It is time to try out Windows 8 again. I installed the preview version earlier this year, but I was very disappointed. Last week I installed the production version of Windows 8 and set it up as I would a home machine, and then I installed Windows 8 Professional and attached it to a business network (domain) to test in a work environment. Here is what I found, and here are some very concise practical tips for getting started.[For those interested, here are some tech details of my test setup: I installed both operating systems in virtual environments on my Mac OS X MacBook Air (2GHz Intel Core i7 w/8 GB 1600MHz DDR3 RAM) laptop using the free VirtualBox virtualization software from Oracle. I downloaded the DVD images of the installers and mounted them on my SSD for the installation. I gave both environments 2GB of RAM for testing.]
The installation was very fast (probably because of my hardware setup) and painless. I laughed out loud when I saw two of the mandatory screens on the installation: 1: you have to pick your colour scheme and 2: they play a short video over and over at least three times to show you how to bring up the new start button. If I remember correctly, these were two of the most vocal complaints after the preview was launched. People didn’t like the default colours, and people could not find the start menu (this was my favourite example of the missing start menu). We people, apparently, are morons.
I won’t bother re-iterating the details of all of the other reviews out there. Suffice it to say, for those who do not know, there is a new user interface called Metro. It is very similar to the latest Windows Phone interface. It consists of tiles (squares and rectangles) that represent apps / programs. In my opinion, Metro is clean, modern, and looks very sharp. It was extremely fast and responsive on my computer and after learning how and where to stick your mouse, it was very easy to navigate.
Please note that Windows 8 seems to be primarily designed for a touch interface. All of my testing is with a mouse and keyboard. Here are some practical tips for once you get up and running (assuming you do not have a touch screen, because if you do, things will probably be more familiar, and easier). I did not have any trouble navigating around once I knew how to find everything.
Some important concepts:
Here is some important terminology and interface components of Windows 8 (and how to find them):
And here are the tips:
I have not spent much time with the built-in apps, but they all look really good. The maps app is beautiful and it has to be the most minimalist full-screen map app that I have used. I set up the Mail app with one of my Google Apps accounts and it was very impressive. Unfortunately I could not get the Mail app to connect to my Exchange server, but I already had that set up with Outlook without any problems. Only time will tell if the apps are really as good as my first impressions. The (App) Store seems to work really well and it looks great.
So far I have only had one problem on Windows 8, which was that some of the apps I downloaded do not work. They seemed to launch, but then I am just kicked straight back to the start screen with no error message at all. A quick Google search told me that I needed to apply the latest Windows Updates, which I did, but that did not help. I don’t have time to investigate further right now, but since this was my work environment, it may be related to my domain security policies.
In summary I have to say that I am very impressed with Windows 8. Windows 7 is a great operating system, but not comparable to Mac OS X Lion or Mountain Lion. I have always maintained that Apple and Microsoft have each lead the way at different times. However, since iPhone and IOS, Apple has been distancing itself at a rapid pace. I think Windows 8 has a good chance of closing that gap. There is a big learning curve for most people, but it is a necessary inconvenience.
Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival. W. Edwards Deming