First Impressions of Windows 8

Windows 8A few days ago, I went ahead and installed the Consumer Preview of Windows 8. To say I’m impressed would be understating things a bit. As a Windows Phone 7 user for the last 16 or 17 months, I have become extremely familiar with the metro UI, and am overjoyed to see it coming to the desktop. The whole experience so far has actually inspired me to seriously consider buying a new touch-enabled PC (my current PC is over 5 years old at this point, so it’s probably time to update anyway).

What’s Right About Windows 8?

The new interface is inspired. It’s unique, and it’s easy to use. If you’re a long-time PC user, Windows 8 will require you to entirely rethink how you use your computer; but in a good way. No longer do you have a “Desktop” (well, you do, but it’s an app within Windows 8). Instead, you have a screen full of tiles that you click or tap to open applications. All of your applications (with the exception of apps that have to run inside of the Desktop app) open fullscreen with no chrome around them. Each native app has 3 different formats: Full screen; minimal snapped; and maximum snapped.

When an app is full screen, it takes up the entire screen (duh!). Nothing else appears on the screen at all. You can bring up context menus for various actions by right-clicking (I’m not sure what the multitouch gesture is). You can then “snap” an app to the left or right of your screen. When an app is first “snapped”, it appears in a minimal state. It only takes up about a quarter of your screen’s width, leaving the other three-quarters available for another app. Then, you can open a second app to show up in the larger portion of your screen.

Want to keep an eye on the weather while surfing the Web? Snap your weather app to the left or right, and open IE in the rest of your screen. Want to keep your email visible while you’re playing PinballFX? Snap the Mail app to your screen and open up the game you want to play. If you get an important email while you’re in the middle of your game, you can either handle the email message in it’s minimal state, or you can double click the divider bar to maximize the Mail app (snapping your other active app to the other side of your screen).

Some Handy Windows Keyboard Shortcuts

The other day on Friendfeed, I noticed Matt Mastracci posted a link to an article explaining how and why additional keys were added to and removed from Mac (and PC) keyboards. It is an interesting read, but I found something even more interesting to me in the comments at the end of the article.

One commenter posted a handful of keyboard shortcuts you can use in Windows. Before reading the comment, I always thought that the “Windows” key on my keyboards did nothing more than open and close the “Start” menu (as did the author of the article, it seems). The commenter, however, pointed out that it also can be used to perform some pretty handy actions in Windows (I have only tested them on Windows 7, so I can’t comment as to how far back they are compatible with Windows or whether or not they are compatible with Linux in any way).

Following are the shortcuts he pointed out:

How The Scroll Wheel Should Work in Windows

I spend about half of my time on the computer working in Linux and the other half of my time working in Windows. As such, I have picked up a few habits about the way I have my computer set up and the way I use my computer. One of the great features of Linux (also present on Macs, apparently) is the way the scroll wheel on the mouse works. I would love to see this functionality added to Windows.

Within Windows, if you have a window focused and you use the scroll wheel, that action is going to have a single action attached to it. It will almost always (except for a select few programs) scroll the window frame up and down. If you are working within Outlook, whichever frame of the window you are focused in will scroll up and down, no matter where the mouse pointer is located on the screen. That’s all the scroll wheel will do.

Intuit Updates Quickbooks Online

Quickbooks Online still not available for LinuxIntuit has finally updated the Quickbooks Online application that many companies use to track employees’ time. For many, many years, Quickbooks Online has been exclusively available to Internet Explorer users. As of this week, a new version is available that works in Mozilla Firefox on Windows and Safari on Mac. Unfortunately, Intuit automatically redirects to a message explaining that your browser and/or operating system are incompatible with the application if you try to use Chrome, Opera or Safari on Windows or if you try to use any browser on Linux (haven’t tested on Mac, but I’m assuming that it’s the same story if you try to use anything but Safari over there).

There is also a new version of the site that’s compatible with iPhone and Blackberry devices. Oddly, though, you actually have to navigate to the mobile version of the site, rather than Intuit automatically redirecting you. Also, there still seem to be a few bugs in the mobile version, as it keeps telling me that I “don’t have access rights for this company.”

What can possibly be available in Firefox on Windows and Safari on Mac that’s not also available in Chrome or Opera on Windows or any of the browsers in Linux? I’m assuming that they’re loading and utilizing the .NET framework in Firefox on Windows, but I can’t say for sure. If you have any insight into this matter, please share it with me.

Windows 7 Nearly Free For Students

Microsoft announced today that they will be selling Windows 7 Home Premium to students within the U.S. for a mere $29 (75% off the normal price). If any of you are thinking that price sounds familiar, you’re absolutely right. That’s the same price at which Apple is selling upgrades to the new Snow Leopard operating system. There are some major differences between Apple’s offer and Microsoft’s.

Apple Releases Snow Leopard

The latest version of Apple’s operating system will be available in two days (Aug. 28, 2009) and an upgrade can be purchased for $29. The full version runs only $49, which is still less than even the most simple commercial applications you would normally purchase. Of course, in order to use OSX Snow Leopard, you have to have an Intel Mac, so you’ve most likely already paid considerably more than you should have for your hardware. Therefore, the low price of the operating system probably still doesn’t offset the hardware costs.

I have to admit that I’m a little confused about why they are even offering a full version of the operating system. Are there really people out there that own Intel Macs without the Macintosh operating system already installed? I suppose there’s a remote possibility that people are still running Tiger rather than Leopard, but with Snow Leopard not supporting old PowerPC Macs, I suspect the possibility is rather remote.

Wired has posted a list of six important tips that people will need to know before upgrading to the new OS. I find the list very interesting, considering the warnings included in the post are very similar to the major complaints people have had about both Windows Vista and Windows 7.

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