Like many other people I download the Windows 8 Developer Preview today and installed it on one of my machines, so like many others I thought I would write about my first impressions. The machine I installed it on was a Core 2 Due with 2GB of RAM and I installed the 32bit version.
So lets start off with the install experience, I did a clean install from a Windows 7 machine, Windows 8 asked a couple of questions and confirmed that I was going to wipe the machine and off it went. About 20 minutes later Windows 8 was up and running, I logged in using my Windows Live ID and I was soon up and running. The install experience of Windows 7 is very good and Windows 8 is as good.
Using a Live ID means you can sync settings between Windows 8 machines, colours, themes, Apps, browser data and Homegroup settings can all be maintained across devices.
The first thing you notice is the new lock screen complete with notifications, it looks a lot better than the old Windows 7 lock screen.
The new start screen is certainly different from previous versions of Windows and looks very much like Windows Phone. The tiles are not just shortcuts some are active and update showing there status. For example the built in RSS reader displays items from a RSS feed, the weather app displays the weather and the facebook app has pictures from your feed.
There are a selection of apps preinstalled some are games other examples of what can be done with the new UI. The Twitter app Tweet@rama is a great example of the new style of apps, it looks great and is the default Twitter client for Windows 8 (but doesn’t seem to automatically refresh automatically)
Once your in an application the first question is how do I switch to another program? There is no start button, so you have to place the mouse off the bottom left of the screen and then the Start menu pops up, you soon get used to it but I can imaging it confusing new users at first.
Clicking Start takes you back to the metro start page, Search takes you to a new search screen where you can search for files, settings and Apps. I found this was the only way to launch programs like the Sniping tool as there is no traditional start menu.
Internet Explorer looks very much like the Windows Phone style IE with a full screen interface, no browser chrome at all. When you right click you get the address bar and the IE tabs. You can pin web pages to the Start screen which would be great but if you pin a page and then click on the shortcut again it creates a new tab rather than switching back to the existing one. I am sure these will be things Microsoft can iron out between now and the release version.
These is also a new version of Control Panel which looks great and has most of the setting you would need, with a link to the traditional Control Panel for additional settings.
This is where the UI situation can get messy, so far you have been in the wrapped up on the nice lovely Metro style UI and then you click on More Settings and your put back in the traditional Windows 7 UI, complete with taskbar and shortcuts and is really jarring going from the Metro UI. If you were a touch user going from the Metro UI back to the old style UI is not great, you are back to the Windows 7 style of tiny buttons. Click on the Start Button takes you back to the Metro UI
Once your in the old style desktop you can see some of the changes made by Microsoft, there is the new ribbon toolbar in explorer, a new Task Manager which is much better than the old one.
Sharing is also built into Windows 8, you can share via Twitter or Facebook using the built in apps. In IE links are shared and other apps can share a screenshot.
As far as media features go there is nothing to report. Windows Media Center is not included in these builds with just the current version of Windows Media Player is included, but there are no new style media apps.
This is just my first impressions and I have to say the new UI looks great, it really does bring Windows to life, but where the old style UI is used it doesn’t fit very well in the new style of Windows, however tis is just a developer preview so am I sure things will improve with the later builds. The complete absence of media apps makes me thing something new is on the way and we will have to wait for later builds to find out.
You can try Windows 8 for yourself at dev.windows.com