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Windows 8 review: Still a two-headed beast

Preston Gralla | Aug. 16, 2012
The two faces of Windows 8 -- the Desktop and the interface formerly known as Metro -- still coexist uneasily in the final RTM version of the OS. But some of Windows 8's native apps are great.

Windows 8 RTM features a new set of backgrounds for the lock and Start screens that are artier than those in the Release Preview.

Windows 8 RTM also has a new, moderately useful tool for switching between apps, but only for touchscreen devices. If you swipe from the left edge, you'll switch to the most recent app you had been running just before the current one. This not only works with Windows 8 native apps, but also with Desktop apps. To control whether this feature is active, go to PC Settings --> General, and then toggle "When I swipe in from the left edge, switch directly to my most recent app" on or off.

It's now also slightly easier to search through the Windows Store. When you're in the Windows Store, you can simply start typing to initiate a search, the same way you can on the Start screen. Previously, you could only use the Search charm, the built-in tool for searching through Windows apps and files.

Some app changes

Microsoft has also done work on several Windows 8 native apps (previously called Metro apps). The People app has gotten a minor makeover for the better, with slight navigation changes and a new notification feature. You can now see all of your notifications from Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets in a single, easily viewable list.

The best addition to the built-in People app is the ability to see all of your notifications in a single easily viewable location.

In addition, the overall navigation has been cleaned up in People. In the previous version, navigation links for areas such as "What's new" and "Me" were strung across the top of the page. Now they're stacked vertically on the left, with smaller text. All in all, it's a nice makeover, albeit not a major one.

Navigation in the People app has been cleaned up.

The Music App is now called Xbox Music, and aside from some small interface changes, such as adding icons in places where there used to be only plain text links, it looks largely the same.

There's also a useful addition: the Bing app, whose Start screen tile pipes in constantly changing trending information from social media sites. Without looking at the tile, I never would have known at a glance that "Spice Girls," "Chad Johnson" and "gas prices" were trending on a recent Monday night, or that "Texas shooting," " iPhone 5" and "Evelyn Lozada" were trending on an early Tuesday afternoon. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether that's progress.

The Bing Sports, Bing Travel and Bing News apps that were offered in the Release Preview are still around, but they deliver specific sports, travel and news content. The new Bing app, on the other hand, lets you search the Web using Microsoft's Bing search engine, but from within the app rather than in a Web browser.

 

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