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Post-XPalypse: Surviving a world changed by Windows 8.1 features

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Sorting fact from fiction about Windows 8 features

Some people are confused about Windows 8 features such as Windows 8's interface and usability. Our expert looks for the cold, hard Windows 8 facts.

What are the biggest myths about Windows 8?

There are quite a few in circulation, but I'll run down some of the biggest here.

Windows 8 is nothing but a new skin for Windows 7

False. Yes, Windows 8 does have a revamped user interface (UI), which has drawn a lot of attention. There has been a whole slew of other changes under the hood, such as faster boot time and more efficient use of memory. Windows 8 actually uses less memory on the same system than Windows 7 did.

Windows 8 features include power-saving Connected Standby, many kernel-level improvements and Windows To Go, which allows a licensed copy of Windows 8 to be booted from a flash drive and run on any machine. Microsoft Windows 8 also has integration of Hyper-V. Users may not be aware of many of these features, but it's not fair to say that they don't exist or have no utility at all.

Microsoft will bring back the old Start Menu once they find out how unpopular the new one is

Microsoft felt it had a good case for replacing the Start menu with its new full-screen incarnation: User telemetry showed that the Start menu was being used less and less, and it used legacy software hooks that were holding back development in other areas.

Rather than completely go back to the old Start button, Microsoft is likely to look at the way people are trying to use the system now and make compromises that allow both old-school and newly minted Windows users to feel comfortable. Some of the changes vaunted in Windows 8.1 are moving in that direction.  It's expected to more elegantly handle multiple Modern UI apps on the screen at once.

More on this topic

It's impossible to find anything in Windows 8

Partly true. The revamped Windows 8 interface is confusing to a lot of people, but one thing that can help cut through the clutter is "type to search." If you're at the Start menu and you begin typing, you'll see a set of contextual menus on the right side of the screen. Type "backup," for instance, select Settings, and you'll see options for backing up and restoring files. Again, some of the changes planned for Windows Blue revolve around making Search (and the system as a whole) a little easier to navigate.

You need a touchscreen to do anything in Windows 8

False. Every major action that can be accomplished through touch can also be accomplished with a keystroke or a mouse gesture. My favorite is using Windows+Q to open the Search box from any screen.

You can't ever close Modern UI apps

False. Windows 8 Modern (formerly known as Metro) UI apps can be closed with Alt+F4, same as regular windowed apps, and they can also be closed from the Task Manager.

Microsoft is preparing to kill the desktop or make it impossible for us to download apps from anywhere except the Windows Store

Also demonstrably false. Many pieces of functionality that used to reside only on the desktop are indeed being recreated in the Modern UI, like some aspects of the Control Panel. But there's no sign that the desktop itself is being gutted or removed from Windows 8 features. There's not much more chance of that happening than there was of Microsoft ditching the command line when Windows itself appeared.

This was last published in July 2013



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Essential Guide

Post-XPalypse: Surviving a world changed by Windows 8.1 features

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