Windows 8 Review: Incredibly Innovative, Not Quite Incredible

Windows is the central pillar of Microsoft, and the modern computing world has also been for the past several years passingly easy to take for granted. Operating at varying degrees of mundane to tolerable, Windows has been a bore; a groan and a what-can-you-do shrug. But no more.

With the intersection of PC and tablet interface in Windows 8, Microsoft hasn't just made a gamble on its Metro interface catching on; it's introduced a whole new set of variables to an overwhelming frontrunner. It's like Usain Bolt going home and training to run the 100m while playing the bagpipes. The degree of difficulty is staggering. The ambition behind it admirable. And the execution? Not half bad. But not quite there yet, either.

Using Windows 8 is pleasant, especially if you don't have to do anything in a particular hurry. It's a totally new way of thinking about how you want to operate in a desktop OS — and maybe not entirely in the way you think. But it also seems like a rough draft of a deeply interesting idea.

Author note: In the interests of clarity, Windows 8's name-changing user interface is referred to as "Metro" in this review.

Why It Matters

Why does Windows 8 matter? Ha! Simply, this is the first time that you will have to re-learn how to use Windows on a basic level since 1992. Windows is the most central piece of software in the world, and it is undergoing a major paradigm shift.

This is a chance for Windows to really stretch its legs. Windows 7 was a strong, totally acceptable OS. But it always felt like it was making up for the sins of Windows Vista before it. Windows 8 can claim an identity of its own.

Moreover, every PC that can run Windows 7 can run Windows 8. That's especially notable, because the system requirements for Windows 7 didn't budge from Vista's. That's three Windows updates in a row all running on the same machines. This is Microsoft doubling down, throwing specs out the window, and trying to deliver performance, good design, and usability.

Design

Windows 8 is a dramatic change from previous versions of Windows. But only if you want it to be. The old desktop — basically everything you would see in Windows 7 — is still there, with its taskbar and folders and windows. It's still there, but now there's a new layer of the OS that's built around information and visually driven "tiles" that display things like message snippits, the weather, sports scores, or photos. The name for this layer is still up in the air, but we're calling Metro here. It is designed to be touch-friendly, but it exists in the PC version because Microsoft has merged its tablet and PC operating systems.

Even if you're dead-set on changing absolutely no part of your Windows day-to-day while using Windows 8, there's one part stands out even on the desktop: Metro remakes all of your windows. Instead of the glassy, transparent, rounded look of Windows 7 (Aero Glass), the new windows are sharp, with solid colours and cleaner lines. It's a superficial change, but it affects the entire visual makeup of the desktop.

The move away from Aero Glass gives apps on the desktop a visual fidelity that has been missing for a long time. Things feel solid. Like they fit together. Like they're not just haphazardly pieced together chunks of pixels and code. And the uniformly coloured window panels that fade to grey when they are not selected do an excellent job of drawing your focus to the task at hand. It's an extremely sophisticated boost to the user experience.

Using It

Don't be afraid of Windows 8.

If you don't like using Metro, you really don't have to beyond landing in the tile screen when you boot up; you can think of it as a big, stylish app drawer. Otherwise, you can use the desktop for everything you do now in Windows 7. If you use Metro as nothing more than that, your base Windows experience will still be improved by Windows 8. From the basic level, like the design of the windows to improved security features like the new virus and malware detectors that come by default in Windows 8.

For everyone else, it's a fresh start.

At the core of Metro is an idea: You don't need all that crap. The 78 plugins on your browser, the half-dozen launcher apps you have running in the background and all the assorted rippers, encoders, notifiers, and shorteners — you can shove 'em. To extend the metaphor, that's not crap that you would keep on your actual desktop. It would be in your junk drawer — the one on the left-hand side of your desk with the rubber bands and the stale Cheezels in it.

Windows 8 takes that central idea, incubated in Windows Phone and codifies it into a hard philosophy with full screen apps that make the insane levels of multitasking we do impractical. You will simplify your workflow. Because we're going to make you.

