Windows 8 Consumer Preview on a Laptop–Day 1


It’s been about 24 hours since Microsoft released (and I installed) Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Since I didn’t have any classes today, I took the opportunity to do some more looking around the build. Here’s the result of that exploration

A Note on Dual-Booting

I highly recommend my set-up, which eschews the easiest method in favor of finding the ISO on Microsoft’s download page – it’s surprisingly hidden—, booting from that, and putting a fresh install of Windows 8 onto a separate partition. Though you’ll lose the advantage of immediately having all your old applications and settings transferred over, I think this is better for two much more important reasons: first, you may not be able to use many of your old apps on Windows 8, and second, it’s just not quite ready for use as your primary computer OS.

For the first time in Microsoft’s history, the boot selection screen when you dual-boot actually looks nice, so you don’t even have to worry about that. It’s definitely the better option.

Logging In

To me, the biggest feature in Windows 8 isn’t any of the fancy-schmancy new UI; it’s the integration with the cloud that makes Windows 8 so interesting. When you first sign in, you do so with a Windows Live ID much like Windows Phone; your password is thus your Windows Live Password. However, that’s not really the consequence that I like so much: the consequence I like so much is the fact that you then can access files from Skydrive (Microsoft’s Dropbox-like cloud storage service) and they’ll be saved and up to date on any computer you go to. I wasn’t able to test this, but I’m guessing that your Start screen, wallpaper, and Windows 8 settings will also follow you from Windows 8 PC to Windows 8 PC.

The process of Logging in itself is very reminiscent of Windows Phone. Like Windows Phone, you unlock the device by dragging a picture upwards to uncover the login prompt. Here are some photos of it in action:

Here, the picture hasn’t been dragged out of the way at all:

Here, the picture has been dragged up about a third of the way to reveal part of the login screen:

Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to save screenshots from the login screen (probably a good thing really), so I had to take these with my phone, but I think you get the idea.

The Start Screen and The Windows Desktop

I don’t have any pictures of this, so you’ll just have to take my word that it’s there. It’s REALLY there. I don’t know if it’s because I’m just not used to it and know that the Windows Desktop is right there waiting for me underneath it, or because I just don’t like it, but I constantly found myself constantly wanting to peel away this new shell and go back to the old Windows experience.

As you probably already know, there is a button on the start screen to do exactly that; press it and you’re whisked away to the land of familiarity:

Notice something’s missing? That’s right; there’s no Start button on the Windows desktop anymore. There’s also no start menu; if you want to launch an application, you have three cumbersome options. You can:

  1. Use the Windows Key + R keyboard shortcut to open up the Run window then type in the path or command to open a give application.
  2. Use Windows Explorer (through the Recycle Bin or the separate Windows Explorer icon on the Start Screen) to navigate to the .exe file and then double-click it.
  3. Go back to the Start Screen by hitting the Windows Key or clicking on the far left side of the taskbar (yes, even though there’s no button there anymore, it still launches the Start Screen), right click to bring up the Start Screen’s menu, choose “View All Apps,” find it on the list, then click on it once to launch it back inside the Windows Desktop, which you should be automatically sent back to.

Not exactly intuitive. Well, at least my favorite bulk installation tool, Ninite, still works on Windows 8:

Also, I’d just like to say that it’s stupid that this is the only way to run Microsoft Office. Why not make a Metro version of it? How can people take your product seriously if you don’t seem to be drinking your own kool-aid?

 

Touch Gestures and their Mouse-based Equivalents

I think this could be a really great tablet OS. Everything’s really quick to respond and the touch gestures are awesome. However, when Microsoft designed their “touch first” UI, they seemed to also put the mouse and keyboard last. The ways you bring up menus and work with the OS are nearly impossible to find without any help (it took me hours to figure out multi-tasking and almost as long to find the way to bring up the application-specific menu). So, for your pleasure, I have created a table to help you out.

Purpose Touch Gesture Mouse Gesture
Multi-tasking Swipe from the left side of the screen. Hover mouse in the upper left corner of the screen.
Bring up “Charms” menu (for settings and a shortcut to the Start Screen) Swipe from the right side of the screen. Hover mouse in the bottom right corner of the screen.
Bring up Application-based menu for more commands. Swipe from the bottom of the screen. Right click anywhere while inside a Metro application.

They aren’t intuitive, but once you figure them out, they seem to work well enough. In fact, their response time was quick enough I soon found myself zipping around the UI surprisingly quickly.

Multitasking and the Windows App Store

After some work, I figured out how to do the side-by-side multitasking trick that Microsoft always shows in their videos. The trick is to drag the application preview from the upper right down into the workspace like you’re doing normal multitasking, then hold it over either the left or right quarters of the screen. If it’s compatible, the app will make a black silhouette appear in that region. Just drop it and you have two things going on at once.

Here’s a shot of the result (it also includes the Windows App Store, so you get an idea of what that looks like):

 

Internet Explorer 10 (Metro Version)

The Metro version of Internet Explorer 10 included with Windows 8 looks really nice. It may not have a lot of features, but it seems fast enough and has a very elegant way of handling multiple tabs.

Here it is asking me if it should remember a password:

And here it is displaying Twitter. You’ll notice that all the chrome disappears when you’re displaying a page without the Application-specific menu open.

That’s about all for now, but I’ll update you as I find more about Windows 8 to love or to hate.

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About Nathan Lawrence

Technology journalist, film critic, and student. My dream is to write and direct serious independent film.

Posted on March 1, 2012, in Technology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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