Windows 8 Start Screen
Let me briefly glorify Windows 8 Release Preview, OK? I have just take a really general and quick look at Windows 8 Release Preview and I kind of like it a lot. OK, Windows 8 does have a quirky way of messing with previous Windows users’ Windows experiences (e.g., Windows 7, Windows XP, etc…), because there is no Start button to be found. Instead of a Start button where Windows users can quickly access the Windows system, Windows 8 demands users to activate hot corners so they can bring up various Windows 8 system functionalities. For an example, users need to move their mouse pointer to the bottom right corner of the Windows 8 screen to access Settings, Devices, Start, Share, and Search. Moving mouse pointer to the top left corner of the Windows 8 screen, you can access opened applications and system windows. Nonetheless, once you know that you have to use hot corners instead of Start button, everything becomes easier with Windows 8.
I don’t know if this will be the case for Windows 8 official version, but it seems to me that Windows 8 Release Preview demands users to log onto Windows 8 through an email address (i.e., default login) — I do think Windows 8 does allow other ways of log onto Windows 8. Furthermore, it seems that when users use their Microsoft account (e.g., Hotmail email account) to log onto Windows 8, Windows 8 various apps will allow users to automatically connect to their Microsoft account. For an example, when I log onto Windows 8 with a Hotmail account, with a click on Mail app in Start screen of Metro UI (UI stands for User Interface) I can access my Hotmail email account without entering a password. It’s convenient for Microsoft to allow users to access their Microsoft account without entering a password once users already log onto Windows 8, but I do fear the easiness of accessing Microsoft account within Windows 8 can turn into a carelessness. That is, while the users are away from the computer and forget to lock Windows 8 screen or log out of Windows 8 account, anyone else can access the users’ Microsoft account with ease.
The Start screen is pretty! Everything else about Windows 8 seems to be very elegant and refreshing. On the surface, Windows 8 Start screen can throw previous Windows users off as the Start screen doesn’t look like anything they have used and seen before. Nonetheless, the Start screen does look nice enough to bring a fresh look and feel to Windows altogether. I think a plus side of Metro UI is that it concentrates on allowing users to intelligently beautify and glorify what matter most on the Start screen and the rest of Windows 8 features can hide away until the users have the need to access them. So, the apps and system features that appear on the Start screen can be totally customized by the users. For an example, right clicking on the Start screen allows users to access All apps window. Within All apps window, the users can right click on any app or Windows feature to pin to the Start screen. Once pinning an app or Windows feature to the Start screen, the users can access it at the Start screen just like many other things that were appeared on the Start screen from the get-go. By going through the exact process of pinning apps and Windows features to the Start screen, users can also pin things to the taskbar. Obviously, taskbar can only be used when Windows 8 is in the Desktop mode. Furthermore, users can run apps and Windows features with an administrator privilege by going through the right click process on the apps and features within the All apps window.
Some users might get frustrate with Start screen and prefer to use the Desktop mode. Desktop mode’s UI in Windows 8 is how Windows 7 users see when they first log onto their Windows 7 machine (i.e., a desktop UI windows and not a Metro UI). Luckily, by default, Windows 8 pins Desktop mode tile on the Start screen, therefore switching to Desktop mode is simply a matter of clicking on the Desktop Metro tile. Unfortunately, once switching to Desktop mode, previous Windows users will not be able to use the Start button still since Microsoft had got rid of the Start button altogether within Windows 8. This means previous Windows users are going to have to use hot corners to interact with hidden apps and features (e.g., Control panel, apps, opened applications, etc…).
Obviously, more often than not, Windows users want to access important Windows features such as Control Panel. With Windows 8, as how I mentioned earlier with hot corner usage, users move their mouse pointer to the bottom right corner of the Windows 8 screen to access Settings. Within Settings panel which appears on the right hand side of the Windows 8 screen, users will be able to access Control Panel, Personalization (i.e., allowing users to personalize Windows 8 look and feel), PC info, Network, Volume, Notification, Power button (i.e., to turn off Windows 8), and Change PC settings. These features are only visible when users are in Desktop mode’s Settings, but other features will be visible when users are in Start screen mode’s Settings. To access even more apps and Windows features, users can use bottom right hot corner to access Search window. By accessing Search window, users can access important features such as Control Panel without the need of entering into a Desktop mode first.
Of course there are other cool features that Windows 8 brings about, but let me quickly just talk about a very cool Windows 8 feature known as Storage Space and then end this blog post to keep this blog post brief (i.e., I have yet to explore everything within Windows 8). Storage Space is sort of how Windows 8 allows users to use RAID. I’m not sure if Storage Space is the same thing as RAID or not, but it seems to provide similar capabilities. For an example, Storage Space allows users to add additional disk drives and create resiliency types of data structure. Basically, when adding additional disk drives, users are either creating a Storage Pool or adding new disk space into the same Storage Pool. Storage Pool determines the real total amount of the physical disk space that accounts for the total disk drives that the users combine for Storage Space. When creating Storage Space (or additional Storage Space) within a Storage pool, users can create larger disk space for Storage Space than the actual amount of disk space of Storage Pool. How come? Well, Windows 8 recognizes Storage Space as a virtual disk space, therefore it allows users to create a fictitious amount of disk space so users can scale up the true disk space as time progresses. This means when Windows 8 users see that their Storage Pool runs out of disk space, they can add more disk drives to allow Storage Pool to reflect the Storage Space’s fictitious disk size. Anyhow, Windows 8 brings enterprise data structure solution to home users by allowing users to utilize Storage Space so data can be more resilient. It means Windows 8 users can combine hard disks in a structure that lost data can be recovered with ease.
In conclusion, Windows 8 Release Preview is the closest thing to what will be Windows 8 official version, and it shows that Windos 8 does have regular Windows users in mind even though Windows 8 is targeting newer types of users (i.e., users who use touchscreen monitors and mobile devices such as tablet). By having Windows 8 to look the same on a tablet screen and a Desktop monitor, Microsoft is trying to make its products more coherent (i.e., the same software/UI ecosystem is being deployed). Although being fresh and different, Windows 8 is easy enough that I think regular users will eventually find it won’t be that sad to break up with their previous Windows iterations (e.g., Windows 7, Windows XP). Sure, being easy to use doesn’t mean Windows 8 isn’t confusing. Windows 8 UI is fresher and much much different than previous Windows iterations, therefore previous Windows users might find Windows 8 to be confusing from the get-go. Nonetheless, when previous Windows users get familiar with the usage of hot corners, soon after Windows 8 joys await to be explored and conquered. I love how Windows 8 brings data structure enterprise solution to home users by allowing the usage of Storage Space. Storage Space brings data resiliency to Windows 8. Obviously, data resiliency and data backup aren’t exactly the same thing. How come? Data resiliency is emphasizing on not losing certain data in specific timeframe (e.g., in emergency situation, on moment of notice), but data backup is emphasizing on making sure important data do not change over time and can be recovered whenever. This is why I think Windows 8 users should backup their data on a frequent basis still even though they use Storage Space feature within Windows 8.