07 Mar 2012

As we know, Microsoft has made the Windows 8 Consumer Preview available for download at this location.  They have both a web installer and an iso installer.  Here I will go over my first impressions of the new beta.  Many will call Microsoft's new Metro design like going back to the 80s and 90s where we had to switch between DOS mode and Windows.  Having used Windows 8 for a bit, I have to say that I think the extreme nature of the previous statement to not be entirely true.  Sure, we will have desktop mode apps for awhile, but Microsoft has done a good job of making the transition between Metro and Desktop Mode fairly seamless.

I've put together this short demo video to outline some of the highlights shown in this article:

The Metro tiles all have a purpose and can be removed, rearranged and resized according to your preferences, however only 9 colors can be used and five patterns for the background.  With this new beta you will find the round Start button is gone.

They have added new ways to switch between apps and more updates for desktop tools and options.

You can only download the desktop version of the Consumer Preview for x86/x64, there is no download for ARM, due to the way ARM devices are custom made.  As we know from the my previous article that Windows on Arm (WOA) will be basically the same and still include the desktop experience, though any apps that aren't Metro apps will need to be made into Metro-styled apps to work on WOA.  Of course on the desktop version we don't get to test out the Office applications that will be bundled with WOA, but the desktop version will run all the x86 apps that won't work on WOA. 

Table of Contents

 

Setup

We previously outlined the System Requirements here.

For the purposes of this article, I installed the iso into a Vmware Workstation 8.x type environment (virtualized), simulated as a dual core with 2GB of ram (x64).  I did not test it on physical hardware.  This way I was able to control some of the hardware parameters to test how the OS might actually look and feel on different platforms.  Once fully installed (clean install) you will probably find that the default 64-bit install consumes around 23.1 GB of space.

You can burn the iso to a disc and install on a physical machine or you can use the installer and create a bootable USB stick to install it on multiple machines. 

I should note, that a new feature called "Windows To Go" aren't out yet.  With this tool you can run Windows 8 directly from a USB stick.  This feature will be especially useful for enterprise management of tablets down the road.

For the purposes of this article we chose the custom install (not the upgrade).

Upgrading from Windows 7

However, if you decide to try an upgrade here are some notes and screenshots:

  • You cannot upgrade from the Windows 8 Developer Preview. 
  • You won't be able to upgrade from the Windows 8 Consumer Preview to RTM
  • You cannot upgrade from Windows XP or Vista
  • It is possible to upgrade from Windows 7, but you can not reverse the upgrade after its complete.

On choosing the upgrade option, you are first asked what you would like to keep.  If you are running from Windows 7, the choices are "Windows settings, personal files, nothing"

 

This part of Setup is comprised of tools that were previously available using the Windows Easy Transfer Utility.  Choosing the first retains any compatible applications, documents and other files and customizations.  Its basically an in-place upgrade.  The last option is for doing a clean install.

Next setup checks to see if there are any incompatible applications that need to be removed first...

 

Some applications may need to be removed first.  One that is common is Microsoft Security Essentials.. Or on my other test PC, the Windows Server Update Services console.

Once you have dealt with the issues, setup will proceed or it will tell you it will, after a restart

 

The custom, clean install

If instead of Upgrade, you chose the Custom option, you can select which drive to install to or format.  After you select your partition to install to, we see the usual "Installing Windows" setup progress screen...

 

You can then pick from 9 colors (yea, there are still only 9 to choose from) and give it a PC Name.

You can then choose from "Use Express Settings" or "Customize", for the purposes of this article we chose "Customize".

From here you can specify various settings like network sharing and windows updates...

For signing into your PC you have two options, "Microsoft Account" and "Local Account", with the Microsoft Account (email address that is a Windows Live account), you can download apps and sync your files, photos and PC settings.  If you choose to go local, you can always create one later (Charm area, settings... More PC Settings.. Users.. Switch to a Microsoft Account)

Once you have everything installed you are presented with a lock screen.  You can view notifications from applications in this screen as well. 

Once we unlock we see the new Start Screen.

Charming Charms

While I didn't test the touch gestures for the purposes of this article, it has been documented that they make using Windows 8 very easy.  You can swipe from the right edge of the screen to get the charm bar and other features like Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings.

Lets play 4 corners

The 4 corners are the key with using a mouse.  The charms can be brought up by leaving your mouse pointer in the top right or bottom right corner, resulting in the outline for the charms.  If you don't move the mouse they go away.  Windows assumes that you didn't want to trigger them as perhaps you were moving the mouse to scroll or closing a window on the side instead.

You can find the Start Screen shortcut, by hovering the mouse in the extreme lower left corner, but be careful, if you move it slightly and then click, you won't return to the Start Screen.  The cursor must be left in place to then trigger the Start Screen.

If you move your cursor to the upper left, you are presented with the last app that was open.  You can drag downward to see the full list (or use the usual keyboard commands, see below).

 

Start Button where have you gone

Another thing that was a little disconcerting at first was the Desktop Experience's lack of a start button.  The lack of start button in the lower left of the Desktop Experience is a bit odd at first.  A new user might be highly confused.

