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8 Days a Week: The Consumer Preview Arrives!

Well, it's been a big, big week for Windows fans, no doubt about it. And I can say that for me, personally, I haven't felt this excited about Windows since, oh, I don't know, maybe 2003. And that's because while Windows Vista and 7 were solid, capable, and workmanlike, Windows 8 is something else entirely. It's exciting.

And you can see the excitement very clearly on this site, since I've published nearly 30 full-length articles, blog posts, and screenshot galleries for the Consumer Preview since its launch last Wednesday morning. And while I'm sure every Tom, Dick, and Harry blogger on the interwebs is struggling to keep up, long-time SuperSite for Windows readers know that it is in these moments that I truly shine: You won't find coverage like that I've already provided anywhere else, not even with Microsoft. And I'm just getting started.

So rather than beat to death what you already know, I'll instead use this weekly recap to organize what I've already written into something cohesive so that in the off chance you haven't checked it all out yet, or are simply overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of this coverage, you can use this as a guide to find your way around.


Need to Know: Core Windows 8 articles


I wrote a number of high-level overviews of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, and these are a great place to start.


Welcome to the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. For weeks now I've been biting my tongue, watching what I say and write about the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. But with the release today of this most eagerly-awaited Windows 8 milestone, the shackles are off.


What's New in the Consumer Preview. According to Microsoft, there are literally thousands of improvements in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. But if you're familiar with the previous milestone, the Developer Preview, and only want a high-level view of the major changes, go no further. Here's a comprehensive list of the most important changes Microsoft made to the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.


The Top 8 Features. While Windows 8 includes a lot of interesting new features, it's not difficult to look at the Consumer Preview and pick just a handful of top changes. Here are some of my favorites.


What's new in Windows 8 Consumer Preview


If you're familiar with the Windows 8 Developer Preview and want to know what's changed since then, these articles will get you up and running in no time.


User Experience and Fit and Finish Improvements. While the Windows 8 Developer Preview only hinted at Microsoft's plans for the Windows 8 user experience, the Consumer Preview completes the picture, with a nearly feature-complete look at how this new OS will look and work.


Improvements to Mouse and Keyboard Navigation. While the Windows 8 Developer Preview provided a fairly complete touch interface, the big news in the Consumer Preview is that keyboard and mouse navigation has been fully fleshed out. Here's a handy guide to how keyboard and mouse interactions work in Windows 8. more


The Windows 8 App Previews. The Windows 8 Consumer Preview includes several useful App Previews, rough, pre-release versions of Metro-style apps that will later ship alongside, but not be included with, Windows 8. Here's a quick rundown of the App Previews.


Task Management Improvements. While some are concerned about limitations in Windows 8's new Metro environment, Microsoft has actually added numerous task management improvements in the Consumer Preview. So it's likely that almost anyone can be efficient with the new OS, once they've learned the ropes.


Windows Store Preview. While Microsoft has been talking up its Windows Store for Windows 8 since last fall, with the Consumer Preview we've gotten our first hands-on glimpse of this experience. In this article, I'll take a look at the beta version of the Windows Store, which provides users with a handy, centralized way in which to discover, download, and manage Metro-style apps.


The Developer Tools. Microsoft included a pre-release version of Visual Studio 11 in the Windows 8 Developer Preview, of course, giving developers the tools they needed to get started on Metro-style app development. But with the Consumer Preview, these tools are available as a separate Beta download.


Windows Key Keyboard Shortcuts. With the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Microsoft has completely overhauled the system of keyboard shortcuts that utilize the ubiquitous Windows Key, and as you'll soon discover, virtually ever letter in the alphabet is now assigned to some function.


All Apps Comes Of Age. In the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Microsoft has fixed All Apps, making it much easier to access and, as important, making it even more useful than the similar feature in Windows Phone.




Want to go from Windows 8 neophyte to master as quickly as possible? I'll show you how.


Personalizing Windows 8. In the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, there are suddenly a number of fun and useful ways in which you can customize the OS and make it more your own. Here's a short guide to some of the key ways in which you can do this.


Internet Explorer 10 Secrets. Windows 8 includes two versions of the Internet Explorer 10 browser, one for Metro and one for the desktop. Both share the same engine and some core features, but the ways in which these apps interoperate, with each other and with third party browsers, can be a bit surprising.