And fine, sort of. But for a traditional computer, a move away from the desktop mentality brings a new challenge. We're tied to the desktop as much for a place to reset as for organisation or multitasking. It's a state of rest, almost. It serves as a visual anchor that operating in Metro lacks: There's no place to default to and get your bearings, and maybe figure out where the hell you stuck that app. And without that anchor, as nice as using any specific app is, it can be really hard to reset.

Before we go any further, let's get this out of the way: Using a mouse with the Metro interface is actually really great. It's the scroll wheel. You know how you were totally afraid that dragging the screen metaphorically with your mouse is going to be the worst thing ever? Yeah, not actually how it works. You just scroll around from side to side with a scroll wheel, or you can use two-finger scrolling with the trackpad.

And while it doesn't make visual sense to open the Metro start screen and just start typing, once you learn the behaviour — doesn't take that long — you can use it as a megapowered Start Menu if you really want. That's an especially attractive option if you're using a second display, since you can keep Metro, or a few full screen Metro apps, off to the side, and a whole screen of nothing but desktop on your main screen.

Getting A Bit Lost

Metro apps filling up your screen radically changes how you use them. You can't open a second window of the Metro Internet Explorer, for example. And your Mail and chats and everything else, so long as it's in a Metro app, will all have to live in a single window, though possibly with multiple tabs. That's a radical change from what you're probably used to in other versions of Windows. It's sort of like full-screen app Spaces in OS X, but better: since you can append a second Metro app to either side of your screen that stays put no matter what app you're in.

But here's where the visual anchors come in, and they manifest in a few different ways. In OS X, you get a horizontal movement metaphor between your Spaces — which includes full screen apps. You can maintain a sense of where you are, and where your stuff is. In Metro, you just sort of zap from one app to the next, with a sort-of shaky four-finger swipe to take you backward. But changing apps without using Windows+Tab or Alt+Tab always feels disorienting. It's the difference between walking past a series of paintings on a museum wall and flipping through a slideshow of them on a projector. And it's an issue on a PC because a typical workflow demands a lot more switching back and forth than you'd do on a tablet, where it isn't an issue at all.

Being locked into one window in Metro IE (and eventually Metro Chrome) is also disorienting at first. We're so used to multi-layered browsing that not being able to toggle between tabs and windows at once, over the same space, seems awful. But give it a chance and the strength of the narrowed down Metro experience manifests. Being trapped in one window really is more... tranquil? There's just less of an inclination to rapid fire off extraneous tabs, windows and searches instead of focusing on what you're reading. And if you want nothing to do with it, again, the old desktop browsers are right where you left them.

If you're knee-deep in Metro apps, though, you have some new problems. There is no obvious visual cue as to whether or not an app is open. And unlike mobile operating systems, which don't need to be actively running, say, Mail to pull down your mail, you actually need to have your apps open for them to work properly on a Windows 8 PC. Similarly, the full screen apps make it hard to see what you've still got running, so you end up leaving a ton more apps open than you otherwise would. The display-wide apps are a beautiful effect, but they also give back all the where-the-hell-is-that-window ground that Aero Peek — the transparent look through your windows to the desktop from Windows 7 — gained in desktop mode.

One of the core differences between a PC and a tablet experience is the number of things you feel like you should be able to do at once. And it's another point where Metro needs to figure out how to make better use of the space it does have. One thing that immediately comes to mind is being able to use more than one side-barred Metro app. The way Notifications work is indicative of this disconnect. Notifications look lovely, displaying in the top right corner with some information about what just happened, and then fading away. But unlike a desktop environment, when you click through, you're shot all the way out of what you were doing and into another full screen app, just for an IM, or whatever. Twitter, Mail and Messaging are all obvious candidates for that sidebar slot. I'm sure you can think of others. If you're working in Metro, you can only have one.

And maybe some apps should never be allowed to be full screen — like Messaging, which looks absurd taking up your entire display.

The build itself seems fairly stable. Loading 25-plus apps managed to crash the Metro party, but they resumed in their pre-crash states just fine. Performance from desktop mode to Metro mode is fairly equivalent. The Metro version of IE10, for instance, outperformed the desktop version in HTML5 browser benchmarks, but not by a huge margin. (Desktop Chrome blew both out of the water, for what it's worth.)

