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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.

The results are also displayed in the app itself, not in a browser, and are represented as big blocks of text. Because the app provides more information about each search result compared to what you get on the Web, I found myself frequently turning to the app rather than a browser to use Bing. When you click any search result, you're sent to the site in your default Web browser, not in the app.

The Bing search engine now has its own Windows 8 app.

Many other apps, such as Calendar and Weather, are unchanged. Microsoft says that some apps will be updated between now and the general Windows 8 release on October 26, though it hasn't specified which ones or how major the changes will be. At this late stage in the development process, it's likely they'll be relatively minor.

The Windows Store is slowly building up its collection of apps and no longer seems as barren of goods as a Romanian grocery store during the depths of the Ceauşescu regime. The number of apps is still tiny compared to the number of iOS and Android apps available, but at least it's growing. For example, as I write this, the Productivity section has 34 apps, compared to a dozen in the Release Preview and just five in the Consumer Preview. Thirty-four apps is nothing to brag about, but it's certainly better than a dozen. One can expect that number to grow, possibly significantly, as Windows 8 nears its general release.

Surprise! The Desktop looks the same

The Windows 8 Desktop remains one of the most controversial parts of Windows 8. The Start button was eliminated, and Microsoft has worked to make sure that workaround hacks that people have developed will not work in Windows 8 RTM.

One tool that does still work, however, is the free app Start8 from Stardock. It adds the familiar Start button to the Desktop (but not to the Windows 8 Start screen), and allows you to go directly to the Desktop when you log into Windows 8. But this Start button doesn't include most of the features of the old Start button, such as quick navigation to the Control Panel or the ability to see all the apps on your PC and then run them. Still, those who do most of their work on the Desktop will be pleased to find a way to bypass the new Start screen.

The free Start8 app adds a Start button to the desktop, although it doesn't include most of the old Start button's features. Right-click it to see the options it offers.

One surprise is that the Desktop has not been changed at all from the Release Preview. Microsoft had previously said that there would be changes to the Desktop in the final, shipping version of Windows 8 -- notably that it (and apps that run on it, such as Windows Explorer) would abandon the familiar 3D Aero interface in favor of a flatter, sleeker look.


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