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WP_001356We have had the pleasure of using Windows 8 Consumer Preview for most of the day and we want to give it to you straight. We are approaching this from a developers point of view. This perspective will mean we are looking at what has been improved in the OS as well as the features that matter the most to us. We decided to use to Toshiba Portege from our previous review, pop out the magnetic hard drive and slap the Kingston 128GB SSD in and watched this OS hum on install. After the install was complete in under 10 minutes it was all exploration! We noticed some cool new features and some features that we may have missed in our post on the developer preview. Jump past the break to see our thoughts and what has been improved in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

We wanted to give you some more details on the device we were running while evaluating and writing this post so we decided to pull that from the Windows Experience Index. Check out below for a detailed summary of our Toshiba Portege:

Component Details Subscore Base score
Processor Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-2435M CPU @ 2.40GHz 7.1
6.3
  Determined by lowest subscore
Memory (RAM) 8.00 GB 7.8
Graphics Intel(R) HD Graphics Family (Microsoft Corporation – WDDM 1.2) 6.3
Gaming graphics 1696 MB Total available graphics memory 6.3
Primary hard disk 89GB Free (119GB Total) 6.6
Windows 8 Consumer Preview

 

System 
  Manufacturer TOSHIBA
  Model PORTEGE R835
  Total amount of system memory 8.00 GB RAM
  System type 64-bit operating system
  Number of processor cores 2
Storage 
  Total size of hard disk(s) 119 GB
  Disk partition (C:) 89 GB Free (119 GB Total)
  Media drive (D:) CD/DVD
Graphics 
  Display adapter type Intel(R) HD Graphics Family (Microsoft Corporation – WDDM 1.2)
  Total available graphics memory 1696 MB
        Dedicated graphics memory 64 MB
        Dedicated system memory 0 MB
        Shared system memory 1632 MB
  Display adapter driver version 9.17.10.2661
  Primary monitor resolution 1366×768
  DirectX version DirectX 10.1
Network 
  Network Adapter Intel(R) 82579V Gigabit Network Connection
  Network Adapter Intel(R) WiFi Link 1000 BGN

Multitasking

WP_001483Multitasking in Windows 8 has been drastically improved. Many users of Windows 7 will be familiar will many windows being open in the task bar. You man also be familiar with organization coming from pinning applications to the task bar. While this is still a possibility, applications in the Microsoft Store act independently from the Windows Desktop, so what are you to do switching between all of these fancy new applications and the applications constrained to the task bar? Simple answer, move your finger/mouse to the lower left of the screen and watch the option to go to the homepage appear.

It is at this point you may notice the small transparent rectangles jutting out of the left side of the screen. All we needed to do was drag our mouse up from the start image and the applications we have already running appear. Just select one of them and you are switched into that application. Users can note that transferring between applications and desktop applications does save what you were doing on the desktop so it is ready for when you return.

WP_001428We found this feature handy right from the start as we explored this no-compromise consumer preview. This will be handy for developers and consumers alike and the best part? It is natural, once the user knows about it, to navigate where the Windows button has always been and to see a list of running applications that you may still want to use. We can see that some users of other OSs may find this daunting at first but hey, we are just glad you switched to the better OS!

 

Semantic Zoom & Start Screen

Semantic zoomWhen we first saw this at CES 2012 we figured, “if we get a tablet with Windows 8 on it this would be cool.” We thought that because of the need to pinch and zoom out that this would be difficult for those of us running Windows 8 on a PC, or laptop. In the consumer preview, this is simply not true. The development team has included an icon shown in the photo to the right that, when pressed, will run Semantic zoom and show you a snapshot of all you icons and their groupings.

name groupIn this mode we are unable to move just a single icon, but instead can rearrange groupings and edit the groupings name. To do this on a device implementing the mouse over touch this is fairly simple. We just need to right click the grouping that we want to edit and it will become check and we and bar appears on the bottom of the screen prompting us to name it. After you click it and rename your group, the name will appear above your grouping whenever you enter Semantic zoom.

We have already seen that Semantic zoom can be accessed from the start screen but so much more can be done from this one pivotal screen. We have found that if you are looking to find an applications file location or run it as an administrator, all you have to do is right click. We are unsure of the touch equivalent and would appreciate any of our readers that could help us out with this, but right clicking seems to be the solution for touch-less users.

We have found also that on the start screen, much like the start menu on Windows 7, you are able to search for anything just by starting to type what you are looking for. This comes in very handy when you are trying to review Windows 8 and keep on forgetting to keep paint open to save screenshots. All kidding aside, if you are in a hurry, all you have to do is press the Windows key and start typing what you are looking for. Simple right? We think so and we think that users will find this a huge asset. For developers who have multiple IDEs they develop on for multiple platforms will also find this very useful.

Task Manager

basic task managerWe had mentioned this in our previous post on the developer preview of Windows 8 but we just can’t help ourselves. This has to be one of the coolest improvements we have seen to date. In the consumer preview it has been updated so that when task manager is opened we are presented with a very simplistic view, probably for the average user, so it is easy to navigate and see what programs are running. For those of us who like a little complexity there is the arrow at the bottom of the task manager to ditch that itch.

