Windows 8 Features in Depth


With Windows 8 being released on October 26, you may be wondering what Windows 8 is offering at a deeper level. We have been involved in a lot of Windows 8 development, and we are currently writing new applications which will be included in the Windows 8 Store. We have outlined a lot of what we have learned so far that is of business and consumer interest, and we are going to give you everything you need to make decisions and plan on Windows 8 deployment for your office. Windows 8 is truly groundbreaking, and has new methods of human-computer interaction built right in. The new features are well thought out and revolutionary. Windows 8 is the most important release of Windows since Windows 95.

1. Appearance and Accessibility

Many users fear the loss of their desktops and start menus, but nothing could be further from the truth. Users of Windows 8 will find that they have a new desktop environment with the convenience of the new Metro user interface while retaining the classic desktop that they are used to from Windows 7 and previous versions. The start button was replaced with an entire start screen, in fact, you just move your cursor to the lower left side of the screen where the start button was, click the start button that pops up when you hover, and then you are at the start screen. Clicking the Desktop tile returns you to the Desktop again. Rather than losing features and functionality, users retain functionality while adding new functionality.

1.1 Metro User Interface

The Metro user interface was named after the metro systems of major cities. Specifically, the inspiration was the many signs in the better metro systems that are so clear to read and make it easy to get around. Their consistency raises their usefulness, because users always know how they work and what to expect, leading to less need for training and quicker adoption of the full feature set. Windows 8 standardizes the look of the interface inside programs (apps) and removes a lot of excess graphical clutter, known as chrome. Usability improves tremendously when users can get around a program one way and then know how to get around every other program in the Windows Store.

1.1.1 Start

Windows 8 Metro Start Menu

Instead of a start button with a start menu, there is a start menu that takes up an entire screen. This makes it easier to click the larger tiles for programs as well as displaying more information than possible on the smaller start menu of Windows 7 and previous editions. The larger tiles are also easier to use with a touch-screen.

1.1.2 Active tiles

Active Tiles in Windows 8 Metro Interface

The tiles are not only a placeholder to launch programs, they also present information that the app makes available on Active tiles. Images, aggregate statistical totals, latest headline, latest message, meeting, and the pictures on your camera are some of the things that you will likely see displayed as a user of Windows 8.

1.1.3 Charms

Windows 8 Metro Interface Charms

Hover your cursor on the lower-right hand side of your screen and you will see the Charms Bar. Charms are some of the system-wide settings that you need including Device Manager, Windows Search and Windows Shut-Down commands.

1.1.4 Find Apps

Find Apps in Windows 8 Metro Interface

When you right-click the bottom of the Start Menu, an option button pops up offering to take you to view all apps. There, a list of apps in alphabetical order are there, and you can open apps not on the Start Menu, or you can add their tile to the Start Menu.

1.1.5 Search Apps

Search Apps in Windows 8 Metro Interface

Using the Search Charm, you can simply search for the app you want to open or add to the Start Menu.

1.1.6 The Desktop (Classic View)

Desktop (Classic View) in Windows 8 Metro Interface

Windows 8 retains the classic desktop with the exception of the hidden start button. It is really there, but you have to hover your cursor over it to reveal it. Clicking the Start Button leads to a full-screen Start Menu instead of the usual menu of Windows 7 and previous editions. Clicking the Desktop tile or opening up a non-Metro app will return you to the Desktop. Users who are not ready to give up old ways of using Windows can be reassured that their user experience will not be too much different than before. The only time the experience will truly be different is in logging in and selecting and opening apps. Eventually, users will grow fond of all of the new features, as they are very well thought-out and useful.

1.2 Windows Store

Windows Store in Windows 8

App Details Page in Windows Store in Windows 8

The Windows Store is where free and commercial apps that are certified and tested for Windows 8 can be bought or obtained free. Any app you get from Windows Store is completely vetted to be free of viruses, malware, adware, or even uninspired programming.

1.3 Sign In (Log In)

The Sign In process in Windows 8 involves logging in with either a Windows Live ID or a Windows Local Account.

Sign In to your PC on Windows 8

1.3.1 Windows Live ID

Log in with a Windows Live ID: Windows 8

Having a Windows Live ID before installing Windows Live helps. You can turn your preferred business E-Mail and that of your employees into Windows Live ID’s. Then, using Windows 8, you will be able to use the Windows Live ID as a single sign on for Windows, and many other services. Using a Windows Live ID also provides you with tools to save your preferences and windows settings and documents in the Cloud so that you can access them from another computer. This also means that if your computer ever has a massive failure, you simply install Windows 8 on a new computer and log in for the first time with your Windows Live ID. Right away, the new computer will assimilate your files, settings, preferences, even your desktop background and internet favorites. In corporate settings this is also very desirable because the time it takes to migrate users from one computer to another is reduced significantly as well as user complaints.

1.3.2 Local Account

Add a Local Account in Windows 8

Sometimes, you do not wish to maintain settings for a user. In that case, there is a very easy way to convert a standards Windows Live ID account into a Local Account by clicking a button and completing this window.

