Review – Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Windows 8 Consumer Preview Tour
While the OS is clearly still in the beta stage and isn’t feature complete, it feels very finished…in most places.  You could probably run it on your main PC with minimal peripheral or application compatibility issues. However, my built in web cam won’t work.  Windows 8 activates the camera, the blue light turns on; but PC crashes and restarts.
The following is a brief visual tour of Windows 8.

MetroUI

Lock & Login Screens
Windows 8’s Lock Screen has been completely redesigned. The icons in the Metro Apps Notification Area on the bottom of the screen will change in real time as system events trigger notifications.

The consumer Login Screen has been redesigned. During initial login, you enter your Windows 8 account password. Each time you start or login to Windows 8, you will log into your PC with your Windows Live Account. Microsoft and Windows 8 require the use of a Windows Live account for new features in Windows 8. You can see the Settings Gallery for additional information.

Start Menu
Those familiar with Windows Phone will recognize Windows 8’s Start Menu and Live Tiles. Each tile is a shortcut to its associated program and is updated with notification information as new/updated data is received.

Getting Metro Apps to run can be a bit of a challenge on legacy equipment, especially if you’re using a netbook, or a display that isn’t setup for to display at least 1024×768 resolution.  Metro App screens are static and not resizable below 1024×768, so if your screen resolution is smaller than that and you can’t force the resolution change, as I did, you may be out of luck. Please note that the previous Start Menu is displaying 1024×768.  The one here is displaying 1024×600.

If you’re looking for the rest of your installed programs, and you don’t see them in a Live Tile, don’t worry. The Start Menu can still get you there.  After the Start Menu is displayed, start typing the name of the program you wish to run. Windows 8 will search your entire computer, matching all your files to the character’s you’ve typed. The count of the different matches will be displayed on the categories under the search field.

The traditional Start Button is gone in Windows 8. Its Start Menu can be found by dropping your mouse cursor to the lower left corner.  Additional functionality like Start Menu specific settings, help, screen and volume settings as well as the power button can also be accessed from the Start Menu’s lower right hand corner.  The Metro App styled Control Panel is also accessible by clicking the More PC Settings link.

Hot Corners
As part of the touch-motif of Windows 8, Microsoft has removed the Start Button, for example, and replaced it with a Hot Corner.  All four corners of the screen provide some level of new functionality.  The bottom left corner displays the Start Menu. The only bad thing about all of this is that the mouse pointer seems to need to be buried in the corner before it will display.

Windows 8’s new task switcher is for Metro Apps only. It’s activated by moving the mouse pointer to the upper left corner.  The most recent app will appear. Pulling the mouse pointer down the left edge of the screen will cause the edge to turn black and reveal additional, running Metro Apps.  Legacy as well as Metro apps can still be switched to with an ALT-Tab key press, so you can switch to any running Metro or legacy application.  Like their smartphone equivalents, Metro Apps never leave memory. They, or a stub, stay resident and will reactivate when called upon.  If too much time has passed, or additional memory is needed, Windows 8 will automatically close unused applications down.

When you need to get at computer settings outside of the Start Menu, simply slide the mouse cursor up to the top left corner.  This will cause the Windows 8 Charms to appear. Charms are transparent; as Windows recognizes that you may not necessarily wish to activate them when you push the mouse cursor to the right.  Windows 8’s default, “more information/data” action is to scroll to the right. If you wish to activate Charms, simply press Windows-C or side the mouse down the right side of the screen after they are activated. Their background will turn black, like the Metro Task Switcher, and they become clickable.

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