The Release Preview of Windows 8 , complete with a new tablet interface and some enhancements to the conventional mouse and keyboard desktop.
HERE’S WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE:
This is everything Microsoft talked about in their preliminary proclamation of Windows 8, but if you want a more exhaustively look at what's new, check out our test drive of the Metro UI, the desktop, Windows Explorer, and the revamped Task Manager, plus our video walkthrough of the Consumer Preview Below.
Microsoft's re-imagining of Windows 8 is listening carefully very heavily on a new, Metro-style touch-based interface. However, they make a big deal of saying that it's just as usable with a mouse and keyboard and no matter what device you're on, you can switch between the simple Metro interface and the habitual Windows desktop to fit whatever your needs are at that given moment.
One of the issues that's been on our minds since they previewed this new interface was whether this will keep bogging Windows down with more running processes, and whether running a full Windows desktop on a low-powered tablet was really a good idea.
THE LOCK SCREEN:
It's got a beautiful picture along with a few little widgets full of information, like the time, how many emails you have, and so on. However, after swiping to unlock, Windows 8 shows off some pretty painstaking touch based features, particularly a "picture password" feature. Instead of using a PIN or a lock pattern to get into your system, you swipe invisible gestures using a picture to orient yourself. Android molders might find this similar to Cyanogens Mod's lock screen gestures.
The Home Screen:
The home screen is very familiar to anyone who's used Windows Phone. You've got a set of tiles, each of which represents an application, and many of which show information and notifications that communicate to the app. For example, your email tile will tell you how many unread emails you have, your calendar tile will show upcoming events, your music tile will show you what's playing, and so on.
THE WINDOWS STORE:
The Windows Store, which is now available in the Consumer Preview, looks much like the home screen, with tiles that exchange letters to different categories and featured apps. From there, you can look at a more detailed list of the available apps in a given section.
A NEW TASK MANAGER:
Microsoft's finally redesigned the task manager, and it looks pretty great. You have a very simple task manager for basic task killing, but if you're a more advanced user, you can bring up the detailed task manager filled with information on CPU and RAM usage, Metro app history, and even startup tweaking so you can get rid of apps that launch on startup without going all the way into msconfig.
They didn't show us a super comprehensively look at the new Windows Explorer, but we did get a little peek. Most of it isn't new information, we'll have native ISO mounting in Windows Explorer, a new Office-style ribbon, and a one folder up button like the old days of XP (thank God). It also has a really cool "quick access" toolbar in the left-hand corner of the title bar, that gives you super quick access to your favorite buttons from the ribbon.
Along with these cool features, Windows 8 also comes with other features we've come to know and love in our mobile OSes. It's got system-wide spellchecking, so you don't have to rely on a unambiguous app to keep your writing top-notch, as well as a system-wide search feature, that lets you search anything from your music library to your contacts to the web itself. It also has a really cool feature for desktop users that lets your run the Metro UI on one monitor while running the traditional desktop on the other.
This is still just a small preview of what you'll find in Windows 8. If you want to see more try it out. There's a lot more to be found and played with, so if you find something particularly neat, share it with us in the comments!