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As is the case with any major operating system upgrade, there are a fair share of improvements and challenges you will face when using Windows 8 for the first time.
The ability to share information between multiple platforms and different accounts is one of Windows 8's most powerful features, and mostly it works very well. Synchronizing PC, laptop and smartphone settings is quick and easy, and the operating system allows users to customize what information is shared and what stays private.
The Metro apps allow users to monitor social media sites, image hosting sites and other online accounts at a glance through "toasts," or streaming notifications. Features such as the Photo app allow users to access images in local folders, SkyDrive (an online storage site), Flickr and Facebook. One of Microsoft's stated goals with Windows 8 is to facilitate information sharing, and the operating system certainly looks like it delivers.
Windows 8 comes with a built–in firewall, which is not a surprise, as Windows 7 had the same feature. The new operating system, however, adds antivirus protection to its Security Essentials program, including a feature protecting against malware in bootable USB drives.
Open Internet Explorer from the Metro apps and you get a browser that runs exclusively on HTML 5 and doesn't support Flash or website plug-ins. Access Internet explorer from the Desktop, however, and you get a browser that supports plug–ins. If you're using Windows 8 on a portable device, this option could be quite helpful: An HTML 5 browser conserves battery power and provides a more secure browsing experience. PC users, however, may find having to switch to the desktop in order to access the plug–in browser rather frustrating.
One of the most common complaints leveled against the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is the lack of a tutorial. Boot up the operating system for the first time and you're dropped off at the Start Screen with no tutorial. While inconvenient, it's likely a tutorial will be added by launch day.
Viewing apps is a more serious annoyance. Apps cannot be resized, and always run full–screen. A left hand sidebar displays open apps, but remembering which apps are running is a hassle. The ability to resize apps would greatly improve their functionality.
Windows 8 supports both touch–screen technology and traditional keyboard / mouse combinations. The consensus has been that the mouse works okay with Metro apps, but that the system favors touch screens.
Mouse users complain about unintuitive scroll wheel commands with Metro apps. Moving the wheel moves the app right and left, rather than back and forth. While most people will adjust to this, this type of annoyance drives some users to distraction.
Critics charge that Windows 8 is pretty much Windows 7 with a flashy Metro app overlay. While this may be an exaggeration, the apps do seem better suited for tablet and smartphone use than PCs and laptops. PC users are likely to spend more time on the Desktop than the Metro screen.
With this in mind, why should PC users have to go through the Metro screen to reach the Desktop? It's been suggested that Windows 8 should allow users to choose between the Metro screen and the Desktop, either during installation or as an option in the PC Settings.