Windows 8: Everything There is to Know

Windows 8 and its Metro Interface?

Windows 8 is the latest upcoming version of Microsoft Windows Operating System that follows Windows 7. We all are familiar with the popular Windows Xp, Windows Vista and Windows 7 and they have been great in their own way. Something about Windows 8 that is majorly different from the regular Microsoft Windows Operating Systems we have seen so far is that it features a new Metro-style interface. This Metro-style interface has been designed for all kinds of inputs including touchscreen, mouse, keyboard and even pen input. Some people like the traditional look of the windows better than the metro-style interface. Windows 8 allows them to change the interface to a more familiar looking by just a mouse click. This Metro Interface is very similar to the interface of Windows Phone operating system with touch friendly features as well as the traditional Windows features.

If you are wondering why Windows 8 has created such a buzz, it is because it looks and works completely differently from previous versions of Microsoft OS’s and it will be friendly to tablets as well as PCs and laptops. Windows 8 has been designed in such a way to run on Windows PCs; this means that it will run on any device that runs windows 7. Windows 8 will support Intel processors as well as Arm processors such as tablets.

Why Windows 8?

Microsoft is significantly changing its software and this makes you wonder why. As we are all aware, the mobile devices industry is growing very fast and Microsoft does not have a strong platform in it unlike Apple. The windows mobile phones are almost instinct and even the Windows phone concept is quite new. So Windows 8 is a long-term move by Microsoft to keep its powerful position in the PC industry as well as a platform to enter the Mobile devices market.

Windows 8 Developers version was released in 2011 and the Windows 8 Consumer Preview was released in February 2012. There have been numerous changes and improvements to the OS since its Developers version. Here are some of Windows 8 Interface features and functionalities: –

  • Lock Screen – Windows 8 has a stylish, classy and useful lock screen which can be seen after your computer is put to sleep, restarted or locked.  On the Lock Screen you can see new email notifications, Wi-Fi availability, chat conversations, etc. The information shown on the lock screen can be customized by the user.
  • Start Screen – Windows 8 consists of both Metro start screen and the classic start bar on the desktop. In the Metro Start Screen, you can swipe your finger across the screen to see all you applications.
  • Grouped Apps – You can categorize your apps according to your needs through this functionality of Windows 8.
  • Zoom Out View – You can view all you applications at one glance through the Zoomed Out view of Windows 8.
  • On Screen Keyboard – There is an on screen keyboard for touchscreen devices.

Windows 8 on ARM

As a part of Microsoft’s plan to create its platform in Mobile devices, Microsoft has made Windows 8 capable of running on ARM Processors. ARM architecture of chips, in a way has a monopoly on mobile devices such as tablets, mobile phones etc. This means that the Capability of Windows to run on Machines with chips based on ARM architecture will literally make Windows 8 an Operating System for most of the Mobile devices.

App Navigation on Windows 8

Windows 8 has Xbox games pre-installed and app games and regular PC games can still run on this new Microsoft Operating System. However this OS is not highly focused on Gaming purposes. Even the app navigation is very different from the traditional windows. In traditional Windows OS’s like Windows 7, Vista and Xp we had to use alt-tab to navigate our apps but on Windows 8 you can do this by just flicking your thumb to slide through apps. You can even see all the apps that are running on your device by a different sliding move of your finger. These touchscreen features are mainly for tablets and touchscreen device, however Windows 8 is not only for tablets but for PCs as well. You can do everything that you do on a tablet with the touchscreen feature just as conveniently with your mouse and keyboard on a PC device.

Search Feature

If you cannot find a specific app, an installed program or maybe even a file, all you have to do, is to just go to start menu, take your mouse to the right down corner of the screen. Click on the search icon and search for its name. This feature is very fast and efficient comparing to the older versions of Windows.

Windows 8 Control Panel

Windows 8 has a new designed especially for Windows 8. In order to get to Control Panel you can go to start menu take your mouse to the right, down corner of the screen. After clicking on search, a list of icons, apps and accessories will appear amongst which is Control panel.  It includes options such as the following: –

  • Personalize – In Personalize page you can change lock screen background, choose applications to run, customize the notifications on Lock screen, change desktop icons etc.
  • Users – This window will deal with the current user of the OS. In this page you can change or add accounts, passwords, create picture password, pin code and customize the way you use your device.
  • Wireless –This window whill show the current and previous connected WLAN networks.
  • Notifications – In this window you can customize your applications’ notifications.
  • General – General settings such as touch keyboard, and refresh are kept here.
  • Privacy – This window allows the user to set privacy levels such as allowing apps to use location, user name, delete history etc.
  • Search – In this window you can toggle save history, turn on or off history, delete search keywords, show or hide apps, etc.
  • Share – In this page you can customize your Windows native share utility options.
  • Send – This will allow you to customize history settings and select apps in order to include them in Send pane.
  • Ease of Access
  • Devices
  • Sync PC Settings
  • Windows Update
  • Category View

NOTE: The features in Control panel may not be clearly understandable but after the installation of Windows 8 Consumer Preview it will be much simpler to understand them.

How to edit the Icons on the Desktop: –

Once you have installed Windows 8 consumer preview versions, icons like My Computer or My Networks will be appear on desktop page. In order to keep them you can go to control panel and click on appearance and personalization. Then click on Change desktop icons and choose what icons you want to appear or disappear from your desktop. You either do this or just right click on your desktop and click on personalization. Then click on change desktop icons and you will know from there.