Gestures

Windows has had "gestures" for a while now, but that is to say, it's had some bootleg two-fingered scrolling, and whatever off-brand multitouch OEMs cobbled together. But this is its first taste of big boy gestures. As a whole, they work pretty well. The Charms gesture from the right side of the trackpad is especially wonderful.

It's telling that the single most troublesome gesture in Windows 8 on a PC has nothing and everything to do with the experience on a tablet. It's the one-finger swipe from the outside left side of the trackpad. This gesture yanks you out of the app you're in, and shoots you over to the next. Except it's designed to work on a 10-inch tablet, not a three-inch trackpad. So while you are just casually zig-zagging your finger around the trackpad while browsing — an action you'd only rarely do at the edges of the screen on a tablet — you're likely to accidentally catapult yourself into the next app over. Same goes for if you swipe too far while opening the Charms panel — where you can access settings and features and actions — with a swipe from the right.

The lack of customisation in Windows 8 breaks down to two things: a lack of options for you, and a somewhat stunning lack of options for Microsoft. Let's start with the you-facing problems first.

Settings need work. Well, more bluntly, Windows 8 needs settings. More of them. Or in some cases, like, any. This is "Uhhh, I don't think you can actually change any of the gestures. Can that be right?" sparse.

The other reason behind the lack of options is a little more troubling: Microsoft continues to be unable or unwilling to pull more and bigger partners into its baked-in wonderland. First-party Messages on a phone or tablet not having Google Talk or AIM is one thing; we (for now) accept limited functionality on mobile devices. But for a desktop client that's going to, hopefully, serve as your main chat and communication hub. That can't happen without Google or AIM.

Too Cute

The thing about Metro apps is that even though they are mainly pushing an aesthetic and point of view about the operating system, they also hamstring really basic functions. While, stylistically, the interesting answers and points are in design and philosophy and selection and features and everything else, the crux of the issue might come down to something simple, central, and horribly rote: file management.

The sad, somewhat predictable truth is that the fundamental act of moving a file from one folder to another — the drag-and-drop action that was probably one of the first three things you learned to do on a computer — is kind of terrible in Metro. How could it not be? But in practice, you cannot, say, drag an image off of a web page and onto your desktop or into a folder. You can't drag files into a media player. All of that has to happen through right clicking and menus and ways of entering information and intentions that are almost entirely anthetical to Metro's manifest destiny of intuitive, natural input and interaction.

Going forward, that can mean a few things. Maybe Metro just needs to evolve. This is its first run in a true desktop environment, remember, so it will definitely see things like upgrades to Charm functionality that lets you use that space as a visual clipboard. Or maybe Microsoft just decides to keep the desktop around as a utility belt for when you need to do anything like that — though that wouldn't help much with the problem in Metro apps.

The visual disconnects are a real issue that should be addressed. It's not a small thing; Microsoft's goal is to make Windows as easy and friendly to use as possible. But who would intuit just looking at the Metro start screen and typing away? Imagine showing up to your government job and trying to make sense of this oddly stylish screen...

The central question surrounding Windows 8 and the Metro UI is this: will this actually stick as an interface for PCs?

Will This Actually Affect You?

No, not yet, not if you don't want it to. If you want, you'll be able to operate more or less as you have in Windows 7, with some minor changes, mostly for the better. But the writing's on the wall. Nearly all of the features in need of upgrades that have been left largely untouched are associated with the non-Metro desktop and its structure.

Pros:

  • Metro redesign actually makes Desktop way more pleasant
  • Two-display support is pretty solid, and useful for mixing Metro with desktop
  • Real gestures on Windows. That work!
  • The Metro Start screen is an awesome dashboard/app drawer

Cons:

  • Simple actions in Metro apps, like searching, can be deceptively hard to complete
  • Metro apps can be visually confusing when multitasking
  • Laptop touchpads don't make the most sense
  • Some apps, like Mail, feel unfinished

Gizrank: 3.5 stars

Should You Buy It?

