Yet Another Windows 8 Review

Yet Another Windows 8 Review

 

“Oh  no, not another one of these”, you think 🙂

I usually work with a Macbook Air virtualizing WIndows 7 to get my work done – whatever it may be, and it works incredibly well.  I decided to use Windows 8 exclusively for a week and see where it goes.   I know my way around Windows 7 and WS2008/2012 fairly well, so I thought I’d be a guinea pig and try to accomplish what I do on my Mac on day-to-day basis:

  • Chrome for web browsing
  • Built-in mail application for personal accounts
  • Microsoft Outlook for work e-mail
  • Jing for Snapshots
  • Live-Writer for Blogging
  • Adobe Air for Pandora.com

Furthermore, I wanted to take care of the following things I do on any of my Macs:

  • Enable encryption on internal and external drivers
  • Typing in Spanish and English with native spell checker in every app

Based on these tasks, I have divided this post in “Things I like in Windows 8” and  “Things I dislike about Windows 8”

Let’s start with the positive, shall we?

Things I like in Windows 8

The Windows Explorer

Sure, it’s not tabbed (yet) but I do welcome the new additions to the Windows Explorer interface.  Being a huge fan of the ribbon interface introduced in Office 2010, I really like what they did with the Windows Explorer:

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The new copy dialog is a nice addition, giving you a lot of info with just a glimpse:

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The Task Manager has also undergone a major overhaul with heaps of information available:

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Hyper-V

A native virtualization platform on the client OS?  Yes, please, thank you.  One of my favorite features in Windows Server 2012 is the massive improvements made to the Hyper-V, and we get them on the client as part of a Windows Feature:

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MS Live Account linked with Local Account

I was really fond on how all my settings from my Live account are stored in the cloud and could be synchronized with my local account in a matter of seconds.  For instance, I did not have to set any of my accounts in Mail and Skydrive as I already had one it the Surface.  After asking for credentials, I was ready to go.  This is very efficient as I spent countless hours configuring this every time I used to switch to a new machine.

At long last, multi-language spell checking!

To me, this alone is worth the upgrade to Windows 8!  If you typically work with 2 languages, you’ll understand my frustration.  I write lots of e-mails every day, in English and Spanish; therefore I need a way to switch between keyboard layouts and spelling checkers.  Windows 7 and below failed at doing this in a simple way, but whilst writing this blog I discovered how easy (in comparison to its predecessors) this in Windows 8, take a look:

Mount ISOs and VHDs

This should have been included in Windows since Vista (at least the ISO mounting), but at long last:

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Things I dislike in Windows 8

The Store

The store is Microsoft’s attempt to offer a streamlined approach of updating apps.  This has worked great for Apple, and it is a model worth pursuing.  It is an amazing way to make sure your downloaded/purchased apps are up-to-date. These apps have to go through a rigorous process to be available at the store, so if users downloaded mostly from the store, then the odds of downloading a virus/trojan are greatly reduced.

The idea sounds great, but the content is not.  I do not recall if most of Apple’s apps were on the store when they released them, but if you want to make sure your users use the store, you would definitely try to have of your software available, which is not the case.  For instance, software like LiveWriter and Security Essentials are nowhere to be found (kudos for having SkyDrive and OneNote though).

Even worse, some of the apps included do not allow you to download the app!  For instance, I searched for an anti-virus software and this is what I got:

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Really?  A link to the website so I can download it?

What’s even worse is that some software labeled as free is just a trial that you have to turn into a full application by paying (thus making it “not free”), as is the case with Ashampoo Burning Studio:

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Yet another think I dislike is how you “search” for things.  See, now you have to rely on “charms” (which I’ll get to later) to look for stuff in the app you are currently in.  So, if you want to search for something, you have to bring the charms window, click Search, and type away.  This breaks the flow of the application.

The Charms

Let’s just say I am not too fond of the so-called Charms.  The charms are usually hidden and it is not quite obvious on how to bring them up and what are they for. To get charms working on the desktop (AFAIK) you have to move your mouse to the lower right and wait for the menu to appear or press “Windows+C”.  I need fast access to things in my workstation, I don’t want to wait for things to appear – the less clicks, the happier I am.

Bitlocker (any version of Windows)

Starting the encryption process on a drive, external or internal, in OS X takes about 1 minute.  In my non-domain joined Windows 8 machine, we start off with the left foot:

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At this point, I wonder how many people will just back off and not encrypt their drive.  The message is telling you “look for an obscure local policy and change it…if you dare”.  Getting around this is beyond this post, but it is NOT a straightforward procedure.  Security should be encouraged by making things simple, and this clearly drives people away.

Metro and Retro – one or the other, PLEASE!

This is what frustrates me most: I am working using LiveWriter, and I have the built-in Windows Mail open, I just used it 3 seconds ago.  Can you tell which one it is from the icons below?  (hint, it is NOT there!):

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That’s right, to switch to the Mail app from here you can:

  1. Use “Windows+Tab” to select it from the Metro sidebar
  2. Hit Windows to access the Metro Start and click on Mail icon
  3. Use “Alt+Tab” and select it from the good ‘ol app switcher

(BTW, why do we have (1) and (3) ?  Two application switchers in the same OS?)

I think this is the biggest Achilles’ heel of Windows 8 – it’s trying to be something new without letting go of old elements, and this confuses people.  For instance, how do I manage local users, do I use the native metro Users app or do access users in Computer Management and add them from there?

There’s two ways of doing things for almost everything: do I change things in PC Settings or in the control panels?  Do I configure Windows Updates in PC Settings or using the Windows Update panel?

The Final Word

I think that many elements in Windows 8 are targeted for tablets and therefore feel ‘not so good’ when using them on a desktop.  Some things are also more complicated than they should be (shutting down the machine for instance) – but it’s just a matter of getting used to.

However, that’s a small price to pay for a plethora of improvements that will make my life easier.  It’s going to be a steep learning curve in some aspects, but overall I think I can get used to this OS in a matter of days.

The latest fad on the Internet seems to be finding faults on Windows 8 and try to rip it to shreds because of usability without stopping for a minute to really use the new stuff.  I for one, welcome the additions and will try and getting used to them before ditching an OS as if it was an audio app that you trashed away just because you hated its default skin.

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