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Windows 8 Release Preview, A Review

I still won’t be buying Windows 8.

Microsoft have suddenly released the third and probably final test build of the upcoming operating system ‘Windows 8’, which features one of the biggest re-designs to Windows that we have ever seen in any previous release. Microsoft are hoping that the public see Windows 8 as a refreshing change, but does it achieve this?

I’m going to begin by making a reference to my previous opinion piece which was very critical of Windows 8 Consumer Preview. In the article, which is no longer on the site due to the change-around, I complained that the Metro UI was almost completely useless to the standard mouse and keyboard user, and that there weren’t enough changes to the normal desktop to make it a worthwhile update. Before I update these points based around the new version, I should tell you that there are still bugs in the Release Preview and that the final version may give me a completely different view on the new operating system.

First off, there are a lot have been a lot of improvements since the last build, and I mean this in terms of performance rather than design and the way you interact with it. The entire operating system is faster, with animations between windows making the OS smoother and much more enjoyable to use. You can tell Microsoft are edging very close to releasing this, as it’s beginning to feel more like a finished product than ever before.

That said, it doesn’t matter how smooth it runs if the actual product is useless. Luckily, I really don’t think it is anymore. Last time, as mentioned above, I just couldn’t see the point of the new Metro UI unless Microsoft attempted to make all computers touch-screen only, which would be the company’s most silliest move to date. However, I’m glad to say, that the refinements made to the Metro section of the operating system have greatly improved my overall opinion of the user interface since the Consumer Preview. Not only is the whole system smoother, but it just seems to work a lot more like a complete operating system now that the majority of the apps work and there are quite a lot to choose from.

Understandably, the OS is a lot more user-friendly now that we have entered the Release Preview stage, meaning that we can now customize things the way we would hope to when the final product is released. A good example of this is on the very first boot up of the new build, which asks you which colour you would like to use as the default, which will then be used throughout the Metro background, buttons and borders.

Now, the majority of the applications work and have very few glitches. However, they aren’t all that impressive. For example the Wikipedia application seems to be lacking a search feature. You can see what’s popular and other important pieces on the homepage of the app, but the inability to search makes Wikipedia almost useless. (Please let me know if there is in fact a search feature). I know that this is probably the role of the people making the applications, and not Windows themselves. However if all of the applications begin to feel quite half-hearted, then the operating system will reflect that.

The Metro UI fits a lot better with the usual desktop than it did before. The transition between the two UIs is a lot smoother and can be done quite easy through the left panel which displays your applications open. However, I still very much miss the start button which has been inhabiting Windows since very early days. There are still ways to find things, but they seem too spread out and it is certainly a lot harder than it has been before. This wouldn’t bother me too much as there are currently tweaks that can re-enable the button, however with rumours flying around that Microsoft are working on stopping these tweaks, the taskbar could lose out.

The Metro Internet Explorer now comes with very limited Flash support, meaning that while it works on popular sites like YouTube, it doesn’t work on others like Rdio and other music playing websites. It’s good that it finally has some Flash support but it can be annoying when you come across a video that you want to play, only to be told that you can’t. Personally, I don’t use the Metro UI for my web browsing anyway. I may consider it if my current favourite browser, Google Chrome, decides to create a Metro version of the browser, however I think that for serious browsing of the web it’s much easier to have the taskbar at the bottom so that you can keep switching between applications.

The above points brings me on to one of my final points, in that I just don’t use Metro. I want to like it, and having played with it a bit on my iPad through Splashtop, I can see it being something really great on tablets and touch screen computers. However as far as a mouse and keyboard goes, I just don’t see it taking off. People like to see all of their things on one screen so that they can quickly switch between applications, however this isn’t really an option on the Metro user interface as you have to keep clicking the right mouse to bring up tabs or be able to change back to the home screen. As much as people want something nice to look at on their PC, the main reason they have one is for the usability, and Windows 8 just doesn’t seem to want to cater for people who use the computer in their line of work. It’s fine for children, teenagers and others who just use their computers for fun, as there are some applications like Cut the Rope which are really great. However the Metro UI would simply get in the way of people who need the computer urgently in their work.

To finish, I will say that I still won’t be desperate to get Windows 8 when it’s released to the public. As expected, it’s improving each time a new build is released, and my impressions are a lot rosier than they were the last version, and I don’t think that it’s by any means a bad operating system. However as I feel that the Metro UI just gets in the way, I would much prefer to stick with Windows 7, or use Ubuntu which is a OS I have been getting into in the last few months.

Please give your opinions below, be kind!



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