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Last week I helped my last Windows 98 (first edition) client onto a new Windows 7 laptop that I was able to get him a good price on. What a leap it was for him, but nothing like as great a leap as the move from Windows 7 to Windows 8 will be if he chooses to take the plunge when it is released this Autumn.
I have recently installed a customer preview copy of Windows 8 and I predict a lot of resistance when many people see it for the first time. Not because it is anything other than a great improvement over Windows 7, but the way you use it - the user interface, is so radically different.
Those with a tablet or other touch sensitive computer will adjust most easily. It seems to me that keyboard and mouse integration was added as an afterthought. The key things that have changed are the Start buttom or Orb that used to live on the left of the task bar: there isn't one any more. The new interface, called 'Metro' presents you with a screen full of tiles, each one representing an 'App' - yes, they're no longer called programs.
The tiles are constantly being updated in the background by the program, sorry, App they link to. This is actually quite nice when you get used to it, but doing so takes time. The next great change, on the pre-release preview at least, is that the shutdown button is hanging off a setting on the charms bar - something that pops out of the right of the screen - hardly intuitive.
Performance appears to be at least as good and in some cases better than when running Windows 7 on the same hardware. There is a desktop, but many native apps are rewritten to assume that have the whole (or at least 2/3rds) of the available screen real estate. This, for me, is the biggest bug-bear - I like having two monitors with half a dozen programs no only running concurrently but visible concurrently. Yes you can share between co-operating apps by clicking the appropriate charm icon, but drag and drop seems to have dropped off the design board.
Also sadly missing is the option of dragging a file on to an app to launch it, virtual desktops (these have been a feature of Linux distributions for years), a dual pane Windows Explorer (although there are third party apps available in the App Store), and most of all a tutorial on how to use the new features aimed at people who are neither stupid nor sufficiently time rich to be able to snoop around.
So all that's left is to download it and try it out for yourself. If your bandwidth can stand a 3.5GB download you can get it free from Microsoft. You will need to have a spare computer and take an image of the disk before you start as downgrading later may well not work too well. Alternatively just install it as a guest OS on a virtual PC.
Your thoughts and comments welcomed.
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