Many of you won't have a choice. This is the operating system that will come pre-installed on your PC for the foreseeable future. And that's a good thing! If you're thinking about upgrading, well, that means you actually care about this thing. And if you care about this thing, you should definitely give it a try.

Test Notes

  • Networking is cleaner than it has been — the wireless connection pane is now tucked into the Metro sidebar options, and the desktop icon boots you there. It's an improvement. But Homegroups — the "easy" grouping Windows gives you to share files across a home network — are still fairly confusing, and ethernet isn't quite as plug-and-play as it could be.
  • Where your apps go when you're using two screens can get downright confusing. Despite relatively grand promises about how Windows 8 will work on multiple monitors, the way the entire Metro interface slips from one display to the other is jarring.
  • Strangely, the Mail app seems to be bereft of many of the features that make the new Outlook, and even the Windows Phone mail app, so good. Things like threaded messages, joint inboxes, and notifications aren't working yet. Mail is a bigtime app to not be up to par, but that's softened a whole lot by how great Outlook is on the web. Still, Mail needs some updates to be something anyone who cares about email would actually want to use.
  • Other apps are missing strange functions as well — like the absence of a buddy list in Messaging.
  • Overall, there is an over-reliance on the Search charm to navigate you around your apps, to the point where there's no way to search from the Store's home screen. It makes sense that Microsoft wants to highlight its core OS infrastructure, but not at the cost of ease of use.
  • The relative lack of third party Metro apps in the store isn't a huge concern, since release is still more than a month away, but it's still something to think about. A Windows platform will never be as thoroughly ignored by developers as the Wii, or even Windows Phone, but in the absence of Office on the install we received, I am writing this review in freaking Notepad because every other app is a totally broken beta, unacceptably slow (even for you, Evernote), or just plain non-existant.
  • The traditionally bad Control Panel layouts are back just as you remember them too. Category, Large icons, Small icons — they're all terrible to use, and passing comical when you realise that they're nested in a neat, functional new Metro window.
  • It's also totally nuts that you still, after all these years, can't pin a folder to the taskbar in desktop mode.
  • Media-wise, Windows Media Player is just as dumpy as ever. But it generally gets out of your way when you need to play something, and you can always use other, better apps. The real takeaway is how good Music and Videos are.

Comments

    - "Mail app is unfinished" doesn't really hold weight considering the OS isn't readily available to the general public - a bit bias

    - Maybe you should look at your sister sites guide: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2012/06/the-10-most-useful-windows-8-keyboard-shortcuts/

    *By readily I don't consider a 90 day Enterprise trial as means of available to GP

      If the mail app didnt change between the consumer and release previews, between or between release preview and RTM what makes you think Microsoft will risk changes between RTM and GA? It's incredibly unlikely.

      This is what's shipping (or shipped, W8 is available through VL already). They may very well improve the mail app later, but it won't be by Oct 26th.

        The good: Microsoft has done a pretty good job of updating the RTM apps over the last week, the music app is excellent, so mail should be updated.

        The bad: Even after the update the mail app still sucks - you can't suppress the preview pane or even widen the list. It's actually quite unbelievable that what will probably be the most used app has so little attention paid to it, which is surprising considering how good the the WP7 email app is.

      The Mail is unfinished and absolutely useless. It’s not a bias comment, is plain hard fact. The only difference I have seen between Release Preview and RTM is the UNCHANGEABLE signature says "Sent from Windows Mail" instead of "Sent from my Windows 8 PC". Go back and look at the options menu in Outlook Express on Windows XP and it will outnumber the features on the new Mail app 50 fold.

      From my perspective and that of the majority of my clients. The inability to stop the default behaviour of marking an item as read when you change what you are looking at makes this unusable. Leaving an item as unread is a great way of knowing whats not actioned. It requires no effort on your part. Oterwise any email you accidently click on you will have to flag manually to look at later.

      I really do hope there is a MAJOR update for GA. As it stands with no Outlook on Windows RT anyone who uses Mail seriously won’t be able to use the device without another App or using Webmail.

        I thought everyone stopped using Windows built-in email, whether that was Outlook Express way back in the day or Windows Mail now, years ago? Who the hell still uses that and hasn't upgraded to either full version Outlook or Thunderbird or simply moved over 100% to web based mail?

