The recently launched Windows 8 – dubbed the Metro-is literally bristling with new features: over 300 of them at last count. And going by the current trend, it’s highly likely that more new features will be added to the latest offering from the Microsoft stable. It would not be possible to list all the new features unless you were writing a book on the operating system, but this list of the top 10 new features of Windows 8 takes the pick of the lot and describes their functionality. Although this is not a ranking, it’s fairly indicative of the direction in which the new OS is heading: a feisty challenger to both iOS and Android. Here goes.
One OS for All Devices
So far, all versions of Windows operating systems were different for PCs, laptops and touch screen devices. However, with Windows 8, Microsoft has created a device independent system that runs on both ARM-based tablets and traditional x86 PCs that operate Intel- or AMD-made ARM processors. Microsoft claims that the new OS will function seamlessly on almost all modern devices, with an “always on, always connected“ feature that enables tablets to function like smartphones, allowing them to stay connected to the internet in “sleep” mode when not in use, and to become instantly connected when triggered. However, Windows 8 app developers are yet to bring out any worthwhile apps for the new OS. This might put off some Windows aficionados, but although brand loyalists will fret and fume, they’ll dig only Windows. Old habits die hard.
Backward Compatibility with Windows 7
The new “Tile” approach for the Windows Phone UI looks highly sleek and impressive, and is functionally very usable, but underneath it’s only a slightly souped up version of our old Windows 7 with a new UI layer on top. This UI allows you to view information from various apps without having to actually open the apps: nothing cutting edge there. This way, you can get to see the latest mail on your screen without actually opening your inbox! What’s more interesting is that this feature is backwardly compatible, allowing users to access Windows 7 apps by simply changing interfaces.
Two Touch Keyboards
Great, you now don’t have to be a typing wizard to work with all those virtual keypads – Windows 8 provides two virtual keypads. One is the regular keyboard – but new, improved. However, just in case the rest of your fingers are not agile enough, you can now twiddle your thumbs on Windows 8’s new “thumbs” keypad. The keypads provide spelling suggestions as you type, along with a regular spell checker feature. What’s more, the keyboards automatically switch to the language you’ve set for Windows itself, although this means you’ll have to operate only that particular language for all apps. That could be a little cramping – if it means that once you set English as the Windows system language, you’ll have to change Windows settings once again to be able to send out an email in another language, and then change all over once again to go back to English.
Double Monitor Support
Now, if you’re into gaming or graphics and really need more than one monitor, this one’s a winner. In Windows 8, you can stretch your taskbar and wallpaper across two PCs without having to access any special apps. You can also switch between the monitors by simply tapping on the monitor, making either one primary and the other, secondary. It’s still not really clear if true multiple monitor support – as in more than two monitors – is available.
Multitasking in a Snap
Multitasking in a Windows Phone is not the same as in, well, a PC or a laptop. All it says is, you can now run two apps simultaneously in Windows 8, and use Snap Multitasking to customize their look, although you cannot see both running apps at the same time. Switching between the two apps is easy: just swipe from the left side of the screen. But all that may be unnecessary, as information from the apps is anyways displayed without you having to actually run the apps.
Control Panel Revamped
The new Windows 8 Control Panel has been put through the drawing board as well, with new features added, such as General, Notifications, Personalize, Privacy, Search, Share, Users and Wireless. As the list of apps for Windows 8 grows – logic says it should, you can use these functions to customize your Start menu and other functions.
Single Dialog Copying
While other things seem to be coming in twos – double monitor support, double app running, double keyboards – copying in Windows 8 has been reduced to a single dialog. Now, you can perform all copy functions from one dialog box. Multiple simultaneous copying is also possible, with a new graphical counter indicating the rate of transfer and other similar information for each copy operation. Useful, considering these features have been available on much smaller third party apps such as Bittorrent since a long time!
Just like the ribbon in Windows 7, Charms is a reinvention of the traditional Windows Start menu, with only a more or less cosmetic change in appearance and functionality. Charms are accessed by swiping from the right side of the screen. Features include Start, Search, Share, Devices, and Settings: each feature is named after its function. Start takes you to the main menu; Search lets you, well, search for files, folders and other things; Share lets you get hold of your social networking apps such as FB, among other things; and Devices, as the name suggests, lets you handled all connected devices such as the second monitor, printers etc. So you see, it’s all just old wine in a new bottle.
Touching the Web
Windows 8 is bundled along with Internet Explorer 10, which is touted to be a whole lot faster than other browsers, thanks to much higher hardware acceleration. It also features highly sensitive gesture-based zoom and panning features. Navigation is also more intuitive.
Migration to USB 3.0
With more and more devices adopting USB 3.0 ports, which are exponentially faster than USB 2.0, Windows 8 ships with their own USB 3.0 drivers. Microsoft claims that by 2015, USB 3.0 porting will become global, and predicts sales of over 2 billion new “SuperSpeed” USB devices that year, even while maintaining compatibility with earlier USB devices.
As you can see, the new features and their design in Windows 8 are really new, but the functionality is quite similar to previous editions. But still, you’ll be that much more comfortable with Windows 8, now that you are conversant with the top 10 new features of Windows 8!