aNewDomain.net — Update March 13, 2013 — Microsoft Windows 8 is still all over the news — especially regarding mixed reactions to its new tiled interface and shaky sales predictions from analysts. At Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona last year, I broke the Windows 8 Server story here at aNewDomain.net and other outlets.
As a result, I got my feet wet with Windows 8 Consumer Preview — the beta version — early on. I wasn’t impressed. But that’s changing. Here’s my Microsoft Windows 8 review — a long-term look — and why I’m keeping it after all.
Image credit Ant Pruitt for aNewDomain.net
I dove into Windows 8 with a lot of trepidation. To say the least.
Even at the great price of $40, I was doubtful. In a lot of ways, the Windows 8 Consumer Preview really ruined me. As I said, it didn’t make a great first impression on me. I had a hard time just trying to tolerate its new tiled user interface. And I flat out don’t like Internet Explorer. Never did.
I bit the bullet and purchased Windows 8 on its final release.
I forced myself to look at the user interface objectively. I figure a lot of people struggle with change and I am probably one of them. Maybe there was more here than my Linux fed brain would otherwise accept.
And it was true. I started to really like the new UI — Microsoft called it the Metro UI in Consumer Preview — and I liked it more the more I used it.
The tile animations are smooth and beautifully done.
Opening a Metro app takes you to a full screen view — similar to look at a tablet interface.
This confused me initially — a tablet interface is weird on a PC, which is exactly what analysts and customers keep pointing out. And I’m a geek who sits at a computer 80 percent of the day. I’m used to a certain look and feel. Even when going from Windows 7 to OSX to Linux, I was used to one way of doing things.
I didn’t expect my screen to display the look of a tablet. But it grew on me. Especially when I figured out how to get past the hurdle and make the UI suit me, instead of the other way around.
To do that I had to do three things. One, I had to stop looking for the old File menu. Two, I had to quit right-clicking to search for item properties. And three, I had to stop leaning on the my standby ALT[F4] combination to bail out of apps and tasks.
The last one — losing the ALT[F4] habit — was the toughest thing. But after I got used to just swiping an app down to close it — swiping to close is easier than it sounds — my apprehension waned.
At first, I assumed that swiping to close didn’t really close the background process. But I was wrong. It did. See below.
For those of us used to older Windows versions and even other operating systems — like Ubuntu, say — MS Windows 8 navigation feels initially tricky. For instance. What does anyone do when they need help in Windows? Consult Help via the Help Menu, right? Even that is different in Windows 8.
Windows has always included a help and support menu in its operating systems. This hasn’t changed in Windows 8. And to Microsoft’s credit, the Help menu for navigating Windows 8 so far is fairly useful. It’s different, though. You just have to remember to access it via the desktop app and the Charm menu.
I do recommend that, if you go the Windows 8 route, you install Google Chrome as the default browser for your PC. MS Internet Explorer 10 just doesn’t render and load as efficiently as I need it to.
And as I have pointed out repeatedly here at aNewDomain.net in my Consumer Preview reviews, I have never been able to successfully run Active X controls in Windows 8 — even though Microsoft says it allows the execution of legacy Active X controls on web pages.
Lots of pundits say Windows 8 is bound to fall flat.
I was one of them, but I’m changing my mind.
Microsoft Windows 8 will be just fine for a lot of people. Typical, non-geeky users are going to have some trouble with the UI learning curve — in some ways, they’ll be relearning how to use a PC altogether as a result — and that’s a hassle for IT pros. And Windows 7 is a solid OS you hate to take people off of. Moving to Windows 8 is by no means necessary. Not for most people, anyway, and not at this point.
As for me, though, once I got past the tiled interface of Windows 8 and could get my standard desktop, I was fine.
My advice: Learn to use the Charm feature when you’re lost and most of your users will get up to speed a lot more quickly.
I don’t recommend Windows 8 for laptops. I don’t recommend it for desktop computers unless you have a dual monitor setup. The dual monitor setup is great for having a desktop environment on one screen and the new UI on the other screen.
Diving into Windows 8 may be forced upon you today as most newly purchased computers come with the OS by default. If you’re in the position where you have to get Windows 8, go at it openly knowing that this will not be like your previous computing experience. If not, you will more than likely toss it back on your local retailer’s shelf. I’ve been on Windows 8 for three months now. I’m happy with what it does for my computing needs. The change was quite an adjustment to handle, but being open about the change curtailed any frustration.
I’m Ant Pruitt for aNewDomain.net. Find all of my stories here.