Windows 8 beta – Part IV

Personalization and Settings in Windows 8

This article of this series follows on the previous one and on it I will show you the personalization options that Windows 8 has on the Metro side of things. All the options are accessible by positioning the mouse or tapping the right side of the screen, bringing the main menu and clicking on the Settings icon, as shown in Fig. 1:

Fig. 5

When we get the Settings menu, things get a little confusing, because there is a Settings menu right under Start, and another one right at the bottom, that says “More PC Settings”, as seen in Fig. 2, so, which is it?

Fig. 2

The Settings option under Start refers only to personalization to the Start screen, which as of this version, includes only two things: whether or not to show the administrative tools tiles in the Start screen, and the option to clear personal info from the tiles (Fig. 3). I suppose this will be vastly improved by the time Windows 8 is ready to launch, because in its current form it does not improve the experience at all.

Fig. 3

OK, then… what’s under the More PC settings option?… well, that’s exactly where all the options are! A quick look at Fig. 4 and you’ll see that pretty much everything you need is there. Let’s go under the hood and see what’s in each menu!

Fig. 4

In the Personalize screen we can see three options listed at the top: Lock Screen allows us to change the image displayed when the screen is locked, and also specify which apps can run in the background and display status and notifications, even when the screen is locked.
The Start Screen option is where we can change its background color and image (Fig. 5). At this time, these options are very limited to a handful of images and colors (none of which I like, to be honest), and there is no way to upload or choose different ones (minus point for Microsoft on this one!).

Fig. 5

And the last option of this screen is Account picture, where we can choose from an existing picture on our hard drive, take a picture with our webcam or use another app to create one (Fig. 6)

Fig. 6

The next menu is the Users one, where we can change between a Windows Live account and local account (the last option won’t allow us to keep settings between PCs), change our password (it can be text, picture or a PIN), and also create accounts for other users (Fig. 7)

Fig. 7

The third option is Notifications, where we can specify whether or not installed apps can show notifications, if they can show them when the screen is locked, and if they should play a sound when there is a notification. If notifications are on, we can pick which individual apps notifications will be shown for (Fig. 8).

Fig. 8

The next screen is Search (Fig. 9). Here we can clear the search history, specify whether or not we want Windows to save searches for future search suggestions, and whether the apps you search most are shown at the top or not. We can also specify individual apps we want included in searches.

Fig. 9

The next option is Share (this refers to social network sharing, not local network sharing), where we specify if we want a list of the most common used programs to share displayed or not, how many to show in the list, and if the most used go to the top, as well as an individual list of apps that we can enable to use for sharing (Fig. 10)

Fig. 10

The General settings window (Fig. 11) is the one that may be the most useful for a lot of users. The first few options are Time (set up time zone, adjust for daylight savings time automatically), App Switching (allow switching between recent apps, who’d want to turn this off and open one app at a time?), Spelling (autocorrect and highlight misspelled words), Language (input methods, keyboard layout, language options). The last three ones allow you to: Refresh your PC without affecting your files (think about System Restore), Reset your PC and start over (erases everything and leaves the PC as it was the day you bought it), and Advanced Startup: boot from USB or DVD, change Windows startup settings (safe mode, etc.), or restore Windows from a system image.
Depending on how well the security model in Windows 8 works against the many viruses/malware that are certain to target it, these last three options sure will come in handy.

Fig. 11

The next option is Privacy (Fig. 12), which right now only gives us three things we can adjust: whether or not to let applications use our location, let applications use our name and picture, and let apps send URLs they use to the Windows Store for “improvements”. Too little but I can only hope it will improve for the final version.

Fig. 12

The Devices screen shows us what’s connected to our PC/Tablet (Fig. 13), and also presents a strange option for PCs, which is Metered Internet connections. By turning off this option we are supposed to avoid driver download charges when using Windows with  metered data plans? It’s confusing and since I assume it’s geared towards tablets with 3 or 4G built in and metered data plans, I don’t see the point of having this under the Devices category, I think this feature would be a lot more useful for downloads of all kinds of software and given a more prominent placement. We’ll see…

Fig. 13

The Ease of Access screen contains options for changing the look of Windows for people who may have certain visual impairments, and that’s where it ends. The options are: high contrast color schemes, make everything on the screen bigger, shortcuts to turn on the narrator feature, and cursor width (Fig. 14). No other help is offered at this time.

Fig. 14

The Sync your settings screen is actually very complete. Here we can pick which settings we want synchronized between computers (desktop, bookmarks, languages, ease of access, certain app settings, and more) provided that we are using a Windows Live account to store the settings (Fig. 15), If the account is local, this feature is not available.

