Since the 1990s, most of the changes Microsoft has pushed out for its operating system has been under the hood but on October 26, the Redmond-based company will officially release the most revolutionary update to its OS in two decades — Windows 8. We take a look at some of the top features that makes this OS stand out compared to past iterations.
The Start menu has got the boot and in its place there is a Start screen covered with tiles, each symbolising an app. The apps resemble mobile applications found in smartphones and these tiles will update to show you the latest update. For example, the messaging application will show you latest messages you’ve got and a game app will let you know if your friend has broken the best score. The Start screen becomes the default interface in tablets that run on Windows 8 and is a lighter environment where apps are less likely to crash, unlike the desktop. The Start screen will also introduce a ‘charms’ bar, which offers a centralised way to change settings, share interesting things on social networks and also to search within the app and the computer. Overall, the interface will look familiar to those who have used an Xbox 360 or a Windows 7 phone.
Boot from usb
You can carry your own customised version of Windows with you in a USB drive once Windows 8 is out. Linux-based operating systems such as Ubuntu had this feature a few years back, so it’s good to see Microsoft catch up to this trend and introduce the concept to regular users. So in case you’re travelling, you don’t need to lug your laptop around — you could just plug in your USB on any computer and boot into Windows 8 from it to a Start screen you have customised to your liking.
Apple’s OSs and many other Linux-based operating systems already supported mouse-based gestures for a while. This meant you could show all open windows by moving the mouse cursor to the top right of the screen and that one could minimise all windows by moving the cursor to the bottom right. Microsoft has now taken this to an altogether different level, by allowing both mouse and touch-based gestures. If you’re running Windows 8, you can swipe an app from top-down to close the app, swipe from the right edge to bring up the charms bar, swipe from the left to bring up a list of all open apps, swipe from the bottom to bring up the options bar and so on. All these features work very well with a mouse as well; you can point to each corner of the screen to activate one of these bars.
Ever since Microsoft was sued by the European Union for anti-trust moves, the company had reduced the number of apps it bundled with its operating system. However, Windows 8 comes with a whole suite of applications with an option to install more from the built-in app store. It sports a new version of Internet Explorer which, for a change, is as good as any browser in the market; has a decent mail app; a messenger app that lets you chat with your MSN and Facebook friends; a contacts app that lets you view all contact details of your friends and also their updates on social networks; a calendar app that also pulls in birthdays of all your friends and reminds you a day in advance; an Xbox companion app; OneNote for taking notes; weather, camera and map apps among others. Thanks to these apps, the out-of-the-box experience in Windows 8 is much better than in previous editions.
In Windows 8, you can create a profile that is linked to your Hotmail or Live ID and once you do, your data will be synced across the devices which run the OS. For example, if you have a laptop running Windows 8 and if you install a new game, the same game will be downloaded on your PC as well. Not just that, all your customisations and data will be mirrored between devices much like in iOS and Android devices. Where Windows manages to stand out is due to the fact that most applications can work across devices, unlike Android and iOS, both of which need different apps for different form factors. Microsoft has also been working slowly to create a comprehensive ecosystem like Google; they now have Skydrive for online storage, Xbox music for streaming and downloading of songs, a unified game centre, a centralised store for downloading apps and so on.