If you have been using Windows for years, you might find switching to Windows 8 confusing. That is because Windows 8 has two faces! Once you know the story, you will find Windows 8 much easier to adjust to.
In this post I will give a brief overview of the concepts behind Windows 8.
The User Interface (UI)
I have a desktop computer with Windows 7. When I turn my computer on, a lot of things start happening. If you are like me, I go off and do other things (make a cuppa) until I hear that Microsoft jingle. Then I know Windows has loaded and the computer is ready to be used.
What has happened behind the scenes is that the core Windows program was loaded into memory and the user interface (UI) was then loaded so that I can interact with the system.
The Windows 7 UI
The following shows a typical screen shot of Windows 7 (and older). The program I use most is MS Word 2007 so that is the example I use.
The program opens in a “window”. At the top right of the window are buttons to adjust the size (maximize and minimize).
I can put icons representing programs, folders and documents on the desktop for easy access. I can also put icons on the task bar. I will call this the Desktop UI. It is the familiar face of Windows.
The Windows 8 UI
We see the same UI in Windows 8 as shown in the screen shot below:
We see all the same features as in Windows 7 (except here I am running Word 2013)–the taskbar with icons, icons on the desktop and buttons to adjust the window.
So what is the difference?
The Modern UI
That brings me to the second face of Windows 8.
There has been an explosion in the use of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. These devices typically do not use the traditional mouse and keyboard but are operated by touch screen.
So in Window 8 Microsoft has given us a second user interface that is optimized for mobile devices. It was initially called the Metro interface but is more commonly called the Modern UI.
The Modern UI is different in two ways. Firstly, because you tap on commands and links with your finger, the buttons/icons tend to be larger. And secondly, because mobile devices are smaller, programs designed for this interface open full screen, rather than in a window.
The screen shot below shows the Kindle Reader (a Modern UI program) open full screen. Notice there are no traditional windows.
In Windows 7, if you want to select a program, you click on the Start button and then select the program using the Start Menu (see the screen shot below).
In Windows 8, you click or tap on the Windows button, also in the lower right of the screen. Then you select the program from the Start Screen. That’s right, it opens a whole screen which you can customize to suit your requirements.
The icons are larger and easier to tap with your finger. Of course you can click on them too if you are using a mouse and keyboard.
In Windows 7 there is only one UI so when you turn the computer on, you get the Desktop interface.
But with Windows 8, there are two choices. When you turn your computer on, it would load core windows and then give you the Modern UI (i.e. the Start Screen).
If you select a program like MS Word, Windows is intelligent enough to switch automatically to the Desktop UI. Or if you select a mobile program (they are called “apps”) while in the desktop interface, it would switch automatically to the Modern UI.
If you work mostly with programs that require the Desktop UI, you can set Windows 8 to open directly with the Desktop UI on powering on rather then the Modern UI. It is a matter of personal choice.
The short video below shows Windows starting up on different platforms (we have speeded up the startup processes). Note the core Windows loading first, followed by the appropriate user interface.
There you have it–Windows 8 has two faces. The core windows is the same, although in Windows 8 it is faster than before. The Start Screen has replaced the Start Menu and it gives you many more options.
You now have access to traditional windows programs like MS Word, as well a whole slew of programs designed specifically for the Modern UI–more bang for your buck!
Once you have learned the new Modern UI, you will find it easy to move from a desktop to a tablet and back as the UI is the same!