Windows 8 Features and Terminology

As the author of several books about Microsoft platforms--Windows Phone 7 Secrets most recently, and of course the coming Windows 8 Secrets--I'm very concerned about documenting both the features of these platforms--applications, services, and so on--but also the terminology that Microsoft uses to describe them. These things have names, and need to be referenced properly. Here's an early peek at where I'm at.

Paul Thurrott

September 13, 2011

8 Min Read
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As the author of several books about Microsoft platforms--Windows Phone 7 Secrets most recently, and of course the coming Windows 8 Secrets--I'm very concerned about documenting both the features of these platforms--applications, services, and so on--but also the terminology that Microsoft uses to describe them. These things have names, and need to be referenced properly.

Looking at Windows 8, I of course see a new opportunity for this kind of documentation, both in the coming book and here on the site. But I also see a challenge, since there's a lot of misinformation out there--it is "Windows App Store" or "Windows Store"?--both from Microsoft and the over-eager technology enthusiasts who follow the company.

Call it the fog of war, or whatever, but I'd like to cut through it. And while that effort will be ongoing and will extend at least through the end of this year as I plow through the writing of Windows 8 Secrets, this is my first stab and documenting this stuff and providing some clarity. As a first effort, it won't be complete, at least not at first. So I need your help. If you know of a Windows 8 feature that's not listed here, please email me and let me know. I'll update this article over the course of the week and then turn it into a series of Windows 8 Feature Focus articles down the road.

App. A tailored application, or "Metro-style" app, that runs in the new Windows Run Time (WinRT) environment and is launched from the Start screen. These apps are full-screen ("immersive") and written in HTML 5 or a .NET programming language.

App Bar. A toolbar user interface element in tailored "Metro-style" applications that is typically hidden until needed and houses commands, which are generally user interface elements like buttons and other graphical controls.

Charms. A set of five icons, available from the so-called Edge UI, which appears when you swipe into the interior of the screen from the right side of the screen. These icons include Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings.

Client Hyper-V. A hypervisor-based virtualization platform used to run entire OSes (and associated applications) in a guest environment under the Windows host. Hyper-V was previously available only in Windows Server and replaces Windows Virtual PC.

Connected Standby. A new power management mode for ARM-based versions of Windows 8 that allow the PC to operate in a very low power mode for very long periods of non-use.

Contracts. A new aspect of the WinRT (Windows Run Time) development model that provides communications capabilities between separately and independently developed (Metro-style) apps. Similar but more powerful to the Windows clipboard from two decades ago, Contracts provide a number of useful services including Search and Share.

Early Load Anti-Malware. A new security feature in Windows 8 that loads the OS's integrated anti-malware functionality into the boot process in order to prevent any malware to be injected into the OS during the boot process. This happens after secured boot.

Flip. The process by which you visually flip through the available running Metro-style apps and Windows desktop by flicking right from the leftmost edge of the screen. Flicking and holding will result in a Snap, and the division of the screen into two zones, Snap View and Fill View. (See Snap.)

Glyphs. The icons that appear on the new Windows 8 lock screen, including network, power, and so on.

Groups. Sections of tiles on the Start screen that are visually grouped and can optionally be named. You can move entire groups of tiles around the Start screen as needed.

Internet Explorer 10. The new version of Microsoft's web browser, which will be available in a tailored version (or Metro-style app), and in a traditional desktop version.

Lock screen. The Windows 8 welcome screen, which appears when the computer first boots. It features the time, date, and a series of notification glyphs.

Multi-monitor. Windows 8 provides new multi-monitor capabilities for both the Start screen and the classic Windows desktop.

Picker. A tailored app user interface that provides the capabilities of a File Open dialog in classic Windows. It incorporates a basket for holding multiple items, which can be derived from any number of sources, including the local file system and various online services.

Picture password. A new method of logging in to Windows that involves a photo and a series of touch gestures and swipes.

PIN password. A new method of logging in to Windows that involves a four digit numeric password, as per a Windows Phone handset.

Progress ring. The new Windows 8 progress indicator.

Refresh Your PC. A new service in Windows 8 that automatically backs up all of your photos, music, videos, and other personal files, your customizations, and your tailored ("Metro-style") apps, reinstall Windows from scratch, and then reapplies everything back to the system. This process only takes 4 to 5 minutes.

