Oh happy day - Word from Redmond is that Windows 8 will support .ISO and .VHD files straight out of the box.
In a post by Rajeev Nagar, group program manager on Microsoft's storage and file systems team, explains how it works in a blog post over on Building Windows 8.
Note: In case you're unfamiliar with the file extensions, .ISO files are files that represent a digital copy of an optical disk,while .VHD files are virtual hard disks files as used by virtualization software Hyper-V or Virtual PC.
Handling .ISO files seems like a snap - select the file and choose Mount from the ribbon menu or right click and it appears as an optical drive.
While the .ISO is loaded as a virtual drive is acts and behaves just like a real CD/DVD drive. When you're done, you eject the virtual drive and it's gone.
.VHD files are just as easy to use, although instead of appearing as virtual optical drives, these appear as hard drives.
Note: There is already support for .VHD files in Windows 7 but it is not this easy to use.
Unlike .ISO files, you can update, add and remove files contained in .VHD files.
I've got to say that I'm pretty jazzed about these new additions to Windows 8. I have a huge collection of (legally acquired) .ISO and .VHD files and not having to install third-party tools to handle them will make setting up new systems a lot easier.
While talking about .ISO and .VHD file handling, Microsoft also gives us a glimpse of the ribbonized UI of Windows Explorer on Windows 8 in this and an earlier post.
According to Microsoft, the commands on display in the new Ribbon make up 84% of what users do in Windows Explorer in one tab:
Also back is the 'Up one level' button on Windows Explorer:
Folder view and preview pane controls are now at the bottom-right of the screen:
Something that's new is the 'Media Servers' links (a;so notice the 'Podcasts" library ... my guess the test machine had Zune software installed and that this is NOT a default Windows 8 library):
Here are a few more for you:
And if you prefer keyboard shortcuts, well, here you go!
I like what I see!