Eight Things You Should Know About Windows 8.

Windows 8 is very confrontational about its new features. A mere glance at the interface cues users in to the future identity of Windows. The yet unreleased operating system is an attempt at more integration, easier usage and better touchscreen compatibility. Here are eight things that everyone should know about the newest version of Windows:

1. There’s a start screen, not a start menu.

A full-sized start screen has replaced the old stand-by start menu. When you log in, you will see an array of tiles. These tiles will display your contacts, the weather, a calendar preview, your favorite websites, your photos albums, etc. The content of the start screen is highly customizable, and you can organize and group your tiles. Like the start menu, the start screen has a section for promoted programs. However, the start menu only includes pinned programs rather than recently used programs in this list. That makes the menu more consistent. The tiles are updated in real time.

2. It’s compatible, especially with touchscreens.

The tiled interface of Windows 8 makes it much more compatible with touch-screen devices. Windows’ new operating system will be capable of running on ARM tablets as well as PCs. It also supports a large variety of applications, printers, cameras, media players, displays and devices. Users can check to see if their device is compatible with Windows 8 by going to Windows’ compatibility center and searching for their device.

3. Windows 8 is speedy.

Early test speeds have shown that Windows 8 will be faster than Windows 7. Users will notice this as soon as they turn on their Windows 8 supported device, because the biggest speed difference is in the boot time. Microsoft says that the start-up time of Windows 8 is 30 to 70 percent faster than its predecessor when used on the same device. This improvement has been achieved by combining a full restart with a low-power hibernation. Windows 8 initializes the hardware, loads new drivers and starts a new log-in session when it’s booted up but keeps the rest of the operating system from the last session. Windows 8 has also shown to be faster at web performance.

4. The Windows Store will be making its debut.

Windows 8 will feature a new Windows Store, where application developers can market their products directly to users. On its landing page, the store will feature frequently downloaded applications, top rated applications, new applications and personal recommendations. You can download your applications on up to five devices. Every application sold through the Windows Store will be screened for viruses, and enterprises can limit employee access to the Window Store catalog or specific applications.

5. You can have your Windows to Go.

Windows to Go is a new feature in Windows 8 that allows users to boot their programs, settings and files from a USB device, called a Live USB. This will be especially useful when working from home or at a client’s office or in disaster recovery situations. The Live USB device can be used on any Windows 7 or Windows 8 compatible device. If the Live USB is removed and reinserted within 60 seconds, Windows will continue to operate as it was before the Live USB was removed.

6. Windows 8 accounts are cloud connected.

Microsoft accounts will be cloud connected in Windows 8. Simply by logging into your account, you will be able to access your files, contacts, settings, browser favorites and applications on any compatible device. Services like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Microsoft Hotmail and Microsoft Messenger can also be connected to your Microsoft account. The Mail, Calendar and People applications integrate data from multiple sources to create a complete inbox, calendar and contact list. Windows 8 also works with Microsoft SkyDrive to make users’ files available online.

7. With Windows 8 will come Internet Explorer 10.

The new version of Internet Explorer has two options, desktop and metro. Desktop operates almost identically to Windows 9. Metro, which is the default version, operates on the principal of less browser and more web. It dedicates the user’s entire screen to the website and only shows the address and tab bars when needed. Internet Explorer 10 Metro features a tile-based favorites view and tab thumbnails. Both the metro and desktop versions include the new Enhanced Protection Mode, are faster than previous editions of Internet Explorer and focus on high-speed user interaction.

8. There’s a release date, but it has yet to be released.

A consumer preview for Windows 8 has already been released, and an updated release preview will be available in early June. The release date for the commercial version has not yet been announced, but should be available by the end of 2012. Until then, check out the Windows 8 demonstration by Jensen Harris, the Director of Program Management for the Windows User Experience Team, for more information about what to expect from Windows 8.

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