Peek at Windows 8
PerformanceOne of the issues that's been on our minds since they previewed this new interface was whether this will keep bogging Windows down with more running processes, and whether running a full Windows desktop on a low-powered tablet was really a good idea (after all, we've seen Windows run on netbooks).
The Lock ScreenWindows 8's lock screen is pretty much what you'd expect: it's got a beautiful picture along with a few little widgets full of information, like the time, how many emails you have, and so on. However, after swiping to unlock, Windows 8 shows off some pretty neat touch-based features, particularly a "picture password" feature. Instead of using a PIN or a lock pattern to get into your system, you swipe invisible gestures using a picture to orient yourself (in the example they showed, the password was to tap on a persons nose and swipe left across their arm). Android modders might find this similar to CyanogenMod's lock screen gestures.
The Home ScreenThe home screen is very familiar to anyone who's used Windows Phone 7. You've got a set of tiles, each of which represents an application, and many of which show information and notifications that correspond to the app. For example, your email tile will tell you how many unread emails you have (and who they're from), your calendar tile will show upcoming events, your music tile will show you what's playing, and so on. You can also create tiles for games, contacts, and even traditional Windows apps that will pull you into the Windows desktop. The tablet-optimized apps are all full screen and "immersive", though, and you can rearrange their icons on the home screen easily (just as you would on any other tablet platform).
Running AppsRunning a basic app works as you expect—you tap on its home screen icon and it goes full screen. The browser has lots of touch-based controls, like pinch to zoom and copy and paste, and apps can also share information one another easily. To do so, you just need to select text in the browser or choose a photo in their cloud-based photo app and hit the "Share" button—you'll then be able to pick an app to which you want to send that text or picture, and work with it from there. For example, you can share photos to Facebook, send text from a web page in an email, and so on.
The App StoreThe Windows App Store looks much like the home screen, with tiles that correspond to different categories and featured apps. From there, you can look at a more detailed list of the available apps in a given section. And, the store contains not only touch-based apps for the tablet interface, but some of the more traditional desktop Windows apps you're used to, so you have one portal to discover all your Windows apps no matter what interface you're using.
Windows Live's Cloud SyncingWindows Live is taking center stage as the backend for all of Windows 8's cloud syncing abilities. Your address book, photos, SkyDrive data, and even data within third-party apps can sync up to the cloud with Windows Live. The address book also syncs with other services like Facebook and Twitter as well. You can even sync all of your settings from one Windows 8 PC to another. Just sign onto your Windows 8 with a Windows Live ID and you'll get all your themes, languages, app settings, taskbar, and other preferences will show right up. It's a pretty neat feature if you have multiple Windows 8 PCs and don't want to set them all up separately—just a few taps and you've got all your preferences ready to go.
A New Task ManagerMicrosoft's finally redesigned the task manager, and it looks pretty great. You have a very simple task manager for basic task killing, but if you're a more advanced user, you can bring up the detailed task manager filled with information on CPU and RAM usage, Metro app history, and even startup tweaking—so you can get rid of apps that launch on startup without going all the way into
Windows ExplorerThey didn't show us a super in-depth look at the new Windows Explorer, but we did get a little peek. Most of it isn't new information: we'll have native ISO mounting in Windows Explorer, a new Office-style ribbon, and a one folder up button like the old days of XP (thank God). It also has a really cool "quick access" toolbar in the left-hand corner of the title bar, that gives you super quick access to your favorite buttons from the ribbon.
Other FeaturesAlong with these cool features, Windows 8 also comes with other features we've come to know and love in our mobile OSes. It's got system-wide spellchecking, so you don't have to rely on a specific app to keep your writing top-notch, as well as a system-wide search feature, that lets you search anything from your music library to your contacts to the web itself. It also has a really cool feature for desktop users that lets your run the Metro UI on one monitor while running the traditional desktop on the other.
You can contact Whitson Gordon, the author of this post, at email@example.com.