Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Windows 8 Now that I'm using it

So it's the biggest release of Windows in my computer history. I don't really remember the leap to Windows 95, so I can't really comment on how that changed my life for better/worse. However, the leap from Vista I only remember from the smug XP sidelines, I successfully avoided Vista (although annoyingly my mother has recently inherited a Vista laptop that runs slower than a sleeping snail), and felt thrilled and excited when my hard drive crashed which gave me an excuse to move to 7. So why did I move to 8 and how have I found it?

I moved over to 8 for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I want to develop for the new metro UI. That might seem strange, but I actually quite like the neat side scrolling action, and the fact that XAML has a use outside of winforms replacement.

Secondly, I love the price of Windows 8. I got the £25 ish update from windows 7 and that is just too good. (especially since you get the pro version).

Finally, my wife said she liked the design, and that was the last straw.

So how do I get on with Windows 8. The first thing to note is that the installation and upgrade allowed me to keep all of my files and most of my applications. A few needed re-installing (such as postgres server, synergy and other service based applications). This suited me as I have not long done a full reformat so there isn't much bloat on my PC anyway. With this option selected though, it is a whole evening of your life that you are never getting back (I think Windows owes me several of those already!!).

Next up was the change in the way things work. So the new metro interface is basically a large, fullscreen Start Menu. View it like this and things don't get as bad. I use the keyboard a lot in normal computer use so using "Win Key" for opening the menu or "Win Key" + "C" for the "Charms" menu isn't a hardship for me, although I can imagine this being annoying for mousers.

The whole OS has the feel of being better on a tablet, however, this by no means stops you from using the operating system on a desktop PC. I have two monitors and this is as usual much more useful, but has it's downsides with Windows 8. The charm menu can be a nightmare to get up on the left hand monitor!

The metro UI apps are a spot unusual. you have to either ALT + F4 to close or you return to the home screen in order to "hide" them. The idea is that all of your most useful apps are "in-memory" so that you can boot them up quicker next time. The problem with this is two-fold. Firstly, in memory means that you have to have the memory, although, tbh I haven't noticed this being a problem as of yet. Secondly, to close an app, you have to either mouse to the left edge, right click on the app and then choose to close it, or do it from the new look task manager. This can be rather frustrating if you need to close an app down, there just isn't a close button in site!

Other than these few annoyances and differences, the hype about how difficult it will be to adapt is greatly exaggerated. My wife, who is no computer expert, has been using it for 1 day and already doesn't need my help to use the same apps that she was using before. My opinion is that the desktop now almost has the same feel to it that the latest Ubuntu releases have with the HUD feature, which means that even if you are coming from a non-windows background, you should find plenty familiar with the setup.

Would I recommend Windows 8 to anyone? Yes but with the condition that you keep your mind open and don't rely on other's opinions.