All change for Windows 8

First there was XP (OK…there were others before XP but who remembers anything pre-XP?), then came Vista, then the return to XP – under the guise of a new coat of paint and a new name (Windows 7)… but now… …now comes something ground breaking, something genuinely NEW!

For those who dare!

So far, Windows 8 is only available as a ‘Consumer Preview‘ (which pretty much translates to ‘we dare you to download it!’). After which comes the ‘Release Candidate’ (which, again, comes with no guarantees it won’t have about the same effect on your computer as would emptying an entire can of Coca Cola on the keyboard). Still, if anything is going to shake up the world of translation this year, it’s probably this. Why? Well, partly because it’s just so darn different, and partly because it works on both desktop computers AND tablets!

For desktops AND tablets

Windows 8 is designed as an OS to be used on both desktop computers AND tablets. This is pretty forward thinking, and sounds rather pleasing – but because of this, there is, unfortunately, going to be a relatively big learning curve in getting used to it. For example, no longer will your desktop be the first screen you see upon startup. Instead, you’ll be confronted with a new ‘Start Screen’, which frames a bunch of brightly coloured rectangles that represent, by and large, something entirely new: ‘Metro Apps’. If you’re on a tablet, you’ll probably be thinking ‘Sweet! Apps!’. If, however, you’re on a desktop machine, you’ll probably be tinking something more along the lines of ‘Oh, no, my computer thinks it’s a tablet!’.

Metro Apps

‘Metro Apps’ are, as you may have gathered already, apps – or applications. Pretty straightforward then: click/tap on one and it’ll open to fill your screen with, say, the weather (or whatever the app you clicked/tapped on is meant to show you). Easy. What isn’t so immediately intuitive however, is how to get back to the ‘Start Screen’. And here comes another ‘new’: moving your pointer/finger into the lower left-hand corner of the screen brings up a lovely little rectangular window that, when clicked/tapped, takes you right back to the aforementioned ‘Start Screen’.

Where has my desktop gone?

Right, ‘Metro Apps’ are all well and rosy, but, if you’re on a desktop machine you’ll no doubt be starting to wonder ‘Where has my desktop gone?!’ Fear not, because the safety and security of said familiar screen (albeit with one or two major differences – more on this in a minute) can be realized by choosing the lower-left-hand rectangular box (the one with the little blue-and-orange fish in it) on the ‘Start Screen’.

The good ol’ desktop – well, sort of…

The familiar desktop screen! Relief. All is well again. Great! Except… something that used to be very important has disappeared: namely, the Start Button that used to occupy the bottom-left of the screen and bring up the oh-so-familiar Start Menu. So, on to the next question: ‘if the Start Button is no more, then how do I navigate through all this newness?’

Navigating Windows 8 – without the Start Button

We’ve already mentioned that moving your finger/pointer into the lower left-hand corner brings up a little rectangular window that, when clicked/tapped on, takes you back to the new ‘Start Screen’; what we haven’t yet mentioned, is that there are two NEW menus from which to navigate – one of which can be accessed by right-clicking from inside an application: an act that will bring up a sleek-looking menu from, usually, either the bottom of the screen OR from both the top AND bottom of the screen. This menu, referred to as the ‘App Bar’, is application-specific, so it’s a bit difficult to tell you what it contains… suffice it to say that it will contain menu items specific to the particular app you are currently using. The other of these two new menus can be accessed by EITHER moving your pointer into the upper right-hand corner and moving downwards OR by moving your pointer into the lower right-hand corner and moving upwards (or by simply swiping in from the right if you’re on a tablet), and contains another new Windows-8 concept: ‘Charms’.

Charms

There are five ‘Charms’ in this right-hand pop-out menu: ‘Search’, ‘Share’, ‘Start’ (which takes you back to the ‘Start Screen’), ‘Devices’ and ‘Settings’. However, nobody likes to read blog posts as long as this one, so we’ll finish this little introduction about here and leave you to find out all about the charms of Windows 8 on your own.

Just scratching (swiping?) the surface

There is obviously a LOT more to Windows 8 (like ‘Hot Keys’ and the ‘Windows Store’: to name but two) than the few things we’ve touched upon here – and this is, of course, only the ‘Consumer Preview’ (with the finished product not due out until quite a bit later this year). Excited to get your hands on Windows 8 yet? You should be! !  !

So, will Windows 8 be a huge hit or a Vista-like flop? Are you dreading another OS change or looking forward to something altogether NEW?