Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Thoughts on Windows 8

I have to say I've been pretty excited by Windows 8.  I've been using it for about 6 months now and, although it's quite different, it's got a lot going for it.  I like it so much that I upgraded our two computers (one desktop and one laptop) to Windows 8 the weekend it was officially released.  After all of this, I thought I would blog about what I think of it.  First of all, although I think it's great, I don't think it's perfect.  There are some things that are annoying.  But first, I want to talk about the things that I like.

The New Start Screen

I hear a lot of people complaining that Microsoft ruined Windows 8 by taking out the start menu.  I really don't get that.  They simply expanded it to include the whole screen.  Then they added live tiles that give you updates without even requiring that you open the application.  It's pretty cool stuff.

It's also easy to customize.  I've set up an account for my kids and only put tiles up for programs they use.  Their start screen is a lot more sparse than mine but they know how to find their stuff and they don't get into my stuff.  That is truly awesome.

Also, for the applications you don't put on your start screen, just start typing and the start screen turns into a search screen.  You can search your applications, your settings, your documents, or even within some applications.  It's all right there!



The New Controls

The new controls take a bit more getting used to.  Some are quite easy (the windows key toggles between the start screen and the desktop) and others are a bit more complicated (you click and drag down to close a non-desktop app).  Over all, though, they are pretty easy to get used to once you spend a bit of time with them.  However, it would be helpful if Microsoft published a list of keyboard shortcuts and mouse commands.  Here are the ones I use the most:
  • Windows key: toggle between start screen and desktop
  • Windows key + c: brings up the Charms bar (which has search, settings, etc. on it)
  • Windows key + l: locks the screen

The New Internet Explorer

Microsoft created a bit of a headache here for me.  Internet Explorer has two flavors - the desktop and the tablet versions.  Unfortunately, which one you get depends on what application calls it or where you select it from.  By default if you select it from the start screen, you get the tablet version.  If you select it from the desktop, you get the desktop version.  This can be frustrating sometimes.

As a desktop user, I don't see the point of the tablet version.  So I went into internet options -> programs and selected to always use the desktop version.  That cleared up that issue.

Other than that, the new IE is fast and easy to use.  It's a good update.

Tablet Applications

The other new thing is that Windows 8 supports/encourages what I call tablet apps.  I believe the official term is Windows 8 applications (it used to be Metro apps) but really they are apps designed for tablets.  The rules for these apps are different than for desktop applications.  You use the Charms bar (Windows key+c) for settings/preferences/search and the interaction is more based on touch than on a mouse.  Once again, it's not difficult to learn but it does take some getting used to.

On the bright side, there are some really fun apps that my kids really like.  Things like Cut the Rope, Physamajig, Pirates Love Daisies, Hydro Thunder Hurricane, etc.  These were all free in the consumer preview but are not free now.  However, they're pretty inexpensive and have trial versions so you can test them out.

Parental Controls

When you set up a kids account, it asks you if you want to get reports.  I said yes and now I get weekly reports of my kids' activity on the computer.  What programs were used and how long they were used for.  What web sites were accessed and how often.  Lots of stuff that lets me keep an eye on my kids' usage.  It also lets you blacklist web sites and/or applications so your kids can't mess around with things they're not supposed to.  I think it's great!


After using Windows 8 for a while, I really do recommend it.  It's faster and offers some great advantages.  On the other hand, it's different and it will take some adjustment so don't jump in with your eyes closed.  At the end of the day, it's a tool and it works well for me.