          Windows live mail suits me perfectly... What's wrong with it?

          Web based mail doesn't offer offline editing that a mail application does. And as such this new Mail App is the ONLY base product available on Windows 8 and especially Windows RT devices who can't run Thunderbird until it gets a Metro app. Plus if you think who uses Outlook Express who will use this with even LESS features. That’s why I hope there is a major update in the works.

    Not really important but just wanted to point out that chrome will run as a metro app if you set it as the default browser.

      Or ALPINE - there are many other mail clients than just The Big Two.

    Hmm, seems like it could use some improvement, but it is still a work in progress. Let's just cross our fingers and hope we don't have another Windows vista.

    There are going to be those that hate (Metro) and those who love it! For me personally. (Metro) is designed for touch screen computers not regular desk top PC's. Don't get all bent out of shape Motormouth you have your opinions others have theirs. I will love (Metro) on a touch screen and can't wait to get one with 8 on it. For now though, the (Metro) desktop is a pain! I don't use it, I use the regular desktop. If you're wondering why I'm not just sticking to 7, it's because 8 is faster and smoother than everything 7 does. MS should give regular PC users the option to use one desktop or the other, not force them to go through METRO! What do we call the new desktop now, by the way..?

      Ummm, "the desktop"? Seriously, I don't see the problem with the Start Screen. It's like the list of pinned programs in the old Start Menu, only I can fit 10 times as many on and organise them much better.

    Two questions.

    What version was reviewed? A released candidate?

    And I'm assuming this is yes but, what about backwards compatibility?

      I've read that the Intel version of Windows 8 will run almost all Win7 programmes but if you have the RT or ARM version then you won't have any backward compatibility for any Win7 programmes.

    START key is your friend
    START W to seacrh
    START to jump from metro to desktop
    I still dont like the full screen apps though

      Not quite. Start W searches Settings only.

      Start does not jump from metro to desktop: it toggles between the Start screen and the last application you had open - whether that be a metro app or the desktop.

      And Alt+Tab still works!

      Which the article basically implied that it didn't.

    WIndows 8: Good. Windows 9 next year: Better?
    I do think Windows will be moving to a yearly update cycle. Firstly, so they don't look like they're behind when compared with Android and iOS which have updates every year (or less). Secondly, they've drastically reduced the price of Windows 8. I don't think they would do that unless they're planning on moving to a yearly update cycle.

      Personally I'd think they would be more likely to move to a new OS every two years with an incremental update inbetween.

        Perhaps this is the time where entirely new OSs are a thing of the past and instead we just have frequent minor revisions interspersed with major ones à la mobile OSs. The general public become the beta testers, but we experience frequent updates and additional features to keep the ball rolling. Or is that what you two were already saying? :-S

      well, maybe you should just buy a mac, they have some prtety sweet stuff built right in! and Microsoft copied off of Apple with EVERYTHING in Vista.

        You know what, watching how MS are systematically screwing up Windows completely and utterly, I am considering doing exactly this. And I used to abhor Apple. Lesser of two evils I suppose...

    Finally someone talking calm sense about windows 8. A lot of these points reflect my own experience with the preview versions. It's a good thing to price up and change the way you do things every once and a while but if you want you can do things the old way as well. This is how windows 8 comes across to me. Looking forward to updating my old laptop from vista for $40.

      Not 'price up' but 'spice up'.

      How can you do things the old way when the start menu has been ripped out?

      I still use my start menu in Windows 7 for pretty much everything, because I dislike having my desktop and taskbar cluttered with icons. In Windows 8 though, if I don't want to use Metro, I HAVE to have my desktop and taskbar cluttered with icons.

        Well when I tried the preview versions of Win8 you could put program launch shortcuts in the new start screen. The new start screen is not for Metro only programs.

        I stopped using the start menu all together after Vista and Windows 7 turned it into nothing but a loosely organised list. Having said that I rarely used the start menu for launching programs in XP.

          I really don't get the start menu hate in Windows 7. Functionally it's exactly the same as it's always been. The difference is that now it doesn't constantly expand as you go deeper into the folder tree to take up your whole screen, it's now neat and tidy.

