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8 Days a Week: Windows 8 Secrets in Progress

This week, I'd like to discuss how I'm using Evernote and Word 2010 to create Windows 8 Secrets with Rafael Rivera and then examine the week's official Microsoft revelations about Windows 8 and the blogosphere reactions.

How I'm Using Evernote and Word 2010 together while writing Windows 8 Secrets

I've written in recent weeks about my adoption of Evernote (in What I Use: Evernote and Microsoft Word for Writing) and, more recently, in 8 Days A Week: A 2012 CES Recap, that I'd be doing the actual writing of Windows 8 Secrets in Microsoft Word, as has been the case with all of my 20+ books dating back to 1994. This week, I'd like to explain one way in which I'll be using these two tools together.

As far as the book is concerned, Evernote is being used as an information gathering tool. I've collected all of Microsoft's blog posts from Building Windows 8--there are 45 so far--as well as all of its posts from Windows Store for Developers (4) and then selected, relevant posts from other Microsoft blogs (like Microsoft Server and Cloud Platform Blog) as they appear. These posts are stored as individual notes in notebooks that are in turn kept in what Evernote calls a "notebook stack," which is essentially a folder of notebooks. I ensure that these Windows 8-related notebooks are available offline on my frequently-used PCs since I may need quick access to them for reference purposes.

I'm also using Evernote's note tagging system to create tags related to the book, and these are housed in a tag group I call Book: Windows 8 Secrets. Each tag is named with a w8f- prefix (standing for "Windows 8 Feature"), and as I archive Microsoft's official posts, I tag each according. Thusly, I can see which features are covered the most frequently, which is sort of interesting, and ensure that the book isn't missing anything key. That latter bit is all the more important because Windows 8 Secrets is an all-new book, with all-new content.

Looking through the list of tags, I can see that the five most frequently officially documented Windows 8 features, so far, are, Metro, Start Screen, classic desktop, performance, and storage. In that order. This will change over time, but it gives me an early indication at whether my own book is covering the right material, with the understanding that Rafael and I may in fact choose to highlight areas that Microsoft has largely ignored.

It's also given me the opportunity, once so far, to revise the Windows 8 Secrets table of contents (TOC). As it originally stood, Windows 8 Secrets consisted of 16 chapters excluding introductory material ("front matter"). But Microsoft has hit on some subjects that were not covered by the original TOC and couldn't easily be added into an existing chapter. (That's because the offending topic wasn't readily apparent in the Developer Preview, which is, of course, what we based the initial TOC on.)

I'd like to think that I'm done revising the TOC, but I'm not: When Microsoft releases its Beta/Consumer Preview in late February, I'm hoping to see a near-final/feature complete version of the OS that I can feel comfortable writing against. (Regardless, this is when the most serious writing will begin.) It'd be nice to put the TOC to bed, so to speak.

Speaking of the TOC, at the request of the publishing company, I detailed what each of these current chapters will cover, with varying levels of Heading 1 and Heading 2 sections, and last fall took the time to create the shells of chapters in individual Word document files. There are 17 of these, currently, covering Chapters 1-17, and each includes all of the typographical and template-related stuff the publishing company requires, as well as the rough outline with those H1 and H2 sections. With this out of the way, I've been (too slowly) filling in the background material for each section, where possible.

The Secrets series of books includes numerous sidebar-type notes in various styles (note, note1, note2, note3, general, tip, warning, reference, and so on), and each provides slightly different attributes, styles, and capabilities, and each appears on the final page differently. Ideally, these would be applied in the Word doc in a way that more closely mimics the final book, but that's not how it's done, never has been, due mostly to the limitations of Word layouts, I guess. It's sort of like the old days of using a DOS-based word processor to create styled text: You had to almost imagine what the final output was going to look like. In this case, we're structuring what is essentially page layout using a word processing document, but the overall effect is the same: I have to think about what the final version is going to look like as I fill it all in.

OK. What else is going on in the world of Windows 8 this week?

Words from on high

It was certainly a momentous week for official revelations about Windows 8, which is honestly pretty rare. There were two posts to the Building Windows 8 Blog this week and an even more interesting post to the official Windows Store for Developers blog. Each of these was so relevant, in fact, that I covered each separately in dedicated blog posts of my own. The topics:

Windows 8 support for mobile networks. As I noted in Microsoft Talks Up Windows 8 Mobile Network Support, Microsoft discussed Windows 8's support for cellular networks in addition to more traditional Wi-Fi and Ethernet networking, but no new information was revealed: Everything in this most recent Building Windows 8 blog post was available in September 2011's Developer Preview build. Nothing to see here.

