Windows 8, Consumer Preview

OK so it’s here, Windows 8… well it hasn’t been released quite yet but Microsoft has released the Consumer Preview of the new OS. Which means it’s not done and the version will contain errors and bugs that they are still working on and it does not have all the bells and whistles that the full version will have, but it will give the consumers a good preview of what to expect and it is certainly allot more done than the Developer Preview we have written about before.

So we decided to put our backup server on hold to test this new OS on a real computer rather than just testing it in a virtual computer like we did with the Developer version. The machine is not the newest or fastest of the bunch but it meets the requirements and then some with one exception it does not have touch. We would love to test this new OS on a touch device but we currently don’t have any devices with touch other than our phones and we did not want to even try going down the road of running it on a phone. But we did come across this really cool Video showing how it works, it looks like this is from the Developer Preview but no mater it is still the same on the touch bit we expect.

Windows 8 CP System requirements:

1 GHz CPU

1 GB RAM, 2 GB for x64

16 GB disk space, 20 GB for x64

Now back to the task at hand; testing this new OS…

The install has been re-done a bit, all you have to do is pop the DVD or the USB in and it launches, you choose to upgrade or to do a clean install, choose language and choose where you want it, the rest of the time you wait. The install time has been drastically reduced so it’s done quite fast.

Here’s a few pictures of the install, we had to use a camera since print screen don’t work during install but the crappy monitor we used didn’t want to cooperate with the idea that we would like good quality pictures, so we apologize for the poor quality but you can still see what we wanted to show!

Windows 8 Install

Pictures taken during the Windows 8 installPlease excuse the poor quality, our monitor don't like to be taken pictures of

Once installed you choose your Login name and password, then you choose what color you want the background on your Metro, Windows 8′s new feature and also the first thing you see when you access Windows 8 for the first time.

Metro is one of the things that set Windows 8 apart from Windows 7, it’s like the home screen on your phone. A new Desktop if you will, it contains the apps you use most and a few shortcuts to useful things like mail, weather and stocks. You can customize what apps and shortcuts you want there you’re self but it comes with a few pre-selected ones like this. To open them all you have to do is single click or tap them and they open up. It is also possible to create shortcuts to folders you frequently use on Metro’s start screen simply by selecting the folder and select pin to start in the easy access menu. On touch devices you can just drag Metro from side to side to scroll through apps if you arrange them so they don’t fit in one window, without touch you have to scroll with your mouse scroll, this feels strange to me as an experienced Windows user at first but you get kind of used to it after some time, but this is where a touch screen like the 22″ Planar screen Windows8Update.com recommend really would compliment the OS!

Inside Metro you can flip through open apps by clicking in the upper left corner of your screen or just use ALT+TAB or the windows logo button + TAB. To see all apps just press CTRL + TAB or right-click in a blank space and select “All apps” in the bottom menu that pops up. If you move your mouse to the top or bottom right corner a menu slides out were you can choose between Search, Share, Start and Settings this is a nice little menu that does its job of adding a little extra features to your work area. If you wish to change a computer setting you choose Settings in this menu, then at the very bottom it says “More PC Settings” this brings you to a new sort of Control Panel that lets you change the most common settings you need like Personalize Lock screen, User setting and more. One thing we miss in Metro is that there is a back button like the back button on the mouse or ESC or backspace and we would like a way to close the program you’re in at the moment because going back to Metro start keeps all apps open, we’re expecting a memory drain if you do this over time. To close apps now you have to hold the mouse in the bottom left corner to open the “open apps” menu and then right-click on the app you want to close and press close.

 

 

As you can see this new Control panel gives you access to change the settings that is most commonly used. Being huge Matrix fans we had to give the Lock Screen picture a Matrix look (picture by a user called kmfdmk on deviantART). You might also spot that you can change apps that appear on your lock screen here, this is a nice feature as it let’s you see if you have new mail or notifications without having to log in. Lock screen is also a new feature in Windows 8 it’s basically the same as the lock screen on your phone but this one you slide the whole screen upwards to get to the unlock/login screen (let’s hope Apple doesn’t have a patent on that as well). To unlock there are a few choices, you can enter your password like in older windows or you can use gestures drawn on a picture to unlock or you can use a pin code so there is a few new features there. We like the thought of a lock screen with the ability to show status of selected apps, for now there is not that many apps to choose from but we hope there will be a feature to allow almost any app to appear on the lock screen and it looks nicer than a boring old school screen saver or the old lock screen. Here’s a few pictures of the new look.

Windows 8 Lock screen

A few snaps of the new lock screen.

You can have several apps open at the same time by grabbing an open app and dragging it to one side of the screen while you work with another app like this:

You can look for recipes while you browse your favorite site for IT news.

The right hand menu also has this little share feature that let’s you share what you are doing with others in different ways, Right now there is only 2 options but when the app store gets new social apps like Google +, Facebook and Twitter. But for now you can choose between Mail or through the WordPress app and as you can see it remembers that the last time i shared something I mailed to Jan (It shows the rest of his mail address as well but I removed it for privacy). You may have noticed that there no longer is a Start menu button and you are correct, they have removed it and replaced it with Metro. Well how do I access Metro now without a button you wonder? well there are three ways 1: Use the button on your keyboard with the Windows logo on it. 2: Move your mouse pointer to the bottom left corner and click (note that a thumbnail of Metro will pop up but you can’t click that you HAVE to click in the corner, we hope they add support for clicking the thumbnail too because this was very confusing in the beginning… 3: press CTRL + ESC.

