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        24 Apr 2014, 1:44 pm

        Windows 8 - Some Features (Issue 49) by Tiamari

        What's Up

        Buying a new laptop? Perhaps you are a tech-hippy, and you just LOVE fiddling with all the fresh new buttons and “things to click on”. But if you just wanna get down to business, you are going to absolutely HATE the new Windows 8.

        Laptops now conveniently come with this new horror version of Windows, and no MS Office installed. When you sign on the dotted line at the store, you might still be blissfully unaware of the nightmare you are buying into, and that you are just mere moments away from a shock of epic proportions.

        Most people are oblivious of the VAST difference between W.7 and W.8. I am a software lecturer at a college and the computer is my best friend. Yet, when I recently bought a new laptop, I could not even find my desktop! W.8 is touch screen friendly, so if you are unfamiliar with touch screen technology you will probably not even get past the welcome screen!

        The good news is that it isn’t all that horrible once you know where the “hot spots” are.

        Windows 8 lowdown

        Most new computers now come standard with Windows 8. One might have guessed that Microsoft had run out of tricks and that there would hardly be any difference between Windows 7 and 8.

        However, Microsoft has made many some significant changes to its well-known operating system and users who have grown used to the classic Windows interface may be shocked to learn how much different it is.

        But despite the awkwardness of learning how to use a computer again all over again, there is good news as well. The interface has been simplified to make it easier to use, especially for beginners.

        More advanced users will also be happy to discover improvements such as a pause button during copy operations, cloud integration and built-in anti-virus. There is also an overall improvement in performance – benchmarks suggest that computers boots up to 5x faster compared to Windows 7.

        Some of the major features are the following:

        · Start button replaced with Start Screen
        · Fresh new Task Manager
        · Improved Windows Explorer
        · Faster Boot sequence
        · Cloud Integration
        · ARM Support
        · Enhanced Multi Monitor Support
        · Windows Store
        · Built-in Antivirus
        · Lock Screen
        · Social Apps
        · Auto App Closing
        · ISO mounting
        · Refresh/Reset feature
        · Plug-in free browsing
        · Screen size scaling
        · Improved Copy/Paste

        Windows 8 - a more detailed look

        This article is a consolidation of research. Please see the list of resources if you want to read the original articles.


        Windows 7 was very different from Windows XP and took some getting used to. Windows 8 is an even bigger change. For some users, the changes will be a shock. Be prepared for these changes.

        Windows 8 is a completely re-imagined version of Windows. This change will allow it to run not only on desktops and laptops, but also on tablet PCs in a much more intuitive way than before and includes an interface for use with touch screens.

        And, while not all PCs will be touchscreen yet, expect more and more devices to have touchscreens in the near future - even if it's a traditional laptop.

        Windows 8 isn't a phone OS - but does share a great deal of design language and code with the new Windows Phone 8.


        No Start Button

        Never particularly fancied the Start Button? Well, it’s gone in Windows 8 by default. It’s now replaced by the Metro UI.

        Although it’s probably a great interface for a tablet, it is not all that exciting to use it with a mouse and keyboard. It looks a little nicer, but that’s about it. And clicking at the bottom left and not getting the typical start menu pop up is just too much change for most users.

        Apparently the option to revert back to the traditional desktop will be available in the free Windows 8.1 upgrade, but if you just cannot see yourself risking more scary upgrades for fear of slipping further into Microsoft hell, there are a few things you could do in the meantime. I will put up some tips shortly.

        Metro UI

        The most visual change is clearly the new Metro user interface. Microsoft has scrapped the traditional Windows user interface with the start button we have all become so used to. Instead, Microsoft has taken inspiration from its Windows mobile phones to replicate the Metro user interface in a desktop capacity.

        The new layout consists of neatly stacked, live tiles that display information and updates for the application corresponding to each tile. The tiles are customizable and can be arranged and resized.

        While the new interface may seem confusing at first, it really doesn’t take that long to adjust to it, provided you know a few tricks.

        Despite all the negative feedback the new user interface has received, the Windows 8 Metro interface is still fresh and pretty and provides a good balance between style and simplicity.

        App lovers will enjoy the interface as it displays a cleanly organized home screen that will provide a unique and user-friendly desktop experience for both non-tech savvy and experienced users. This should not be a cause for despair for those already accustomed to the Windows 7 desktop layout, as the desktop can be brought up through a single click from the home screen.

        Start Screen

        Replacing the familiar Start menu is a Start screen which features the same kind of live tiles and data as Windows Phone's home screen.