Fig. 15

And the last screen I’ll show you is the HomeGroup one. Windows Update is really nothing to look at… 🙂 In HomeGroup (Fig. 16) is where we can tell Windows if and what we want to share with other devices (such as a TV that supports media server streaming) on the local network. Documents, music, pictures, videos and printers can be shared easily with other HomeGroup members.

Fig. 16

And this concludes Part IV of this series. I hope the information here helped you understand better what’s coming. In Part V, which will be the last of the series, I’ll go over the Desktop, which I’m sure will bring some comfort to those that don’t like things to change too much too suddenly!

Until then.

Windows 8 beta – Part III

Apps

In Part II of this series, we learned how to move around in the new Windows 8 Metro interface. Now comes the fun part: installing and running apps, so read on!

The App Store

When we are using Metro, all apps are available through the App Store, which is similar to the iTunes store or the Android market in structure. Fig. 1 shows the desktop with the Store tile displayed first on the top left side:

Fig. 1

The number 8 on the tile refers to the number of apps already installed that are ready for an upgrade at this time. Clicking on the tile brings the splash screen shown in Fig. 2, and after a few moments, the main Store interface (Fig. 3).

Fig. 2
Fig. 3

As we can see, apps are presented using groupings, and shown using tiles displaying images/icons for the app, plus its name and public rating. We scroll to the right to access more categories. Let’s see what’s available under the Top Free category (Fig. 4)

Fig. 4

When we click on any of the tiles shown, we access all the information available for the app in a full screen, as seen in Fig. 5. To install the app, we just click on the Install button.

Fig. 5

While installing, we are taken back to the category main screen (Fig. 6), where we can see in the upper right corner of the screen the installation status.

Fig. 6

When we’re done installing we can see the new program’s tile has been added to the Start screen and we are ready to use it (Fig. 7).

Fig. 7

OK, what if I don’t like this app and want to remove it? The answer is simple, we right-click on the tile and a menu will pop-up at the bottom of the screen with the actions we can perform on this program: 1)Unpin from the Start screen, 2)Uninstall it and 3)Make the tile smaller, as shown on Fig. 8:

Fig. 8

To get rid of the app, just click or tap Uninstall, and a confirmation menu will appear, so we click on the Uninstall button to confirm and the app is gone (Fig. 9)

Fig. 9

And this concludes part III of this series. Next: Metro customizations.

If you’d like to share your questions or comments on Windows 8, please register!

See you later!

Windows 8 beta – Part II

What’s up Doc?

In Part I of this series, I covered installation of Windows 8 Consumer Preview, which for those who where looking for big changes from Windows 7 may have been a disappointment. Well, at least until the last part, since that’s where the changes begun with the integration of the new Metro user interface and Windows Live services. In this Part II, we’ll go over these changes.

In Part I of these series, we saw how the login experience changes radically, by integrating the Windows Live account into the mix. This integration is not mandatory, as you will be able to use the new operating system without one, but the experience will be limited to logging on and keeping all your settings on your own PC, as opposed to having an account and settings you can use on anyone’s PC.

Moving around in Windows 8

So, we’re logged on with our Windows Live account, now what? Fig. 1 shows the Metro interface, designed for touch screens but also fully functional with a mouse.

Fig. 1

Here, the most important applications we can access are shown in squares called tiles. We can touch or click on any of them to launch the program, and as we add more programs, which in Metro are installed through the Store, more tiles are added to the right side of the screen. You can simply drag and drop the tiles to rearrange them.

No more Start button!

Microsoft decided for this version of Windows to get rid of the Start button, replacing it instead with the Start screen, which has 4 areas (one in each corner of the screen) that can be activated to perform additional functions. Fig. 2 shows the area at the bottom left corner of the screen, which is programmed to give us access to the Start screen at any time.

Fig. 2

So, no matter what we are doing at any time, we can go back to the Start screen with one click or tap.

Fig. 3 shows the activated upper left corner area of the screen, where we can see and cycle through open apps running in the background. Because the Metro programs run in full screen mode, there are no buttons that can be clicked to minimize, maximize/restore, or to close the windows, so the only way I found to close a running program is to right-click on this corner window and select Close from the pop-up menu.

Fig. 3

Fig. 4 shows what is activated by placing the mouse on the upper and lower right corners of the screen, a simple menu that gives us access to most of the functions in Windows.

