A Retrospective Look at Windows 8

We’ve had many months to play around with Microsoft’s latest OS - here we discuss features we love, and where there may be room for improvement...

We've had many months to play around with Microsoft's latest OS - here are some of the features and apps that will make your transition to Windows 8 fun and easy.


          1.       Internet Explorer 10

One of the most important apps that you will use (particularly if you're on a tablet), is the Internet browser. And the standard web browser for the Windows 8 operating system is Internet Explorer 10. While this may send chills down a few spines (including mine), I was pleasantly surprised to discover how good Internet Explorer 10 is.


Not only is it incredibly quick, and outpaced most of its rival browsers, but IE10 also has minimal toolbar interference. And once I got used to this feature, I really appreciated the seemingly uninhibited view (particularly while using a Windows 8 tablet where screen real estate can be somewhat limited).   

Speaking of tablet PCs, IE10 is also one of the best touchscreen optimised browsers available. It has large, touchable tiles that replace tabs, and swiping ahead or back to web pages is a natural gesture.

          2.       Cut the Rope

Zepto Labs' Cut the Rope is one of the most addictive mobile games around. It was initially released on iOS, but has made its way onto Android and Windows 8 devices.

For those of you who may not have played this awesome game, Cut the Rope is a physics style puzzle game where the main action is cutting ropes. But the aim is to cut your ropes in such a way to ensure that the candy lands in the mouth of a hungry little green monster called Om Nom, and potentially hit some gold stars on the way.

Cut the Rope

Anyone who's played Cut the Rope will testify to its awesomeness. So if you're looking for your next gaming fix (ideally on your Windows 8 tablet), download Cut the Rope.  

          3.       YouCam

For brilliant video editing software, you really should download YouCam. You can even shoot stills with this app, and apply TrueTheater lighting to correct over and underexposed images. But there's more, as you can apply noise reduction, video stabilisation, and custom exposure settings.   

In addition, YouCam can turn your PC into a mirror with zoom and auto face-tracking, and the app can also trim video, and upload it directly to Facebook, YouTube, or Flickr.

          4.       TuneIn Radio

TuneIn is the Internet radio app of choice whether you use an iOS, Android, and now Windows 8 device. You can use the app to browse pretty much the planet's entire wealth of online sound, including local and international radio stations, news, sports, talk, and podcasts.

All of this choice is neatly categorised and subcategorised, and it's all searchable using the standard Windows 8 search charm. You can even favourite a station and pin it to the Metro start screen for easy access.

Simplifying Windows 8

Windows 8 will probably be very different to what you are used to. And, as a result, I found it very useful to streamline my experience by making some minor changes.

So let's start at the very beginning of the Windows 8 experience, and that unnecessary and frustrating lock screen. Sure... a lock screen makes perfect sense for a tablet, but on a desktop PC? Not so much. It's just another unnecessary click.

But fortunately, it's quite easy to get rid of the Windows 8 lock screen. All you need to do is open up the Run command box (by pressing Windows and R), and type in gpedit.msc. This opens up the "Local Group Policy Editor Window".  Then you need to navigate to Computer Configuration> Administrative Templates> Control Panel> Personalisation on the left of the menu.

Disable Win 8 Lock Screen

Finally, you need to double click on the "Do Not Display the Lock Screen" option on the main pane to open up a new window. Then select the "Enabled" button, then ok... and viola, bye-bye lock screen.

But by far the most controversial change in Windows 8 was the removal of the start button. So many words have been written about this, but I'll tell you the easiest way to get your start button back if you want it.

Your best bet is to download an app called "Classic Shell". At its most basic, this free, open-source donationware will enable you to put a start button back on your task bar. But there are many other ways to customise your software, as Classic Shell also gives you the option of installing a Windows XP, Vista, or 7 style start menu.

Classic Shell

Alternatively, you could get your start button back by purchasing an app called Start8. It may cost £5, but I think that the interface is more aesthetically pleasing.

For more information about Windows 8, or to find out how to further improve your experience, be sure to check out this KNOWHOW support page