When the Windows 8 Consumer Preview was released, I immediately wiped off Windows 7 and installed the new operating system. I did intend to continue using this beta version until the Release Preview came out; the only reason I went back to Windows 7 was that Adobe products continuously crashed. However, I am certain this will no longer be the case in the final version — perhaps not even in next week’s Release Preview.
Many geeks around the world cry out in unison over how much they dislike the new Metro UI, which Microsoft is implementing across the board in its products. Most prominently so far, the Xbox has seen a massive redesign of its dashboard interface. I’ve never owned one, so I cannot tell from experience how well it was implemented there. When it comes to the subject of Windows 8, a lot of people clearly oppose the drastic changes Microsoft is making to the Windows experience.
Let it be known that I like Windows 8. There are, however, a few small gripes that are already being addressed in the upcoming Release Preview. In view of these imminent improvements, I will not dwell on what is lacking polish, but will instead present the reasons why I will enjoy using Windows 8 once it is released.
Features I Like in Windows 8
- The Start screen will become the hub for news and mail apps, providing a quick and very visual overview of the happenings in the world beyond my computer. I personally love the visual style of bright colors and simplistic shapes. This is, of course, up to your own subjective opinion.
- The new Task Manager is probably the most exciting new feature.
- Native USB 3 support is built right into Windows 8. I have been using USB 3 for over a year now, and from my experience I can say that speed is largely improved over Windows 7.
- Storage Spaces is an interesting concept, and I intend to use it on my external hard disks. This allows you to create a RAID storage system without any additional hardware. It certainly does not replace a hardware RAID, but for me it is good enough.
- Better Multi-display support is another great addition to Windows 8. So far I have been using a nice little program called DisplayFusion Pro. Come next week, I’ll no longer need it.
- Hyper-V allows you to directly mount and create VHDs without having to install additional software. This is very cool and will be useful in many situations, I predict.
- Native ISO mounting is a feature that many people have asked for in Windows. Now it is finally a part of Windows 8. This a very useful feature, and again allows me to install one program less.
- New copy dialog provides a much clearer and better overview of the copying progress. It also lets you pause the current copying action, which is very useful if you have more than one thing copying.
- PC refresh could prove to be a very handy tool when you run across any problems. I tried it already in the Consumer Preview, but I predict it will run even faster and smoother in the final version.
- File History is a feature that has been in Windows 7, albeit quite hidden under the name Volume Shadow Copy. Now it has a new name and is much easier to find and set up.
- Windows To Go sounds like a very nice tool, even though it will only be available in Windows 8 Enterprise. Most of us will not have this version, but as proof of concept, I think it is a great technology for businesses.
- Integrated SkyDrive features will be very useful for me, especially when Office 15 will also center around cloud storage. Right now I love using Google Drive for its tight integration; if Microsoft manages to give me the same integration, I will most definitely switch.
The New Task Manager
Anyone who considers himself a power user uses the Task Manager extensively during the course of a day. The truth of the matter is that it has not changed appearance for long time; all the way from Windows 95 to Windows 7 it has largely looked the same, save for a few small tweaks. Now in the latest release it has undergone a redesign from the ground-up. Everything is more clearly visible and the data is lucidly expressed and much more visual.
Here is what Windows product leader Steven Sinofsky had to say about it: “As we mentioned during the Windows 8 keynote at //build/, every 15 years or so we choose to update Task Manager. Of course that was said in jest as we have incrementally improved the utility in just about every release of Windows. For Windows 8, we took a new look at the tool and thought through some new scenarios and a new way of tuning the tool for ‘both ends of the spectrum’ in terms of end-users and those that need very fine-grained control over what is going on with their PC. Ryan Haveson, the group program manager of our In Control of Your PC team, authored this post. Note: This post is about Task Manager, not about closing Metro style applications.”
Windows 8 is, in many respects, a re-imagining of the Windows experience we have known for many years. I welcome the changes done to the Task Manager, because it has made it now an even more indispensable tool for controlling what is happening on my computer. Microsoft is taking big bets by changing its core product — Office will also get a upgrade to Metro; people generally dislike changes (especially if they have to learn something new). However, I want to argue that most of those changes are great for a number of reasons.
I, for one, like to be able to see a ‘heat map’ of my running applications. This gives me a quick overview of which program is using too many resources so that I can decisively terminate it. This is already a great feature that makes Windows 8 great to me.
Metro UI and the Start Screen
Screenshots really do make it look stale and boring. When you see it in action, it actually does look much more beautiful and fluid. In Microsoft’s own words, it wanted to create an interface that is “fast and fluid.”
Let me be frank with you. It completely eludes me why computer geeks are making such a big fuss about it. It really is not as bad as many claim. After using it for a few weeks, I have begun to really like it. When more and more useful Metro apps are released, it will become more than just a collection of colorful tiles. In all honesty, even today in Windows 7, I barely use the Start menu for anything. I only press the Windows key to open the Start menu so I can search for a program or file. That is all I use it for. I suppose this is the reason why I can actually start seeing a use for the Start screen in Windows 8 since it can actually do so much more.
Like in the user base, one can imagine that, inside the development team at Microsoft, there must have been a fierce conflict of interests. It is quite astonishing that we see such big changes in Windows coming from a humongous corporation that, over the years, has definitely lost its focus. I am not saying that what we see in Windows 8 is the best implementation, but I would not say it is a failure. In other words, it simply works in my eyes. I see no problems with it, other than the fact people will have to acquire new knowledge in order to use it.
It is in Microsoft’s hands now to properly market the changes and new features in Windows 8, of which there are more than a few. The new Task Manager is a prominent improvement, but then there are all these small details throughout the operating system — so I really hope that Microsoft is finding the right people to produce documentation and marketing for Windows 8. This is, perhaps, the crucial element in its future strategy. If this fails, all fails. However, even if Windows 8 is not a commercial success, it will never wound Microsoft too much.
Windows 8 will either be accepted or not. I have good faith that it will, and in time many will appreciate its improvement, as well as the new features it brings. As for me, I like the Metro UI visually, and in terms of ease-of-use, I also believe that there are a few little glitches that Microsoft should iron out. This should very much be the case when the Release Preview comes out; as soon as it is released, I will write an extensive review.
Metro UI or not, it makes no difference to me. I’ll gladly upgrade to Windows 8 just for the improvements it brings. As for me, I will use those aforementioned features much more than the Start screen. I do not doubt that, in time, when more and better apps are released on the Windows Store, I will also start using the Metro UI more and more. As of now, it does nothing to hinder me from enjoying the better performance, stability (Windows 7 is still great), updated look, and taking a step into the future. It is a new beginning for Microsoft, and I will support its daring endeavor.