I’ve installed Windows 8 on my main desktop machine, and it’s not as bad as the developer preview and the RC. tl;dr: Can I recommend it, despite what you’ve read about in the press? Yes, and I didn’t think I’d say that.
Pros It is fast. Surprisingly so. Cold boot takes under 5 seconds, down from about 10 seconds under Windows 7 on my machine. It is modern. I know that’s the hype, but it does feel less ‘crufty’ than previous versions of Windows. You really don’t have to use the Metro start menu, if you pin the apps that you do use to the task bar, or as desktop shortcuts. You can even boot straight into it if you really want to. You need to learn some new keyboard shortcuts.
- Win key on its own to toggle between desktop and the current application.
- Win+Q for context-sensitive searching (i.e. in the application you are currently running).
- Win+Tab to switch between desktop + Metro apps.
- Win+C for the ‘charm’ bar.
- Win+I to locate the Shutdown menu (or you could just press ‘Off’ on the PC like you would do on any other consumer device).
- And Win+X for the ‘power menu’. The equivalent mouse actions are really just mousing to a corner, then moving the mouse up/down that side of the screen to bring the menu into context.
Cons These are all minor, so perhaps some will be addressed in SP1. You need to learn some new keyboard shortcuts. Some dumb pop up bubbles on the desktop, the first time Windows runs would have been a great idea. I guarantee that most regular consumers that have PCs and are not techies will never learn or know about these key combos. Curiously, for all the new key combos, there doesn’t seem to be ones for page left and right in metro apps: using the up-down mouse scroll wheel to move left and right feels weird. Maybe there are some key combos that do this, but I haven’t found them yet. If you’re a techie, you’ll notice that you need a web account to login, but this can be changed back to a local account. In fact you might prefer to do this because if you have NAS box (like I do), for some reason I still haven’t resolved, the NAS box won’t accept credentials coming from the Windows 8 web user account I have set up. Metro or ‘Store Apps’. Windows 8 ships with some, and at the moment the Windows Store is relatively empty, but it feels like the complaint people had with the iPad: Metro Apps seem (that ship with Windows 8) are for information
consumption, and not for productivity. If you want to type anything into anything, chances are you’ll have to go back to a desktop app. I’m just not using the Metro apps so far: in fact I don’t want to be tied to Internet Explorer in Metro mode, so I’m still using Google Chrome, and the supplied Windows 8 Metro apps have (many) website equivalents, so I am rarely using Metro apps at the moment. Perhaps the stupidest thing I’ve found is searching the Windows Store: you’d think that Microsoft would want it to succeed. Try and find an application in it. If you’ve read above, you’d know to press Win+Q once you’re in the Metro Store application. If you don’t know that, you will miss out on lots of other applications. Why on earth there isn’t a search box in the main page of Windows Store Metro app baffles me.
Finally Will your parents ‘get it’? Probably: if you show them the mouse gestures to get to the menus, then yes, and they may find it easier than previous versions of Windows. It might seem like there are more cons than pros here, but really, it’s just Windows 7 with a funny new menu.