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Windows 8 - a first look (screenshots)

Microsoft officially took the wraps off of Windows 8, unveiling its radically revised new operating system. Take a look.
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1 of 15 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Microsoft officially took the wraps off of Windows 8, unveiling its radically revised new operating system in front af an audience of software developers. I had a chance to get my hands on the new system (literally) last night. Here’s what you can look forward to.

If you think you know what to expect from Windows 8, just wait till you get your hands on it. After a few hours of increasingly addictive hands-on experience, I am convinced that this new release will indeed be a very big deal.

Image above: Although you can use Windows 8 with a mouse and keyboard, it’s at its best on a touchscreen-equipped tablet like the one I tested.

Screenshots: Microsoft. Click on any image to enlarge

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2 of 15 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Metro-style apps are borderless and occupy the full screen. If your display has a resolution of 1366 by 768 or better, you can snap a Metro-style app into a skinny strip along the side, with another one occupying the remainder of the screen.

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When multiple Metro-style apps are open, you use another gesture—a quick swipe in from the left edge of the screen—to switch between apps. (The familiar Alt+Tab and Windows key+tab shortcuts work as well.)

Of course, you can use the familiar pinch gesture to zoom in or out in photos, web pages, and other places where that option makes sense.

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If you tap a finger anywhere that accepts alphanumeric input, you’ll see an on-screen keyboard like the one shown here. Windows 8 bears a striking number of visual similarities to the Windows Phone OS.

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5 of 15 Ed Bott/ZDNet

One innovation that should win at least a few fans is the option to reconfigure the keyboard so that its keys are evenly split between the left and right halves. This should please thumb typists.

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6 of 15 Ed Bott/ZDNet

The new search interface appears when you click or tap the Search icon at the top of the list of charms. Doing so slides out a search pane, with a box at the top where you can begin typing text. If you want to constrain the search to files, apps, or settings, those options are all available. You can also point the search to an app (like Internet Explorer) and send the search to that app.

In this example, I’ve just begun to search the Apps group, narrowing down the list of available apps to the handful shown here.

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7 of 15 Ed Bott/ZDNet

The Metro-style Control Panel provides a telemetry-driven subset of all the commands available in the traditional Control Panel, which is accessible in the classic Windows desktop.

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8 of 15 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Because the screen on this test device meets the minimum width requirements, it provides the option to arrange two Metro-style apps side by side. In this configuration, one app gets a slim strip along the side, with the other app using the remaining screen space. Interestingly, a Windows 8 desktop session can use either of these spaces. In the skinny configuration, you see individual programs that are open in that desktop session, as shown here.

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9 of 15 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Every Metro-style app has access to a full range of system services, including the ability to pick files from a screen that looks like no Windows dialog box you’ve seen before.

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10 of 15 Ed Bott/ZDNet

One place where the old desktop occasionally intrudes into the new, modern shell is with the appearance of the restyled task manager. Clicking its icon on the Start screen pops up a simple list of running apps, with an End Task button you can use to kill a program that isn’t responding.

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11 of 15 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Clicking the More Details arrow at the bottom displays an expanded Task Manager, similar to the one shown here. The additional details on the Processes tab, for example, allow you to see at a glance whether an individual app is using a disproportionate amount of memory, CPU resources, or network bandwidth. The App History tab provides a historical view of the same data.

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12 of 15 Ed Bott/ZDNet

One interesting innovation shows up in the Users section of Control Panel, where you have the capability to use a traditional password, a numeric PIN, or a picture password.

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13 of 15 Ed Bott/ZDNet

If you choose the picture password option, Windows 8 walks you through a series of steps where you choose a photo and then assign three gestures to that photo. When you’re asked to log on in the future, that photo appears, and you have to repeat the correct sequence of gestures, in the proper location and in the right direction, to log on. In this case, I need to tap on the monkey’s right paw, then tap on the left paw, and finally draw a circle around the goose in the upper right corner before I can log on.

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14 of 15 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Internet Explorer 10 is available in this developer preview build, as the About dialog box shown here makes clear.

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15 of 15 Ed Bott/ZDNet

The Trident rendering engine at the core of IE 10 plays a crucial role in Windows 8. You can use Internet Explorer in a Windows desktop session, where (at least for now) it uses the same tabs and interface conventions as IE 9. But if you tap or click the big blue Internet Explorer button on the Start screen, you get the Metro-style browser instead. Swipe the top or bottom edge to display the controls shown here.

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