Tuesday, March 26, 2013

On Windows 8 and why it's not so hard

I downloaded the developer preview of Windows 8.  I didn't like it, mainly because the laptop I loaded it on didn't have the suitable drivers.  I used it a fair bit but said to myself I'd wait and see.  I downloaded the consumer preview too.  It was much better, had more drivers, and felt snappier. It made me start to look forward to the full release.

When the full version of Windows 8 was released I installed it on my laptop and desktop.  I was really very pleased to discover that my desktop had a SLAT capable processor, so I was able to activate Hyper-V as well.  More on that soon.

It didn't take me long to get used to Windows 8 at all.  When I first played with the previews I was initially wondering how it would work for businesses.  How would they deal with the new Start screen?  How would people get past that first hurdle?  If someone was trying to get to the desktop to work, would it get in the way?

Then it hit me.  We still have a start menu.  It has a bunch of 'favourite items' pinned to it. It has shortcuts to the settings menus.  Here's what I mean.

Using Shortcuts

In Windows 7 when you open the Start Menu area you'll see a set of pinned programs at the bottom.  You can pin whatever you want there to speed up your productivity.  In addition you have a set of most used programs that will build up the more you use them.  You can also pin programs to this menu as well.

In Windows 8 you can do the same thing with Apps or Programs - you can pin them to a sideways-scrolling list, and arrange them how you want.  You can also pin programs to the desktop as well.

Using All Programs

 At the bottom of the Start Menu in Windows 7 is "All programs" which will show you a list of everything you have installed (that has created a start menu item).  It gives you the chance to find your program grouped alphabetically.

The same can be done in Windows 8 very easily.

If you right click or swipe down on the start menu you'll see "All apps", and if you select this you will see another sideways-scrolling menu.

The first part of the menu lists all the Apps you have installed, including any you haven't pinned to the start screen.

The second part, on the right ide, lists all the programs you have installed.  This list isn't very big on the above screenshot because it was taken from my Surface RT tablet.  Using these lists you can pin whatever you want to your shortcut screen.

Accessing Settings 

From the Windows 7 start menu you can access a set of settings and options.  The same is possible from the start menu in Windows 8,

Just swipe in from the side or hit Windows + C to access the Charms menu, and select Settings.

From there you can change a number of options (some context sensitive based on what screen is being displayed) and power off the system, but you can also access even more options.


Once I worked out how the old and new systems interacted, a fundamental truth popped into my head:

The Start Screen IS the Start Menu

It is one and the same thing.  Press the Windows key and it appears.  Move your mouse to the bottom left of the screen and it appears  Have it selected and start typing and it will search.  Need to go to the desktop when logging in?  Make "Desktop" the first App, and when you log in hold down Enter and it'll go straight there.  Want to switch straight to the Desktop from anywhere?  Just use Windows+ D.

In summary I realise that many users will still find it hard to adjust, some people hate change, and others will continue to have it in for Windows generally, but for my working practices and general productivity I am finding Windows 8 to be a breeze,
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