One of the most obvious differences between Windows 8 and older Microsoft operating systems is the user interface. The new interface replaces the crowded Start menu with a Start screen that uses the whole screen area to highlight your favourite applications in large tiles. These tiles aren’t just passive buttons though; they are active, and have the ability to provide real-time updates, such as previews of incoming emails, weather reports and your friend’s latest posts on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The new interface makes it much quicker to run applications and is equally suited to those using a mouse or touchscreen.
With the Windows Store you’re no longer forced to scour the dark corners of the Internet for the applications you need while keeping one eye on your security software. Instead, you’ll be able to safely and securely browse the Windows Store to find the applications you need, whether they’re free or paid for. Think of it as the App Store and Google Play all in one, backed by the largest and most trusted name in software – Microsoft.
Windows 8 has been designed to make the most of the plethora of new devices appearing on the market. This includes a new interface (see ‘New look and feel’) which is particularly well suited for touchscreen devices such as tablets and ultrabooks. For example, you can log into Windows 8 via a picture password using gestures rather than typing a text password on a keyboard. Windows 8 also includes native support for USB 3, which will help to improve the battery life of portable devices. With Windows 8, you’ll also be able to sync data between devices that support NFC (near field communications) by simply tapping the devices lightly together.
Windows 8 also includes a new web browser- Internet Explorer 10. The latest version of IE boasts improved GPU hardware acceleration, which will improve loading times and video playback. It also improves support for CSS 3 and HTML 5, two key programing languages for the future of the web.
Windows 8 includes two new features, Refresh and Reset, which make it easier to get back to a fresh copy of Windows 8. Refresh removes all applications but keeps your personal files and settings while Reset deletes all files and installs a fresh copy of Windows 8 for you. In short, if something goes wrong with your system you won’t have to muck around for hours setting up Windows again.
Earlier versions of Windows were geared up to store your data locally. However, with Windows 8, you can also keep copies of your files in the cloud computing file host SkyDrive. Each SkyDrive account provides 7GB of storage, that you can then access via any PC running Windows 8. All you have to do is login with your Microsoft account and your files will be automatically synced with SkyDrive, all thanks to the wonder of cloud computing.
Power users and gamers will also find lots new to like in Windows 8. For example, the new Windows Display Driver Model 1.2 introduces support for stereoscopic 3D games and films. Windows 8 also has improved support for multiple monitors, such as the ability to span the taskbar across more than one screen. Microsoft has also given Task Manager an overhaul so that it now reports more data, including how much network bandwidth each application is using. Finally, the new VHD (virtual hard disk format) supports drives of up to 16TB; perfect for storing all your games, movies and music on.
Businesses that have a lot of employees who move around a lot have a new ally in the Enterprise version of Windows 8. Windows To Go is a special version of Windows 8 that can be installed and run directly from a USB memory stick, so an employee can turn up at any PC and start working right away. Windows To Go will not interfere with the local storage drives in the host PC, so you don’t need to worry about users seeing files they aren’t supposed to either. In short, it’s a full version of Windows 8 that fits in your pocket - genius!