Surprise! What you can expect from Windows 8 RTM

Surprise! What you can expect from Windows 8 RTM

Summary: Microsoft has officially made the final release of Windows 8 available to subscribers of its MSDN and TechNet services. You'll find a handful of small surprises, one very large change from Windows 7, and a momentous name change.

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TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft
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We can now see how Microsoft has implemented its controversial decision to enable the Do Not Track setting in Internet Explorer 10 as well. During setup, the Do Not Track setting is listed as the third item in this bulleted list:

eb-windows8-rtm-dnt-1-crop

If you choose the Customize option, there's a slider that lets you enable or disable DNT:

eb-windows8-rtm-dnt-2-crop

The most obvious difference after you finish setup is visual: there’s a new selection of custom backgrounds for the Start screen and the Lock screen.

eb-windows8-rtm-new-backgrounds

There's a greater selection of background colors and "tattoos" for the Start screen than in the Release Preview. In addition, the desktop has the new flat look, with no more traces of Aero.

In PC Settings, the only noticeable addition is an Available Storage block on the General tab, which makes it easy to see at a glance how much disk space is free. That measurement is especially critical on tablets and small devices with limited storage, especially 32GB devices.

One change is momentous in symbolic terms. The built-in Windows file manager, which has been called Windows Explorer for 17 years, is now called File Explorer. You might not notice unless you right-click its icon on the taskbar or search for it.

eb-windows8-rtm-file-explorer

In my testing, performance was uniformly excellent, even on a nearly five-year-old Dell desktop PC. As was the case in the Release Preview, startup and shutdown are impressively fast, and every app I used was quick and responsive.

Most of the built-in apps have received only modest tweaks from their Release Preview predecessors. In a note to reviewers, Microsoft said, "The in-box Microsoft apps we have built for Windows 8 (communications, entertainment, etc.) will be continuously updated over time via the Windows Store. Some of the applications will be updated at our next milestone, when Windows 8 is generally available."

My experience bears that out. The Mail app, for example, has no new features but a few UI changes. Music is now called Xbox Music and boasts new options in the Preferences pane (most notably an option that requires you to sign in before completing purchases).

One surprise in the Store was the first official appearance of the Xbox SmartGlass brand, which replaces the earlier Xbox Companion app.

eb-xbox-companion-small

The story with third-party apps is similar.

If you're expecting a sudden influx of killer modern/Metro apps, you'll be disappointed. I counted 452 apps in the Store yesterday using the RTM code. That total includes some desktop apps, but most are still free Windows 8 apps, with a heavy emphasis on games. I found only a few paid apps in the Store.

That total is significantly higher than the 363 apps I counted in the Store on July 17 using the Release Preview. But it's clear that if there's going to be a sudden influx of apps, they will probably appear closer to the General Availability date of October 26.

I noticed that several bugs i had experienced with third-party apps were fixed in this release. The RTM code seems, after very brief testing, to work very well with other Microsoft products and services that are still in preview mode: Outlook.com, Office 365, and Office 2013 all seem to function properly.

And there are very few surprises in the Windows 8 interface itself. The Start screen is still on top and the Start menu, like Francisco Franco, is still dead. If you've been testing Windows 8 for any length of time, you've probably already formed an opinion about the new design, and nothing in the final release is likely to change that. The only significant (and welcome) change I noticed is in  file search results, where right-clicking an item now displays an app command that lets you jump to that file's location using Windows Ex... sorry, File Explorer.

This is an important milestone for Windows 8, but it's still just that—between now and October 26, it's still best suited for evaluation by IT pros and enthusiasts.

Coming shortly:

  • Getting started with the TechNet/MSDN releases
  • What's new in the Windows 8 license agreement?

Topics: Windows, Microsoft

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238 comments
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  • So it's still a FUGLY Mess

    Thanks for the review - I think we've Met Microsoft Bob Sr.
    itguy10
    • Fantastically chic and easy on the eyes.

      Nouveau and avant garde interface.
      Love it!
      milo ducillo
      • activation key eye candy

        Didn't know you were into that, milo.

        Maybe you should go back to AOL and help them out on that 1998 interface. Hmmm?

        :)
        CaviarBlack
        • Oh listen to you, nomorems et al.

