Unless you did not know (and have been living under a technology shielding rock), Microsoft launched Windows 8 officially last night to glorious applause from the technology world. The latest desktop operating system from Microsoft replaces Windows 7 which was first released in 2009, and with Windows 7 being Microsoft’s best selling software since the dawn of time, one can only presume that the more modern and better featured Windows 8 will out sell even that. So, what are the best features of Windows 8 then?
For those of you who haven’t been keeping up to date with our posts on Ultrabook News, we maintain that the very best thing about Windows 8 is the innovative hardware it has inspired PC manufacturers to create. There are a wealth of fantastic hybrid Ultrabooks to be released this month and before Christmas 2012, boasting convertible form-factors which transform a productive ultra-thin laptop in to a usable tablet computer. Not just that, but manufacturers now have a real-world reason to create touch-screen enabled Ultrabooks, because let’s be honest; Windows 7 isn’t that great to touch. Here is a post I wrote about on one of my other technology websites detailing the best Windows 8 hardware coming soon. With hardware out of the way then, let’s take a look at what Windows 8 offers the end user.
Touch-screen and easy gestures
One of the biggest features of Windows 8 is its touch-screen friendliness, where everything from the Windows 8 UI (formerly Metro UI) interface and also traditional desktop are easy to use and navigate with just your fingers. The new look of Windows is the tile interface which will become extremely well known through marketing over the next few months, and this is full of applications and also commonly used programmes to increase your productivity overall.
Even without a touch-screen and using a mouse and keyboard, Windows 8 is great to use. You close an app by clicking on an app and pulling it down the screen, and keyboard control means that functions like the start button + C bring up your search bar.
As noted above Windows 8 UI takes centre stage as the biggest aesthetic change to Windows. The apps you use in Windows 8 can feed you information without you even having to open them. This is especially helpful with home-bred Microsoft apps like Mail, Calendar, Photos and News, for viewing new e-mail, upcoming events, thumbnail images and the latest headlines. If you get a bit tired of Live Tiles, you can stop them from automatically updating just like on a smartphone.
As imaged above (a screenshot from the desktop of myself), live tiles are a fantastic way to digest information without even opening up an app. Want to know the current temperature? Easy. Read your latest tweet? Piece of cake. For education, live tiles are great, so long you have a fast schools broadband connection.
Increased performance on existing hardware
For those of you looking to upgrade to Windows 8 on an older machine, Windows 8 is a much lighter operating system for hardware to load than Windows 7 or any version of Windows before it. That means that for the end user upgrading, boot up times will decrease and overall performance will increase also. Always make sure however that your machine meets the minimum requirements for Windows 8 to run efficiently. Most computers built within the past 4 – 5 years will be sufficient.
I upgraded to Windows 8 Pro from Windows 7 on my desktop upon official release and overall my desktop computer is faster to use in practically every situation. Even software like Outlook 2012 runs faster.
Integrated cloud computing
With Windows 8 making its way on to tablet computers, Microsoft needed to find a way for consumers to access all of their data from multiple computers with minimal on board storage. The solution? Cloud storage, and Microsoft Skydrive has been heavily integrated within Windows 8 to ensure that you will be able to access all of your files anywhere with relative ease. We wrote a comprehensive guide on cloud computing for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term.
Microsoft Skydrive is a breeze to use on Windows 8 with the app featuring an intuitive UI. Microsoft recently announced that an official Dropbox Windows 8 app will be available soon, too.
Overall there are a wealth of new features in Windows 8 which should appeal to a vast majority of prior Windows users. The main benefit for me so far has been the increase in speed over Windows 7, which is fantastic taking in to account I have a 1.0 release on my machine, no further updates required. The tile interface for me is a breath of fresh air from what was seen on prior Windows releases as well as OS X and Linux Ubuntu, too, and currently I’m addicted to downloading new (free) apps and re-arranging my tiles to get the perfect look.