A few months ago, we took our readers on a tour of the newly released Microsoft Office Suite. This updated version of such tools as Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook made it easier for users to take advantage of tablet and mobile computing devices. Now, with the recent release of its new Windows 8 operating system, Microsoft is continuing its foray into the mobile computing environment.
We’ve been receiving questions on Windows 8 from several clients and other industry professionals (What new features are included? What’s changed since previous versions?), so we’ve done some research and tapped our internal experts to provide you with an overview of Microsoft’s newest release.
The Windows operating system has been around for years, but there are now new players within the computing industry. Competitive offerings such as the Android and iOS platforms are rapidly gaining popularity as iPhones, iPads and Droid phones become more common. As a result, Microsoft is introducing significant changes with this new release, primarily aimed at enhancing users' experience when accessing the platform on tablets and mobile devices and taking advantage of new and emerging technologies.
Compatibility with Mobile Devices
Windows 8 is optimized for use on touch screens as well as traditional mouse-and-keyboard systems. Microsoft has also improved the start screen, now called the “Modern UI,” featuring a full-screen tile display of real time, customizable information. Users can install apps from the new Windows Store in order to quickly access news, weather updates, tweets and other timely information in a single tap. Additionally, a new function allows users to multitask by grabbing and swiping several apps at a time – a feature we haven’t yet seen perfected by competing operating systems.
Here is an example of what the Windows 8 start screen looks like:
Note: You may be hearing references to Windows RT in addition to Windows 8. To clarify, these two platforms are virtually the same, however RT refers to the version which runs on tablets. It contains nearly all of the same features, and users can navigate it the same way they would operate its counterpart on a desktop PC.
One important change in Windows 8 is a significant improvement in security features. Users can lock their devices and choose to protect them with either a traditional password or a “picture password” which involves drawing gestures on the screen with a finger (for touchscreens) or a mouse. Also, only the first account that is created on each device has administrative privileges. This means that only one person is able to install/remove most programs and access is limited for secondary users.
Windows 8 also boasts better malware protection than previous versions, increased protection for core files and a new system for memory management that is much more robust. Most individual apps are isolated, and can only access information from one another if you choose to allow it. This helps to quarantine malware and prevent it from spreading from one app to the next. For added security, users can add the Microsoft Defender app which decreases the chances of acquiring a virus.
Improved Searching and Navigation
Another new feature of note is the Charms bar. This appears when a user swipes his or her finger from the right edge of the screen or hovers the cursor over either the top or bottom corners on the right side of the screen. When the Charms bar is activated, it provides easy access to buttons that allow users to search, return to the home screen, switch to the most recent app that was used or adjust settings. You can also swipe up from the bottom of the screen to quickly reveal a list of all apps installed on the device.
Mousing Around Windows 8
So you may be wondering what it is like to navigate Windows 8 with a mouse. We've heard mixed reviews, but here are some handy shortcuts The Verge magazine recently published:
- Windows + H = Opens the Share charm
- Windows + I = Opens the Settings charm
- Windows + K = Opens the Devices charm
- Windows + Q = Search for apps
- Windows + F = Search for files
- Windows + W = Search for Windows settings
- Windows + X = Access common admin tools
- Windows + E = Launches File Explorer in the desktop environment
- Windows + O = lock screen orientation
- Windows + R = Opens a Run dialog
- Windows + L = Lock the computer
- Windows + Print Screen = Saves a screenshot to your Pictures > Screenshots folder
- Windows + any of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0 = Launches the corresponding program pinned to the taskbar
- Ctrl + Shift + Esc = Open Task Manager
Many analysts are calling Windows 8 the most drastically different operating system Microsoft has developed since Windows 95. For those of you who are used to the older platforms, this may require some getting used to. However, as we all know the world is moving away from the desktop and onto the touchscreen, and Windows 8 has the makings of a very solid operating system for this new age of computing. Keep an eye on this product – we expect to see a number of enhancements and add-ons in the coming year that could be very useful for business users.
Looking for more information on current trends in technology? Don't miss our recent article on what to look for in 2013. And of course subscribe to the Hedge IT blog!
Photo Credits: thetechstuff.com & PC Advisor
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