Fig. 4

If we put the mouse over one of these icons, at this time we get the following screen, which brings up the labels for each icon and also puts the time and date on the screen (Fig. 5):

Fig. 5

As we can see, the first icon from top to bottom is for Search (both local files and online), the second icon is for Share (let’s say you take a picture with your tablet’s webcam, or have some thoughts to share, you can post it to your Live, Facebook or other accounts immediately), the third icon is also to bring the Start screen to the front, the fourth one is for managing connected devices, and the fifth one is where you can customize and change settings in Metro. This last icon is also the one where you have to go in order to shut down the PC/tablet, if we click or tap on it we get this screen as shown in Fig. 6 and 7:

Fig. 6
Fig. 7

On Part III of these series, I’ll go over the Metro App Store, app installation and customization of the Metro interface. I hope you enjoyed this article and feel free to comment/share with your friends.

See you then!

Windows 8 beta – Part I

Installing to a clean hard drive

Windows 8 Consumer Preview (AKA Beta) is here! and with a lot of changes from Windows 7, as Microsoft gets ready to enter the tablet market, I thought I’d cover installation and daily use for desktop users to stay ahead of the curve.

Installation of this beta version was done inside a virtual machine, with a single processor running at 1.8 GHz, 1 GB of RAM and 20 GB of disk space, to get an idea of how well this OS will perform in a constrained environment.

You can dowload the installer or an .iso image from this page: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/download

The install process goes a lot like that of Windows 7, I’ll go step by step with these images:

Fig. 1

Once I started the virtual machine with the ISO file for the Windows 8 DVD, and after a few moments, the screen shown in Figure 1 came up, asking for language, time and keyboard settings. I accepted the detected defaults and clicked on the Next button.

Fig. 2

Figure 2 shows what happened next, Windows 8 is ready to install (or so it seems). Let’s click on Install Now and see what happens…

Fig. 3

After a few moments of looking at the screen shown in Figure 3, we get asked to enter the serial number (the one that works for this CP version of Windows 8 is NF32V-Q9P3W-7DR7Y-JGWRW-JFCK8), as Figure 4 illustrates:

Fig. 4

If you don’t enter the serial number, just as in Windows 7, you can still continue with installation, but it will prompt you later. Let’s move on…

Fig. 5

The usual EULA screen appears, so we just click on I accept the license terms and the Next button. Then the real installation begins, with the option to upgrade or do a Custom install, as shown in Figure 6. Since there was nothing to upgrade from, I chose Custom and proceeded.

Fig. 6

Selected the hard drive to install to and clicked Next.

Fig. 7

And Windows proceeded to copy all files, just as it did in the previous version, no news here…

Fig. 8
Fig. 9

When it was done and restarted, I couldn’t help but notice that Microsoft had changed the initial startup logo for that of a fish (???) see Fig. 10. The bubbles form the number 8, but the windows logo is gone. The final version will likely see this replaced.

Fig. 10

After it was done starting, the Personalize screen came up so we can set the background color and PC name. I left the default color on, as none of the others seemed specially applealing, named it test-pc as seen in Fig. 11 and proceeded to the next step.

Fig. 11

The Settings screen is where we specify if we want automatic updates applied automatically, whether or not to send anonymous info to Microsoft to help make Windows and location services better, enable sharing on the network, and also let applications give you personalized content based on your location, name and account picture, as shown in Fig. 12. This is one big change from Windows 7, as we’ll see later, apps are a lot more interactive with the desktop and display changing info. I chose express settings (you can customize as well) and clicked Next.

Fig. 12

The next big change is that now you also have the option to sign in with your Windows Live (or Hotmail) account, for further integration and personalization, access to the future Windows App store, as well as access to your documents, photos and more from anywhere, by synchronizing your content with some of the Windows Live services such as Skydrive, etc.
You can also let the PC act as a regular standalone desktop, for example, to connect it to a corporate network, but you loose most of the appeal this new version has.

Fig. 13

After I entered my Windows Live email address, Microsoft made sure the account existed and then it prompted for the password, as seen in Fig. 14.

Fig. 14

The next step is entering a mobile phone number, you can get a code sent to your cell if you forget your password so you can reset it and log in again. This is cool, but not mandatory, so I skipped it and clicked Next.

Fig. 15

Then Windows went on about finalizing some settings…

Fig. 16

Until it finally brought up the Welcome screen, with a generic icon next to my name and e-mail address…

Fig. 17

… which after a little while changed to my Windows Live profile picture, and also loaded more of my Live settings in the background while it kept Preparing Windows.

Fig. 18

Fig. 19 shows the new initial screen, where only the current time and date and a little network connection indicator icon shows up. To proceed, you must click on the screen.

Fig. 19

Then the old Personalized Settings dialog box showed up, indicating that Windows wasn’t fully ready yet for me (Fig. 20)…

Fig. 20

But when it was ready, the new Metro user interface came up (Fig. 21). Now I’m ready to do some actual work!

Fig. 21

But that will be material for Part II of this series. I hope you’ve enjoyed this one and look forward to your comments. Please register so you can post, see you next time!