Windows 8 is coming! At first glance, it seems like only a newer, shinier interface for Windows…and it is in many ways. But there are some significant changes under the hood that I think make a good case for an upgrade. (If $15 or $40 for an upgrade isn’t a good enough reason.)
1) Rock the casbah…taskbar
The first item on my list is the taskbar. It can now be displayed on all monitors in a multi-monitor setup. At first, I was sceptical about the utility of this feature, but after a while it really grew on me. There are several different configurations to suit your needs. My favorite setting is that the program shows on the taskbar of the monitor it is on. This means that I don’t have to hunt as much for small programs anymore across two or more monitors. This narrows my visual searching down to one monitor and gets me to my work all the faster.
2) Start Menu – Start Button = Start Screen
Probably the biggest change to get used to is the Start Button…or actually, the lack there of. At first I wondered why this staple of Microsoft Windows was taken away, but after using 8 for a couple weeks I actually didn’t miss it because either it was never used (like me by hitting the Windows key on the keyboard) or the mouse jockeys who throw the cursor into the corner, click and hope they haven’t gone too far into the corner. For this second group, the new “Start Button” hotspot actually makes some sense. Now precise aim isn’t needed, simply throwing the cursor into the lower left corner does the trick, plus it saves so much screen space and leaves more room for programs in the Taskbar.
The Start Menu is now the Start Screen and like the Button has been changed radically. No more “All Programs”, just a screen of tiles for Metro apps and installed applications. Like the Button, at first it’s weird and strange but grows on you. The tiles can be rearranged at whim.
Though, I hardly ever use the Start Menu except to start typing right away and searching for a program or file. This feature is still there, but not readily visible. To use it, just bring up the Start Screen and start typing. For the mouse jockeys, this can be brought up by using the lower right corner hotspot and click on the Search icon.
3) “You’ll go down in File History”
Again, not a new feature to Windows, it was named “Previous Version” and buried in the file and folder properties. It was not very easy use. Windows 8 introduces a fancy new variant of this feature, called “File History” and it is so much easier to setup and use. It is limited thought to just Contacts, Desktop, Favorites, and all libraries (documents, videos for instance and any custom libraries). It does not seem to backup library locations that are on the network though.
Setting up File History is easy, just open the Control Panel and go to “Save backup copies of your files with File History” which is under the System and Security category. Plug in your choice USB device and click “Turn on”. Every file in the previously mentioned locations will now me backed up each hour (the default) if they change.
For me, this will be a bacon saver. While I am not usually in the habit of deleting stuff (I am something of a digital packrat), I do modify files a lot. Sometimes in a writing fury, I completely overwrite large sections of text…text that later I had wished I had kept for reference.
4) Give ’em a gigabyte, they’ll want a terabyte.
The last feature that I am excited for, but haven’t had the extra hardware to actually use it is Storage Spaces.
Basically, Storage Spaces lets a bunch of separate hard drives act as one. The advantage is that if configured for resiliency, the drives are backed up to each other. This way, a drive can fail without data loss while waiting for a replacement. For home users, I believe this is better than more traditional methods, since any drive, including an external USB, can be used.
Which leads me into another important point about Storage Spaces, it grows as the storage needs grow. Filled up all the space with LOL cat pictures and need room for the recent VHS/Super8 to digital conversion of old family films or of the new baby in the family? Just buy another hard drive or two..or five and add them to Storage Spaces. Now there’s plenty of space open for more cats…er, family movies…and more cats.