Internet Explorer 10, Store, People, Photos, Maps, SkyDrive, Messaging, Video, Music, Desktop, Weather, Xbox Live Games, Camera, News, Sports, Travel, and Finance are the default apps on the Metro UI.
Getting to the Start Screen or Metro UI takes getting used to. The Start screen can be accessed by clicking the bottom-left corner of the screen, the previous location of the Start button. You can also access it by hovering over the top-right of the screen to display a hidden bar called the Charm menu and choosing Start. Of course the easiest way to access the Start screen is to use the Windows Logo key on the keyboard.
Metro Apps in the Windows Store
One of the top features of Windows 8 is the Windows Store which is home to all sorts of apps including games, social, entertainment, photo, music, video, sports books, news, weather, health, fitness and more. However, the Store still has some catching up to do when compared to the Android and iTunes marketplaces. Not to worry, there’s enough to keep you engaged for now.
Interactive Tiles for Apps
Metro Apps hog the limelight on the Windows 8 OS. The apps gain life in the form of live tiles. For instance, when you connect to the People App, you are instantly connected to your contacts on Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other accounts and the live People tile rotates the images of your contacts. If you connect to the Weather App, you can see the current temperatures in your city or location. Latest updates and notifications constantly flash on the live tiles keeping you updated with all that’s going on in your world.
Search in Windows 8 is magical! All you need to do to find a program or app is to start typing on the screen. The Search box will automatically slide in from the right of the screen with results populated.
Windows in the Cloud
When you install Windows 8, you will be required to sign in to your Microsoft account, giving you instant access to your social accounts, email, and cloud services. Plus, if you sign in to to any other Windows 8 device, a tablet, or a smartphone, you will see the same settings you have on your desktop including themes, language settings, default browser, and apps. Signing up also gets you instant notifications via the live tiles.
There’s nothing really charming about this menu. In fact, its hidden and appears only when you hover your mouse pointer at the top-right of the screen. The Charm menu holds 5 options. Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings. The Search option, is at best redundant. Share lets you send links, photos, videos and more to your contacts, friends, and family. Start is a toggle option that takes you to Start screen or the last viewed app. Devices lets you send files to printers, another screen, TV or other devices. Settings carries options to shut down the PC, adjust the volume and brightness, internet connectivity and change PC settings.
Working with Metro Apps
You will need to work your way around apps using commands that are not visible on the screen. You will find them at the top and bottom of the app screen by right-clicking within the screen.
You can quickly access recently used apps by hovering over the top-right corner of the screen and pulling the mouse down. This will display a tiled list of recent apps within which to choose from.
Just as you can snap two windows on the Aero Desktop in Windows 7, you can snap two open apps in Windows 8. Hover the mouse pointer at the top of the screen and you’ll see a hand symbol. Drag it down and then move to the left or right for snap action! This feature only works on a screen resolution of 1366 x 768
Built for Touch
Working with Windows 8 on a desktop or laptop not enabled for touch is a shame. The Metro UI screams touch every step of the way. Navigating back and forth between apps is ridiculously laughable with a mouse and a keyboard. Users of Windows 7 desktop are bound to be disappointed with much of the functioning of Windows 8 on desktops or laptops lacking touch facilities.
Users who have grown accustomed to the Windows way of life will find it difficult and frustrated with things initially and will have to unlearn quite a lot of the commands and functions familiar to them. Windows 8 may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but is a sure to be a delight on touch screen devices.
What are your initial reactions to Windows 8 Release Preview? Are you planning to upgrade to Windows 8 on your old hardware or are you looking for a touch enabled Windows 8 tablet?