Here you can see how the share feature looks

Search: The search feature in Windows 8 is quite nice in fact, you type what you want in Metros start screen and it pops open the search, from here you can select where to search from a list on the right side that has loads to choose from only thing we did not like was that if you choose to search the internet you are bound to Internet Explorer and this is bound to Bing, we don’t like to be forced into anything for starters and we do not like either Bing or IE so being unable to change the default search engine in IE without registry hacking is just plain stupid, Yes we checked they have removed the choice of search engines from internet settings, now you can add search providers as a add-on to IE but our favorite Google is not on that list for now, we expect that Google will be on the list of providers in near future.

 

App Store: The app store is as the name states a place to find apps for Windows 8 and Metro, apps that are made to be used in Metro so that they don’t open on the old desktop but use the full screen feature of metro, in this version all apps are free but when the real deal launches expect to find apps you have to pay for and apps that are free. When you click install the apps are installed in the background as you work with other things and pop up on Metro’s start screen. Here’s how the store looks now.

Messaging: Windows 8 has a built-in messaging app that works like any other chat program like MSN or Facebook chat but it works with all of them in the same client so you can connect it to your Gmail chat, Facebook chat and MSN at the same time, there will probably be support for even more accounts in the release.

 

The other apps in Metro are pretty straight forward but worth mentioning is the new Remote Desktop app, it opens as a full screen app and shows you thumbnails of previously opened connections for easy access and the app is quick and responsive to use and feels light to work with, only thing we noticed is that don’t work is the ability to copy something from one computer and paste it to the other for some reason tho this might be a feature that needs activation in settings or will come in the full version we didn’t check.

The new app shows thumbnails of recent connections

The new app shows thumbnails of recent connections

 

Overall we don’t like the new Metro start on a regular computer and after a while we stopped using it for other than searching for the programs we were going to use like you could on the old start menu, we have said this before when we reviewed the Developer Preview that we would like a choice between the regular and the new style so if you do have a touch monitor or device you can use metro but if you don’t you can use the Start menu like in Windows 7.

Here’s some more pictures from Metro and some of its apps:

Windows Metro and apps

Pictures of the new Windows 8 Metro and some of it's apps

Ribbon: What is Ribbon you say? well it’s what Microsoft is calling the new menu style inside open windows like when you open My Computer in Windows 7 you have an address bar and the regular drop down menus, In Windows 8 on the other hand they have made a new style on this. If you have worked with Microsoft Office you have already used Ribbon, it’s this:

It was in the Developer Preview as well but they have changed one thing, you can hide it so you have the regular window normally but then when you go to access a menu this drops down and gives quick access to the most common tasks. It also has a cool feature that change according to what file type you are working with, in the picture above we have selected a compressed .zip file and then the ribbon has a little menu called Extract that allows us to quickly access most common tasks used on compressed files. If we were to be working on a video file ribbon would have a menu for video containing play, pause and more video related controls. Like in the photo below you can see that in My Computer you get an extra menu when selecting a drive that gives you Disk Tools

They have made working with files quicker in Windows 8 by adapting the OS to the way you work, with a lot of small changes, like if you press delete to delete a file you don’t get that little message “Are you sure?” if you regret pressing delete you can restore the file from the Recycle Bin anyway so why nag about if your sure. The new Copy dialog that allows you to pause and stop and gives you more info than the old one is in here so that’s great but we did come across the old ugly Copy dialog when copying the photos for this article from our camera to the computer, so we hope they fix that before release. All in all working with files in Windows 8 is more fun and flows better than earlier versions of Windows and this we like.

We have been using Windows 8 for a few days now and now we don’t really see any reason to go back to Windows 7 before the trial period ends 15 of January 2013 so we will keep it because we like the feel of the system but we’re not going to install it on our main workstations just yet we need a little more time with it to see that it is stable and compatible with all the programs we run first. So do we recommend it? well… seeing as we are well above average when it comes to computer knowledge we thought that we might not be the right persons to test it on, we already know most of the shortcuts in windows and know where to find things we look for or miss, so we had a brainstorm and figured out that we should have someone else try it so we used Windows 8′s new feature to go back to “factory defaults” and sat my girlfriend down with the instructions that this was her new computer, personalize it to your preference and install what you like and want then use the computer for a day or so to get a feel for it. Truth be told she is a bit above average when it comes to computer know how as well seeing as she has picked up a few things from me and from working on computer at work but it gives us a new perspective and a second opinion.

After a day’s use I asked her to sum up her view and I was not surprised with what she said. She found the new Metro start to be a bad replacement for the start menu on a non touch device and a bit confusing to use at first, the new Ribbon feature she liked for the easy access to common tasks but part from that there was not that much difference between Windows 8 and Windows 7.

Conclusion The overall feel of the new OS is good, we’re expecting a few errors to be fixed before launch and we hope they implement a choice between Metro and the old Start menu. The OS itself is quicker, feels lighter and is smarter and helps you do the things you want to do more than the older versions of Windows. When we reviewed the Developer Preview we said we hoped the prices of touch monitors would go down, this still counts, this OS would be so much better to work with on a touch device. Overall Microsoft is on the right track when it comes to listening to what they’re consumers want and building on this to make the new OS better. We’re looking forward to the new OS and we will be keeping an eye out for newer versions of the OS.

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