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A deep dive into Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Preston Gralla | March 6, 2012
Windows 8 Consumer Preview offers a new look at Microsoft's upcoming interface for both computers and tablets. Is one device being shortchanged in favor of the other?

To see all your apps, you right-click on the Start screen and click the "All apps" icon that appears at the bottom of the screen.Click to view larger image

Pity the poor Desktop

It's not just that Microsoft has ignored the Desktop; it has also made it less functional than it was in previous versions of Windows. When you click the Desktop tile on the Metro Start screen, you're sent to what is essentially the old Windows Desktop, including the taskbar at the bottom, icons for launching programs, and so on. It looks and works like the Desktop you've grown used to over the years, with a few minor changes.

The biggest change, and possibly the worst one, is that the Desktop no longer has the Start button -- which feels to me like a step back. In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, the Start button was a paragon of simplicity, packing many useful features into a small amount of real estate. You could click it to launch recently run programs and the programs you most commonly run, to search your computer and the Internet, to open documents you'd recently used, to run the Control Panel, and to see a menu of all the programs on your computer, among other tasks. Taking away the Start button makes the Desktop less useful than it was in Windows Vista and Windows 7.

When you click the Desktop tile on the Metro Start screen, you're sent to what is essentially the old Windows Desktop.Click to view larger image

The Quick Launch bar has also been eliminated. In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, that bar made it easy to quickly launch the applications you most commonly use. In Windows 8, you can no longer do that, because the bar is gone.

Because the Start button has been killed, so has its search box, and that's a loss. To do a search, you now have to move your mouse to the upper right or lower right portion of the screen, and select the Search charm.

And the search you can perform simply isn't as good as the older version. In Windows Vista and Windows 7, the search displayed multiple results in a small, easy-to-scan list, and let you quickly switch between searching your computer and the Internet. Not so with the Search charm -- it drops you into a Metro interface in which each result takes up more real estate. The new Search charm does let you more easily narrow your search -- still, Microsoft should have kept the old Desktop search, to give you a choice of different search methods.

The Desktop also isn't integrated well with Metro. Inside Metro apps, for example, the Settings charm is context sensitive -- those settings are specific to the app you're running. But inside the Desktop, the charm isn't, and doesn't relate to the app itself. Rather, it relates to the Desktop.


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