Windows 8: Finally Made the Leap

11 Nov 2012
November 11, 2012

WindowsI have been messing around with Windows 8 since early this year. Never real seriously, but enough to keep an eye on it and play a bit. Last month I installed an evaluation version of my laptop (the VHD method) and exercised it a bit more. Enough to get to the point where I wanted to spend more time with it. However, since that was the eval version I didn’t really want to spend the time getting it all configured and then lose it after 6 months.

So this weekend I made the leap and and installed a non-eval version on my work laptop. I’m still using the VHD method (Scott Hanselman has a great walkthrough that I followed (but I skipped his boot from USB steps since I had a DVD…)). I then set it up with all of my work applications and have been in it ever since. Should I determine that I love it I will make a system image, then re-deploy it to my “real” hard drive to get a little boost by moving away from the VHD method.

The modern UI (formerly known as “metro”) take some getting used to, but if you’re more of a typer than a clicker you’re not going to have any issues. With Windows 7 I’ve always been in the habit of hitting the Windows Key (Winkey) and starting to type to find programs. That works great with Windows 8. However, if you always drag the mouse over to the start button, *click* and then scroll through all the programs you may find this a bit different… perhaps better though once you get the hang of customizing your Start page. Or perhaps your cheese has been moved too far. I’ll let you decide…

For me? I’m digging it. So far I have had no issues getting all setup with my normal work apps and configurations.

What follows are some stream of consciousness observations, tips and discoveries from the past two days. Maybe something in there will be found helpful to someone.

When in doubt, right-click. In all of the Modern UI apps that right-click will usually expose some options at the bottom (or bottom/top) of the screen. When lost hit the Windows key to bounce back to the Start screen. Hit Winkey again to bounce back to where you were. Or use Winkey-Tab to cycle through a list of open apps. If you’re in a Modern UI app you can just bump the mouse against the left side of the screen to get the list of running apps.  Bump the mouse against the right side of the screen to find Application Settings.

Winkey-X gets you a handy little stripped down start menu in the bottom left of the screen. Get the full start menu by hitting the Winkey or moving the mouse into the bottom left corner.

Windows in a windowSpeaking of the Start button: I don’t mind having it gone. I rarely clicked it anyways (hit the windows key instead). For mouse usage, bumping the bottom left of the screen is easy enough. When it truly sucks is when you are using non-fullscreen remote desktop to another Win 8 or Server 2012 system. Windows key won’t work (it goes to your own PC) and you have to be darned precise to hit that corner in the windowed session. I’ll have to find a bitter shortcut for that scenario.

Internet Explorer 10 seems to be a dramatic upgrade over previous versions. I have not used a stop watch but it sure feels faster and more responsive. The Modern UI full screen version is pretty sweet as well. However, you lose that option once you make another browser the default. Then IE only works in Desktop (windowed) mode. I believe Chrome and Firefox will have “real” versions of Modern UI interface soon but neither are there yet (without add-ons or beta testing).

Integrated Sky Drive is pretty slick. I had to do a little shuffling to get all my Sky Drive stuff from a personal account to one associated with my work account so that my login ID matched my Sky Drive ID. Never did figure out how to point the Modern UI version of Sky Drive to an account that isn’t your login account. You have the modern UI version installed automatically, but until you fetch and install the full Sky Drive app you don’t have the full Explorer integration — like having Sky Drive show up in Save As dialogs and Windows Explorer.

Office 2010 installs and runs well. No integration with the Modern UI though (and I’m sure that’s all fixed in the 2013 beta version that I haven’t seen yet). I naively hoped for at least an indicator of unread e-mail on the Outlook icon on the Start screen but no such luck. Also, be warned that Outlook new mail notifications don’t seem to make any noise when you’re in “Modern UI” applications. That may be disturbing. On a plus note, the built-in Win8 Calendar app integrates nicely with our Exchange server — and seems to pull in my linked SharePoint calendars as well.

My old pal “System Image” utility is still there, just have to dig it out since the new “File History” feature has replaced Windows 7’s backup utility. File History itself looks pretty slick as a backup tool. Choose the directories you care about and give it a backup destination (presumably a different drive?) and you have a continuous backup going. Something I should look at someday.

Windows 7 File RecoveryWant the old backup — and, more importantly (to me) — and the old System Image utility? I don’t know how to get there directly, but if you go to Control Panel and then use Control Panel’s search field for “File Recovery” you’ll get the “Windows 7 File Recovery” utility. System Image is an option on left.

[edit: OK, to get there directly change your Control Panel view to small or large icons and you'll see it in the list]

The People app (Modern U) is an interesting way to have a list of all your social media folks — I have mine integrated with Facebook, one Twitter account, LinkedIn and Google. It merges them — to some extent — and when you click on a contact you see their recent activity on their various networks.

There’s also a cool little “What’s New” activity stream in there that I find more interesting. Wonder if there’s a way to make that a few clicks closer to the start screen? People has a live tile display in the Start screen but it just shows contact pictures. Would be cool if it could also show activity… or maybe I just haven’t figured that out yet. That stream is pretty slick — worth exploring if you’re participating in any of the social media sites.

OneNote in the Windows StoreWindows Store? I don’t know much about it yet. I managed to do a complete setup of my work laptop without visiting the store yet… so it must not be all that mandatory at this point. That being said, looks like some of my “built-in” apps are listed in the store. And going to the store while writing this article was when I discovered I had a bunch of pending updates for those apps! So… that’s what the little number on the Store tile means… Duly noted.

Windows Essentials and, more importantly to me, Windows Live Writer aren’t in the Microsoft Store.

While in the store I checked out the “Top Free” apps list (yeah, I’m a tightwad…). Imagine my surprise to find a free version of OneNote in there!

I already have OneNote 2010 installed but I’ll be checking this out soon. Is it a limited version or a Modern UI integration or …? I’m a huge OneNote user so this might be cool. A very quick look, shows me that the ribbon is gone and a new radial menu has been added. But I can’t turn off author display from the radial menu. Hmmph. Maybe this isn’t quite finished yet.

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