Confessions of a Windows 8 junkie

This is the first in an new series of Tech posts. There will be no more than one per week, so hopefully won’t break the flow of regular RPG and Render related content up too much. These posts allow me to vent about Tech-related things I care about without starting another blog just for this subject. I hope you like them!

I feel like the lone voice in the wilderness, for I am a Windows 8 fan. I suspect that after  Windows 8 launches on October 26 I will not be alone, for there is a lot to like.

You won’t find me blindly professing it is perfect and the greatest operating system the world has ever known (I’ll leave a certain segment of Apple supporters to make those kind of ridiculous statements about their own products), but it is significantly better than the sheep-like naysaying tech journohacks are making it out to be. I wonder whether they have spent any significant amount of time with Windows 8 or they are just repeating what the other writers say for fear of saying anything different. Or they’ve been paid by Apple with New Shiny Things. Whatever.

Windows 8 is very good. Excellent, even. It’s not perfect (no OS ever is, or ever will be), but the positives far, far outweigh the negative.

The largest difference between Windows 8 and previous versions is something you won’t see on any screenshots: it is fast. My main daily-use computer is a netbook (no sniggering. It’s wonderful, and perfect for my needs) and I estimate that applications run around 15-20% faster as compared to Windows 7. I also get over an hour of extra battery life too. It manages this clever trick by dramatically tightening up memory management. The operating system itself uses fewer resources than Windows 7, and the whole thing runs much more smoothly than ever before.

Despite what you may have heard to the contrary, Windows 8 is not crippled in any way when using a keyboard and mouse. All the keyboard shortcuts you know and love still work just fine, and mouse usage is smooth and fluid. There are three new mouse movements to learn (move to the top-left corner to show a list of active applications, move to the top-right to bring up the Charms bar, and pull an app from the top to the bottom of the screen to close it (Alt-F4 works too)) and that’s about it. You still move to the bottom-right corner (or hit the Windows key) to open the start menu – the icon is just hidden until you’re there. It’s certainly not as “weird” as a certain segment of the tech press likes to make out.

On the subject of the Start Screen (it feels wrong to call it a menu) – I like it. As with the rest of Windows 8 it is fast to launch and hide. It stays out of the way when not needed, but a quick bounce on the Windows key and I can see if I have new emails, social updates, app updates, check the weather, news and more, all without opening another application.

As a self-confessed keyboard junkie, being able to open applications by just pressing the Windows key, typing a few letters of their name and hitting enter is perfect for how I work. Using a mouse is just as quick, though if your Start Screen is long you may find yourself using the scroll wheel a lot to jump between sections. As with anything else in Windows 8, thankfully that’s lightning fast too, and you can fully customize the layout of the Start Screen to your own liking. Mine, for example, has an info-focussed first panel along with my most used applications followed by an Internet section which contains a mix of bookmarks and apps. Next comes Development where my programming tools (and dev-specific bookmarks) live. Then there’s Graphics, Office (2013 and 2010 in two panes), Music and lastly Games. It’s quite long, but organized just I want, and far easier to set up than customizing the Windows 7 Start Menu!

What I see when I hit the Windows key. A quick info glance tells me all I need to know.

Next time, I’ll talk about the niggles in Windows 8, take a look at the default apps launched with Windows 8, and wax lyrical about Windows 8’s Search capabilities. Bing will be mentioned. Quite a lot.

Till then!

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4 Responses

  1. Anders says:

    Windows XP, Vista and 7 all showed a trend of making a lot of basic, simple stuff less functional than the version before – for example the search function in Windows Explorer, which went from being well-designed and functional in Windows 2000 all the way to being literally almost useless in Windows 7. I would very much like for this trend to reverse itself. Can you assuage my worries?

    • greywulf says:

      The focus in Windows 8 is definitely simplicity of design. The good news is that doesn’t necessarily mean simplicity of function. For example Windows 8 search allows you to search from any app within any other application, and file searching is extremely fast and flexible. It’s definitely a huge step up from Windows 7 file searching.

  2. Dave Wild says:

    Using the early previews of Windows 8 is what persuaded me to have a look at Windows Phone – which I did and then got hold of one and I enjoy using that as much as Windows 8.
    I too use the keyboard extensively, and the Start Screen is lovely – it’s so easy to quickly get at everything.

    If you’re using a preview version, you might notice another jump in battery life with the final version which gets rid of the desktop window transparency. (I work for a Microsoft Partner and have been using the final version since August).

    I was talking to somebody at work today who was setting up a new touch screen laptop/tablet with Windows 8 and they said that it was “awesome” – which isn’t a word usually flung around when using work computers!

    All in all, I think it’s great and I can imagine that it’ll change and grow for the better too.

    • greywulf says:

      Agree entirely, Dave. I’m also a Microsoft Partner and have enjoyed seeing Windows 8 grow through the Developer and Consumer Previews to the RTM release. Each one has felt tighter and more stable than the last, and we are now at the point where RTM hasn’t let me down yet.

      I’m particularly looking forward to picking up a Windows Surface RT as my daily go anywhere sling in the dashboard machine.

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