First impressions from an early Windows 8 user

How’s the user experience for the newly launched Windows 8 operating system? First off let me say that Microsoft is going all out to let Windows users upgrade to their latest operating system, Windows 8, for a VERY affordable price. How cheap is Windows 8?

It only costs USD 14.99 to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8 Pro – provided you have purchased a Windows 7 system from June 2 2012 til January 31 2013. Which versions of Windows 7? Any of these:
Windows 7 Home Basic
Windows 7 Home Premium
Windows 7 Professional or
Windows 7 Ultimate.

According to the Windows Upgrade website, the last day to take advantage of their offer for Windows 8 Pro upgrade ends on February 28 2013.

So with all that out of the way, how does the new Windows 8 Pro fare?

Resistance is futile
Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a cheapskate. The offer of paying RM 50 for an upgrade license was too tempting, despite the fact that I didn’t like Windows 8 when I was using the preview version for about one week. Maybe I wasn’t used to the way it worked then. But a recent video of a 3 year old using Windows 8 changed my mind – if he can use it, what’s so hard about Windows 8?

Downloading the upgrade was what I considered to be pretty fast for a busy server, just over an hour or more for a 2GB download. Please note that I’m using a Unifi VIP5 connection. After downloading it I was given the option of maintaining current configuration and files, just files, or new install. I opted for the first one as I did not do a proper back up of all my files. So fingers crossed I let the installer do it’s magic and just did other things around the house.

I didn’t look at the time, but when I got back it was already rebooting into Windows 8, and it took a while for Windows to load new files and get proper drivers. But when all that was done, the new UI showed up showing me lots of tiles. I’m already used to this new interface even if I didn’t use the Preview version – I’m using a Windows Phone. One thing that struck me was I needed to spend some money on new hardware. Not that my system is slow – I feel like getting myself a touch-screen monitor to make full use of the new UI!

The weather app is part of the new Windows 8 user experience

The Weather App

There are already tonnes of reviews and how-to articles on the internet about Windows 8, so I won’t be repeating them. Let’s just say that using Windows 8 is fairly easy once you get used to moving the mouse to left hand top corner (multitasking), right hand top corner (charms bar for settings, search etc), top edge (drag to the bottom to close app), amongst other gestures. When in doubt, you can always right-click, use the ‘Windows’ button, or just revert to using alt-tab.

Where to Start?
The hardest part for me was not having the Start button. 2 days of usage and I still mistakenly go there to open programs which are not pinned on my taskbar. I ended up opening IE 10 instead. It’s a matter of retraining the brain to use other methods of getting those apps – whether by search or by pinning them to taskbar.

The Photos app is part of the new Windows 8 user experience

The Photos App

Performance is quite zippy. No lag or whatever in the Apps for the new UI. Old apps in the desktop mode works pretty well too. Just remember to download and upgrade outdated versions of your software. I made the mistake of not uninstalling the Clover utility (it gives your Explorer tabs like Google Chrome), so when I was using the Help on how to add music to the Music App I ended up frustrated. I was lost as some UI were missing due to Clover.

I would suggest to turn off or uninstall any of the customisation software that you have with your current Windows first, be it any docking software or skinning software. Install the new version after Windows 8 upgrade is done.

Here are some screenshots of IE10 app in action. It opens up all websites in a default fullscreen mode – makes my portfolio site look awesome! If only I had a touch-screen monitor!
IE10 app in Windows 8
How the Microsoft choose to implement different tabs/sites

For the power users out there, knowing the shortcuts are quite important, so what better place to learn from than Microsoft’s own MSDN Blog? Here be the shortcuts!

My final thoughts on Windows 8 is that I love it! It’ll take some time for me to adjust to a desktop without the Start button, but I’ll try my best. There are always some software to bring the Start button back on your desktop. The new user experience for Windows 8 is definitely more touch-centric. People with multiple monitors have complained that their mouse has to cover a lot of real estate compared to the older versions of Windows due to the way the menus work now around the corners of the screen, but I suppose Microsoft will figure something out with updates to help improve the user experience.

Update: Found some bugs in IE10 desktop application. It won’t allow drag and drop for media upload in WordPress. Using the basic uploader instead, I was able to upload, but unable to set the image as featured image. I had problems using the CDN function in W3TC plugin as well. It won’t upload files and doesn’t do anything for the Server Check (FTP).

Second Update: After browsing around a bit, this is what you can do.

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