First Impressions of Windows 8: A Review
So here it is as promised, my impressions a month after installing Windows 8.… I went in with a little trepidation, and came out feeling like I just installed Windows 7 without the traditional Start menu. Enough said. On to my review…
Installing wasn’t too bad. There are only a few questions Microsoft asks, most of which can be left as “default”. The most important one you need to pay attention to is the CD key. As far as installing goes, and mostly thanks to my new SSD drive, it takes very little time get up and running. I really only ran into one challenge. The version of Windows 8 I was running was an upgrade version. Yet I chose to install the product as a fresh install. Doing this seems to send Windows 8 into a funk that could only be resolved by installing the software again. Upon the second installation everything worked well. So, when choosing a copy of Windows 8 to purchase make sure you take into consideration how you plan to install the software (fresh install or overwrite your previous version of Windows). For a fresh install buy the stand-alone version of Windows 8; to overwrite, the upgrade version works just fine.
One more tip: if you have multiple hard drives on your computer, I recommend turning your computer off and unplugging the power connectors to those extra drives while you install. This will minimize issues you have when Windows tries to determine what drive to call its start-up drive.
INSTALL RATING: 9/10
It has been a month and I am still finding myself pulling the mouse pointer down to the lower left hand corner of my screen to click on the start button. I guess old habits die do hard. Microsoft, after all, has had a start button since 1995, so I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on myself about it but it is frustration – especially considering the overlay of Microsoft’s new tile-based User Interface they’re calling “Metro”. More on this in a moment.
After the installation is complete Microsoft asks you a few more questions you will need to answer including making your Hotmail account login your Windows login. Don’t worry if you do not have a Hotmail account. Windows will let you create one. This will become your billing account should you wish to buy any online software from the Microsoft Store. Once you complete this task, Windows will complete the building of your account and Present itself to you. This is where things get fun. 🙁
If you have ever used a Smartphone or tablet you will understand the basic premise of how touch/react systems work. You touch the screen, swipe, use multiple fingers to form gestures to make the device do what you want it to – pretty simple right? Microsoft’s new operating system makes an attempt at something similar and those of you who buy a Microsoft 8 equipped Smartphone or Windows 8 Pro tablet or have a touch screen on your PC will probably find Windows 8 an easy-to-use operating system. What Microsoft doesn’t seem to consider is those of us (myself included), who do not. As a result you have to figure out how to make your mouse do all the things that your finger(s) is/are supposed to do.
For example: want to get to the Control Panel? Drag your mouse down to the lowest part of the screen you can get to on the right-hand side of your monitor and hover there until the right “Charms” menu appears. A Charm is really nothing more than an icon – like you would have had in your old Start menu in Windows 7. Note: (And I am adding this here because it took m 15 minutes of poking around, giving up and looking the answer up online: not so charming…) The Charms menu is also where you will find the icon that will allow you to turn off or restart Windows.
The one nice thing that Microsoft did for us was to reinvent keyboard shortcuts. Traditionally you would use the CTRL (Control) or ALT keys followed by a letter. What Microsoft has done was to really implement functionality into the Windows button. For example: you can press Windows Key-D to return to your desktop or Windows Key-C to go to the Charms Menu (Windows key-F brings up search). This can be handy but will most likely take some time to achieve some proficiency. If you’re a user of a standard PC (i.e., without a touchscreen) who uses Windows 8, you will find it essential to learn these shortcuts.
INITIAL LEARN-ABILITY RATING: 6.5/10
Ease Of Use:
So now picture this. I have Windows 8 installed, worked with it for around 4 hours, got up the next day and started into my first work day with the new Operating system. I was a bit nervous. I had had the problems with the install the day before and, to me, the operating system was unproven and potentially another Windows Vista (Vista and I have bad history: after I installed it, it lasted 3 months on my PC before I had to uninstall it and revert back to Windows XP. It just was not stable at all for me). As you can imagine, Windows 8 was making me a little apprehensive.
The first day I was a little slow on the draw having to learn the system. They say if you want to learn to swim, jump in the deep end. And this is what I had done. By lunchtime however, I was beginning to get the hang of Windows 8 and it wasn’t so bad. Even Microsoft’s Metro, while taking a bit to get used to, seemed almost usable.
On Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows 7 they had created a task bar and start menu they called “Aero”. Windows 8 has a new task bar and something like the old Start menu they are now calling Metro (note some sources say there is a question of copyright on this name and, as such the name may change). Metro is where you will find the basic Apps (yes, your programs are now called Apps), like Weather, Maps, Microsoft Store, Video Play and more. As you install Apps (either by purchasing them from the store or installing from A CD/DVD), they are added to Metro as “tiles”. In Metro you can order and customize each tile or launch an application.
