Today marks the official release of Windows new operating system, called Windows 8. Now there have been several comments, blogs, editorials, etc. about the new operating system and how end users are going to either embrace or fear the new design. With all that in mind we thought we would write up a quick few initial thoughts about the OS and some of the challenges and features we in UWIT have experienced.
The very first time I installed Windows 8 on a machine and started using it, my first thought was, people are going to LOATHE this operating system. It was like nothing Windows has ever done and as I stared at these basic looking rectangles and moved my mouse to corners of the screen to figure out how to use it, all I could think was, how is any one going to use this. When you support end users in IT, a question like, ‘How is anyone going to use this?,’ is not a good thing. I had to shut the computer down, which took me about 15 minutes to figure out and put the machine away. What I had just seen did not compute in my mind.
As I thought over the OS, I almost immediately said this is never going to work. People are not going to ever use this and if they do, there is no way we are going to be able to support it, when there are problems. The change seemed so drastic, that from an IT support view, I was ready to give up. However, I decided to jump right in and really try to figure it out.
I found I was looking at the operating system from the wrong viewpoint. As I started actually using the interface, I realized I need to have a change in mindset. I compared it to my mobile devices. For instance, I have an iPhone and an iPad. Now I consider those more personal devices, more than say my work PC. So, when I look at the apps I have on my iPhone and iPad, they are almost customized specifically to my needs. That’s when I realized the Windows “Metro” Start Screen was the same thing. It is a place for your customized apps, your email, photos, social media, weather and whatever apps you want there.
At the same time you can run your business applications, such as Microsoft Office, PeopleSoft, in the normal, desktop mode you see on any previous version of Windows. Now, with that thought in mind, I realized that this operating system, though different than the Windows of the past, is more in tune with me as the user. I can do everything I need from the OS.
Windows 8 Interface:
The Windows 8 interface, or the “Metro,” “Tiled” screen acts basically as the Start menu. In most previous version if you went to access Word, or something else, you went to Start, Applications, Microsoft Office and then clicked Word. That, or you created a shortcut to Word on your desktop. Either way when you look at the screen you will see a tile for Word, you click and it opens into the normal desktop (minus the Start button, of course). It looks a lot like this:
Now if you don’t see what you are looking for in the Start Screen, you can also search by name to find what you are looking for. If you take your mouse up to the right hand corner of the screen you get 5 options, one of which is search. When you click search you can type a name of an App, a Setting, or a file. Then you can click the named item and open it, pin it to the start menu, or pin it to the taskbar in the desktop. The key to Windows 8 is knowing what you use and configuring your Start Screen to match what you use.
One you open an application and get to the desktop it really feels no different then Windows 7. All the functionality is still the same and you go about your application like you normally would. There are still the touch interface options of moving the mouse to the corners of your screen to navigate to the Start Menu, use the search/settings options, etc. but the overall feel is no different. I am able to run my office system pretty much the same as I did in Windows 7, so during my day, nothing really has changed.
Ultimately using the desktop is very similar to Windows 7, but when you do not see the Start button it really does throw you off at first. However, if you customize your Start screen and desktop to suit your needs you will find it pretty normal. Once you get used to using the OS, it’s really good, just really different.
The entertaining part is being able to switch back to the Start Screen and see my personal aspects of my desktop, check my twitter feeds, get status updates, look at the weather, etc. I actually really enjoy that part of the interface.
I was extremely terrified of this product at first view. However, after actually just using it and getting it configured the way I use my machine it has really grown on me. Now, obviously, using a machine and being able to support people who use the machine are two entirely different things. Are we ready for the University of Wyoming to have everyone go to Windows 8? We are not. Our Antivirus still has to be given the okay and the changes are going to take a while for our support staff to get used to, so it will still take some time for us to support it.
As for me, I really like the interface. It is a real change from Microsoft to give their user’s more control of what their PC experience is like. I really like how I can make my machine more like me, not just the boring Windows default. I like that I get the cool mobile device feel as well as able to do my business stuff all on one machine.
Brett Williams — Help Desk Manager