Behind the scenes


You heard it here first. Actually, you only heard it here.


The True Story Behind the Missing Start Button. Yes, Virginia, Microsoft has removed the Start button from Windows 8. But get over it, because it's been replaced by something better: A new Start experience that works consistently between the Start screen, full-screen Metro-style apps, and the desktop.


Why Metro and the Desktop Don't Mix. Last month, I wondered why Microsoft couldn't simply mix Metro-style apps with the desktop environment in Windows 8. As it turns out, there are plenty of reasons.


Installing Windows 8


One of the more interesting things happening with Windows 8 is that Microsoft has thoroughly overhauled the way in which most people will install the OS for the first time in, well, almost ever. That is, yes, you can still install Windows 8 the old-fashioned way using Setup media, like a DVD or USB memory device. But you can now use a more efficient web-based installer too, and this special version of Setup even incorporates other useful but previously separate technologies such as the Upgrade Advisor and Windows Easy Transfer. Short of getting Windows 8 preinstalled on a new PC, this is the way to go when it comes to installing Windows 8.


Here are the articles I've published related to Windows 8 installation.


Download and Install the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Here are some download links for the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.


Set Up Windows 8 with the Web Installer. A guide to the new, preferred method of clean installing, migrating to, or upgrading to Windows 8.


Create Bootable Install Media. Download the Windows 8 ISO and create DVD- or USB-based install media that you can use to clean install or upgrade to Windows 8.


Clean Install Windows 8. The traditional method for clean-installing Windows 8 on a new (or existing) PC.


In-Place Upgrade: From Windows 7 to Windows 8. A guide to the traditional process for upgrading a Windows 7 PC to Windows 8 while retaining applications, settings, and user data.


Push Button Reset. A set of new Windows 8 features that let you quickly wipe out a Windows 8 PC and return it to factory fresh condition or, optionally, do so while retaining all Metro-style apps, settings, and user data.


What's missing: Windows To Go is a new Windows 8 feature that allows you to install Windows  8 to a bootable USB device and then run the OS from any PC. Microsoft says it will implement this feature officially post-Consumer Preview. There are hacks to get this working now, so I may write an article soon if I can safely and predictably document the process.




If you're the visual type, I published four Windows 8 Consumer Preview screenshot galleries:


Start Screen Screenshots. The Start screen and PC Settings interfaces.


Metro Productivity Apps Screenshots. The Metro-style productivity apps that are included in this release, such as Calendar, Finance, Internet Explorer 10, Mail, Maps, Messaging, People, SkyDrive, Windows Store, and Weather.


Metro Entertainment Apps Screenshots. The Metro-style entertainment apps that are available in this milestone, including Camera, Xbox Companion, Pinball FX2, Solitaire, Music, Video, and Xbox LIVE.


Desktop Screenshots. A few shots of the Windows 8 Explorer desktop.


Blog posts


Shorter looks at some interesting Windows 8 Consumer Preview topics.


Mine Goes to 11. Well, 9.9. Microsoft first created the Windows Experience Index (WEI) for Windows Vista, designing it as a system in which the performance of several key hardware components are rated and an overall score is provided. Updated first in Windows 7, WEI has now been updated for a second time in Windows 8.


A Tale of Two Start Screens. So this is interesting. I've been using the Windows 8 Consumer Preview since Monday on a Samsung Series 7 tablet, as you may know, but since yesterday have been loading it on the various PCs I use regularly. And one difference has stood out.


What's next?


I'm working on my first Consumer Preview-era article in the "8 Is Enough" series, and that should be up in the next day or two. After that, I'm going to start a Windows 8 Feature Focus series that will thoroughly examine individual Windows 8 features and apps, and will update these articles as needed through the final release so that they will work for the RTM version of the OS as well. Of course, I'm also working on Windows 8 Secrets and will be making my first chapter submissions this week.


And don't worry, I won't ignore the Windows Server 8 Beta. I've been a bit preoccupied with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, which I assume is understandable, but there's some interesting stuff happening in its Server cousin, too. I've installed Server 8 Beta and will be writing about that soon.


These are exciting times, folks, and there's much to do. I'm excited to be a small part of it.

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