Microsoft has made a radical departure in terms of design from it’s previous operating systems with Windows 8. Sporting a new tile interface (originally known as MetroUI), Microsoft is trying to unify the experience across multiple device platforms including desktops, laptops, tablets, and Windows phone. The tile interface is most useful with touch screens, but is also fully functional with a mouse.
But don’t fear Windows 8. Getting past the tile interface (which can be bypassed with Classic Shell, see below), it offers substantial benefits over Windows 7. Windows 8 has a more secure boot loader (which is supposed to prevent bootloader malware infections), a noticeably faster boot time, a more extensive driver database, a more refined Windows Update process, and the Microsoft Ribbon in Windows Explorer (as found in Microsoft Office 2007 and above).
If you don’t like the new tile interface in Windows 8 and the lack of a start button, an open-source product titled Classic Shell fixes both of those for you by bypassing the tile interface restoring the missing start button. In my testing I find Classic Shell to be stable and usable, and it’s free. There is another similar product titled Retro UI, which costs $4.95 for a single user license, or $9.95 for a three-user license.
If you do like the new tile interface (and some people do despite what you hear in the mainstream media), you’re in for a completely new and different interface experience. Spend some time with the new tile interface, and you’ll find a new approach that those using Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 will already be familiar with. I find it to be clean and easy to use, with movable tiles representing apps and settings. One prominent tile takes you right back to the familiar Windows legacy desktop.
For more information, read this review for a concise intro to Windows 8 which focuses on the new tile interface. In my testing I have not found any of my own software or software that I recommend to my customers that won’t run under Windows 8 64-bit. All the familiar Windows software we know and use will run on the legacy Windows desktop in Windows 8, but there is a whole new crop of software from the Windows app store that runs directly on the new tile interface.