It’s been a week since Microsoft rolled out its public preview of Windows 8 for tablets, and we’ve been spending lots of time with it. These are our ten favourite features – features that make working with Windows easier, faster, and more informative.
1: Metro Live Tiles
Windows 8’s Metro user interface is a huge change for Microsoft, with large tiles replacing icons and shortcuts. But Metro isn’t just about launching programs, as its Live Tiles let you quickly see information from an application without having to go any further. Need the weather? Live Tile. Need to see important tweets? Live Tile. Tiles can also link inside programs, giving you even more information at a glance – like weather, news, or game moves or scores. Live Tiles can be updated at any time, leaving them fresh and new.
2: Fast Startup
Windows 8 makes booting a snap. The new kernel hibernation features boot from power on to the Start screen in seconds. It’s impressive work, and makes PCs and tablets feel responsive – as well as ready to work on your schedule. Metro’s new Start screen also helps speed things up, getting rid of all those startup applications that used to slow down boot.
3: Chromeless web apps
Open the Metro Internet Explorer 10 and you just see the web page, nothing else, in crisp, clear HTML 5. You can swipe down to open up an address bar and list of tabs, but they’re only there as long as you’re using them. The rest of the time it’s the content and the web that matters, with no distractions (and no plug-ins, so no Flash). It’s the web the way it always should have been.
Windows 8: The Top 10 New Features
Slide in from the right of the new Start screen to open Windows 8’s Charms. These are how you work with devices, share content between applications, or search. Sharing is very easy, think of it as a clip board on steroids, while Search lets you see inside applications as well as files. With Charms, connections are just a click or a swipe away, turning your programs into a mesh of interactions, all orchestrated by Windows.
5: Picture Password
Forget about complicated passwords (as we often do). Instead Windows 8’s Picture Password uses your favourite picture. With three gestures on the picture – lines or taps – you can construct a very secure password that only you know. It’s simple and secure, and very easy to set up and remember. It’s a good idea to use one of your own images, like a member of your family or a landscape with distinctive features.
6: Snap/Full View – multitasking
If you’re using new Metro-Style applications you can flip from application to application using the left side of the screen. If you drag out a program you can resize it as a snap view, with less than a quarter of the screen (if you’re using a wide screen PC). Snapped applications can show their usual view, but are best given an appropriate look and feel for a narrow column. The snap view is live, and you can be running applications both in the main, “full” view and in the snap column.
7: Desktop Apps as thumbnails
If you’re running old-style Windows applications on the Windows 8 desktop, you can use the snap view to provide a minimised live view of your applications. You can be using a Metro application while watching a video conversion tool reprocess a video, or keep an eye on incoming email without leaving a game.
8: Split touch keyboard
With Windows 8 hardware standards focused on widescreen HD tablets, the on-screen keyboard needs to be one that works well no matter how you hold the device. The big touch keyboard is good for lap work, but when you’re standing the split thumb-board is fast and efficient, with a set of keys on each side of the screen.
9: Refresh reset
It used to be that if something went wrong with a PC you’d have to spend hours reinstalling and reloading applications and files. Windows 8’s new refresh option makes things a lot easier. If you choose to refresh your Windows 8 system, it’ll store settings and applications safely, and then reload the OS, resetting everything to the original defaults. Once that’s done it’ll reload your settings, applications and files – leaving your PC as good as new, but only talking four or five minutes.
10: Live synchronization
Microsoft is giving Windows 8 a cloud back end through its Live services (and particularly SkyDrive). Two or more PCs or tablets will be able to share settings, kept in sync via Live. If you’ve bought a new