THE FINAL POST IN A SERIES REVIEWING THE LATEST OPERATING SYSTEM FROM MICROSOFT
Let's start with a brief recap from my previous post and move into the final key concepts related to transitioning from Windows 7 to Windows 8.
If you missed Part I, you can find it HERE.
WINDOWS 8 OVERVIEW
Conceptually, Windows 8 isn't that different from Windows 7. There is a desktop and a way to start applications. The difference being that the Start Menu is now its own screen, the "Start Screen".
In addition, Windows 8 adds a new class of "tablet" or "multiple device" applications (Windows 8 Apps or "W8Apps" formerly named "Metro Apps"). These are the new "Metro" applications about which everyone seems to have differing opinions. These applications are designed to work on multiple devices (tablets, phones and computers), and sync all their settings via an online Microsoft Account. What this implies is that you could be using an application on your tablet, pause it, log into your computer and pick up right where you left off. This is a pretty bold vision of the future of computing, and one I think is pretty exciting. However, it is important to note that you are not required to use these in Windows 8 (but you may want to).
TRANSITIONING FROM WINDOW 7 TO WINDOWS 8
In my opinion, the process of transitioning from Window 7 to Windows 8 reduces down to three main concepts:
(1) The desktop has several improvements over Windows 7 but works pretty much the same as the Windows 7 desktop (i.e. you're generally not going to notice anything significantly different other than the start menu, how you access the control panel and how you shut down);
(2) The Windows 7 start menu has been replaced by a customizable Start Screen in Windows 8, which you activate by clicking in the lower left corner of the Window OR pressing the Windows key on the keyboard; and
(3) There is a whole new class of applications: the new "W8Apps" Multi-device applications that are cloud enabled.
As always, before upgrading, you should ensure that the application you absolutely need to use are compatible with Windows 8.
In the first part of this article, we covered the desktop and the new Start Screen. In this second part of the article, we are going to look at the third main concept: the new cloud enabled "W8Apps".
(3) W8APPS/MULTI DEVICE APPLICATIONS I.E. "CLOUD ENABLED APPS"
Arguably, the biggest new addition to Windows 8 are the new W8Apps are designed to be multi device applications. This is a pretty large and bold initiative by Microsoft that will likely influence the future of computing more than most people give it credit for.
Why have a new type of application?
One of the issues we will face in the coming years (and well, now) is that we will all have multiple devices - probably at least 3: a phone, a tablet and a computer. It is also entirely possible that you will have more than 3 (phone, tablet, x-box, computer, computer enabled television, work laptop, kitchen computer, etc). The problem is: how does a user get access to all their data and programs on all their different devices, and is there a way to sync all the settings so that once you set up your settings on one device, they will appear on another one?
W8Apps (formerly "Metro") is Microsoft's initial answer to this. Virtually all W8Apps are cloud enabled and can store your application settings and application state in a cloud based Microsoft Account, so that when you switch devices, your settings and other information will be there when you log in. (NOTE: Not all W8Apps support this feature).
A lengthy description of the W8Apps (which were called "Metro Apps" back in 2011) concept is available here. (The portion about the storing settings in the cloud is from 1:24:00 to approximately 1:30:00).
With Windows 8 and a W8App that fully supports the cloud features, you will be able to seamlessly switch between devices:
Settings changes made on one device will sync to all the others.
- Example: You just customized the settings for an application on your desktop computer. Those settings will then sync, so that the settings for that same application on your tablet will be identical.
- Example: You change your desktop background on your laptop. That setting will automatically sync and change the desktop background on your desktop computer and tablet.
- Example: You just added a new wireless network and password to your tablet. That setting will now automatically sync to you laptop, so you don't have to re-enter it again.
Ability to "pause" an application on one device and pick up where you left off on another.
- Example: You could be reading a document on your desktop computer and want to switch to your tablet. With the right W8App, you can logout of your computer, login to your tablet, open the reader and it will automatically return to the document and page that you previously had open on your computer.
- Example: You could be playing a game on your tablet. You could pause the game on the tablet, login to your computer and pick up right where you left off.
