Thursday, March 8, 2012

Windows 8 – First Impressions

I just downloaded windows 8 and installed it on my Toshiba NB100 netbook (previously running windows 7) and thought I’d put up my first impressions of the OS. I’ve seen a few videos and read a few reviews and was most curious to its behavior in particular situations. Using it through remote desktop, its visual appeal and running it on dual screens. I figured there’s plenty of information on the other aspects of the OS and would have to address if it would be worth it in the end and the like another time. For now it is just those few different situations I work with Windows that I’ve not heard too much about previously.
It was probably not the best hardware to test windows 8 on, especially since the NB100 does not have the resolution required for windows 8 metro apps to run, but I thought I’d give it a run either way.

Running through Remote Desktop

I setup a remote desktop connection with a Laptop that had the necessary resolution for windows 8. Doing this allowed me to run the metro apps on the netbook if displayed on my laptop. The apps so far are pretty well designed and fluid, like the weather app.

When running metro locally on the netbook, moving the mouse to the left/right scrolls the screen left/right respectively whilst running it through remote desktop required the use of the mouse to click on the sideways scroll bar. Perhaps the mouse scroll could be implemented to be recognized as left/right scrolling of the screen.
Other issue is that the charms and other menus are generally brought up with mouse input by placing the pointer in the top corners of the display. Using remote desktop requires placing the pointer specifically on those corners to bring up such menus (e.g. charms). This is just one of those little things that doesn’t affect the overall experience.

Task Manager, Windows Explorer and general use

The new task manager is definitely a nice touch along with the inclusion of msconfig tasks. These types of additions eliminate the feeling of a literal Windows 7 with just a windows 8 overlay. (to an extent).
The additions to Windows Explorer are also well welcomed with the up and back button included and the extra options along the top.

With the missing start menu, it did take a little while to re-orient myself and find Control Panel (in the top menu bar when selecting my computer in explorer). A feature that should be added is the ability to select multiple files in multiple directories.
With no start menu I thought the ability to run programs through windows key + r would not be an option but as it turns out that is still there, along with other extra shortcuts to learn.
Simply right-clicking metro apps and getting an uninstall option is very convenient.

Dual Screen

Being a multi-screen user I was very curious as to how Windows 8 would handle the second screen in an extended desktop setup, especially with both screens being different resolutions. First off in the windows 7 view, the task bar is spread along both screens with the same icons shown on both (unlike previous versions of windows).

Spreading applications across both screens works the same as previously. Now, we know that the charms appear from placing the mouse at the very top right hand corner of the screen, and with dual screens it’s exactly the same. So to access these menus, yes, you have to scroll to the very left of your left screen and the very right of your right screen.
The OS behavior was as I expected in the windows 7 view, but my curiosity lied in how it would handle the metro view. As can be seen below in comparison to the image above, the metro view would only be applied to the primary screen, with the secondary screen remaining in windows 7 view. You could use the metro apps in full and bring your mouse across to the secondary screen with ease.

When selecting an application in the windows 7 view, this brings your primary screen out of metro and back to the windows 7 view. This could be useful when you have information placed on the secondary screen, and you are using a metro app on the first screen when creating information.
At the same time, it makes the second screen (especially If its touch) seem like its wasting away. Most likely there will be many work-arounds either way.


The 2 main things that could make this better at this stage are:
  1. 1.      Keep the start menu and integrate the concept of the new start menu into this – this would remove majority of complaints from users not wanting this tablet type change making it feel like a kiosk.

  1. 2.      Allow windows explorer to select multiple files in multiple directories at once (e.g. mass copy paste)

All in all

I still think conceptually this is a good idea. I enjoy the metro start menu interface and I feel I would use this especially in social media / web browsing mode. It still needs to be tweaked to work more seamlessly with the Windows 7 desktop side while still allowing a user to feel they are operating on the Windows 7 desktop environment for example, no metro apps appearing in alt+tab perhaps offer a different alt+tab to display switching between ALL apps and keep alt+tab switching between desktop apps.

You still can get “lost” for what environment you are in and a link to metro-side should be clear. Search bar from W7 seems a lot quicker than loading entire metro start menu to search for items in the computer and if the original start menu is kept, this can be the same.
I am yet to test how my gaming experience would affected by the new environment and how touch capable screens are with it but with that aside, so far I've enjoyed the OS.

I feel that Windows 8 has the potential to be very competitive and plausible as a desktop OS especially with the small changes I think would help the experience. It’s true that potential lies in how well it runs on tablets and other mobile devices. And the ability for these types of devices to dock into hardware and be capable to run as a full blown desktop OS.
The integration of mobile and desktop is going to be a key factor and although there are many arguments that different devices have different needs and therefore require different OS’s. I still feel that this statement is overrated. It is true that different devices serve different uses, but if an OS behaves accordingly when being used on different devices, it won’t matter if it’s one OS or not. The ability to use a mobile device to perform desktop tasks (when necessary) is definitely a feature that would integrate all these environments seamlessly.

There is still a long way to go, and this post does not speak to how successful the OS will be, but more so that it is a step in the right direction to integrating mobile and desktop.

That's my 2 cents based on my first impressions.