Just in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a new version of Windows out there, launched last Oct-26.
I’ve been feverishly following the progress of Windows 8 since the previews came out and honestly, I started off without even the least bit of excitement at all for the next version of the OS. Microsoft has made a lot of drastic changes to Win8, and I had difficulty adjusting to the OS during the first few weeks I tested it. And then everything just turned fine afterwards, after prerelease versions made many improvements and fixes and the OS moved toward providing more user-friendly features. That’s when I started noticing the great features, and I was convinced that these are worth upgrading from Win7.
Now is a great time to try out the new version, and here’s why:
It’s Windows 7, only faster.
There’s something about the boot time, and it’s not about the speediness of it, but perhaps in discreteness of it. Once you’re seeing the new Windows logo, and then at the blink of an eye you’re seeing the lock screen. Everything just zips, whether you’re launching programs, switching between full-screen Metro programs, and even when exploring folders or copying files (I loved watching the File Copy dialog BTW). So far, many of my favorite Windows 7 programs worked just fine, or only with minor issues.
It’s designed for touch.
It was definitely a feat for Windows 8 to gain support for ARM, in addition to x86 and x64, which means that it can be installed for tablets. That won’t work however, if the UI isn’t finger-friendly, and in this regard, Win8’s ModernUI was just fitting. The excessive emphasis on squares is probably just MS’s answer to Apple’s “rounded corners,” but the Live Tiles are obviously better than, say, Android’s widgets in presenting information at a glance.
Imagine one hub that combined your personal contacts as well as your “friends” from online services such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can even post updates to those services. This app really showcases the beauty of the Modern UI because posts are more readable, pictures look larger and there aren’t a lot of visual clutter. Contacts can be filtered to show only those who are online, and clicking on contacts allows you to track down conversations, status updates, photos, tweets and other correspondences you have with that contact. You can even view shared videos directly.
Searching. It’s more fun with Windows 8. Who could have thought that using a client for doing web search could be very addictive? The Bing app as usual displays its famous backgrounds, as well as the factoids which for some reason doesn’t appear in my browser. Searching for news can be done in the separate news app, but there are also apps for weather, sports, finance and travel. The maps app is underwhelming, unfortunately.
Internet Explorer 10
Gone are the days when it’s humiliating to use IE. The browser got its turn-around with version 9, and with the next version everything just got better. Browsing is fast(er) and (more) fluid, and it’s exhilarating to see websites in full-screen, without the distractions of program toolbars and other components. As usual it still got some of IE’s built-in features such as web accelerators and tracking protection list (which is equivalent to ad-blockers on other browsers). I did discover one exciting feature in the Modern version called Flip Ahead, which is ideal for multipage sites such as the comments on Ars Technica articles and even in my blog. (It’s not actually an original feature, Opera has a Fast Forward functionality for a long time which basically does the same thing.)
One nice side effect of registering your FB account in Win8, it will be added to the Messaging app. It’s a great way to stay in touch without having to be always logged in site. You can even pull up contacts from the People app to initiate a conversation. It prolly works for other chat services as well, but sadly I don’t have any other accounts to test it with. Oh, and Skype is finally available! It sure is a tiny app at 10MB, and once installed integrates into the People app. (It didn’t add itself into Messaging, though). It does have one interesting feature, it claims you can snap the call window on a side while using other programs.
It looks like a generic Modern app, but it does have a great feature in that it can seamlessly view your SkyDrive, Facebook or Flickr photos.
Let’s face it, Windows will never be Windows without its stock games. The absence of Solitaire and Minesweeper was my pet peeve in the OS. So I was utterly delighted when Solitaire, which was upgraded to Microsoft Solitaire Collection, along with Minesweeper and another one of my favorites, Mahjongg Titans, was finally available in the app store, bringing with them a next-generation makeover with support for beautiful themes and Xbox Live achievements. Oh, and Minesweeper now has an adventure mode. With games like these, who needs Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja or Temple Run?