Windows 8 Refresh Feature

Windows 8 consists of a feature called as Refresh which gives you a quick and simple start over with a clean slate if your OS starts get slow or face some problems due software. This feature restores your windows to a clean slate while it maintains your apps, data, settings and user profiles. It is basically like installing a new Windows 8 with your settings and apps remaining the same. This app will restore Metro apps and settings after a refresh; however it cannot restore installed software such as traditional Win32 software.

After a refresh, Windows will be reset to default and that is when you should make sure not to install the software that created problems for you device.

There is a Custom State of refresh which will allow you to customize the reset. For example; there are some software that you do not want removed from your device. You can customize your Refresh to not uninstall or remove some programs.

Pin to Start and Unpin features

Pin to start is feature through which you can create an icon for anything in start menu. If you need a file or a folder to have an icon in Start menu all you have to do is to right click on it and click pin to start. You also unpin apps or files that you do not want in Start menu.

Miss the Classic Start button?

In windows 8 there is no Start button and in order to open the start menu you have to click on the left down corner of the screen. If you miss the old classic start button of windows and you want a normal traditional looking start menu, there is a free app known as Star8 which can be installed on your device and it will give you a start button with a typical start menu.  You can download Windows 8 right now

On-Screen Keyboard

Through this feature of Windows 8 you can type in PCs without using a keyboard but the feature is mainly for touchscreen devices like tablets. In order to activate the On-Screen Keyboard you can either search for it in the search box in start menu or you can find it in the accessories.

Gadgets on Desktop

There are quite few gadgets available for Windows 8 desktop which can be accessed with a right click on the desktop>gadgets. The Gadgets include Calendar, Clock, CPU Meter, Currency, Feed Headlines, Picture Puzzle, Slide Show, and Weather.

Snap Multi-tasking Feature

Snap Multi-tasking is a feature of Windows 8 that lets you run two apps simultaneously side by side. Through Snap Multi-tasking you can switch between the running apps, make one smaller or bigger in size etc.

Windows App Store

Windows App Store on Windows 8 is the market place all types of apps specially developed for Windows 8. Applications such as Utility apps, productivity apps, Game app etc will be available for download on Windows 8 app store. Microsoft has made PC games available for download as well. Some of the preinstalled games include, Angry Birds, Ms. Splosion Man, Toy Soldiers, Hydro Thunder, Reckless Racing, Ilomilo, Rocket Riot, Full House Poker, Tenacles etc.  App Store is certainly not complete and hopefully it will in the Windows 8 complete version. There is no Search box kept in the Windows 8 App store and if you want to look for a specific app you will have to go through all of the apps in that category.

From Tablet to PC

If you are wondering how Windows 8 experience changes from tablet to PC, you should know that the interface remains the same. The only thing that changes is how you access functions on PC than a Tablet.

Windows 8 Cloud features and services

On Widows 8 you can sync your machine with a Windows live account in order to sync all your preferences and personal information via the cloud. For example; you log into your friend’s PC, but the preferences, apps, bookmarks and everything else will be same as yours until you log out. This means you can access your machine from anywhere as long as you have synced your Windows 8 machine with a Windows Live Account. This also allows you to save up to 25 GB of files in the cloud through SkyDrive.

This feature allows 5 different devices to log in at the same time. For example; a family can share an account. Also Windows 8 can even be booted straight from a USB without any installation required.

Windows 8 Charms

Windows 8 charms can be accessed both in Metro as well as Desktop interface. If you are wondering what Windows 8 charms are; the answer is very simple. Charms are just the icons that appear when the user swipes from right to the side on the touchscreen or mores the mouse cursor to the bottome left corner. Windows 8 Charms are basically for more convenience use of the OS. Here are the five Windows 8 charms: –

  • Settings
  • Devices
  • Share
  • Search
  • Start

Xbox 360 and Windows 8

Apps for music, videos and Xbox Live come preinstalled with Windows 8. You can see what your friends are playing on their Xbox 360 devices and you can change your avatar through Xbox Live app. You can also launch your Xbox 360 games on your Windows 8 desktop.

Microsoft Office on Windows 8

Currently Microsoft is working on a new version of Microsoft Office which will be designed specifically for Windows 8. This version will be called as Microsoft Office 15 and it will work in both Metro as well as desktop environments and it comes free on ARM devices.

Internet Explorer 10

Internet Explorer 10 tailored for Windows 8, delivers Metro style and touch browsing to the user. Touchscreen features are absolutely amazing and you can browse the internet while you feel the stick to your finger responsiveness of the touch support for Internet Explorer 10

Windows 8 requirements

Microsoft mentioned that Windows 8 will run on any device that runs windows 7 but as we all know it is still in the Consumer Preview stage and it has problems and pretty far from final. The possible release date of windows 8 is sometime in October. However Windows 8 Consumer Preview version is available for download and here are the official specifications given by Microsoft: –

  • Processor: 1 GHz or faster
  • RAM: 1 GB (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Hard Disk: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Graphic Card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device or higher

Here are certain requirements for other features: –

  • Touch feature: Tablet device, Multi-touch monitor
  • Windows Store:  Active Internet, Screen resolution of 1024×768 or higher
  • Snapping apps:  Screen resolution of 1366×768 or higher

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About Behrooz Mihankhah

Musician, Writer, Traveler, film lover :)

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