 

adv task managerOnce the down arrow is pressed we are presented with a slew of information and all of it is relevant and useful. Apps that have more than one instance of themselves running (and we can use IE10 as an example of this) are put into a threaded view so that it cuts down on the clutter but gives you the information if you are truly wanting to see and use it. We are also big fans of the percentage bars giving stats on CPU usage, memory usage, disk usage, as well as the network bandwidth used in percentage from. No longer do we need to sort the task managers list alphabetically or by memory usage (although that feature does still exist) to find what is using the most or least amount of memory or CPU usage.

adv task manager process cpuAlso in the advanced mode of task manager sits another amazing tool. This tool you may be wondering is the performance tab. This tab can be thought of as Batmans Utility Belt. It has pretty much anything you would need to asses what is going on with your computer through a series of graphs. Want WiFi usage at a particular point in time? This tab has it all. These graphs you see on the side are gateways into more information about that particular hardware device whether it be the CPU, Disk Drive, Network Adapter or RAM. We decided to show off the CPU information on the right but as you can see and image for the others, there is a lot of information to be digested in every selection.

People with as little as no experience with a computer to those of use that consider it an extension of our being will find this revamp useful. Task manager is a powerful but often overlooked tool no matter what version of Windows you look at. This enhancement brings it a little closer to the forefront of relevancy and we applaud Microsoft on the little things they have done to enhance our lives when computing with Windows 8.

Xbox & Live Companion Integration

xbox liveTalk about bringing the ecosystems together. This is another shining example of what Microsoft is doing to bring Windows Phone, Windows and Xbox closer together. The ability to sign into your live account from your desktop seems very promising. We unfortunately are unable to sign in due to the fact that it is not supported in Canada at this time but we feel that it deserves a mention to all of our readers where utilizing it may be a possibility. We also want to give a shout out the the Live Companion app that came bundled with the install. With the same region issue we can only speculate that this will act as the Windows Phone app, allowing us hours of fun switching Netflix shows on our wives or girlfriends while we aren’t even in the same room or are away from home. We are excited about this deep level of integration and cannot wait until Canadians will be able to sample the awesomeness!

Internet Explorer 10

desktop iestartscreen ieWith all great previews we know there is to be an updated Internet Explorer and with the consumer preview comes internet explorer 10 the consumer preview edition. While it may not look like it has improved much but we like the minimalistic look the HTML5 performance has improved and is much more fluid. What we are still trying to wrap our heads around is the fact that Windows 8 implements two different versions of Internet Explorer. We have the touch version that is started from the Start Screen and the desktop version that is initialized in the Desktop Mode. We are unsure of whether or not it is the same core IE and just skinned in two different versions. As you can see above the enigma remains until we can get an answer from Microsoft to clear up this puzzling issue.

Remote Desktop

As we are in the IT industry this is one of the biggest things that we utilize throughout the day and we were excited to see what take Microsoft has done with it. We are impressed with the new look and connecting to desktops is as simple as ever. While the options remain the same we have included images of the revamped remote desktop.

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Sync Your Settings

WP_001460This can be found under the settings tab and is quite the innovation! Take this scenario as a prime example… You are out at the local coffee shop with your favorite tablet running on your ARM7 when you get a flustering call and have to leave quickly. Now you have forgotten your tablet at the coffee shop and when you return its not there. Good thing that you can log into your Windows 8 PC at work and restore all of your settings onto that PC. While right now it is not able to sync your apps we do expect that this will be a great utilization to implement in the final release. We enjoy the ability to have a no-compromise experience and to take that experience to any PC we may choose to log in to. It is very innovative to take your login information that is tied to all of these setting with you. Instead of calling CAA/AAA next time you have trouble,why not just login!

Start-Up

While this may not be an actual application, we are amazed at this feature. When the Windows Team started talking about a fast and fluid experience we had assumed that it was focused on the OS once it had started. It seems that this fast and fluid experience has extended to the time it takes to boot and shut down your device. We really cannot explain how fast it is able to do this so we decided to shoot our experience and show you. Check out the video below and see the speed.

App Store

storeThis is one of the most exciting features to come to Windows 8 Consumer Preview since Windows 8 was announced. The best thing about the consumer preview is that for the mean time, all of  the applications are free for you to download and use. What’s more is that the store is lacking in applications, totaling just under 100 applications. Games seem to be slightly more prevalent than applications so far but we hope to change that with a development series on Windows 8 coming soon (hopefully). We also have a tidbit for application developers with an application running on a previous Windows platforms. If you are wanting your application to be available across the Windows 8 ecosystem then a slight revamp is in order. To do this you need to make your application work with WinRT. If it is not compatible with WinRT then it will not be available in the Store and it will be unable to run on ARM devices. With the preview of the Store available it is enticing to see what platform will be available to the developers to distribute their new and ported applications.

Conclusion

It is clear to see that when Microsoft boasted that over 100,000 changes have been made to Windows 8 between the developer preview and the consumer preview it is true. We have only touch on the tip of the iceberg and things that would be beneficial to the developers reading this. We look forward to the day where we can go to the store and charge our card for a spanking new version of Windows 8. Although no word yet has been mentioned on the different tiers that will be offered on launch day, we do look forward to news on this. Give us your comments below as we would love to hear from other users who have downloaded and implemented Windows 8 Consumer Preview! Until the next Windows update or until we find a new feature on the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Happy Hacking!

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