1.3.3 Browse SkyDrive

Browsing SkyDrive in Windows 8

Within the Metro user interface, you can browse the photos and documents in your SkyDrive.

1.4 Multi-monitor Support

Multi-Monitor Support in Windows 8

Windows 8 has improved multi-monitor support compared with previous editions. The controls are more intuitive and there is an extra option that users have wanted for a long time: the Taskbar. Now you can configure additional monitors to have the Taskbar. The Start Menu and Charms will also be available on all of the monitors in the same area for a consistent look and feel. There are an increasing number of applications requiring the use of multiple monitors, and now these high-end users will have the tools they need for increased functionality.

1.5 File Explorer

Windows 8 File Explorer

File Explorer is Windows’ successor to Windows Explorer. It has a lot more features and functionality, starting with a ribbon with a lot of common tasks and features available right on the screen. File Explorer has powerful file transfer tools including its’ own download manager, and graphical tools to monitor transfers in real-time. IT staff will be delighted to know that ISO, IMG, and VHD disk image files can be saved to a hard drive and mounted from there. An IT application we have thought of with this for the office is to have installation software disk image files saved to network drives, which can then be mounted on the individual computers to install software without the need to carry around the media.

1.6 Internet Explorer 10

Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 using Metro

Internet Explorer 10 is not just the successor to Internet Explorer 9: it is a whole new browser. Here you can see Internet Explorer in Metro mode with no borders or menus showing. IE 10 runs in Desktop mode as well as in Metro mode, according to the user’s choice at the time. Another important time-saver for IT departments is the fact that Flash is integrated completely into IE 10 in much the same way it is in the Chrome browser. One less thing that needs to be done when setting up a user!

1.7 Task Manager

Windows 8 Task Manager Details Tab: you can see more details than in Windows 7 and with a lot less clutter.

Windows 8 Task Manager Process Details helps make getting a clear view of what is going on with your applications and processor performance simple.

Resource Monitor in Windows 8 Task Manager allows you to diagnose performance hang-ups in-depth.

Services Tab in Windows 8 Task Manager

Task manager has the same features and functionality, but with a better design and improved presentation of data.

1.8 Family Safety

Family Safety in Windows 8

Windows 8 has family safety features, which are not just for children. Employers will find that configuring their users with these restrictions will help to enforce almost any policy you can think of, all without a big learning curve.

2. Windows System Infrastructure

There are a lot of internal changes in Windows 8 that help make this new edition great.

2.1 File History

Windows 8 makes incremental backups to the Cloud or external device or network share in order to maintain a plan for data continuity in the event of a local machine failure. We recommend using SkyDrive and SharePoint Server for saving these copies. All files saved are tied to the user’s Windows Live ID, and all files are quickly restored onto a new computer, complete with windows settings and preferences.

2.2 Hardware support

Windows 8 adds support for USB 3.0, which is a lot faster than USB 2.0. In addition to standard Intel processors, there is a version of Windows 8 known as RT which supports the smaller low-power ARM processor. This has made use on small mobile devices possible.

2.3 Installation

Besides a fresh install, users can launch an upgrade assistant which can talk them through the process and move over all of their files and settings into the new Windows 8. If there is a compatibility problem, Windows 8 Setup will undo the changes and restore the old version of Windows to complete functionality.

2.4 Startup

Windows 8 starts up very quickly because the software kernel hibernates on shutdown. The startup also provides support for multiple cores.

2.5 Repair and recovery

Windows 8 has special self-diagnostic and recovery features built-in. The operating system can detect impaired performance and take appropriate measures. In cases of extreme malfunction will re-boot Windows to an Advanced Startup Menu where the user can access the Windows Recovery Environment, where problems can be addressed in a stable, stripped-down environment.

2.6 Security

Windows 8 has Microsoft Security Essentials built-in. The version on Windows 8 protects from viruses, malware, adware, and more. Secure Boot for UFI is supported on new hardware that supports it.

2.7 Video subsystem

Windows 8 comes with WDDM and Direct X pre-installed. The Desktop Window Manager works even with unsupported graphics cards. There is now support for stereoscopic 3D content. Many other technical improvements in video performance were built in to this version of Windows.

2.8 Windows To Go

Users can create a bootable edition of Windows 8 with their files and settings on a flash drive to boot on other machines in any location.

2.9 Integrated Anti-Virus – Microsoft Security Essentials

Microsoft Security Essentials: Integrated into Windows 8

Complete virus and malware protection is included. For high security workplaces, call us about Windows Intune, which provides increased protection and active monitoring.

3. Virtualization

3.1 Hyper-V

Hyper Visor or Hyper V.

3.2 Virtual hard disk format

Windows 8 offers an entirely new and better file system, which is the best invention since NTFS. The VHD format allows for a tremendous scaling in size, and it offers fault-tolerance features.

3.3 Storage Spaces

Storage Spaces is a new administrative tool offering greater functionality than Disk Manager. It is a tool for creating software RAID schemes with any combination of drives you have.

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