        When you open an app that needs the desktop you still get the familiar Recycle Bin and Taskbar, but the Start button - which now only appears when you hover in the bottom left corner with your mouse - takes you back to the Start screen.

        The Start Screen can be used as an application launcher for desktop apps, or Windows 8 Modern UI apps (that's what Microsoft is currently calling the new interface).

        Dynamic Desktop

        Windows 8’s desktop would be a lot different from the desktop of a Windows 7 user as Microsoft has replaced the normal shortcut icons with dynamic tiles. You can change their size and place similar applications around each other- or anything else that my suit you.

        The important thing to understand is that these tiles don’t just open up the application but also display information from them. For instance, if your RSS Feed has got something interesting, it will start to show on the tile right away!

        Touch Screen Support

        The most obvious difference between Windows 8 and its popular predecessor is the user interface.

        Windows 7 supported touch, but it wasn't ideal - the controls simply weren't good enough. However, things have improved immeasurably in terms of the touch support in Windows 8. First of all, touch support on the Desktop is far, far better and you can even close windows and select menu items without issue - Windows has built-in intelligence to tell it what you are trying to do.

        Secondly, the new Start Screen is an interface that's built for touch. That means tiles instead of menus and much quicker ways to get to the programs you want. There's also greatly improved on-screen keyboard and handwriting recognition.

        You don't need to have a Windows 8 touch PC - the interface still works on non-touch machines, and many trackpads have support for new Windows 8 gestures. There are also peripherals such as touch mice and trackpads from Microsoft and Logitech (among others) that support Windows 8 gestures.

        While the tiles that now make up the interface cannot be interacted with in this way when using a normal desktop monitor or laptop, they can be if it is installed on a mobile device. In addition to these tiles, there is also a Charms bar located by default on the right side of the screen. This bar is also accessible by touch and provides access to many system-related features and installed apps.


        A key arrival for Windows 8 is what Microsoft is calling Charms. These appear when you move the mouse to the right-hand side of the screen or swipe in from the right on a touchscreen.

        They enable you to access the Start Screen on a touch device (although many touch devices will also have a physical Windows 8 button on the bezel of the screen or a Windows key on the keyboard).

        The other buttons are Search, Share, Devices and Settings and provide quick access to these functions on touch and pointer-driven displays alike.

        As well as searching your apps and folders, charms work across different apps, so for example a social app can tap into the Share charm so you can share files to that app quickly and easily - it's contextual to the app you are using.

        The Settings charm gives you quick access to basics such as volume and brightness controls, as well as putting your PC to sleep or restarting it.

        There are also charms for Search, Share, Devices and a Start charm that will bring you back to the start screen.

        Task Manager

        Windows 8 features a redesigned task manager that simplifies the way in which users manage processes and computer performance. The new task manager is designed to provide users with a simple but effective interface that is specifically optimized to deal with common tasks.

        Through data collected from Windows 7 users, it was found that 85% of users only open up the task manager to kill non-responsive applications and to monitor processes. As such, the new task manager in Windows 8 features a simplified layout that only lists currently running applications. The new task manager doesn’t prompt users to confirm when ending a task and, as such, tasks can be canceled by a single click.

        Simpler Task Bar

        The old Task Manager was too detailed and overly complicated for the average user. The new Task Manager seems to be much simpler and end user friendly, showing only the tasks and processes that are currently running. Any of these items can be killed with the click of the button, thus freeing up system resources.

        Advanced task Bar

        For advanced users, a more in-depth task manager can be opened by clicking on ‘more details.’ This detailed version of the task manager has also been modified to provide a more user-friendly layout; things such as process names and their usage have been simplified to make it easier to monitor the performance of your computer. Over all, the task manager has been nicely improved and been made simpler to use for the not-so tech-savvy users.

        Windows Explorer


        Say hello to the ribbon interface! You’ve probably already been introduced to it in Office 2007 and Office 2010 and now it makes its way into Windows itself. Love it or hate it, it’s there as a permanent fixture.

        ReFS File System

        Windows 8 is introducing a new file system known as ReFS (Resilient File System), which replaces the traditional NTFS file system.

        So how is ReFS different from NTFS? Well, it really isn’t all that different from NTFS. In fact, ReFS is built upon NTFS and is developed by utilizing many of its key areas. The primary focus of ReFS is on the resilience of data; this is achieved in part by making the file system simpler. Basically, ReFS is a more reliable and efficient file system that is less prone to crashing and errors. However, when errors do occur, ReFS is designed to detect and repair issues without causing any file corruption.

