A lot is written about Windows 8 Professional. The topics vary from the missing start button to the new UI. Unfortunately, most of these reviews are written by professional reviewers, of which most seem to be affected by the general opinion about the OS. But is it fair? And does it represent the experience of “the people”, like me? That is what this user experience review is about.
Wether a clean installation or an upgrade is used, please remember to make a copy of your data, preferably on an external medium. As Windows 8 should (and in my experience does) save your data, I’d rather be safe than sorry. It takes a good while to install, so if you are in a hurry, do not install it. Just take your time.
The process itself is fairly easy. The step-by-step installation which annoys some people is really what it is. When you follow the instructions properly, you should not experience any trouble.
For a full experience, you need to login with your Microsoft account. This can be hotmail, msn, live or outlook. Of course, you can create a local account, but this does not give full access to the possibilities of the OS.
People have argued already that this is “Microsoft forcing users into their environment”. This is partly correct. Microsoft would love to see all people use their products, but is that so wrong that they are considered the dark side of the internet? I don’t think so. It is not like it is a new phenomenon. The Apple environment has been closed since almost day one. No one complains about that. And even the open source environment (Android) need a gmail account before one can gain full access to all the possibilities. So complaining about logging in with a Microsoft account is very unnecessary, because it gives you access to all the third party programs you can possibly need.
A very important point for Microsoft: access your documents everywehere from the cloud. Logging in with a Microsoft account can definitely work in your advantage. I have a Windows phone and by logging in with the same account, I can see all my contacts, calender items, mail and Sky Drive documents on my mobile device. I love that. It spares me from the effort of copying my documents to a mobile medium like a USB stick, I have the most recent version available and I can share my documents if needed really easy.
One of the complaints most heard, is about the interface. As much as I like it, being very simplistic and easy to use, I can imagine that not everyone is fond of it. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The new UI just doesn’t mean that the OS can do less than any of the previous versions of it. What I like about it, that I can put my most used programs at the beginning of my screen, and that I can move less used programs to the back or I can unpin the tile. That keeps my screen tidy and arranged in the way I want it.
I don’t miss the desktop too much. It is still in Windows 8 for the x86 programs, but when I don’t need the desktop application, I just close it.
Closing screens and working with the charms
How it works is to be found on several web pages. Personally, it feels good to just grab the window somewhere at the top and drag it out of sight (close the program). Getting used to left side, where opened programs are hidden doesn’t take too long, say… one minute. Working with the right side (charms) might take some more time, but on the other hand, you will get the functionality which was previously hidden in the start menu or “options” in any opened program.
Using two windows
I also like the option of using two windows at the same time. Open one application (or the desktop app), grab the top of it and drag it sideways. You will see a separation line appear. Drag your window to the smallest section of the screen. On one screen, I can keep an eye on my email or twitter updates, on the other screen I can work or, like now, write a user review. You can switch very quickly the size of the window by dragging the seperation line to the left or right. Working in two screens is quite easy. Being social and productive at the same time, what else could I want?
Windows 8 applications and x86 programs
I personally like the Windows 8 applications. I really do. To me, the full screen view is appealling and I like the options menu hidden in the charms. The apps usually load faster than x86 (“normal”) programs and in functionality, they do most of the time what I need them to do. And if they do not (e.g.: the Windows 8 Internet Explorer application does not show flash movies), I can switch to the desktop application, with its own version of the app I need.
Ofcourse, not all Windows 8 apps can replace the full functionality of the x86 programs. For example: I use the mail app to quickly check my email. If I need to manage all my accounts, however, I switch to Outlook (the 2013 Beta version, for that matter). Same for my calender. Point is: they are very good for quick checks and since they load much faster, it is worth it to give it a try.
For pc, laptop and touch screen devices
A lot of complaints are about the interface; it is said to be developed for touch devices and not for normal pc’s and / or laptops. From my experience, I can tell you that this is not true. I have installed Windows 8 Professional on my laptop without a touch screen and I don’t miss it at all. But it is also fit for touch screen devices, and that is a pre over other OS’s, wich are either for pc’s / laptops or touch devices. This makes Windows 8 very versatile and Microsoft is ahead of the competiting OS developers with it.
In my opinion, Microsoft did a great move with buying Skype. They had voice chat already in their MSN application, but “to MSN” was mainly a teenage thing, nothing good for adults and businesses. Skype on the other hand already established its name in VoiP. So why bother re-creating something new, when a good program was already there? The app works very fine, but you might need to review your hardware specs and see if a newer driver for your soundcard is available.
Windows 8 vs Windows RT
Even reviewers do not always seem to ‘get’ the difference between Windows 8 and Windows RT. They seem to think that Windows RT need to be capable of doing the same as Windows 8. Worse: by expressing their dissapointment that this is not the case, consumers might consider not to by a Windows RT device. Therefore two questions:
- You want a tablet, which can email, surf the web, create and/or edit a document in a decent working Office environment, view (You Tube) movies, is not too expensive, has a quite good battery life and you want a still growing app store? Have a Windows RT tablet.
- You want a tablet which is fully compatible with your x86 programs, on which you can install all programs you want, which can run an x86 version of Office, has a battery life that matches a regular laptop and you are wiling to pay more for more functionality? Have a Windows 8 tablet or convertible.
Windows RT is just the tablet OS, just like iOS is for mobile Apple devices and Android is for most mobile devices. Say… you did not think that Android is a full functional OS, didn’t you? Oh, you did? I am sorry to say it, but Android is a mobile OS created by Google based on Linux (Linux purists: please don’t shoot me, this is just a simplified explanation for normal users… like me).
Regarding the learning curve: it depends on how you start working with it. You will never get used to it when you only focus on the missing start button. But when you need a decent OS which might fit your need as well as Windows XP, Vista or 7 did, the learning curve will not be steep. At least not steeper than when you move to a different OS like OSX or a Linux distribution.
Some points worth mentioning
Tweakers and IT Departments all around the world complained: “Where is my start button!”. My personal vision on this is, when you are really a tweaker or someone who works with computers a lot, you should not miss the start button. A lot of functions can be called upon by using key combinations (better than using a mouse anyway), and if not, the charms are always there. After over 7 months of working with it (from Consumer Preview to Windows 8 Professional), I can honestly say that I do not miss the start button.
Tweaker societies and reviews
Unfortunately, the tweaker society forgot one thing: they use a computer more intensely than the average home user, but their online communities are read by reviewers and potential customers. To say that “those people have nothing to do on a tweakers forum” is quite short sighted. People can find information on the internet, and they will find it. But not everybody is capable of sifting the information. When a lot of users blab that “it sucks”, a lot of potential customers will have doubts. This is the main reason why I wanted to write a review. I am a consumer, not a tweaker, not a reviewer. It does not mean that the tweaker community is wrong. It just means that the tweaker community makes a different use of computers than the average user.
Although the hard core tweaker might consider Windows 8 too rigid and the professional network manager might not be convinced about the possibilities in enterprise environments (for which an enterprise edition is built with more specific functionalities), I think the negative reviews about this OS are not totally deserved. Okay, it is Windows, it is from Microsoft. But that doesn’t mean that the OS sucks. It is built on a highly praised infrastructure: the Windows 7 infrastructure. The most obvious change is the interface. And to that, I can tell you, you can get used to.
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