What I found about Metro is by the time you have your PC where you want it there are so many icons in Metro it’s quite easy to get lost. What I ended up doing was copying icons for the apps I use most often from Metro to either my task bar or on my desktop. Then I took the remaining apps in Metro and batched them together to get at them more readily when I need them. Effectively I have reverted to a Windows 7 way of doing things with Windows 8 (minus the traditional start menu). Now that I have done this I find working with Windows 8 much easier. Would it be any different if I had a touch screen? Probably not. I like having quick access to my Apps. I had Windows 7 set up in a similar way. Note: for those of you that try Windows 8 and hate Metro (I know there are some of you out there), there is a legal hack out there that will let you run the old-fashioned Start menu in Windows 8. There are some issues with it I hear so use it at your own risk.
INITIAL EASE-OF-USE RATING: 6 /10
ONCE YOU HAVE IT SET UP IN A MANNER YOU’RE COMFORTABLE WITH: 8.5/10
Security / Privacy:
One of the features that arguably enhanced Windows Vista and Windows 7 was its built-in firewall. Windows 8 continues the tradition of the standard firewall but adds a new feature – SmartScreen. What this software does is attempt to block access to some programs. How is this done? Every time you attempt to install or run a new program a code, called a hash, is sent to Microsoft and, through an automated process, Microsoft will attempt to tell your computer if the program is safe to install or run. If it isn’t on the list of approved Apps you are given a warning screen asking if you are sure you want to continue. The choice then becomes yours to install or not. As I mentioned last month, I don’t know exactly what is in the “hash” or how having that code could affect you should someone get access to it, but for the extremely nervous out there that can’t bear the potential risk, you can disable this function in Windows 8.
Microsoft has also added SmartScreen to Internet Explorer 10. What this means to the end user, for those that enable the function, is that website data will be sent to Microsoft for approval before access will be available to a newly accessed site. If Microsoft sees the site as being unsafe you will get a warning at which point you decide to continue or not. On the subject of Internet Explorer, I want to say that I was a big fan of IE right up to version 7. Versions 8 and 9 had several challenges — including username and password authentication problems — that drove me crazy. I am happy to say that IE 10 seems to have resolved those problems. Thus far I am really liking the new browser.
As for security holes in the operating system, Windows has always been plagued with them. Microsoft will do what they usually do and correct them as they are found (and sometimes create new holes in the process). What needs to be said is that most operating systems have holes in them. Whether you go with a Microsoft, Linux/Unix or an Apple product there will always be bug fixes and security updates required to keep your computer safe.
SECURITY / PRIVACY RATING: 8/10
Once you can find the Control Panel you can easily find your network settings. The Control Panel, as already noted, is on the right-hand Charms menu. You can either guide your mouse to the lower right hand corner of the screen and hover there until the Charms menu appears or press and hold the Windows key and press the ‘C’ key. Once in the Control Panel, you’ll see a menu like that of Windows 7. Click on option marked “Network and Internet” and then on “Network and Sharing Centre”. To change your adapter settings click on “change Adapter Settings” from the left hand menu pane.
I am happy to declare that so far I have only ran into one or two compatibility issues with Windows 8. For the most part all software that I have installed works. Strangely, one App had to be downgraded to run as if on Windows XP. I had one other App I had to buy an upgrade for. One App required an extra download from Microsoft before it would be compatible. Beyond that, everything else works fine. If you were able run an App under Windows 7 you’ll probably be able to run it under Windows 8. If unsure, I recommend you check with the manufacturer of the software prior to installing it.
SOFTWARE COMPATIBILITY: 9/10
Using Windows 8 I get the feeling that I am really using Windows 7 without the Start menu. It just feels that way to me. Yes, getting to some things is a bit different but the overall feel is like that of Windows 7. There are some things Microsoft could have done better. This is a new iteration of their operating system, much like Vista was, and is bound to have its problems. So should you upgrade? I’m sure if you ask Microsoft they would say absolutely, but…
YES: If you plan on buying a Windows 8 Smartphone or Windows 8 Pro tablet then it would make sense to upgrade to Windows 8. This keeps your user experience across all platforms the same. You might also wish to upgrade should there be an app you need to use that will not run under your existing platform.
NO: If you are content with your current system there is no real urgency to upgrade. The programs you are using now will continue to work and there is a bit of a learning curve that may present problems to less experienced users.
Got a question or an idea for a topic you would like to see covered in one of my upcoming blogs? Write to email@example.com and sound off. I’ll do what I can to address your questions or concerns either personally in a reply email or on the blog. Until next month, take care.
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