Saturday, December 29, 2012

Is Windows 8 really worth it? (Part 2)

In case you missed my previous post, I've installed the Windows 8 Pro 64-bit edition.  After a few minor hiccups, installation was complete and it was time to start playing around with Microsoft's latest.  This second part of a three-part series will cover some of the "annoyances" that some users find when upgrading from previous versions of Windows to Windows 8.

The first issue to address is the user interface.  I'd done some research and even played with the Release Preview a few months back, so I sorta knew what to expect. However, even with a bit of background, it still takes a little getting used to Microsoft calls the "Metro" interface.

The lack of a Start button was the first stumbling block.  Since Windows 95 I've mindlessly right-clicked on the Start button and selected some version of Windows Explorer to get to my folders.  It didn't take me too long, however, to discover that moving the cursor to the lower-left corner, right-clicking and selecting File Explorer does the exact same thing!  The same holds true for a number of options you previously saw on the Start menu:  Run, Search, Command Prompt (both normal and elevated) and so on are all in this handy menu. 

Where's the familiar Desktop, you might ask?  You can access it using the exact same menu.  Not only that, once you've gone to the Desktop initially, you can toggle between it and the Metro screen by pressing the Windows key on your keyboard (in addition to a few other ways as well).

One thing that's not on this menu is your Shut Down options.  It took a while for me to find this one, but it's not that complicated.  Simply move your cursor to the upper-right corner of the screen until the sidebar pops out, click on the Settings "cog" and select Power.  Your options for Sleep, Restart and Shut Down are all there.

Actually, that sidebar can come in pretty handy, especially when dealing with native Windows 8 apps.  For example, after installing Skype I had a devil of a time trying to figure out how to change the microphone and speaker settings so that it would use my Logitech headset instead of my computer speakers and Line In.  I was so used to finding those options on a toolbar in the app itself, but Skype for Windows 8 has a very clean interface.  As it turns out, the Settings option on the sidebar was the answer.  Profile, Options, Permissions -- they're all right there!

Finally, a lot of folks (myself included) were a little confused about the lack of the familiar "X" that would close a program in most windows.  Windows 8, by default, leaves all programs running in the background.  However, if you want to close a program completely, go to the Metro screen, move your cursor to the upper-left and you'll see all of the apps that are currently running.  Right-click on one and you'll see the Close option.  Select that and the program closes.

That's all for Part 2.  In Part 3, I'll give what can best be called a review of the OS and go in-depth on some of the features I found interesting and fun (or conversely, tedious and annoying).

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