This means that to have the best user experience with W8Apps, you will need a Microsoft Account (and actually, you can't obtain any apps from the Store without one). If you already have a HotMail or Live account, then you already have a Microsoft Account.
A Microsoft Account is free, includes email (HotMail or Outlook.com), and 7 GB of online storage via Skydrive (which works similar to Dropbox - if you have the desktop Skydrive application installed).
Once you have a Microsoft Account, there are two different ways to use it:
- link your Microsoft Account to your Windows 8 user account - if you do this, then your user name and password will change to be that of you Microsoft Account (unless your account is part of an active directory domain), and Windows 8 will automatically log you into every application (this will also sync your Windows 8 settings as well); or
- don't link your Microsoft Account to your Windows 8 user account, in which case you will be prompted to login to every W8App that has the "cloud settings" feature.
Remember, W8Apps can sync their settings to the cloud. These apps will require some sort of login to be able to access the settings storage area of your Microsoft Account. Although, so far, every W8App I have tried has let me cancel the login operation, and will still run. However, those apps (like Solitaire), still get prompt me for a login every time. Again, if you link your online Microsoft Account to your user account, it will automatically log you into every W8App.
W8Apps have a completely different interface than regular desktop applications. W8Apps have the following characteristics:
• Applications are all full screen (or partial screen, if you dock them to the side).
• Applications are designed to work on different devices (computers and tablets).
• Applications typically auto-save information, so there is usually no save button.
• Most applications scroll horizontally, and there is usually a horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of the screen.
• Navigating applications is done by gestures. This means that these applications will work substantially the same both on tablets and computers.
Currently, all W8Apps must be installed through the Windows 8 App store, which is preinstalled W8App in Windows 8.
W8App commands are based on gestures so that they will work substantially the same on a tablet or a desktop. All W8Apps are full screen and use the same types of commands:
(1) To close a W8App: Move your cursor to the top center of the screen, where it becomes a hand. Click and drag the application to the bottom of the screen to close it.
(2) To change the W8App to half or partial screen: Move your cursor to the top center of the screen where it becomes a hand. Click and drag the application to the left or right to reduce it to partial screen.
(3) To get to extra program functions: Right click in an empty space in the window.
(4) Charms Bar: Each W8App has a "Charms Bar" which contains different actions including Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings. To activate the charms bar, push the cursor to the upper right or lower right corner of the screen, or press Window Key + C.
• To print from a W8App, go to the Charms Bar and click on "Devices".
(5) To switch between apps, click the upper left hand corner of the screen. Move the cursor to the upper left hand corner and then drag the mouse down for a list of open applications.
Note also: the Desktop is technically now a form of "W8App" so these same gesture controls are available on the desktop.
For a quick 4 minute demo of these gestures, I highly recommend watching Scott Hanselman's (from Microsoft) video on using Windows 8 HERE.
Note: these gestures do work slightly differently on tablets vs. computers (for example, you access the Charms Bar on a tablet by swiping your finger from the right edge of the screen as opposed to moving a "mouse" to the corner). The gestures listed above are for using W8Apps on a computer with a mouse.
Charms Bar Features
As stated above, the Charms Bar is activated either by moving the cursor to the upper or lower right hand corners of the screen or by pressing Windows Key + C. The Charms Bar always has the same five (5) icons and provides the following functionality:
Most of the charms only apply to the current open W8App. However, the settings charm always provides two types of settings: Application and System settings. The settings charm also contains a Power button to shut down or hibernate/sleep the computer:
Internet Explorer 10: Dual Citizen App
One of the things I initially found confusing was that there are two versions of some applications. In Windows 8, there are actually two (2) versions of IE10: a desktop version and a W8App version. There are some of the differences between the two:
I find that I actually like reading web pages in the full screen view of the IE10 W8App, but that the lack of bookmarks and plugins keeps me in the desktop version of IE10 for most work related tasks. Fortunately, there is a setting in the desktop IE10 that lets you customize which version of IE10 opens by default. Go to Internet Options->Programs to change that setting. If you decide that you always want IE to open links in the desktop version, choose "Always in Internet Explorer on the Desktop":
If you find yourself in the IE10 W8App and want to switch to the desktop version of IE, right click in an empty space on the screen to bring up the application options, then click the wrench and select "View on Desktop":
My Typical Workflow:
I have my work computer and my home computer set up differently at the moment. At home, I linked my Microsoft Account to my user account, and I use a combination of W8Apps and Desktop Apps. The main W8Apps I use right now are the IE10 W8App, Mail, Weather, New York Times, ReddHubb, Solitaire, Pinball and a few other games. For most everything else, I use desktop applications. I also switch between using the full screen IE10, the desktop IE10, Firefox and Chrome, depending on what I'm doing.
