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A deep dive into Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Preston Gralla | March 6, 2012
Windows 8 Consumer Preview offers a new look at Microsoft's upcoming interface for both computers and tablets. Is one device being shortchanged in favor of the other?

Metro apps are "live" -- that is, they can grab information from elsewhere, such as from social networking services or other Internet locations, and use it and display it right in the tile itself. So the weather app, for example, displays the current weather, a stock app displays current stock prices, a calendar displays current meetings, and a social networking app (called People) can display the latest updates from social networking services. In this way, you don't have to open many of the apps to reap their benefits; all you need to do is glance at them onscreen. You can, of course, click on any app to launch it in order to get more information and interact with it.

Metro is very clearly designed for tablets , because the tiles are all quite large, even those that don't display changing information. There are so many tiles that they scroll off to the right of the screen. On a tablet, you use the swipe gesture to see them. On a traditional computer, you need to scroll to the right, which is a lot more awkward. Although the Metro start screen is aesthetically pleasing, I found myself longing for the Desktop's more efficient use of real estate, where I could to see all my apps on a single screen.

That being said, the Start screen is easy to customize, so you can make sure that all of the apps you use regularly are immediately visible. And you can remove apps pinned to the Start screen by right-clicking (or, on the keyboard, Ctrl-right clicking); a menu appears at the bottom of the screen that lets you unpin, resize or uninstall the app. Not all apps can be resized, though -- Microsoft's cloud -based SkyDrive storage service can't, for example.

A menu appears at the bottom of the screen that lets you unpin, resize or uninstall the app.Click to view larger image

You can also put tiles into their own groups as an easy way to see related apps at a glance. Click a small icon at the bottom right corner of the screen and all the apps on the Start screen shrink into a small space. Move tiles anywhere you want on the screen, including into groups. You right-click a group to name it. Click anywhere on the Start screen and the tiles return to their normal size.

Of course, not all apps are necessarily visible on the Start screen. To see all your apps, you right-click on the Start screen and click the "All apps" icon that appears at the bottom of the screen. You'll then see every app listed, along with small tiles that represent each. Right-click any app to pin it to or unpin it from the Start menu (or to/from the Desktop taskbar -- the same taskbar you'll find in Windows Vista and Windows 7 -- if it's a Desktop app). Depending on the app, you may have more options as well. For a Desktop-based app, you'll be able to also uninstall it, open it in a new Window, run it as an administrator, or launch Windows Explorer opened to the location where the application is installed.

 

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