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02

Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Posted on Friday March 02, 2012 at 7:05pm in

Microsoft released their consumer preview of Windows 8. This means that anyone can download the current version of Windows 8 and give it a test drive. I decided to give it a shot and see what it was like.

Windows 8
The Windows 8 desktop.

The “core” of Windows 8 is basically Windows 7. Which is to say, that not much has changed. At the same time, things are completely different. How is that, you say? Well they basically split the operating system into two parts. One part is essentially Windows 7, where the other part is a new “start” menu designed to work well with touch screen displays.

Windows 8
The new start menu.

So, now there is no more start button. You have to move your mouse into the corner of the screen and just click there to get the start menu to come up. Very odd. There are now “Windows Apps” which are all fullscreen. All buttons are hidden on the edges of the screen and you have to know where to move your mouse to get to them. I accidentally clicked the Weather app tile in the start menu when I first started it up and it took me nearly five minutes just to figure out how to get out of it. I don’t like that all of the functionality is hidden off screen – it makes the design unintuitive.

You can drag running apps into one side of your screen and run side-by-side:

Windows 8
Internet Explorer 10 running this blog on the right side, and then Solitaire on the left side.

Windows 8
The Messaging app. You can talk to friends no matter what device they’re using.

Windows 8
If you move your mouse to the left side corner you can view all currently running apps and close them (like the old task bar).

Windows 8
Going to the right corner of the screen brings up settings/search.

Windows 8
Settings menu. Like the old control panel.

They even added a Microsoft App store.

Windows 8
Looks pretty bland at the moment.

I did like the new task manager.

Windows 8
The redesigned task manager.

So, it was an interesting tour. Everything is definitely different. I could see that this would probably work great on touch screen devices, but on my desktop I definitely prefer Windows 7. I couldn’t wait to get back to Windows 7 after using it. Making all apps run in full screen makes it difficult to multi-task. I like seeing all of my open programs all the time and being able to switch to them easily. The side-by-side mode only gives you two working apps at a time and sometimes there isn’t enough space. While Windows 8 is faster than 7 and does look very slick, I think it is too minimalistic for business use or working. I think they over-shot it this time.

If you would like to give Windows 8 a test drive on your computer, you can download it from Microsoft. Lifehacker wrote up a nice guide on how to download it and boot to it without messing up your current OS installation. If you don’t want to try it yourself but would like to see more, check out Microsoft’s promotional video that shows a demo use of the new OS:

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