Microsoft is definitely blurring the line between mobile and desktop operating systems with Windows 8, which combines an attractive Windows Phone-like interface that’s optimized for touch with the versatility of traditional computing (when you want it). You’ll also enjoy much faster boot times and be able to purchase apps from the new Windows Store.
Developers will be able to download the developer preview this week, but we got an in-depth look at the OS and wanted to share our impressions.
Choose Your Input Weapon: Touchscreen, Mouse, or Pen
We already knew that Windows 8 sports a slick Metro interface just like Windows Phone, complete with Live Tiles that provide at-a-glance info and a panoramic presentation that invites swift sideways scrolling. It’s tailor-made for touch, but when you attach a keyboard and mouse the way you interact with the OS changes. For instance, the start button will appear in the bottom left corner instead of the right-hand side, and a right click reveals the tabs and address bar in IE10 instead of a swipe up. Windows 8 also supports pen input, both for navigation and for pen-enabled apps like Ink Pad.
Staying in One Mode
In a swipe at Android, Microsoft says that it didn’t want users to enter different modes to customize the look and feel of the Windows 8 Start screen. You just gently pull down on a Live Tile with your finger to make the app bar appear at the bottom of the display. You can then make that tile smaller or bigger, uninstall it, or unpin it.
Multitouch on Steroids and Semantic Zoom
Want to move a Live Tile on the Start Screen of Windows 8? You can select a tile with one finger while panning to the left with another, making it a cinch to drop it exactly where you want. To make navigating through your tiles less of a chore, Windows 8 will include a new feature called Semantic Zoom. With a pinch gesture you can see a zoomed out view of all of your groups of tiles on a single screen. From there you can move groups of apps around and also rename them.