          I actually quite like Windows 7's start menu, which is a major reason why most of my application shortcuts are still in it. Only my most commonly used applications like web browsers have pinned shortcuts, the rest are all neatly tucked away where they don't take up screen space.

            I only ever used start menu in Win7 for one thing - program search. Still works the exact same way in Win8.

    "It’s a totally new way of thinking about how you want to operate in a desktop OS " What? Where do you get that from? From here I see a desktop almost identical to the one I've been using for more than a decade. I do everything in exactly the same way I've always done it, large changes in Vista notwithstanding. And that's the thing, I don't find Win8 nearly as different from Win7 as Vista/Win7 are from XP. It took me weeks to get comfortable with how they had re-arranged things in Vista/Win7, it took me literally minutes with Win8.

      I skipped Vista and went straight from XP to Windows 7. I was used to it almost straight away...quite literally, I jumped in and was using it almost immediately. It did take a little while to figure out the new names they have given some things and where they had moved a few things to, but that's expected in any new OS. I have no idea why it took you weeks to understand it, maybe Vista was more convoluted than 7 was (I honestly don't know, never really used Vista).

        I didn't say it was hard, I said it was harder. The reason it took me weeks to work it all out was because many of the changes were deep enough in the system that I kept finding new things I had to work out for weeks and weeks after I first started using it. e.g. I didn't need to find out what had happened to "Add and Remove Programs" until I needed to uninstall something. With Win8, the changes are all at the top level, so you can adapt far more quickly. The nitty-gritty is mostly the same as it's been since Vista.

        Vista was better than Win7. Win7 is literally Vista1.1 - it is almost the same, they just made a heap of changes to deliberately distance it from Vista. Vista's two problems were that most hardware required new drivers and many vendors took months to provide them and that the default level of UAC was too high and constantly annoyed users. These issues were solved easily enough but the damage had been done, so MS set about a pretend new version that was just a point update in disguise. (Vista is WindowsNT 6.0 and Win7 is WindowsNT 6.1.)

    "this is the first time that you will have to re-learn how to use Windows on a basic level since 1992" Rubbish! Vista made far deeper changes than Win8 does. The first time I tried to delete pre-installed bloatware from my first Vista machine, it took me ages to work out what they had done with "Add or Remove Programs". It is still much harder to find "Programs and Features" in Win7. Yes, there is a lot more to learn if you are interested but you only have to learn one, simple thing - how to bring up the Start Screen without a Start Button - to be at least as productive as you were on older versions of Windows.

      "It is still much harder to find “Programs and Features” in Win7"

      Yeah Start->Control Panel is super hard to find bro.

        I was looking for "Add/Remove programs" for quite a while before I realised they changed it. Still find myself looking for it every once in a while. Old habits and all.....

          It was just a simple rename though. You knew it would be in the control panel somewhere is my point. You didn't need to fundamentally re-learn anything.

          Honestly Windows XP introduced far more changes over 98 than Windows 7 did over XP.

            Well it was an entirely new OS, based on WindowsNT, so that's to be expected, although I don't recall it being very different at all. But my point is that the Windows 8 transition is not any harder and I found it easier because everything that I am used to is still there and I still know where to find it. As I said, the biggest thing I had to get learn to was pressing the WIN key instead of using the Start button. As I used the Win key fairly often anyway, it was a no-brainer.

          typing "and and remove" or "programs and features" or even just "programs" or "uninstall" into the search box brings it up. Most of the default windows apps/control panel options can be found by typing in their old xp names, or even a vague description of what you want to do ("format" brings up disk management for example). That search box thing actually does stuff.

        But I can't do anything from Control Panel, I need to know which thing to find from there. "Add and Remove Programs" was always the first or second choice and easy to find, "Programs and Features" is one of 49 icons in my Control Panel, hidden in the middle somewhere and it always takes a few extra seconds to locate. Today it is the 3rd icon in the 7th of 10 rows but if I install a new device or two, or (Heaven forbid) Quicktime before the next time I need it, or even if I resize the window at some point, it will be somewhere else next time. All those little things add up during a day when you want to be concentrating on what you need to get done.