          We know you are stuck on the icon based interface first introduced in the 70s then stolen by Apple just like someone that would walk onto your property and steal your dog.
          You must be so happy that Apple and Android UIs are still driven by screens full of icons.
          And you never mentioned how much you loved Win95 through Windows 7 before.....that's big of you to finally admit you love those UIs. I do too, win7 with the active task bar is the best OS in the world. That's why it's the choice of enterprises everywhere in the world. How about the linux client? You'd think with that icon interface you feel so strongly about, it would have found it's way into a few homes. Hmmm...25 years later and still......nuttin. ahhhhh. it's ok.
          xuniL_z
          • You're just ignorant

            too bad for you; anyhow, I know is without hope but I will explain you with simple words:
            The best general purpose OS in this galaxy and surrounding areas is Mac OS X Lion, period.
            I know what I'm talking, I use both OS's, day in day out, 7 hrs in W7 every day, 5 Hrs & weekends in Lion. W7 is simply an inferior OS.
            theo_durcan
          • Yeah, and unlike Win7

            Lion is upgradeable
            CaviarBlack‍
          • @CaviarBlack

            "Yeah, and unlike Win7
            Lion is upgradeable"

            [x] iDiot
            warboat
          • nomorems, unlike OS X

            Windows 7 does not get MEGA and MONSTER patches several times a year with literally hundreds of bug fixes in each one, many of which are critical, with remote code execution possibile.
            That's what Apple hides so well. Only recently with some measure of success selling Macintosh Worms, are they getting slammed wtih malware, but before that Apple cultists would dismiss these fixes as "not needed".
            But that does not take away the fact that the OS was totally exploitable, remotely, if someone had bothered to exploit it. There just weren't any terrorists nor criminals interested in 3% of the market.
            I am not going to ever trust and use an OS that gets patched so heavily to the point it's got dozens of layers of band aids, like OS X. Your ilk has tried to paint Windows like this, but OS X has to patch exploitable code at a rate of 20:1 to Windows. If an OS is exploitable remotely, it just is, whether anyone actually takes advantage of it or not. I'm not going to risk PHI to that kind of worm OS.
            We've never had any Windows exploits of any severity whatsoever.
            xuniL_z
          • Explain.

            How is Win7 not upgradeable?
            TechNickle
          • And you think the world revolves around your opinion

            I own macs. I provide support for macs. I deploy iPads. However, I prefer windows 7 to mac os any day of the week.

            I know what I'm talking about as I use both OS's day in and day out (and I use macs at work too).

            But congrats to mac os x lion for such innovative features as re-sizing all four corners of a window. Real groundbreaking stuff there.
            glitch177k
          • Apple knows best!

            I like the feature that turns off the second monitor every time I run a program full screen. Apple knows I would never need the second screen when I'm running a program full screen, especially in a production environment. I once thought I would need it to take notes, but if I did need it I'm sure apple would not have blanked it out, so I must have been wrong.
            Teedei
          • Windows UI > OSX UI

            While I agree OSX is technically superior in many ways, it is inferior to windows in its desktop UI. OSX has a lot of flaws in UI ergonomics compared to Windows.
            Multiple monitor support - if you have used OSX with multiple monitors, you have no doubt found a lot of flaws. From wallpapers screwing up when you attach/detach/power on/off extra screens to the frustration in trying to use apps in fullscreen mode. In windows, it just works!
            Biggest problem with OSX UI is the way the menubar is detached from windows. While Apple Inc may say this is not a flaw but a feature, try and use multiple monitors and then edit an icon in a window on one screen and then have to drag your mouse across screens to access the menu for that little window! If I want to detach controls, let me choose it. Forced detached controls is bad UI ergonomics.
            What the hell was the OSX people thinking when they used 3 coloured circle icons as window controls? What the hell does red, yellow, green mean to a complete noob? intuitive? hardly. Why didn't they just leave the icon symbols showing rather than auto-hide it. When you run your mouse over the icons, the symbols appear, when you run your mouse over the control icons in windows 8, text description appears in addition to the static icons which do not autohide. UI information in windows 8 is a level above that of OSX. Form over function is bad for information and OSX is inferior to Windows in this regard.
            Windows Taskbar is what the OSX Dock wants to be when it grows up. OSX dock is inefficient and wasting space with dead corners.
            There's a lot of UI things with regards to OSX vs Windows, but it just seems like OSX is 95% finished in the UI department because they spent most of their effort in aesthetics rather than optimising functionality.
            warboat
          • I like where you went, but flawed premise..

