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Windows 8 Metro UI
We're fortunate at ZDNet to get access to a vast range of mobile technology.
Name a device, OS or brand, and it's passed through my hands not too long ago. Alas, it's for that reason that the chance to use a new product doesn't always bring the level of excitement you might imagine.
Recently, however, I've been taken aback at how impressed I am with one particular piece of software: Windows 8.
Microsoft's new OS completely confounded my expectations, particularly when used within the confines of the Metro interface (pictured).
Windows 8 apps
One of the reasons it confounded me so was my experience of the developer preview earlier in the year. I was using it with a bog-standard laptop and it was missing even the simplest of features that would make it a pleasurable experience without a touchscreen.
However, I've recently spent a decent amount of time with it on a tablet - and my opinion of the OS has been entirely changed.
The context-sensitive features and settings (pictured) in Windows 8 are shockingly logical.
For example, once you know that the right-hand side of the screen is always going to be the quickest way to access the options of any Metro app, or get to the Start screen, or check system settings, navigation is simple.
Microsoft might not spring to mind as a designer of cutting-edge UIs but somehow it has pushed itself with the Metro interface and delivered something people will want to use.
It's surprising to me as much as anyone, but Metro really does make you want to flick your way around to see what the OS can do.
When I did, I was pleasantly surprised to find an alternative keyboard layout geared towards typing with two thumbs while holding the tablet.
Of course, if you look far enough beneath, you'll find a much more familiar view of Windows in the desktop mode but it's not one you'll want to spend much time with if you're using a touchscreen device. Not that it doesn't work, or is excessively fiddly, it's just not as enjoyable nor as well optimised for touch controls.
Windows 8 uses IE 10 as the default browser
Realising I liked Windows 8 also forced me to re-evaluate other Microsoft resistances I've built up over time.
Internet Explorer isn't a browser I've had too much time for in the past decade; I switched to Firefox, and then to Chrome, when Firefox got too slow and bulky for my needs.
But with IE10's 'chromeless' Metro view filling the whole screen this could change. I imagine other vendors are furiously working away to deliver Metro versions of their browsers but until they do, IE10 is my preference.
These are words I didn't anticipate saying this year.
That's not to say it's perfect: it bugs me that with IE10's Metro view filling the screen I can't have two instances, or tabs, displayed at the same time.
You can get around this for now by using another browser in the desktop view and docking it in the side (pictured), but it's not the same thing. Similarly, switching away from Google Mail to another tab constantly results in being signed in and out of Google Talk, but that's another pretty minor gripe.
And that's what I mean: the OS is by no means perfect — using a browser or other small-windowed app in the desktop view on a tablet isn't the best experience — but there's so much that is impressive and easy to use that I want to keep using it in spite of its annoyances, rather than it being a case of having no choice in the matter. No other version of Windows has ever managed that for me.