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10 things you can get from Windows 8 that Windows 7 just doesn't have

Tim Greene | Oct. 23, 2012
Microsoft's radical shift to touch-centric computing in Windows 8 is far from the only difference between the new operating system and its predecessor.

Microsoft's radical shift to touch-centric computing in Windows 8 is far from the only difference between the new operating system and its predecessor.

Other differences include better integrated use of the cloud, better security, more options for use of multiple monitors and more. Here's a list of 10 key features Windows 8 offers that aren't part of Windows 7.

The Start screen

This is the Windows 8 answer to the Start menu that has been so familiar in Windows for years. Clicking on the Start button in the lower-left corner yielded the Start menu, a pop-up box listing apps that have been pinned there as well as quick access to search, Control Panel, Devices and Printers, photos, documents and importantly the Shut Down button to turn the machine off.

The Start menu is gone. It is replaced by the Start screen, a horizontally browsable collection of Windows 8 tiles that give one-tap access to the applications loaded on the device. Missing is Control Panel.

With a keyboard attached to a Windows 8 device, pressing Win X yields a popup box containing some of the Start menu items, but not all. You can also access some of the old Start menu features by swiping in from the left side of the screen to reveal the Charms menu, which contains a Settings charm that doesn't lead to all the features that were contained in the Start menu.

This has caused much distress among longtime Windows users, so much so that third-party developers are selling Start Menu apps for Windows 8. These include SweetLabs' Pokki, Lee-Soft's ViStart 8 and Stardock's Start8.

Snap apps

In Windows 8 users can display two applications at the same time, one occupying about three-quarters of the screen on either the left or right, the other app occupying the rest. With a touch screen, sliding the bar separating the two apps can make them larger or smaller. Both apps work.

Snap is handy if someone is working on a document, for example, and wants to draw information from a spreadsheet at the same time. But it is limited to just two apps being displayed at a time.

This differs from Windows 7 where apps can occupy as many windows as the user cares to open. Those windows can be adjusted to the exact size the user wants.

Picture password

Traditionally, users type in passwords in order to gain access to their locked computers. Windows 8 adds the picture password. When logging in, users are presented with a picture and by touching features in the photo in the right order they can unlock the device.

It's a new password paradigm, but isn't without criticism. One security expert calls it a "Fisher-Price toy" because swiping in the password can be stolen by videotaping it from a distance. It's also tricky to back up in case users forget the right points and the sequence for touching them.


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