Reset Your PC. A new service in Windows 8 that returns your PC to its factory clean state by wiping it out and reinstalling Windows. This feature is also called Push Button Reset.

Search. A Windows 8 Contract that provides searching capabilities, be it for apps, settings, files, or whatever. Search is globally accessible from the Search charm in the edge UI on the right edge of the screen.

Secondary Tile. A special kind of Start screen tile that is created from within an app. For example, an address book app would have its own tile, but it could optionally provide you with the ability to create a secondary tile from any one of your contacts so that you could access that contact more easily and directly from the Start screen.

Secured boot. A new security feature of Windows 8 that requires a modern UEFI-style BIOS and checks the boot signatures of each hardware device before the PC will boot. If an unknown or compromised device is attached before boot time, the PC will not boot.

Semantic zoom. A process whereby the user employs two fingers on the screen of a Windows 8 PC to pinch onscreen elements (or "reverse pinch" them) to enable a secondary display. On the Windows 8 Start screen, you can use semantic zoom to view the entire (multiscreen) display on a single screen, and arrange and rename onscreen elements like groups.

Sensors. Windows 8 supports a wide range of device sensors, including accelerometer, inclinometer, gyrometer, compass, ambient-light, and orientation/simple orientation.

Share. A Windows 8 Contract that allows one app to share information with another. For example, a photo app might use Share to provide a way to share pictures online. Share is globally accessible from the Share charm in the edge UI on the right edge of the screen.

SmartScreen. A Windows 8 security technology that prevents malware from infecting your system using behavioral and manual, reputation-based methods. Microsoft previously provided this functionality in its IE browser, but is extending it to the Windows Explorer in Windows 8.

Snap. The process by which two apps can be displayed, or docked, side-by-side in Windows 8. These apps can consists of two Metro-style apps or one Metro style app and one legacy Windows app. When in this mode, the leftmost app, which is said to occupy the Snap View, takes up about 30 percent of the onscreen real estate, while the rightmost app, said to occupy the Fill View, takes up the rest. You can change the space each occupies by dragging on the dividing line between them and flip their positions, so that the Fill View is on the left and the Snap View is on the right.

Start screen. The new Windows 8 shell, or user experience, which involves an immersive, full-screen user interface, tailored full-screen apps, and a new runtime environment called Windows Run Time (WinRT).

Task Manager. An update to the application, processes, services, performance, networking, and user management tool from previous Windows versions that provides startup app management and other new features.

Tiles. User interface elements found in the Windows 8 Start screen that replace icons and represents applications and other items. Windows 8 tiles can be small (square) or large (rectangular) and present "live" information to the user. They are thus sometimes called Live Tiles. Tiles are said to be "pinned" to the Start screen; when removed they are "unpinned." (This does not delete the application.)

Windows Defender. An upgraded version of the Defender tool that provides anti-virus functionality in addition to its previous anti-malware functionality. (Thus, this tool now effectively replaces Microsoft Security Essentials as well.)

Windows Run Time (WinRT). A new runtime environment for tailored ("Metro-style") apps that launch from the Windows 8 Start screen.

Windows Store. Microsoft's online store for Windows 8 applications, which will consist of both Metro-style apps and traditional applications. Users can install Metro-style apps on up to five Windows PCs. But for legacy applications, the Windows Store will not enforce a licensing model on app developers, and Microsoft will not demand a fee for each sold app. Trial versions of Metro-style apps will be available.

Windows To Go. A new method of running Windows 8 from a USB key (or other external memory) rather than from a fixed hard drive. This allows for a portable version of Windows, and corporations can use this feature to create temporary Windows installs that return to a clean state when the user logs off.

Windows Update. Microsoft's software updating service is updated in Windows 8 to not interrupt users and try to avoid unnecessary reboots.

There's more, of course, and Microsoft alluded to as much with the following slide during its Windows 8 BUILD keynote. So there's much more to do.

About the Author(s)

Paul Thurrott

Paul Thurrott is senior technical analyst for Windows IT Pro. He writes the SuperSite for Windows, a weekly editorial for Windows IT Pro UPDATE, and a daily Windows news and information newsletter called WinInfo Daily UPDATE.

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