Windows 8 is due out in less than a week, but is everyone ready for the new features that it’s going to offer? There are a lot of new features that really make the operating system stand out visually from Windows 7, but do the changes really do anything new? Let’s take a look at the key features that Windows 8 has to offer in a short, but hopefully informative overview.
Getting the Software
Microsoft is taking a page out of Apple’s upgrade book and is encouraging users who purchased a Windows operating system within the last 6 months to pay about $15 to get Windows 8 legally. The other portion of the population who have a Windows 7 or Vista machine can pay $40 for Windows 8 and get the downloadable installer instantly. These price points are eerily similar with those offered by Apple for OS X.
If you are upgrading from Windows 7 you will be able to transfer all of yours settings and files over to the new operating system without much hassle at all. The installation of the OS takes about 10 minutes to complete and is extremely simple (Put in the disc and enter your license key. That’s it.). The transfer process will take another 20 minutes, but that’s not that big of a deal.
If you hven’t already seen the screenshots, Windows 8 is going to look wildly different from other Windows operating systems in the past. The most noticeable change is the tiled interface. It’s designed to give a better work flow to users and has been met with mixed reviews. It definitely takes some time to get used to how all of your icons are laid out and what the logic behind the default groupings are, but once you’ve got things rolling, it’s kind of hard to imagine why no one has attempted this approach before.
The right side of the “desktop” is called the Charm bar and is the settings menu for just about any application you have selected. Looking to the right as opposed to “above” might be a challenge for some folks, but again it all comes down to just getting used to it. The logic of this change is to try and get rid of the Start menu for where you go to dig deeper into an application’s settings or features. In theory, every application should have items listed on the Charm menu and should be able to be easily customized without having to hunt for a settings section.
If all of that sounds a bit confusing, there’s a nice tutorial that comes with the operating system that explains the whole process.
It’s very obvious that Windows 8 is supposed to be designed for touch screen tablets and PCs. The tiles are large enough that pressing on them with your finger on a monitor should be a breeze, but still small enough that using a mouse and keyboard to navigate your system should still feel natural and unclunky. Having said that, it’s not obvious whether Windows 8 wants users to feel as though they should do away with a mouse entirely or if they should simply be thinking about the transition. We’re definitely a few years away from a mouse-less era, but for now being able to touch big icons feels cool and isn’t laggy like it used to be when the technology was first introduced.
Of course, not all software is going to look great in the new “Metro” mode of large icons and tiles. The Windows desktop will stay be available to those who want it. You can easily switch over to the desktop with a key command or with a click on the Metro screen. Arriving at the desktop is no different from Windows 7 apart from a few minor upgrades/subtractions regarding the window styling. Things aren’t as translucent as they were before and there’s now a “File Explorer” as opposed to “Windows Explorer.”
This is no better place than any to talk about the hardware requirements Windows 8 is going to employ. While Windows 8 will run on just about any computer that’s already running Windows 7, what we’re referring to with “hardware changes” is actually a strict code that Microsoft is employing with third party supporters. Windows has been the butt of jokes for a while now because of how poorly the Windows operating systems have performed on third party hardware.
Microsoft is hoping to change that sentiment by ensuring that their new gestures (almost identical to the now ubiquitous Mac gestures) are able to be used flawlessly and that features of the operating system aren’t lost in new product development. Microsoft is finally stepping up and making sure that their software is represented in the best way possible and that end users can finally have faith that their devices will support all of the features they expect within the OS and that when they switch from system to system, things aren’t drastically different. From my own point of view that’s one of the most important key feature that Windows 8 operating system has.
Another cool feature Windows 8 has is that it’s the best version of Windows in terms of performance. Its boot times are about half of Windows 7 (Both service packs), coming in at a cold boot of about 25 seconds on most newer machines. This is compared to the 47 or 48 second boot times that were the average for Windows 7. This will of course be much faster with a solid state hard drive, but for now we’ll just assume you have an old school one.
So, is Windows 8 worth the money to upgrade from Windows 7 or Vista? In short, the answer is a resounding yes. Windows 8 is faster all around, features much better security than Windows 7, and even supports more drivers and third party hardware than Windows 7. Native support is stellar and despite a few hiccups with early beta testing, Windows 8 is definitely going to be a fine piece of software.
The $40 price point is extremely enticing for many consumers and is probably going to be the biggest selling point of the upgrade.
The only concerns we have over whether or not Windows 8 will succeed is the “learning curve” of the whole thing. The redesigned interface and controls for just about everything you’re used to in a Windows world is completely different from anything you’ve ever used. If you’re up for a challenge, Windows 8 might be the perfect solution for your computing needs, but if you’re wanting a simple upgrade to a new operating system that’s just better all around without any of the headaches of having to figure out something new, we’d probably tell you to stick with Windows 7.