ReFS file system. On the 17th, Microsoft announced that the long-rumored "Protogon" file system was real and would be called ReFS, for "resilient file system." Curiously, however, they announced this fact via the Building Windows 8 Blog. Why is this curious? ReFS will not be included in Windows 8, a fact I was apparently among the few to notice: I even stressed this in my post's title, New ReFS File System Will Debut In Windows Server 8, Not Windows 8.

ReFS is easy to sum up: It's an evolution of the existing NTFS file system and not something new, and it was most likely given a new name to both further cast aside legacy, Cutler-era NT branding and to put the Sinofsky camp's stamp firmly on Windows. But it will debut only in Windows Server 8, and then only for the file server workload. And you can't install ReFS on removable storage or use it on a boot volume. Over time, these limitations will be addressed, and ReFS will eventually be added to the Windows client. But I've speculated that this will happen via a Windows 8 service pack or perhaps in Windows 9. Either way, it's not part of Windows 8.

Windows Store user experience. The most interesting Microsoft blog post of the week, by far, came via the Windows Store for Developers blog. As I discussed in Looking At The Windows Store User Experience, that's because no one outside of Microsoft has access to the Windows Store yet, so this post provided some truly new and unique information, something that's sorely lacking--so far--over on Building Windows 8. Nice to see, and a good read.

From around the blogosphere

Programmers speak about Windows 8 development. Speaking of the Windows Store, my Windows Weekly co-host Mary Jo Foley provided an interesting article called What's it like building apps for Windows 8? Developers speak out. As the title suggests, she interviewed experienced Microsoft--oriented developers to see what the Windows 8 dev experience was like. "A few common themes emerged," she writes. "More documentation is badly needed. Silverlight and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) developers may have an adjustment curve — and may find themselves missing some of the good old features they’ve come to know and love. And WinRT, the new Windows runtime at the heart of Windows 8, is a mixed bag for those who’ve cut their teeth in the Win32/.Net worlds." This mirrors conversations I've had with Rafael Rivera, who has been investigating WinRT lately and comparing it to his knowledge about Windows Phone development. It's not good news, but I suspect he'll be writing about that soon enough.

Cost of Windows 8 tablets. The occasionally accurate Digitimes reported (paid subscription required) that Windows 8-based tablets will cost as much as $599 to $899, or a bit more expensive than the less functional iPad line costs today. Needless to say, this set off a series of reactionary blog posts from all the usual suspects, with the most common theme being that Windows 8 tablets would thus be "too expensive." An interesting side-theme is that the blame lies with Intel, which is allegedly "unwilling to budge on prices for the Clover Trail-W chips" that will power such devices. So the further speculation is that device makers will turn to ARM-based designs in increasing numbers.  But comparing a Windows 8-based tablet to an iPad or even reasonably-priced tablets like the Kindle Fire is unfair. These will be real computers, not toys. And $599 to $899 is indeed the cost of real PCs today.

Windows 8 tablets queued for production. The most widely-quoted Windows 8 partisan of the week, however, has got to be Intel CEO Paul Otellini, who had previously gone on record with his enthusiasm for the coming OS more than once. This week, Otellini discussed Windows 8 yet again in his company's financial quarter conference call and he had nothing but good things to say. "Windows 8 tablets that are being queued up for production," he said, suggesting that the timeline for completing Windows 8 is a bit closer than many believe.

Microsoft confirms 2012 delivery for Windows 8. Which leads me a bit of self-reference, and while this wasn't from a blog it is perhaps still relevant. In my news article about Microsoft's own quarterly financial results, I wrote that Microsoft had "confirmed [that Windows 8] would ship in 2012." I'm surprised no one else noticed this fact, which is based on a quote that appears in the Microsoft press release announcing its results. Cutting out the non-Windows 8 fluff, it reads as, [2012 is] "a launch year that will accelerate many of our key products and services ... and unify consumer experiences across our phones, PCs, tablets, and television in 2012." In 2012. That's calendar year 2012. This year. Not next year. Not this fiscal year (which ends in June). This year.

OK, that's enough for now. See you next week!

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