Windows 8 and Office 2013 First Impressions

OK I took the plunge on Christmas Eve and wiped out my venerable Desktop PC that was running Windows 7 and Office 2007 for the last 3+ years and installed Windows 8 and Office 2013. This environment is a VAST departure from what I was used to. Gone is the Aero Glass UI (user interface) from Vista and Windows 7 and in its place we have two UIs that don’t really add up to what was there before. The User Interface Team at Microsoft describes Aero as “dated” and “cheesy” now. The Desktop in Windows 8 is clearly there for backwards compatibility only. The main UI that was formerly called Metro is now referred to as the “Modern UI” or just the “Windows 8 UI.” This is certainly the largest overhaul of Windows since Windows 95.

Microsoft has seen the future and the future is mobile computing. It’s all about battery life now. You complained about battery life and someone listened. Unfortunately they have sacrificed the Desktop computing experience for extending the battery life on laptops, tablets and smartphones. The realization of this hits you right off the bat. The first thing you need to do after installing Windows 8 is change the power options otherwise your machine will go to sleep after 20 minutes and your hard drive will also stop after 20 minutes. Change that to Never Go to Sleep and put a 0 in there for Turn Off Hard Disk. The easiest way to do this is to hit the Windows+X then click Power Options.

By now you have all heard about the Start Button being removed from Windows 8. I have questioned the wisdom of that move since I first heard about it last Spring. Why fix something that wasn’t broken? Well there is no need for a Start Button on mobile devices and if you use a Desktop to get work done you are living in the past. Time to get with it.

There is a power button in Windows 8 but even after digging around to find it I still have difficulty getting Windows 8 to shut down. My main Desktop is in my room and I shut it off at night. But after shutting it off last night I woke up a few hours later and the damn thing was on again. The best bet for REALLY shutting down Windows 8 is to do it from the command line: shutdown –s –t 10. That will shut it down in 10 seconds. You can get to the command line by hitting Windows+X then click Command Prompt (Admin). You better learn your keyboard shortcuts for Windows 8 so here is a cheat sheet:

Keyboard shortcuts for Windows 8

Windows key + Q: Search. This opens the search charm, set to whichever app you’re currently using. You can quickly switch to a files search with Windows + F, or settings with Windows + W.

Windows + R: Run command

Windows + C: Open the Charms bar

Windows + H: Share charm

Windows + I: Settings charm

Windows + Z: Displays the app bar. This gives contextual options in each app.

Windows + X: opens the admin menu, which appears where the Start menu used to be.

Windows + D: Shows the traditional desktop. Press again to minimize all desktop windows.

Windows + L: Locks your computer and displays the Lock screen.

From the Start screen press Windows + I>Tiles then move the slider over to have your Admin Tools show on the Start screen.

Alt+F4: Close current app. Also, you can use your mouse to click at the top of an app and drag it to the bottom of the screen.

Having said all of this the big question here is WHY??!!? Why not have a separate OS for Desktops and mobile devices? Sure I have an Android smartphone and it’s OK but you can’t get any WORK done on it. Even composing a short email on the damn thing is a pain in the ass. The Android is good for checking the stats on my blog and Facebook – that’s about it. I guess it works for the occasional phone call as well.

If you haven’t seen Office 2013 yet you are really in for a surprise. The new version of Office is (you guessed it) optimized for the mobile computing experience. The new UI is decidedly minimalist even Spartan. Generic may be a better term. The default background is completely White. It is hard to compose emails and such staring at that background. You can change the way Office looks but not much. In Outlook click on File>Options then you can choose an Office Background and an Office Theme. There are only three Themes to choose from: White, Light Gray and Dark Gray. Choose the Dark Gray and be done with it.

There is no need to install Microsoft Security Essentials with Windows 8. Windows Defender comes as part of the OS and has all of the functionality that MS Security Essentials had. There is also no need to install Flash Player as it is part of the OS as well. One minor annoyance I have is that the Gadgets from Vista and 7 no longer work. You can download the 8Gadgetpack and reinstall your Gadgets. Microsoft did away with the official Gadget Repository so if you have Gadgets you want to keep back them up before upgrading or installing Windows 8. Under the hood Windows 8 now has Hyper-V so if you run virtual machines like I do that is a big plus.

Internet Explorer 10 is pretty much the same in Desktop mode as IE9. I don’t bother much using the “Metro” or “Modern” mode of IE. MSN.com looks kind of cool with all of the tiles but not many websites are optimized for IE10 yet.

The Bottom Line is that Microsoft now considers Desktop Users second class citizens. Your Desktop environment is only there until you can get with the times. I find this attitude from Redmond a little obnoxious. After all we’re the folks that made MS the behemoth that it is today. There was a management shakeup after Windows 8 was released so we’ll if this attitude changes in the future.

Having said all of this you can still do pretty much everything you used to do with Win7. You just have to be a little creative to get things done. I find myself using the Run command and the Command Prompt more than before but that’s not a deal breaker.

Here are some useful links:

Paul Thurrott’s Supersite for Windows: http://winsupersite.com/

PC Advisor’s Windows 8 Review: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews/windows/3284198/microsoft-windows-8-review/?pn=1

Windows 8 Keyboard & Mouse Survival Guide