Also, in general, if you are in a Metro app and you want to close it, you can drag with your finger from the top of the page all the way to the bottom to "throw it away", or in the case of the mouse, click at the top until the cursor becomes a hand, then drag down to the bottom until the app shrinks in size and it will close at the bottom.

You can also hit the Windows Key and start typing, this will bring up search results, which you can filter, based on apps, files, Internet Explorer and other apps.

Twice the Internet Explorer 10

Strangely, it comes in two flavors, there is a Metro version and then the Desktop Experience version.  They don't share settings, such as cookies and bookmarks.

If you right click the Internet Explorer area, once its open, in the Metro version, you can open other "tabs"... "Tabs" become the squares at the top as seen below.

If you have Internet Explorer open, then go to Desktop, you can then hover in the upper left and drag the IE window to snap in place next to the desktop.  This is handy if you are working on Office documents or other desktop apps and want to browse at the same time.  You get a 25% or so type view or 75% view depending on which you want to be the larger, there is no in between unfortunately.

A reminder from before, that for Metro apps to display and also snap, they must meet these requirements:

Minimum 1024x768 resolution and 1366x768 for snap.  If you launch a Metro app with less than this you will get an error.

Mail, Messenger and People

These apps are pretty straightforward.  The Mail and People apps bond together your email and social networks and will pull in updates from those and let you push your own. 

The Messaging app just connects to Microsoft's Messenger service as well as Facebook chat.

Xbox App

Microsoft has taken its successful Xbox Live experience and placed it in Windows 8.  In the Xbox app you can see all your gaming statistics and similar features you see on your Xbox, complete with your avatar.  Here you can also make avatar costume changes, that will translate over to your Xbox as well.

You can view recently played games and Xbox apps and those can be launched directly from the Windows 8 device and even be controlled from Windows 8, once they are loaded, on the Xbox console.  This comes with some restrictions, such as the controls being limited to up, down, left and right along with only access to four face buttons, so often you can't navigate through every menu.  You also have the ability to launch games that are downloaded to the console or disc in the tray.

These features may be better suited if you have a tablet in the room with the Xbox console, rather than on a PC, as it feels more natural.

Skydrive Integration

Skydrive is integrated in such a way that you can share files from it from various apps.  For instance, you can attach files in the Mail app.

The Skydrive desktop integration, that was revealed previously, isn't available just yet.

 

Windows 8 Keyboard Shortcuts

Global

WIN + C - Open a simplified “Start” menu and set the date and time.
WIN + Q - Look for the application.
WIN + W - Search on the parameters of the system.
WIN + I - Open set
WIN + Spacebar  –  Switch input language and keyboard layout
WIN + Y  –  Temporarily peek at the desktop
WIN + O  –  Lock device orientation
WIN + V  –  Cycle through toasts
WIN + Shift + V  –  Cycle through toasts in reverse order
WIN + Enter  –  Launch Narrator
WIN + PgUp  –  Move tiles to the left
WIN + PgDown  –  Move tiles to the right
WIN + Shift + .  –  Move the split to the left
WIN + .  –  Move the split to the right
WIN + F  –  Open File Search App
WIN + I  –  Open Settings charm
WIN + K  –  Open Connect charm
WIN + H  –  Open Share charm
WIN + Z  –  Open App Bar

Windows Explorer

Alt + A - Open the “special features”
Alt + C + O - Copy the selected items.
Alt + C + P - copy the path to the file / folder.
Alt + C + F - Copy the folder (use the drop-down list)
Alt + D - Delete the selected.
Alt + E - Edit the selected files.
Alt + H - Show the history of file versions. I think the mechanism will be used by shadowing.
Alt + M - Move the files (using the drop-down list).
Alt + N - Create a new folder.
Alt + P + S - insert label
Alt + P + R - Open properties.
Alt + P E - Open With …, select the application again using a drop-down list.
Alt + S + A - Select all.
Alt + S + N - Deselect.
Alt + S + I - Invert the selection.
Alt + R - Rename a selected file (s).
Alt + T - Cut
Alt + V - Paste.
Alt + W - Create a new document; choose the template – using the drop-down list.

New BSOD (Blue Screen of Death)

Microsoft has also changed the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) a bit...

Summary

Overall the experience was snappy, at least as performance goes.  However, issues like the sometimes tricky mouse clicks and the somewhat complex gestures, along with multiple versions of Internet Explorer may be a little bit of a learning curve for some.  The act of dragging a Metro app from the top to bottom of the screen to close it, with a mouse, is also awkward.  The main Start Screen Metro interface is actually not as bad as you might think.  Its ability to size, pin, arrange tiles, will make the organized person happy.  And for now, switching back and forth between the desktop experience and the Metro Start Screen and apps will take some getting used to, but over time, like DOS of the past, the desktop may become a relic, if Microsoft has their way.  Still, this Metro interface is a bold move by Microsoft, but ultimately a good one, I think we will find this to be true in time.  Microsoft has the right mindset of having a familiar interface on all platforms, as this is the new and upcoming trend in computers and portables.


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