        Of course, the point I was making is that nothing about Windows 8 is harder than this and, as you point out, this isn't hard at all.

    "We’re tied to the desktop as much for a place to reset as for organisation or multitasking. It’s a state of rest, almost. It serves as a visual anchor that operating in Metro lacks: There’s no place to default to and get your bearings, and maybe figure out where the hell you stuck that app" Of course there is - THE DESKTOP. It's still there, you just said so yourself, so this is completely contradictory.

    just like to say that:

    i really enjoyed reading your review man. i haven't had windows 7 for very long so i think i am going to stick with that for awhile.. until they get the bugs sorted out and things.

    "In Metro, you just sort of zap from one app to the next, with a sort-of shaky four-finger swipe to take you backward. But changing apps without using Windows+Tab or Alt+Tab always feels disorienting" So why do it? WIN+Tab and ALT+Tab both work, plus you can mouse to the to top or bottom left corner, see what's running and switch apps very easily. Its like having a horizontal Taskbar on the left that auto-hides. I don't know why you'd struggle with it.

    "There is no obvious visual cue as to whether or not an app is open." Yes, there is. See above. In any event, as a Mac user I'd have thought you were used to having n freakin' clue what is open and what is hidden (one of OS X's most infuriating features).

      But a little light comes up under the icon in the doc is OSX (if you have that setting turned on) ;)

        And if you don't autohide your Dock and if the application in question has an icon on the Dock. It's basically the worst window management of any OS I've ever used.

          you don't have to have an icon pinned to the dock as it creates a temporary one when you open apps anyway. So what you're saying is in Windows 8 you can hover in one of the left corners to bring up a taskbar of open apps, but if you have to hover over the bottom of a mac to unhide the dock to see what's open that's no good? I may have mixed up what you are saying.

    "But who would intuit just looking at the Metro start screen and typing away?" Anyone who knew how to use Win7, which works EXACTLY the same way. i.e. Press WIN and start typing. It's at least as intuitive as whatever hotkey combo you use to "Force Quit" in OS X, which after a decade of use I still can't remember off the top of my head, as opposed to the CTRL+ALT+DEL that every other OS has used forever. And I think this illustrates much of your problem here, Kyle - you're not a Windows user and you don't have the store of knowledge to call upon to work out how to deal with these mostly minor changes.

    "Nearly all of the features in need of upgrades that have been left largely untouched are associated with the non-Metro desktop and its structure." Again, this is rubbish. Have a look at the totally redesigned Task Manager, it's an awesome makeover of a really important part of the desktop and a lot of things that could easily have been left out of the desktop, like the Charms Bar and all the stuff it does, have been nicely integrated. To me it says that the desktop ain't going anywhere.

    If you want to see the future of the desktop, download and install the Zune application. It has all the Metro sensibilities but it's a desktop application. In 4 or 5 years time, I reckon that's how all my desktop software will look and it will make the disconnect you speak of almost imperceptible.

    Just for the record, I'm not a fan of the Metro side of Win8 at all. The only bit that I think is good is the Start Screen, as it fixes all the things I hate about Win7's Start Menu (hate is not too strong a word). The rest of it is basically krap but it's krap I don't have to deal with. I tried to get into a few things - the Metro IE10 and the Email App - but they aren't as good as desktop alternatives, so I've stopped using them. There are other issues with Windows 8, too, but you don't seem to have managed to find any of them yet. The worst of them is that all the default apps for opening images, videos, PDFs, etc are Metro apps, so if you double-click on a file in Explorer to have a look at it, then close whatever app it used, you are back on the Start Screen, not in Explorer. Of course, a tap on the WIN key takes you back, or you can ALT+Tab your way there, but it is still very inelegant.

      Dude, Just write your own review. It's called an opinion for a reason.

        What's called an "opinion"? I thought this was a review and a review should be free of opinion. It should also be accurate.

          No - a review is usually opinion (inherently subjective). An evaluation is objective. Neither should make claims that are demonstrably false though.