For my work computer, I mainly use desktop applications (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Worldox, Case Management, HotDocs, etc.). So I don't have my Microsoft Account linked to my user account. If I want to use a W8App that requires a Microsoft Account, I have to type in my Microsoft Account (or click 'cancel') every time I use that application.
Part of the reason I haven't linked my Microsoft Account to my user account on my work computer is that I'm not sure I want to sync everything between my home and work computer. I think I will probably end up using a separate Microsoft Account for work and home.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The Windows 8 desktop is a substantial improvement over the Windows 7 desktop. It is slightly different, but the transition can be easy. However, the W8Apps are different from anything in prior versions of Windows. These are a new type of application in Windows 8 that are designed to work on multiple devices and sync their settings in the cloud. The hardest part of learning to use the W8Apps is learning the new navigation gestures. Fortunately, there are only about five or six gestures that you need to know to be able to use these apps.
I ended up liking Windows 8 more than I thought I would. The desktop is faster, boot time is faster, and, after customizing my Start Screen, I don't miss the old start menu at all. I'm also excited about the potential for a seamless multi-device experience with the new W8Apps. Although, for now, 95% of my use of Windows 8 still involves the desktop and desktop applications.
The learning curve for Windows 8 really isn't that bad. The following is my personal "quickstart" checklist for transitioning to Windows 8:
• Make sure your applications are compatible with Windows 8.
• Install your applications.
• Customize the Start Screen to add all of your applications to the main Start Screen.
• Move the tiles so that your main applications are the first thing you see on the Start Screen.
• Remove tiles for applications that you do not regularly use - you can always search for them or find them on the "All apps" view. (Note: do not remove the "Desktop" tile. You will want that.)
I cannot emphasize this step enough. Customizing the Start Screen will save your time.
• Get used to the "lower left corner click" to access the Start Screen from the desktop. Just push the mouse into the lower left corner of the screen and click.
• Learn to start an application by searching for it on the Start Screen. From the desktop, press the Windows Key on the keyboard to get to the Start Screen, then start typing the name of the application. When it appears, use the arrow keys to highlight and press enter, or click it with the mouse. For example, launch the calculator by pressing the Windows Key, then type "Calc", and press enter.
• Learn to turn off the computer by pressing ALT+F4 on the desktop or by going to the Charms Bar (Windows Key +C or move the mouse to the upper or lower right hand corner of the screen), then Settings Charm-> Power.• Learn to access the control panel by right-clicking in the lower left corner of the screen.
• Set IE10 to open the way you prefer - Desktop version, W8App version, or both.
• Get a Microsoft Account and start playing with the W8Apps on as needed basis.
Learn the basic gestures for navigating the new W8Apps:
• Close an application by putting the cursor in the top middle of the screen until it changes to a "hand", then click and drag straight down, just like you are throwing the application screen away.
• Right click in an empty area on the screen to see extra options.
• Push the mouse into the upper or lower right hand corner to activate the charms bar.
• Print by using the Devices charm.
• Send something as an email by using the Share charm
• Change application (or system) settings using the Settings Charm
• Switch applications by clicking in the upper left hand corner of the screen.
• View a list of open applications by pushing the mouse into the upper left hand corner and then moving it down (no clicking required)
From all of us at Affinity Consulting, thank you for your business. We look forward to working with you more in the future.