Windows 8 is here…are you ready for it? Most likely the answer is no, and that’s ok. Windows 8 is different, but it is still the same. Confused? Don’t be. When you turn on Windows 8 you are greeted with a new desktop called the start screen. It is bright and colorful with little boxes that display pictures and information. These boxes are called tiles and they are how you will launch nearly all of your applications. It is nearly all of your applications because some older applications have not joined Microsoft’s Metro User Interface revolution yet. That’s ok, because Microsoft left a little of what we know and love about our trusty old desktops and start menus in Windows 8 for just that purpose. Even some of Microsoft’s own tools have yet to get the face-lift; the control panel still uses the old style interface.
Back to the start screen. Did I mention it was colorful? It is also designed for touch. Windows 8 is very touch-oriented, supporting a wide range of touch gestures like pinch to zoom. On the Start screen, you can pinch and zoom out to show more tiles, so you don’t have to swipe across page after page of tiles to find the app you are looking for. The tiles are great. Live tiles feed you information like current weather, recent status updates or tweets from friends, and last email message received. Swipe from the sides and get additional menus for features like search or settings to change background images or screen resolution. Just touch the menu item – known as a charm – or tile you want and launch the application.
If all this talk about touching, swiping, and pinching has you thinking you have to run out and get a computer with a touch screen, think again. Your mouse will do just fine helping you navigate Windows 8. Moving the mouse to the edges or corners will fly out the menus, just like your finger swiping. Microsoft calls this action: using your mouse to explore the sides and corners. Clicking a tile is just like clicking an icon on your desktop in the good old days, or yesterday.
New Metro style apps will take on the same characteristics for navigation as the operating system, hiding toolbars and menus off screen awaiting your swipe to bring them into existence or our mouse pointer to sniff them out like a bloodhound. What about my older apps that don’t use the Metro Interface? Don’t worry… remember that little bit of old school Windows Microsoft left sprinkled around Windows 8? When you launch a classic style application, you will be transported to a familiar looking desktop with your Application running nicely and looking just like it did in Windows 7.
With all these changes to the way you operate, why don’t we change the way you install software. Microsoft has joined the app store trend and now, right from Windows 8, you connect to the app store, choose the app you want, and it downloads and installs. When the installation completes, just like on a smart phone or tablet, your new application is ready to go.
Windows 8 is very versatile and able to run on desktops and laptops as well as tablets. Yes, Windows 8 is available on tablets. Windows 8 RT runs on tablets just like the iPad and the various Android tablets. The only downfall is that Windows 8 RT will only run apps designed for the RT version of Windows 8. Take heart, Microsoft has a new tablet of its own design, Microsoft Surface Pro, scheduled for release in the first part of 2013 that runs Windows 8 Pro and should be capable of running any Windows 8 application on the market. It will also be able to join a Windows Server network like a regular workstation. The Surface Pro will be like a tablet and workstation in one.
This is only the briefest review of the new features and changes Windows 8 has to offer. Windows 8 looks to be a fresh exciting update to the Windows family. While Microsoft claims your existing software running on Windows 7 will run on Windows 8, be sure you test it out and check with the developer to make sure it is supported and has been tested with Windows 8 before you start replacing your desktops. Jacobs and Company B.I.T.S. will be evaluating Windows 8, soon and testing it with many of today’s common apps like QuickBooks and Adobe Acrobat as well as with some industry specific apps like practice management solutions and tax accounting software. As we work more with Windows 8 we will be sharing more news and reviews of the new Operating System in our newsletter and blog.