Windows 8, which is expected to launch next autumn, if not earlier, has already attracted favorable comments. Our sister title PC Pro described it as having “plenty of excellent new features” , while Expert Review said the operating system (OS) was “ a pleasure to use”.
Windows 8 has a whole new look and a design that’s clearly been developed with touchscreen devices in mind, letting you control programs with your fingers rather than a keyboard and mouse. You can try out an early version of the OS for free, or if you just want to try some of its new features, you can customize your existing edition of Windows with some impressive add-ons. T here are even special ‘skin packs’ available that will totally transform your current OS to look like the feature one. The best of these include the Windows 8 Transformation and the Windows 7 only UX Pack.
Here we reveal how you can try Window 8’s most innovative tools for free, without messing up your current set-up.
Windows 8 Tools
Windows 8 introduces the Metro user interface (UI), which replaces the traditional Start menu with Start screen. This contains customizable titles with which you can launch your favorite programs; access specific areas of your system, such as the Desktop and Control Panel; and get useful, at-a-glance information, including news headlines, weather forecasts and calendar appointments.
You can rearrange the tiles by clicking and dragging them into place, and add new ones from the yet to be launched Windows App Store. The Metro UI has really been designed to work with touchscreen tablets, so it’s not quite as efficient when controlled with a keyboard and mouse, although you quickly get used to it.
There are several programs that faithfully recreate the Metro UI. Pulmon takes seconds to set up and doesn’t require installation. Just run the program then select some tiles to add to your Desktop. Available options include a clock, a shutdown manager and a web search box. Newgen is also very good and provides an almost exact clone of Metro.
Because Windows 8 has been designed with tablets in mind, it comes with an on screen keyboard. This offers a useful auto complete function that will attempt to guess what you’re typing. When you see the word you want to use, simply tap the Spacebar to add it to your sentence. This means you can type at full speed without talking your fingers of the keys. You can change the position of the keyboard on screen, make it transparent and turn the numeric keypad on or off.
Windows has always offered a virtual keyboard, but it’s tucked out o f sight. To access the feature in Windows XP, go to Start, Accessories, Accessibility, on screen Keyboard.The keyboard works in the same way as in Windows 8, but doesn’t offer the auto complete feature.