by Norbert Horvath

The long awaited and much talked about arrival of Windows 8 operating system for PC’s is over. Microsoft “claims” it is the biggest change since Windows 95, and promises to give the best user experience yet. I’ve had my hands on it for the past few months while it was in developing stages and the consumer preview, and recently the final release; but is it really all it is made out to be?

Released on October 26th, Windows 8 has been anticipated by many as the most powerful, sleek and user friendly OS to be released by Microsoft. With the new OS comes a heap of new laptops, tablets and hybrid’s , all designed specifically for Windows 8 of course. By now everyone has heard of the long standing rivalry between Apple and Microsoft. Apple always seemed to have a cleaner cut, more edgy user interface integrated into their operating systems, while Microsoft managed to stay, simply put, boring. For 2012, Microsoft has redesigned the PC experience.

windows 8

 

Besides better battery life and faster boot, what is most noticeable about the new software is the start menu (above)/desktop (below). With the rising popularity of touch screens and tablets, Windows RT (a branch off of Win8) was created, which only runs on tablets and rivals iOS and Android based devices. Essentially it is a touchscreen with tiled apps which are downloaded from the new Windows Store, customizable to a great extent and supposedly very stable, but only time will tell of course.  The experience is the same as Win8 for PC, looks the same and feels the same, with the exception of not having a desktop. On your PC your will also find the same layout, but with the option to switch back and forth from the new start menu (the screen with tiled apps) and the desktop.

windows 8 desktop

At first users may feel they miss the original start menu, however it is quite easy to get used to the new layout. Possibly one drawback I have noticed is a few tasks may seem more tedious to get done, or something as simple as opening a program may take an additional click. This may sound petty to some, but PC enthusiasts will cringe at the lack of logic in that area. It’s almost as if Microsoft took 10 steps forward and one annoying step back. If still there are users that want the original Start menu back, a simple search on Google on how to bring it back will provide you with the steps to do so. However, this should be an option that is given to you in the Control Panel. Switching back and forth from the new start menu and desktop is seemingly pointless, as well as the full screen apps, most of which seem pointless as well. It may be a bit more sleek and fun for Windows, but pointless nonetheless.

Stability and performance are promised to be at an all-time high with the new OS. We may not get the full feel for the next few months though, as there are quite a few updates needed in the future. So far the first week of September has seen a generous amount of updates from Microsoft, but companies like Asus and Toshiba will need to release Windows 8 driver updates. A vast amount of old hardware will have problems until companies release updated drivers specifically for Windows 8. My laptop had trouble installing only one of the drivers, which was related to volume controls and screen brightness. After some fiddling I was able to find a workaround, but the average user will most likely get a headache trying to fix it themselves.

With this operating system you will also really want to have a touchpad with gestures or a mouse/keyboard combination which allows for use of new hotkeys and shortcuts. Without it the OS will take longer to perform tasks, as the new software is aimed at “the future” in which apparently everything will be touch screen and hand gestures are just a part of everyday life.

All in all I think Microsoft could have done a better job, however it is all about minor things. I give the overall experience a 4 out of 5. By trying to compete with the sleekness of an iOS and revamp the Windows user interface, a lot of confusion and mess was created, especially by removing the Start menu. The promise of power and performance are definitely delivered, however only time will tell the truth about how stable the new OS is (We all remember Vista).

P. S. Hey wait! Have Windows 8 and want the old start menu back? It’s easier to do than you think. A simple Google search on the topic will give you many choices, but my recommendation would be ViStart, available at the link below. You can customize the menu in a few ways and best of all, it’s from a reputable company and FREE!

Get ViStart here:  http://lee-soft.com/vistart/windows-8-start-menu.html