Windows 8 is a considerable departure from previous versions of the market-leading operating system. Rather than showing its age, Windows has been brought bang up to date with a touch-screen tablet-based screen, as well as retaining the familiar desktop for users more comfortable with a traditional Windows look and feel.
As such, Windows is really two operating systems in one. For old school users, they can keep pretty much to the standard desktop. Icons can be created on the desktop to launch apps from and not really have to bother much with the Start Screen that comes with Windows 8. For those users who like a touch-screen experience complete with big icons and easy screen transitions, the Windows 8 Start Screen will at once feel familiar.
Windows 8 Start Screen
The desktop does have its own start menu, though it is tiny and features only essential options. The main Start Screen is still launched using the Windows Key on the keyboard. This brings up a colourful new Start Screen filled with individual tiles.
Each tile represents an app that is available for use. The tiles can also update themselves when they are live tiles, so a weather app will change its tile to display the changing weather, the mail app will show new mail notifications, and so on. This cuts down the need to launch into individual apps just to check for changes, which can eat away a meaningful part of the day in today's OCD need to check for new mail, tweets and message every minute or so.
By typing, a search is initiated for a specific app. If the app is not present but is available from the Windows Store, then this information will be shown to help with installation.
The graphics are colourful and fast. The 3D acceleration with DirectX is given full rein here to try to impress and it does an admirable job.
Windows can be moved around the screen seamlessly, apps load fast without any graphics lag upon display and it all runs very smoothly indeed.
Windows has been brought up to date with the inclusion of touch-screen features and gestures. Laptops are starting to be released with a touch-screen for use with Windows 8 and large screen displays are now also coming out with capacitive screens.
The Start Screen is lovely to use. Colourful tiles everywhere. Familiar app logos. The apps can also be grouped into logical categories which helps locate relevant apps quickly, especially when the screen starts to get a bit crowded with apps after extended use.
For Windows users who yearn for the good old Desktop, that is still there. The desktop has also been improved with a programs preview feature that displays all the programs presently loaded – very similar to what was used in Google Android up until recently. The new Start Screen will take a bit of time to adjust to for hardened Windows users who are not familiar with smartphone or tablet operating systems and have a bit of catching to do. But for most users, the adjustment will not take too long.
Plenty of Apps
The Windows Store has the apps that can be installed in Windows 8. There are not nearly as many as are available in the iOS Apps Store, but all the well known ones are available.