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Windows 8 hands-on review

Microsoft's next release of Windows is available
Fri Aug 17 2012, 10:34

SOFTWARE REDEVELOPER Microsoft has released the final build of Windows 8 to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and TechNet subscribers to download and install. The INQUIRER has taken a look at the release to manufacturing (RTM) version of Windows 8 to see what's new about it.Windows 8 start menuFor those who might wonder what has changed in Microsoft's shipping code for Windows 8, the short answer is not much, apart from a few cosmetic changes, some background art alternatives and lock screen designs to let users customise how the starting display looks on their PC.

Those changes that have been introduced since the Release Preview version of Windows 8 came out include the "Do Not Track" privacy setting enabled by default in the Internet Explorer 10 browser, and a Bing application for internet searches added to the Start menu.

Windows 8 RTMAs far as most users are concerned, the experience of using Windows 8 RTM has thus changed little since Microsoft released the first preview version.

The new style user interface has been much written about, and is a considerable change from the desktop that users have grown accustomed to in Windows versions right up through Windows 7.

Formerly known as "Metro style" until very recently, this follows the design of Microsoft's Windows Phone, with the Start screen displaying live application tiles that include notifications and updates.

As most readers will now be aware, the user interface is designed primarily for touchscreen control on a tablet, not just when launching applications by touching their live tile, but also by using gestures where users might have used the mouse previously, such as swiping in from the right edge of the screen to bring up a menu of options.

Windows 8 RTMExisting Windows applications are relegated to the desktop, a separate environment accessed via a tile on the Start menu, where they retain the traditional look and feel. However, the Aero Glass effect is now gone.

We're not yet convinced that the new user interface will prove to be a hit with users rather than hated, but a great deal hangs on the success, or lack of it, of the new system.

The Windows 8 RTM code has supposedly been cleaned up by Microsoft to improve performance, but we did not notice any perceptible difference between this version and the pre-release builds.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the gesture-based user interface really does feel "fast and fluid", to quote Microsoft's own phrase.Windows 8 RTM bing appOne thing that did concern us is that IE 10 crashed several times while browsing during our hands-on tests, which does not bode well for the reliability of Windows 8, considering we were using a fresh install of the release version.

While the Windows 8 RTM does not contain many surprises from the pre-release versions, the operating system as a whole introduces a great many new features compared with earlier editions of Windows such as Windows 7. We'll be looking over these in greater depth in a full review of Windows 8 in the near future. µ


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