        Boot & Start Up

        Fast Startup Mode

        Boot times have always been an issue with Windows and they have tried their best to fix that with new power states like hibernation and sleep. Unfortunately, those have their own set of problems. In Windows 8, there is a new fast startup mode, which is a combination of a cold boot plus hibernation. Basically, this will be like “restarting” your PC without actually fully restarting it. You’ll still get a fresh user session with everything closed, etc like you just restarted Windows, but it’ll take significantly less time.

        Reengineered Boot Experience

        The boot experience is now very pretty - you get nice screens to help you join a wireless network, pick your settings, etc.

        Lightning Fast Boot Time

        The past history of Microsoft suggests that we shouldn’t believe in their claims that Windows 8 will provide lightning fast boot time. However, considerable improvement in booting time has been reported, with some users saying that it takes only 10 seconds for a 3 year old laptop to boot with Windows 8 (it usually takes around 48 seconds to boot for a normal PC with Windows 7). It seems that Microsoft has finally made an improvement in boot time which is really exciting!

        Cloud Integration

        With Windows 8, you can now sign into your PC using your online credentials at Windows Live. That’s right, Windows 8 is moving to the cloud (a little). With SkyDrive integration also coming in Windows 8, you can sign in using Windows Live credentials and have your files, settings, apps, etc stored in the cloud. You can log into another Windows 8 machine and all of that will follow you automatically.

        It’ll keep track of all your favorites in IE, your desktop wallpaper, and lots more. You can buy extra storage and store your files on SkyDrive and access them online or on your mobile device including the iPad, iPhone, and Android devices.

        That implies the potential to sync data to SkyDrive - there's a SkyDrive app as well as the ability to save data to and from your cloud storage. Office 2013 apps have SkyDrive capabilities included, too.

        Microsoft also syncs settings of your Windows 8 PCs - including your browsing history in IE, for instance.

        ARM Support

        Many of today’s mobile devices are based on a completely different hardware platform called ARM, or Advanced RISC Machines (Originally Acorn RISC Machine).

        Until now, Windows has only supported x86-based Intel and AMD PCs but that is all changing with Windows 8, which will support devices running on ARM architecture.

        Through its support for ARM-based devices, Windows 8 provides a consistent computing experience across devices including tablets, smartphones, and traditional desktop computers.

        Other Features

        Enhanced Multiple Monitor Support

        You can now have the Start Screen on one monitor and the desktop in another, or choose to have the Windows 8 Desktop and taskbar on both screens.

        You can also put a different background on each screen if you have multiple monitors. Windows 8 also enables you to split screen between Modern UI Windows 8 apps, so you can have both your Windows Messenger on a third of the screen alongside your Desktop.

        Windows Store

        Another Exciting feature of Windows 8 is Windows Store.

        Microsoft's Windows Store is a key part of Windows 8, offering both desktop and Modern UI apps, both free and paid. You can search the Store using the Search charm, as well as browse through the top free or top paid apps as well as look through apps by category.

        When apps are updated, you can also download these updates very easily, just as you would on iOS or Android.

        Built-in Antivirus

        Moreover, Windows 8 has an antivirus present inside the kernel of the operating system. This means that your system won’t boot if a corrupt USB device is plugged in. It sounds impressive though only time will tell how effective it will be.

        The Lock Screen

        The Windows 8 lock screen is similar to that of Windows Phone 7 and is optimized for both desktop computers and tablets. The lock screen consists of a few main components including the background picture, battery and network icons, login screen, and a few choice widgets that you can display on the screen to provide real-time updates relevant to the application. The widgets are customizable to only display selective information.

        Windows 8 offers a new way of logging in which works by touch gestures; this is known as a picture password login. The picture password is easy to set up through the control panel and allows users to assign any image to the login screen. The next step is to create three gestures on the image and this acts as the password to log in to your computer. Picture passwords are one of the most secure forms of protecting your computer, and Windows 8 has nicely integrated this fine little feature into the lock screen.

        Search and Social

        With the Start menu gone, search is available not only through the Search charm but also through the Start Screen - just start typing and the results on screen are for programs and files.

        As with Share, the Search charm is contextual, so you can search inside any app - for example you can do a web search from here, or look for a destination using the Travel app. Doing a web search is powerful and quick, it's a simple way to launch a browser and search speedily.

        As for social, Windows 8 supports Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter natively, so you can browse social updates within the People app and elsewhere.