    I have never used Aero despite being told it was essential. I expect that when Windows Acht! comes along, I'll find a way to get rid of the flab and run it as Classic Windows as well.

      Did you not bother to read the review? Aero is gone, Windows 8 looks flatter than any classic Windows - no borders, no gradients, nothing but a little transparency that you can dial out if you want to. Have a look at the screen shots.

        Read the comment again.....

    Pros:
    Metro redesign actually makes Desktop way more pleasant

    So in other words - Metro is so damn jarring and out of place that it feels nice to finally try and get some stuff done on the desktop... doesn't really sound like a Pro to me

      I was thinking the exact same thing.

      At least until you buy yourself an Asus Taichi or a Lenovo Yoga or something similar, none of which would be possible without everything that Windows 8 has. I think that point is being lost too often - Windows 8 is going to open up so many new possibilities it has the potential to be a much bigger revolution than iOS was. Right now it works perfectly well, is measurably improved over Win7 and is no harder to get your head around than any previous new version has been but it's real strength lies in the future that it can open up for hardware manufacturers and we users.

        Windows 8 would be fantastic on a tablet, which is why I'm looking forward to Surface Pro. I don't plan on buying a laptop anytime soon though, and I build my own desktop systems, so I'm unsure how Win8 will really benefit me in the short term at least. I've got zero reason to upgrade.

    First article I have read about win 8 where the author backed up there problems with explanations!
    I may not agree with it all (although you got me thinking about a few other issues) but the best review I have read to date.

    Gizmodo, more articles like this please.

    if W8 has any user-experience commonality with Windows Phone 7 - I'll give it a miss thanks.
    WP7 was a neat and occasionally innovative experiment aimed at 15-25 year old phone users, (of little attraction to 'over 35's'). MS need to understand their users better, and rethink if planning a solution for wideband computing environments.
    Perhaps 18-25 is where the money is - I don't know - but MS should.

      Why would you say that? I'd say the opposite. I prefer it to every other phone OS I have seen and I'm 53.

        Can you speak for your entire demographic range? Otherwise we'll take you in as n=1

          umm my mother, who is 59, is using a Lumia and she has been able to pick up WP7/7.5 easier and quicker than her previous phones; which included symbians and android. So that is atleast a n=2 now.

    The thing I'm a most worried about is that Microsoft seems to be moving into a closed ecosystem ala Apple and Android. Windows 8 is kinda a hybrid of that and Windows 7 - you have your traditional Windows applications that run like they do in Windows 7, but you also have the closed ecosystem apps that only run through Metro.

    My fear is that we will inevitably move into a completely closed ecosystem in Windows (whether that's Win9, or Win10, or whatever, it seems like that's what's going to happen), and that's going to spell the end of the current PC as we know it and how we've been using it for 30+ years for good, unless everyone switches to Linux and Linux obtains the kind of compatibility and third party support as Windows currently does.

      Youre overthinking it. Just because they decide to lock some things up to make it easier to use and safer doesnt mean theyre going full tilt with it. Calm down. Its a PC not a calculator.

    Full screen apps would look sucky on my 30 inch monitor. I think I'll stick to Windows 7.

    Great review, the first I've read with some balance.

    It sounds to me (I have not used windows 8 yet at all) that it has issues and it might be wise to wait for the first service pack.

    A number of reviews have mentioned the annoying flipping between the Metro Start window and the traditional desktop. I assume someone will figure out how to avoid annoyances like this but it will be a year or so and I can wait.

    How come this review is on the front page dated "today" when the comments are from August? It wouldn't happen to be an old review bumped up to the front with no indication, would it?

      Yeah, and the article refers to Win 8 release being months away.

      Wow, I didn't even notice. Probably tuned out because there were so many motormouth comments.

    This review is actually somewhat reassuring. I tried the Developer preview when it first came out and hated it. Multi-monitor support was annoying.

    I'll give it another go but I won't be going out at midnight to pick up a copy.

    Lazy lazy lazy. Instead of just bumping a preview from months ago and trying to pass it off as current how about something new about the latest Microsoft Operating System?

    Last edited 25/10/12 4:54 pm

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