Your Life Will Not End When You Use Windows 8

But you’d think so if you read a lot of the press (or the blogs or see the videos).  I get it – these guys need to fill the pages with something and it’s certainly easy to take pot shots at Microsoft (or Apple, how about those ios6 maps?!, or Google, how about Google+?!) but I thought I’d write down some experiences of having lived on a Windows 8 platform as a primary OS for a few weeks now.

First off, I’m tech guy, and on top of that I am primarily a Microsoft tech guy, so you may expect me to have better-than-average abilities when picking up new concepts as they are introduced in each iteration of Windows.  Anyway, here it goes, a few random musings from me on Windows 8 and why I should really have called this post “8 Shades of Meh”. Apologies if it just jumps to about a bit…

Desktop Users Will Survive

Having not had the chance to play with Windows 8 on a new form factor like a Surface tablet it’s hard to know what the experience will be there, but I can tell you that as a desktop user (I’m running it on a Lenovo T420s notebook) that you will not be lost.  Sure, you’ll need to retrain yourself for a few basic actions (see what follows below) but for the most part you will come to wonder what all the fuss was about.  Once you drop into the Desktop you will be fine (and you can still put icons on the desktop and pin things to the task bar). Control Panel is still there as are a bunch of other well known Windows utilities (finally, it’s “File Explorer” instead of “Windows Explorer”!).  Goodness me, desktop peek is still there too!

I’d say overall, that the effort involved in familiarising yourself with Windows 8 will be less than that involved in picking up the Ribbon when it was introduced into Office.

Square Edges, Flat Palettes

Yes, everyone said it – the death of Aero!  And to your average user this means what exactly? It probably means their ancient machine that was smashed with Vista could probably be resurrected better on Windows 8 than even on Windows 7 (assuming there are drivers about).

I’ll be honest and say I don’t miss transparent bars at all (one reason I like Chrome is that it actually does something useful with that space!) and what little transparency there is (the task bar is transparent) is fine with me.

I also jumped onto an Office 2013 Preview build when I switched to Windows 8 and have been using Visual Studio 2012 for a while.  I’ve square-cornered-flat-paletted all teh things.  You get used to it!

There’s no Start Menu

+1 from me on this.  I get a few more pixels back for stuff on the Taskbar when in Desktop Mode.  Also, for the first time ever in its lifetime, you’ll actually start to use the Windows key.  My tip (and one I read elsewhere a lot): learn Windows keyboard shortcuts.  The Windows key is the new Escape key in many circumstances.  If Escape no longer does what you expect try the Windows key!  Still lost? Mouse-over the bottom left of screen (on any monitor) and the Start Screen can be activated with a click (just hit the Windows key is my advice).

One bit I don’t get (and I’m sure there’s a reason) is that from time-to-time my Start screen pops on my secondary monitor instead of my primary… weird!

Multi-monitor Taskbar

Took a little while to get used to this – still breaking years of single-monitor Taskbar-ness.  Getting into the habit of looking at the Taskbar on the screen that you have an application (or an application window) open on takes a little getting used to, but it’s nice to finally have this natively in Windows.

Windows 8 Will Kill Off XP

I think corporates will probably take one look at Windows 8 and decide that Windows 7 will be the basis of their new SOE builds. I’d love to see people finally get off of Windows XP and if Windows 8 can make that happen by forcing uptake of Windows 7 it’s a good thing!  God knows it hurts me the number of times I go somewhere and still see XP in use.  The one saving grace for Windows 8 in the corporate environment is if the tablet form factor for Windows 8 really rocks then perhaps we might just see Windows 8 across the board (desktop, Surface tablet and phone).

Search All The Things

The habit for most Windows 7 power users was search.  Translate that to Windows 8 and you’re good to go.  Search has been refined slightly but overall behaves pretty much the same.

So… What?

In summary, I think it’s incorrect to call Windows 8 the next Vista.  If anything, I’d say Microsoft has played things pretty safe.  They could have made the experience far more radical than it is and I think (as I said) that traditional desktop users won’t struggle too much.  There’s certainly a shift going on right now that started with touch computing that is finally being embraced in Windows 8.   If you have been using computers for a while Windows 8 looks odd (and might remind you a bit of “Active Desktop”), but think of the generation of people coming through now for whom the iPhone and iPad are points of reference for how to use a computer and consider what Windows 8 (and future releases) will mean to them.

If you’re up for a new machine, get Windows 8, especially if you’re on XP (please!)

One blog I’d recommend having a read of if you’re unsure what Windows 8 means to you as a Windows 7 user is from Scott Hanselman.  Certainly helped me decide to make the switch.


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