I originally started this post when I had the Windows 8 preview setup on VirtualBox image. I have since put the RTM bits on a Dell E6530 that is my new work laptop. It isn’t a tablet so I am not getting the touch experience, but as a developer this makes the most sense for the moment.
This is the first Windows OS that I have had to spend much time exploring to even get started. The first thing I ran into was when I clicked on the desktop icon - I was lost. Where is the Start menu? Where are my programs? How do I get back to the Metro environment? I finally tried hitting the Windows button and it popped back out to the Metro screen.
Once I got past that I found that the look of the Metro interface is clean and well organized. It should be familiar to anyone who is already using a Zune or Windows Phone 7. In the Desktop, aside from the lack of the Start button to bring up programs the desktop is just like the Windows 7 environment we are all used to. I do have to say though that I don’t like popping out to the Metro screen to find program. I think installers for programs like ones that developers usually work in for a desktop mode will need to give an option for creating a desktop icon and pinning to the task bar of the desktop.
One of the things I do really enjoy is having live tiles in the Metro environment. It is a nice way of feeding my need for constant information. The one drawback though is that the task bar at the bottom of my screen used to be where I got this information without leaving what I was working on. It allowed me to see current temperatures and when there were messages waiting. I have since found that these still work as expected in the Desktop and Toast message keep you up on what is going on in the Metro apps.
Thankfully familiar functionality like Alt-Tab and Windows-Tab still work regardless of if apps are in the Metro or the Desktop environment. Add to this the ability to find any application on the Metro screen by simply typing and things get very comfortable.
I also started exploring some of the apps. If you want see a ton of stats on your team at a glance check out the Sports app. What games are coming up? Who are the leaders in a number of stats? The Weather and Finance apps have good features as well and I am sure they will improve as users supply feedback.
I have had to install Visual Studio 2010 side-by-side with VS2012 because the Windows Phone 7 SDK would only install on VS2010. This isn’t a Windows 8 issue per se, but something that you need to be aware of if you are a developer moving to the new ecosystem.
The overall experience is a joy despite a few hiccups. For anyone moving to Windows 8 in on a non-touch laptop or desktop I do suggest this list of keyboard shortcuts. Enjoy.