Windows 8 is here and it’s about as different from Windows 7 as DOS was from any Windows operating system. I’ve had a chance to work with it, have taken a tutorial, and have set up a new laptop at work with Windows 8 and installed MS Office 2010, set up Windows user accounts, installed and used Internet Explorer 10, and I can say a little about Windows 8.
The biggest difference about Windows 8 is there’s no Start Menu. Everything is represented by tiles spread across what is now called the Start Screen, and you can toggle between Start Screen and the old Desktop. Start is like “Home”. It’s where your tiles are that represent programs and features such as music and audio, your picture library, documents, and things such as programs arranged any way you want them, but by default the most frequently used ones gravitate toward the left of the Start Screen.
Accessing menus from the Start Screen (or any other screen) is accomplished by moving the cursor to different parts of the screen. If you move it to the bottom
left corner, you get a representation of Start which you can click on to go to the Start screen. Moving the cursor to the lower right corner brings up a toolbar with context sensitive “charms”. Their function is different depending on whether you’re in Start, IE Explorer, Control Panel, or any other program. The “charms” include Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings. It’s like a universal tool bar that changes depending on where you are.
A really neat feature about the tiles is that many of them are live feeds showing news headlines, sports, stock market, weather, and many other things. Surprisingly you can have a ton of live feeds going at the same time without noticeably slowing down your computer. You can change the size of the tiles, so the Start Screen looks like one of our Picasa collages made up of different sized tiles, with the live feeds changing before your eyes. The whole idea is being able to monitor many things at the same time without changing screens.
Security settings in Windows 8 are noticeably different than in previous releases, and so are user account controls. In Windows 8 Home version, you have much less control over what the different user accounts can do. For example in Windows 7 and earlier, the Administrator account controlled everything. Accounts not designated as Administrator accounts couldn’t install programs, download apps, change certain settings, or configure devices. In Windows 8 Home, that’s all out the Window (so to speak). All accounts can do pretty much anything they want. If you’re going to have multiple users on your computer you will want to get Windows 8 Professional so you can have more refined controls on your other user accounts.
That’s about all I know after a couple of days. I think with time I’ll get used to it, but it was really frustrating at first. The most annoying thing about Windows 8 is not being able to find things until you know your way around. But with patience and a little time I think I’m going to like it for all the things it CAN do. What should YOU do about Windows 8? My recommendation would be to deal with it when you have to–like when you get a new computer, but no need to go out and buy the upgrade. It’s not that earthshaking.