The long-awaited release of Microsoft’s newest version of Windows, Windows 8, is almost here. Unlike some of the past updates to the company’s iconic operating system, this version will be ushering in some sweeping changes that will have profound impacts on both its usability and functionality. Microsoft’s goal is to unify the user experience across multiple platforms: PCs, tablets, phones, and the X-box console. Here are the top five changes that have PC users chomping at the bit for the Windows 8 release.
1. User Interface – The most substantial change in this version of Windows 8 has been made in the user interface. This new version will be relying on a completely redesigned interface called Metro, which will probably look familiar since it has already been in use on both tablets/phones and the X-Box console. Instead of accessing apps via the start menu, users’ apps will now be tiled on the start screen. Each pane displays real-time updates and allows for easy one-click access to the apps. The panes are customizable, meaning that users can arrange their start screens to show their most-used apps. Windows hasn’t done away with the old desktop, however. The start bar is still accessible and users can switch between the familiar old interface, which has been updated, and the newer Metro.
2. Cloud Storage – Users who work on multiple platforms or PCs will be thrilled by Microsoft’s introduction of cloud storage, SkyDrive. Simply by signing into one’s Microsoft SkyDrive account, users will instantly have access to all of the files, settings, and preferences they have been saved, regardless of the device they’re using. Furthermore, SkyDrive automatically synchs up with online social networking and file sharing sites, such as Flickr and Facebook, to keep users files and photos updated.
3. App Store – With Windows 8, Microsoft is finally entering the apps marketplace. In this new version of Windows, users will have easy access to the Windows Store which will allow them to buy the apps they want to customize their user experience. Each downloaded app will be usable on up to five different devices.
4. Charms – Windows 8 also introduces some new features of usability that the company is calling “charms”. Essentially, charms are shortcuts that make navigating around a Windows 8-powered device simpler for users. The charms bar offers simple access to functions such as “search” and “settings” and can be customized by users with their most-used shortcuts.
5. Updates to Internet Explorer/Safety – Finally, this version of Windows also means that users will be seeing an updated version of Internet Explorer. The new version is optimized to fully utilize the entire screen with navigation controls that fade away when a user is browsing a website and reappear when the mouse is moved. This newest version of IE also makes good use of HTML5 for a more seamless and integrated browsing experience. On top of the changes in IE 10, Microsoft is also introducing Defender as a part of Windows 8. Defender works in the background and identifies when a device has been compromised by malware of a virus. When a threat has been recognized, Defender attempts to isolate the threat and remove it from the device. If a user prefers to use different anti-virus software, Defender can easily be turned off in favor of the other.
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