I installed Windows 8 not even an hour before this site launched. I figured, if I’m going to be writing for a Windows-centered news blog, it’s only right that I at least have Microsoft’s latest operating system. And at the time, I didn’t see any reason not to. Everything I was reading about Windows was saying some sort of “better than Windows 7.” There isn’t much to lose when you upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8, but the change does have an — albeit small — impact on how you use your computer every day.
I’m not going to go all in-depth, this isn’t a review. I just want to share the apparent differences between using Windows 7 and 8 for the typical mouse & keyboard user like myself. What feels wrong? What feels right? What does the new operating system generally feel like during every day use compared to Windows 7?
First, you should know that many of Windows 8′s new interfaces feel like they were built for a touch screen. That’s because they were. When you first are presented with your lock screen, as a mouse and keyboard user, you’re confused. Do you click it? Do you click and drag? Well, both of these will work, but using a Surface it’s fairly apparent what you’re supposed to do. Swipe it away. This is just the first of the many features that feel like they were built with touch screen users in mind and left us traditional users out in the cold.
The next thing you notice is that you have the option to sign in using your Microsoft account. This is great for those that know anything about what it does, but if you’re a casual user you probably don’t. I use it daily and I still don’t completely know how it benefits me. It’s worth noting that I don’t use any of Microsoft’s services, I tend to prefer their third party alternatives. For instance, I have never touched SkyDrive, as I have had a Dropbox account for three years. Why would I want a new — or different — cloud storage service? Especially since I don’t have a Surface nor a Windows Phone, there’s really no need.
As a matter of fact, the desktop is quite the opposite of a “Metro” style app, it actually offers an abundance of functionality.
The next and probably most obvious of Windows 8′s new features is the start screen. If you’re reading this blog you probably already know what it does and how it works, so I won’t go into that. What I will go into, however, is how it feels to use it with the desktop. I have transformed my start screen to be a simple app launcher. I don’t need any of the “Modern Interface” apps because most of them were designed for a touch screen.
It feels weird that the desktop is treated as a normal app, because it really isn’t. As a matter of fact, the desktop is quite the opposite of a “Metro” style app, it actually offers an abundance of functionality. Altogether, I wouldn’t say that the start screen is bad — it actually provides a faster way of launching my desktop apps — but I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think the “desktop” should be treated as a simple app within Windows.
Lastly, I want to speak of the various minute features that were made substantially better in Windows 8. After a week, I have noticed slight performance improvements across various areas. First, my computer just seems a little snappier. I stay mostly in the desktop, but when I do use the “Modern Interface” the graphics performance and loading/switching between apps is fast and seamless. Most notably, however, is that video performance of desktop applications is generally better, likely due to the absense of the resource-hog Aero. As has been widely reported, start up times are vastly improved. Finally, there are small utilities that have been improved across the platform — Task Manager and File Explorer are now more streamlined and user-friendly.
Windows 8 is not worse than Windows 7, it simply isn’t.
Windows 8 is not worse than Windows 7, it simply isn’t. Launching apps is somewhat different unless you have everything pinned to the taskbar or on your desktop. “Metro” apps when using a keyboard and mouse are completely and utterly useless. However, wouldn’t it be great if Windows 8 had good dual-screen support? You could link your Windows 8 PC up to a TV and use all the “Metro” apps there. I would love that solution for my Netflix and Hulu watching.
I digress. Some of Windows 8′s “touch-ey” UI decisions don’t make sense as a traditional PC user, but most don’t get in the way. That in and of itself is an accomplishment, because Microsoft was able to unify their experience across all platforms and even increase overall performance without necessarily hampering those who still want to use a PC like they always have.