            "While I agree OSX is technically superior in many ways," Describe the technical superiorities, as well. This statement, which you use as a standing, unopposed premise, holds no basis for any further discussion unless you can disprove any contending arguments in the same nonchalant fashion. Otherwise, you've provided as your very basis of your continuation argument, something that is not proven. To any thinking individual, doing so likely removes a large degree of credibility from your subsequent musings.

            Here's a lesson: Since the moon as everyone knows is made of cream cheese, has been a topic of great discussion...

            So, yah, your argument is based on a 'cream cheese' similar premise.
            TechNickle
          • Warboat

            i made a account just to comment on all this mac vs win and you guys are leaving out linux and unix systems by any chance can we at least have some sort of recognition there.

            thanks
            Evil_Eric1976
          • mac vs win

            OSX Is unix. 'nuff said.
            xplorer1959
          • Dumbed down beyound belief

            *nix is for nerdy geeks, OSX is for idiots (who think they are smart) and windows (7 and earlier) is for everyone else.
            Teedei
          • Matter of opinion theo_durcan

            And first, let me clue you in. I was responding to a poster who now calls himself caviarblack. He's been on here for years and banned under many other names for his lewd language and ad hominem attacks on anyone that uses Windows. He's been known, for example, in the past as nomorems and too many others to even start naming them. They are all quite forgettable anyway and I really don't recall the majority. nomorems was the one he was using when I first visited zdnet, back when they didn't pull your post or ban you for F bombs and vulgar language of which is this person's specialty.
            Secondly, it all depends on what you are doing. I can write quick and easy scripts natively on Windows, build first rate apps in minutes. You can't do that on OS X. They will never top Visual Studio for code developement and it's probably why they've licensed software from Microsoft in the past for that purpose. The Apple II machines came with AppleSoft basic, which I actually really loved and wrote some very large programs with for a client a long time ago. Applesoft basic was written by the fine folks at Microsoft and licensed to Apple.
            OS X is too locked down for my tastes. I like to get down to the nitty gritty of the system for a large variety of good reasons when it comes to dealing with the network or programming. There is just so much you can't do on OS X unless all you are interested in is browsing the web or taking notes. Perhaps you plan on starting a band soon, who knows?
            The combination of the Windows 7 client on a Windows server 2008 network can't be beat, hands down, I've never used a more user friendly, easy to setup network, ever. I've worked many years with Unix/Linux networks, the guts of OS X and Windows just blows it out of the water.
            They've got it so nailed down at this point that their server share continues to eat away at the Unix shops, like it did initially in very large numbers.
            I've used OS X and there is nothing there for me. It's not faster than Windows 7 and it's not more intuitive than Windows 7 to me. The active task bar is far more useful than the OS X program interface.
            The taskbar keeps an image of the last used shot of a session, for one small example. So if like me and you have 20 or 30 or more, sessions on your taskbar at all times, and you are working on Large systems that require the client to timeout to security This is a huge productivity enhancement to see the last screen you were working on and not the login screen. That is one very small item, but Win 7 is so much more of a great network client and also a great all around machine. OS X may be a nifty home client but that's about it and you are locked out of most system areas, which is ok for the grandmas and grandpas of the world but the rest of us needs the power of Windows 7 or 8.
            Now you will see the same interface on both tablets and laptops.
            xuniL_z
          • Do you really like Lion, or...

            ... just hate your day job?
            jaykayess
          • W7 is simply an inferior OS.

            "I know what I'm talking, I use both OS's, day in day out, 7 hrs in W7 every day, 5 Hrs & weekends in Lion."

            For a moment, suppose no one here knows you, and thusly has zero trust in your ability to ascertain your ass from a hole in the ground. Why then, should any of us take your word against numerous arguments to the contrary? Shall we all simply praise your 'time on task' of learning Windows 7 vs Lion, and accept that somehow your learning curve is similar to EVERYONE here, or greater?

            Next time... pose an argument in a manner that doesn't place you in direct competition with the learning curve and experience of others. Make some concrete statements, at least. Otherwise, you've wasted font storage space and scrolling momentum for other readers.
            TechNickle
          • Inferiority?

            Depends on what you are using it for.
            Michael Frost