Windows 8 has been officially out for just over 4 months and has had a very mixed reception so far. I’ve had a chance to play with both the Standard and Pro versions over the past few weeks and I thought I would share my opinions on the latest operating system from Microsoft. I won’t go into the differences between the versions in this article as this is just a first look at the operating system.
Constantly Connected to the Online World
The first thing you’ll notice with Windows 8 is that it asks you to log in using a Microsoft account, otherwise known as a Windows Live account. I would advise using this rather than a local account simply because you can use it to great advantage with a few simple tricks. One of the most interesting features I found about using a Microsoft account is cross-computer syncing. What this means is that you can synchronise a variety of important settings as well as files. Whilst the settings synchronisation is built in, the file synchronisation has to be done using Microsoft SkyDrive (or another cloud based system but SkyDrive is quite effectively built in to Windows 8). The reason I found this to be the most interesting feature is that by using two separate Microsoft accounts along with a bit of initial tweaking you can easily switch between a work and personal environment on any Windows 8 computer you own.
New User Interface
The Windows 8 user interface has been the biggest talking point and the biggest source of controversy for Microsoft. When you log in to Windows 8 you are not greeted by the familiar and iconic Desktop. Instead you find yourself looking at the Start screen (initially called the Metro interface) which is a customisable set of tiles which are essentially shortcuts to applications. Personally, I’ve actually started to like this interface because after personalising it I found that I can get to the apps I use frequently a lot quicker when I load Windows or when I open the Start screen. However, it can take some getting used to which is why I feel a lot of people have been less than enthusiastic about it.
What’s The Fuss About
If you don’t like the change you can still use the desktop that Windows users have been used to for a long time. What you will notice here is that the Start button is missing! No need to panic though, just click on the bottom left corner of the screen or press the Windows key on your keyboard and the start screen will reappear. Other than this the desktop is pretty much the same as in Windows 7. You can create shortcuts to apps, access the file explorer and pin shortcuts to the taskbar.
Performance wise, Windows 8 definitely out performs previous versions of the OS. Microsoft has rebuilt the entire system from the ground up rather than using the Windows 7 framework and done a great job of it. Windows 8 boots up faster than Windows 7 meaning less time getting started. It also launches software quicker and generally performs tasks faster. The best bit, it does all this whilst consuming less power which means that on a laptop you can use it for longer between charges.
Finally there is the Windows Store where you can get Apps specifically designed to work with Windows 8. The store is still in its infancy but as more people migrate to Windows 8 one can only see the offerings available on the store growing exponentially.
Should You Make the Switch?
So far it has been a steep learning curve trying to get to grips with all the changes in what has been Microsoft’s biggest overhaul of Windows since 1995. However, I am enjoying the efficiency of the system which gives me quicker load times, faster usage and longer battery life. I will still need to play around deeper into the system before I can give an in-depth analysis of the operating system but I have to say that for now I feel that Microsoft has done a fairly good job. My final word will be an advanced warning; before you upgrade to Windows 8 be prepared to have to learn a lot, don’t expect to install it and use it like Windows 7.