Microsoft released what it calls a Consumer Preview of its next operating system, Windows 8, on Feb. 29. The Consumer Preview is a free download to allow people to experience the changes Microsoft has made to the operating system. Here is a close look at the changes and additions included in the next version of Windows.
The biggest change to Windows is the Metro user interface that effectively doubles as the new start screen when the windows key is pressed on the keyboard. The familiar start button in the bottom left of the screen is no longer.
Metro consists of sets of colorful tiles that represent different apps. The unique thing about these tiles is that they not only allow launching the chosen app, but also provide a live preview of information so the information is available at a glance.
For instance, the mail app shows previews of the latest emails received, while the weather app gives a quick glimpse of the local weather. This new interface has been ridiculed by some, but it works well and is analogous to how a smart phone works.
To understand how Metro works, imagine using a smart phone or tablet. The windows start button is now the home button. Tiles are the app icons found on any handheld device. Clicking the weather tile to see what the weekend weather is going to be like using the Metro interface as if it were a smart phone can help one understand why Microsoft made the design decisions it did. After all, this version of Windows was designed with laptops, desktops and tablets in mind.
Now hit the windows key on the keyboard to go back to Metro. Click the mail tile to check emails. Of course, don’t forget Facebook. Hit the windows key once more and then click on the Internet Explorer tile. Notice that Internet Explorer looks different from its previous iterations. This is the Metro version of Internet Explorer, a kind of lean, mobile version of the browser.
The classic desktop mode is accessible by clicking on its Metro tile. This will take users to the desktop with familiar icons and programs. Metro apps are all full screen, so desktop apps have the advantage of being resizable for hardcore multitaskers out there.
In this view, there is also no windows start button in the bottom-left corner. Instead, Microsoft has implemented active corners. Hover the mouse in the bottom left corner of the screen at any time and it pulls up a preview of the Metro start page. This is the new start button. It will go back to the Metro start page. If the Metro start page is already up, clicking in that corner brings the user back to the last program being used.
The top left corner of the screen is the multitasking corner. It allows users to access recent apps and quickly switch between them. The two right corners of the screen give access to things like settings, search and power options.
From power button to login screen, it takes barely 15 seconds. This was a pleasant surprise.
All in all, Windows 8 has some wonderful additions in the Metro interface, providing incredibly fast and easy access to things like email and weather reports. Microsoft is expecting Windows 8 this fall.
For a free download of Microsoft’s Windows 8 Consumer Preview visit Microsoft.com