Windows 8 Pro


I have updated three PCs to Windows 8 Pro, so far. The Windows 8 upgrade tool that you download at windows.com makes buying, downloading, and installing or updating, a breeze. This post will not go into the nitty-gritty of the update procedure itself, but will cover my general impressions of Windows 8 Pro. All thoughts are from the point of view of a Windows 7 user accustomed to the mouse and keyboard.

Start Screen

The Start Screen is a much better replacement for the Start Menu. I don’t miss the Start Menu. To access programs that are not available as a tile on the Start Screen itself, invoke the charms bar (Windows+C or take mouse pointer to the top or bottom right corner) and choose Search. The charms bar is well worth becoming familiar with, it is also used for searching and changing settings inside an app.

Windows 8 Apps

This is the most exciting new area of Windows 8, Apps. The Windows 8 Store is still a poor cousin of stores for Android, iOS, and OS X. That may change rather quickly once more and more developers adopt Windows 8.

The first app I downloaded from the Store is Netflix. What a difference that app is from the browser-based offering. It drops Silverlight as a development platform, which allows it to use much less CPU, in the range of 2 to 5%. That should significantly boost battery life. If you miss the search functionality remember that you can search using the charms bar I mentioned earlier.

Apps for Windows 8 from Microsoft that come preinstalled and I have tried are – Calendar, Mail, Messaging, Music, People (Contacts), Reader, and Weather. The apps are all quite slick and I will be using them all going forward. For communications related apps, it is easier to use the Start Screen as a dashboard to quickly view all the pending notifications, and go back to work.

The Reader app allows viewing XPS and PDF files. EPUB support is sadly missing, and there are no good apps in the Windows store for reading those. I am sure that will change rather quickly.

Other noteworthy apps that I have downloaded and will be using on a regular basis are – Chrome, Google Search, Kindle, Music Maker Jam, Skitch, and Skype.

Windows Desktop Accessories

Windows Explorer looks and feels much better with the ribbon toolbar. It works quite as expected. One useful addition for those that have a lot of media backed-up to ISO files, Windows Explorer can now mount them as a virtual drive.

Even though there is a new Music app which works quite well, Windows Media player is available as well. Microsoft is also offering the Windows Media Server as a free upgrade at the moment. That upgrade brings support for watching DVD movies, and viewing and recording live TV.

The Task Manager has improved a lot. It has a richer UI and gives a better picture of CPU, memory, network, and disk activity. It is much easier to disable apps that launch at startup from the Startup tab.

Developer tools

Visual Studio 2010 works just fine even though the upgrade tool highlights it as not being compatible with Windows 8. Tools based on Java and the Visual Studio Isolated Shell also work.

Games

I have used Origin and Steam based games without any hick ups. Game titles like The Sims 3 and Fifa work all right. I am quite confident that is the case for most games that work on Windows 7. Try running a game in compatibility mode if it fails for some reason.

Conclusion

Windows 8 is a breath of fresh air. It deserves its place besides the likes of Android, iOS, and OS X. I hope you’ll agree.

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