It’s been a while since the last 8 Days a Week article, but with Microsoft racing to deliver the Windows 8 Release Preview as soon as next week and my first draft of “Windows 8 Secrets” in the can, it’s time to once again take a look at what’s going on with Microsoft’s next desktop operating system.
Windows 8 Secrets: First draft is complete
First, the book. When last we met—two full months ago in 8 Days A Week: We Are The 25 Percenters—I noted that we were about 25 percent done with the book and that my goal was for it to come in around 500 printed pages. Since then, we’ve finished the first draft of the book—about two weeks ago, I guess—based on the Consumer Preview, largely. But we have an odd problem. The book’s too long.
After trimming a bunch of content about the desktop IE version—which, yes, is largely unchanged from a user experience standpoint from IE 9—and cutting two full chapters (which, frankly, were ancillary anyway) we’re down to about 650 pages, roughly speaking, including all of the screenshots. (And there are many.)
This wouldn’t be a problem—650 pages is where Wiley, the publisher, wanted the book anyway—but with the Release Preview coming we have a ton of changes and additions to make. All of those app previews from the Consumer Preview have been updated, often dramatically, so those chapters will all have to be updated as well, often in fairly major ways. Keeping this book at 650 pages is going to be difficult.
Not helping matters, of course, is that the Release Preview version of Windows 8 will not be feature complete. As Microsoft slyly revealed in an 11,000 word blog post about a week ago, the company is preparing to replace the Aero desktop experience with a new, flatter, Metro-ish and modern theme that will resemble the look and feel of Office 15 and the Zune PC software. Since this coming post-Release Preview, we will need to retake every single screenshot that deals with the desktop after the Release Preview. We’re discussing how that will happen with Microsoft.
It’s not a small problem. Obviously, we have a lengthy chapter in the book about changes to the desktop. But there are many other chapters that have desktop screenshots, too: We have written about various topics like personalization, Internet Explorer, storage, backup, and recovery, accounts and security, networking and connectivity, and business Windows 8 usage, where of course the desktop figures pretty prominently. These kinds of last minute fixes are ugly. But at least switching out screenshots in a nearly complete book isn’t a big deal from a production standpoint. Just a pain in the butt.
Anyway, the book is available for preorder, and at quite a discount, though it's only the paper version. Yes, eBook versions are on the way as well.
Updates to Windows 8
Microsoft, of course, has been busy. And while not all of the posts over at Building Windows 8 deserve a lot of commentary—let along the space Microsoft is wasting on these topics—some of what they’re revealing is very interesting. Looking back at just the past week or so, we see:
In Designing for PCs that boot faster than ever before, Windows 8 user experience program manager Chris Clark describes and explains a phenomenon that I’ve actually witnessed and wrestled with: Windows 8 boots so fast that it’s hard to use any of the normal boot-time tools to which PC users have become accustomed. I know, I know. First world problems. But it’s true. My new PC booted from a cold start to the Windows 8 lock screen in just 6 seconds when I first installed the OS. That’s amazing.
To fix this issue, Microsoft has built a new Advanced Startup capability into Windows 8. Just go into PC Settings, General and then click the Restart button under Advanced Startup to enable.
When the PC reboots, you’ll see a one-time screen like that shown below. From here, you can continue booting into Windows 8, boot from a USB-based device (like a USB key with the Windows 8 Setup files), boot into another version of Windows (on a multi-boot system), access the recovery tools, or turn off the PC.
There’s even a command line option for this feature: shutdown.exe /r /o
While I covered most of Windows 8’s new multi-monitor support features in Windows 8 Feature Focus: Multi-Monitor several weeks ago, a new Microsoft post, Enhancing Windows 8 for multiple monitors, expands on that a little bit by revealing a few new changes coming in the Release Preview. After a lot of blah, blah, blah, Microsoft’s Mark Yalovsky finally gets to the point. And here are the details he reveals that weren’t in my own article:
Multi-monitor slideshow. Windows 8 will intelligently display images on each screen in a photo slideshow so that they are suited to the orientation of each display. That is, if you have a portrait display and a landscape display, the slideshow will show horizontally-oriented photos on the landscape display and vertically oriented photos on the portrait display. Nice!
Hot corner and edge support. Windows 8 will improve mousing efficiency on multi-monitor systems by providing all of the edge and hot corner UIs (Charms, Start tip, Back tip, etc.) on any display and by making the corners “sticky” so you don’t mouse over them by mistake. That latter issue has been a big complaint among the minority of people using multi-mon with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Fixed!
I was amused to see a flurry of tech blog posts about the “new” parental controls in Windows 8, but the truth is that most of this stuff has been around since Windows Vista. As I noted in my own blog post, Microsoft Touts New Parental Control Features In Windows 8, only a few of the described features are new: a simpler, Metro-based way to add “family safety” to a user account, a very useful new time allowance feature, and Windows Store integration. But mostly, it’s same old, same old. (Which is fine. Windows parental controls have been useful for years.)
Microsoft actually provided a lengthy post about improvements to the chkdsk (“check disk”) utility which, as its name suggests, checks the disks for errors and, if possible, fixes them. The post, Redesigning chkdsk and the new NTFS health model, basically boils to this: Windows 8 will require the user to manually fix disk problems far less frequently than did previous Windows versions. Go figure. But if you love charts and graphs and screenshots, please, do read their post.
The bigger controversial items from the Building Windows 8 Blog, along with Microsoft’s associated inability to communicate effectively, have been debated and dissected elsewhere, of course. So while there’s no reason to flog the proverbial dead horse (or whatever), I’ll just mention that I discussed all this other stuff in blog posts and articles such as The Final Insult? Microsoft Explains, Dumps On, Media Center In Windows 8, Windows 8, DVD Playback, Media Center, and You, and Windows 8 Release Preview: RIP, Aero (2003-2012).
Before the Windows 8 Consumer Preview shipped in very late February, I promised to issue a tsunami of articles covering that release and then followed through over 40 articles over the first few days of its release. Folks, the Windows 8 Release Preview is coming soon. And I think it’s fair to say that my coverage of this release will be even more voluminous, given that I’ll have had even more time with this version of the OS before it goes public. So stay tuned. There is a LOT going on with the Windows 8 Release Preview. And I intend for this site to be the only place you need to turn to find out everything you need to know. Tsunami 2.0, coming up.