        Close applications automatically!

        Traditionally, all versions of Windows (including Windows 7) left it up to the user to decide whether he wanted to close the running programs or not. In such a case, computer performance depended upon your actions and if you started using a lot of programs at once, your system’s speed slowed down as you ran out on RAM.

        Windows 8 tries to help you in managing your programs and your system’s performance by actually closing the applications and programs which you haven’t used for a certain time-period (no need to worry, the Windows will auto-save it before closing it) so as to help you in keeping your system speed intact.

        Mount ISO images without a problem

        Windows 7 could only burn an ISO image to a DVD but Windows 8 actually betters this by offering you the option to mount the image too. In Windows 7, you didn’t have the option to make virtual drives to use the ISO image’s content but Windows 8 allows you to create a virtual drive to mount the ISO image so that you can easily use it just like a normal DVD.

        Refresh/Reset Your PC

        Two cool new features of Windows 7 are the refresh and reset options. Reset will remove all your personal data, apps, and settings and reinstall Windows. Refresh will keep all data, apps and settings and reinstall Windows. If you ever had to do this before in Windows XP or 7, you know what a real pain it is to try and restore Windows without deleting your personal data. And what happens if your PC doesn’t boot at all? Well, you can now refresh or reset from the boot screens.

        Plug-in Free Browsing

        Not only does IE 10 significantly change the UI, it also changes the way you will be browsing. IE 10 is favoring HTML 5 over the traditional plug-in architecture and will actually run by default with no plugins. If you need to use something like Adobe Flash for a site, you can switch to a “desktop” view, but for the most part, they are phasing plugin support out. WOW! That is huge. And pretty bad news for Adobe Flash. Even though Apple doesn’t support Flash on their devices, Microsoft also moving in that direction is a major paradigm shift for the entire Internet.

        Scaling for Different Screen Sizes

        Along with the new UI interface, there have been many improvements in Windows 8 for scaling to different screen resolutions, screen sizes and pixel densities. Even though this may seem minor, you will be able to use Windows 8 on everything from a small Windows phone to a giant 30 inch screen with a 2560×1600 resolution! A lot of the apps in Windows 8 will be designed to automatically adjust to these different screen sizes and provide more/less content based on the size.

        Improvements to Copy, Move, Rename and Delete

        These four basic operations have pretty much been the same for years and through all versions of Windows. In Windows 8, they get vastly improved!Firstly, when you copy stuff around, especially when you perform multiple copy operations, all of the info is consolidated into one dialog. No more doing 10 copies and having 10 different windows pop up. What you’ll also notice is the new pause feature. Finally, you can pause a copy operation in the middle of it! If you click More Details, you can see the speed of the data transfer, the trend and the amount of data left in the transfer.

        Windows 8 vs Windows 7 performance comparison:

        Here is the gist of it:

        1. Windows 7 preview Release used about 540 MB per 34 processes.

        2. Later Windows 7 SP1 release consumed about 404 MB per 32 processes.

        3. Windows 8 today consumes about 281 per 29 processes.

        4. From this, we can draw a conclusion that Windows 8 has “significantly” reduced memory usages.

        At the time of this test, Windows 8 has not been officially launched yet. We can expect lesser resource usages in the final release of this operating system.

        Despite of Microsoft’s claim, that Windows 8 is much more efficient than any other preceding versions, lifehackers performed a few test to check whether it is true or not. Test was performed on 3.8GHz Intel Core i7 processor with 6GB RAM, 2 TB Hard Disk and an Nvidia GeForce 9800 GT. The result is as follows:

        Tests Performed

        Windows 8

        Windows 7

        Boot Time (Windows Screen to Desktop)



        Compress a ~700MB File



        Decompress a ~700MB File



        Duplicate a ~700MB File



        Encode a Movie in Handbrake



        Cold Start 9 Applications



        Open 10 Tabs in Chrome



        3dmark10 Score

        6470 (5218 Graphics, 23098 CPU)

        6455 (5199 Graphics, 23448 CPU)

        Total Time



        Windows 8.1 Upgrade

        There is now also an opportunity to upgrade to Windows 8.1, which will restore some of the features of the older versions.Pin It

        The conventional concept of the Start Menu in Windows family is now out of trend with introduction of Windows 8. If you open an app which requires desktop then you will see the same recycle bin and task bar, but the start button along with features have been enhanced.







        And other sources that did not want to be mentioned here, although I am truly confused as to the reasons why anyone online would not want the free promotion. However, the linkage was duly removed.

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