Dogfooding Windows 8? I have a bone to pick

Windows 8 isn't two operating systems in one. It's one operating system that you can use in various ways, depending on your PC hardware.
Written by Mary Branscombe, Contributor

I was interested to see the mix of reactions to Windows 8 by some 'long-term' users gathered by David Gewirtz from several of our ZDNet colleagues in the US — where long term included a week or so in some cases. So I couldn't resist weighing in with my own thoughts.

I've used Windows 8 on and off since September 2011 when the Developer Preview came out. At the time I was disappointed that it wasn't ready for day-to-day use like the M3 build of Windows 7. But I've used it as my only OS since the Consumer Preview came out in February 2012.

I have several Windows 8 systems and one Windows 7 machine left, which I use about twice a week to look as if I'm on a different IP address and because I haven't taken the time to find a Windows 8-compatible equivalent to Hotspot Shield or bothered to check if Hotspot Shield has been upgraded to 8. Other than that, I use Windows 8 all the time.

My use of Windows 8

How I use Windows 8 varies radically depending on whether I'm talking about the HP touchscreen notebook with permanent keyboard that I use as my main work machine or the Samsung Series 7 slate I use around the house and when I don't need to type long documents — and my Surface RT is much like the Series 7.

On the touchscreen HP notebook, I live on the desktop the way I always have, in Outlook and OneNote and the browser and I use ClipMate and my Word macros and tweaks, and I'm delighted with the faster startup and longer battery life. I appreciate that offline files work better and while I don't forget I'm using Windows 8, I'm just using Windows.

It's not that Windows 8 pushes me in one direction or another. It's that I choose which machine I'm going to use based on what I'm going to do

I keep my hands on the keyboard and the trackpad and the touch pointer except when I reach up and touch the screen to hit the Send button in Outlook or scroll through a document or web page or select a menu or use the ribbon in OneNote — but I did all those things in Windows 7.

I have about 20 icons pinned to the taskbar for my desktop programs. I'm just as likely to open the Charms bar or switch apps with the keyboard as I am with my fingers. I don't miss Aero glass at all, or the poky, fiddly, liable-to-close-at-the-wrong-moment Start menu.

I use the Start screen to launch apps and the charm bar to open control panel and PC Settings and the Metro apps I use most are games, People and just looking at my live tiles for updates like weather forecasts without opening the app.

When I have a keyboard, Windows 8 is a better version of Windows 7. But I know that's influenced by my 1280 screen resolution not letting me have a Windows Store app snapped at the side of my desktop, so the Start screen is a bit more out of sight, out of mind.

On the slates, I live in the Start screen and what I've trained myself to call the Windows Store applications. I use the People app to keep up with Twitter and Facebook. I use the Metro version of IE to browse the web and enter books into LibraryThing and do my online banking and everything else I'd rather do on a screen larger than my phone.

I search in the Bing app rather than the desktop browser. I use Play To to send videos to the Xbox so we can see them on the big screen. I use both desktop and Windows Store versions of OneNote with a pen on the Samsung slate for taking notes when I'm at meetings. It's ideal for notes over lunch when a plate and a notebook don't fit side by side or into the conversation. I do wish Surface RT had a pen.

Windows Store apps

I play more games and spend more time in Windows Store apps but I can drive the desktop with my finger whenever I want to. It's just that because it's a tablet rather than a notebook form factor, I'm not opening so many desktop programs because I'm using it when I don't need to do things in desktop programs.

It's not that Windows 8 pushes me in one direction or another. It's that I choose which machine I'm going to use based on what I'm going to do and that tends to be split into things that require precision and heavy text input so I use the best keyboard I have, and things that I want to do when I'm sitting back that don't need thousands of words of text and are nice to do with touch alone.

For the past few years, I've had one PC that I really use — three generations of an HP EliteBook tablet PC. The 2740p is great: good screen, responsive touch, super keyboard, good enough battery life, enough power for all my programs at once. It's a bit too heavy for my bad back but it's so much of what I need in every dimension that it's effectively my only PC.

I bought the Samsung Slate thinking I'd alternate between a pure slate for days out and a planned Ultrabook to give me a lighter system but I realised I'd miss touch on a notebook too much for scrolling documents so I have a light tablet and a heavy tablet.

I'm looking for my ideal next laptop to buy next year — convertible, powerful, Core, touch and active pen. I don't think I'm ever going to have just one machine anymore, but until Windows 9 comes along everything I use will have Windows 8 on it.

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