Windows 8 is Microsoft’s new operating system that combines the tablet Modern UI interface with the traditional Windows desktop.

Overview

With this trial of Windows 8, users have an opportunity to test a slick and solid operating system that promises to revolutionize the way you do everything, from browsing the web to viewing multimedia files.

This is the most ambitious operating system that Microsoft has ever created. By blending both a tablet interface and a traditional desktop interface, Microsoft hopes that Windows 8 can please everyone. But can it? Let’s find out.

Modern Interface

As seen in the numerous preview versions, the Windows 8 interface is one of the largest changes to the Windows operating system. Every app you install on the new Modern interface is shown in multiple colored squares on your screen. Each square acts as a shortcut to open the program or the corresponding directory. Each panel is also fully customizable, so you can group apps together.

New features

Flash

The use of Flash in Windows 8 is one of the primary updates. Working together, Microsoft and Adobe have created a situation-specific version of Flash that works with Internet Explorer 10. This ensures Flash will run when you want it do, such as during video play-back, but won’t affect your PC’s performance or battery life by running when unnecessary. This is especially important for Windows RT users who value battery life and performance on the go.

New apps

There are also quite a few Windows Store expansions when it comes to apps included natively in the Modern interface. Bing has added apps for travel, sports and news, for example. There are also, of course, existing Modern apps that were released in conjunction with Windows 8. Some of these include Weather, Maps and Finance.

Surfing the web

Windows 8 ties up a lot of loose ends in terms of stability issues seen in its preview versions. There is also a new feature users can look forward to called Flip ahead, IE which uses crowd-sourcing to determine what web page you’re the most likely to click on next during your web browsing. To advance, all you have to do is swipe the screen if you have touch screen capabilities or click the forward arrow onscreen to get to the next page. This feature works while searching Bing, of course, but is also compatible with other search engines, so long as you’re using Internet Explorer 10.

There’s also now a Share feature in Windows 8’s Modern UI version of the IE browser that lets you share web pages with friends – just open the Charms Bar then choose Share and you can Tweet or Facebook your page.

In addition, both desktop and Modern UI versions of this Windows 8 have Flash 11.3 built right into it.

Mail

In Windows 8, the Mail feature has also been tweaked to add a better user experience. You can pin multiple inboxes to your start screen to differentiate between your different email accounts more easily. There is also a useful threaded conversation feature, which groups emails from the same conversation thread. Microsoft also addressed some stability issues to ensure less instances of app crashes.

Windows 8 Pro

Stepping up to Windows 8 Pro, users will gain the following features:

BitLocker Drive Encryption and BitLocker To Go

This is great for people looking for more security. BitLocker will encrypt the entire drive and prevent hackers from getting to your precious information if your computer is ever lost or stolen. BitLocker To Go will provide the same level of encryption to your USB drives.

It’s nice to see business oriented features like this be included in a consumer oriented version of Windows 8.

Functionality Hyper-V virtualization

This is a very technical piece of software that’s oriented toward IT professionals, allowing them to deploy software and manage servers.

Remote Desktop

Remote Desktop is a great feature for those who need to access their computer remotely. It’s also a great tool for those who need to provide tech support for their friends and family. This feature was first introduced in Windows XP but has been refined over subsequent versions.

Windows Media Center

Fans of Windows Media Center will have to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro to get these features back. This is also the first time that Windows Media Center will be a paid add-on for Windows 8. This will anger many Windows users who have home theater PCs.

Windows 8 Enterprise

Going up to Windows 8 Enterprise will add the following features:

Windows to go

This feature will allow Windows 8 to be installed and run from a mass storage devices like USB drives and external hard drives. This makes it fully manageable in corporate environments. This makes imaging and deploying a copy of Windows simple for system administrators.

Access via DirectAccess VPN

This allows users to work from home as it will create a secure connection to a company’s internal network from anywhere.

BranchCahce

BranchCahce enables PC cache files from a central server, which helps to improve speed. This is perfect for companies that have offices in different locations. BranchCahce will enable servers to automatically retrieve and deploy local copies of files to remote clients.

AppLocker

This feature allows you to lock access to applications if you share a computer.

Conclusion

Microsoft has offered a lot of welcome changes in its Windows 8. Navigation on a desktop is still a bit tricky without touchscreen capabilities, but many will appreciate the simplicity of the Modern interface, as well as the completely redesigned apps that come with Windows 8. If you’d like more details on installing, just have a look at Lewis’ handy blog post telling you how. Don’t forget to check if you need the 32 or 64bit version.

Windows 8 is a necessary change for Microsoft but it remains to be seen if its gamble on this radical new operating system will be adopted by consumers.