The Windows 8 desktop, tablet and phone versions are here. If you've bought a Windows desktop or laptop recently it probably came with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 smartphones like the Nokia Lumia 920 are also beginning to appear. Although Windows 8 has been available to try for some time now, it's still getting a mixed reception. The more we use Windows 8 the more we like it however, we admit it can be a bit frustrating at first. Here are some things we like about Windows 8 along with some things we find a bit frustrating.
Once You Get Used to It…
Recently the well-known usability expert after observing users interact with Microsoft's latest operating system issued a scathing critique on it citing "hidden features" and problems with "dual environments" along with other usability problems. While we share some of Nielsen's frustrations, we also feel that a brand new operating system attempting to bridge the gap between desktops and tablets is going to take some "getting used to." Check out the short video above to see how easy it can be to move around Windows 8.
Why Convertibles Mighty Be the SolutionAlthough the instructional video above describes how you can get around Windows 8 using keyboard shortcuts, the more we use Windows 8 the more we realize that it may be better suited for a touchscreen than a pointing device like a mouse. For example, although Windows 8 is supposed to "suspend" apps when you're not using them, to close an application you won't find the standard "x" box, instead you swipe the app down and off the screen which is more "intuitive" on a touchscreen. The new batch of laptops called convertibles like Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga that has a touchscreen and a keyboard may offer the best operating environment for Windows 8 and go along to way to appease some critics.
Tiles Are Not Windows But They're CoolAs Nielsen points out, this version of Windows "doesn't support multiple windows." This is true and we agree with the criticism that poorly designed active tiles can have lots more art than information however, we are still fans of live tiles as a way of displaying a lot of current information on one screen. Once you get familiar with tiles you realize you can customize them to your liking for example, turning "live tiles" on and off. More so than previous versions, Windows 8 is also a much more visual from the big image on the lock screen to the active tiles. This may upset some users but again, once you get used to it you might find you like it.
Cool feature: Ability to select up to seven apps that can send updates to the lock screen.
A "Classic Mode" To User During the TransitionWe've read lots of complaints about the confusion caused by having a classic "desktop" environment along with the new Metro UI environment. We don't find it all that frustrating in fact we think it's pretty cool that you can run the Metro UI on one monitor at the same time a classic desktop is running on another monitor. On the other hand, we appreciate the new "full screen" apps that look great on laptops and tablets but it's taking us some time to get used to how applications differ, how to "buy" them in the Windows Store and how to control them.
Cool feature: Ability to run apps side-by-side on the same screen.
Finding the Button Can Be ChallengingWindows 8 is very much about what slides out from the sides and corners of the display. Once you get the hang of it, getting around the Windows 8 environment begins to make sense but it requires a learning curve and the need to remember what corner or side to tap. Most notable have been the complaints about how difficult it can be to find simple functions like shutdown which require you to first slide the list of charms out from the right side of the screen and then drill down through settings to the shutdown icon. The more we get familiar with the location and functions of the icons, the more comfortable we have become using Windows 8.
Cool feature: Shortcuts using the Windows key and other combinations make it faster to get around
The New Task Manager is Great and IE 10 is CoolDespite all the grumbling about UI issues, you shouldn't lose sight of some real improvements in Windows 8. For example the new Task Manager offers lots more information about what's running and what's using resources.
Cool feature: You can now use the Task Manager for things you used to do in msconfig.
The new version of Internet Explorer that comes with Windows 8 now includes the "Ribbon" interface that many of us have finally figured out how to use in Microsoft Office. IE 10 is even easier to use on a touchscreen as this video shows.
Should You Wait for Windows Blue (Version 9)?Some people point to a pattern with Microsoft and how alternating operating systems might been seen as winners and losers i.e. Windows Vista (loser) > Windows 7 (winner). We hear rumors of a new version of Windows expected in mid-2013. It sounds like Microsoft wants to get into an annual release schedule for Windows. We expect to see some UI refinements in Windows 9 but we don't expect a brand new version. Our advice; if you're in the Windows camp, you might as well jump on the band wagon and start getting used to Windows 8. Besides it only costs $39 for an upgrade.