Windows 8 Prep School
Microsoft rewrites the book with Windows 8, changing many of the features users expect in an operating system. Here are a few tips to help you find your way through the new interface.
The thunder you hear in the distance is the rapidly approaching Windows 8 launch date, slated for October 26. The new Windows operating system marks a real departure from Microsofts old Desktop format, focusing instead on completely new, touch-friendly Windows 8 applications, which are smartphone-like apps that provide specific information and functions.
The apps are the most obvious new feature of Windows 8, and reflect Microsofts decision to create an operating system for touch-screen tablets, smartphones, PCs and laptops. On a tablet, youll open, close and move apps with finger swipes. PC and laptop users can still navigate with a keyboard and mouse.
Windows 8 is loaded with new security features, including a picture-based log-in. The user draws a prearranged group of dots over an image to log in. Regular log-ins with passwords are, of course, still supported. The new operating system also comes with a complete antivirus program built into Windows Security Essentials, a move designed to make it easier to keep your machines virus-free.
These tile-based, touch-friendly apps are at the core of Windows 8, and youll need to learn how to use them. Here are a few pointers:
These new apps offer all kinds of functionality, but sometimes you still need to access the traditional Desktop. Programs such as the Microsoft Office suite run on the Desktop, and youll find a Desktop link in the Metro app tiles.
Windows 8 also comes with two versions of Internet Explorer. Click the IE Metro app and you get a browser that runs entirely on HTML5 and doesnt support Flash or website plug-ins. This version of IE conserves battery life and offers greater security. Flash has seen its fair share of security exploits and energy consumption issues in the recent past and many large companies, like Microsoft and Apple Inc., are no longer including the software as part of their default OS offering. If you need a browser that supports plug-ins, open Internet Explorer through the Desktop.
Microsoft keeps the Start screen uncluttered by hiding option buttons and tools in Charm menus, which only appear when you hover the mouse pointer over them. This has led some people to incorrectly assume that Windows 8 doesnt come with a Power Off option.
Here's a quick breakdown of the Start screens hidden functions:
All Charms open from the Start screen or the Desktop, or while viewing full-screen apps.
If you want some hands-on time with Windows 8 before its launch on October 26, Microsoft has the Windows 8 Consumer Preview available for download. Bear in mind that the Consumer Preview is a beta product and, as such, may have hidden bugs. If you install the Preview over Windows 7 and decide you prefer the older operating system, you must reinstall Windows 7 completely.