Launch Windows 8 Enterprise, and you're straight into the new Start screen. If you put the desktop tile on the top left of the screen, it's easy to just click and go to run your everyday desktop applications, just like in Windows XP or Windows 7.
Screenshots: Simon Bisson, ZDNet UK
Designed for enterprise deployments and volume licensing, Windows 8 Enterprise is the more serious member of the Windows 8 family. There's no support for Media Center, but you do get quick and easy access to corporate network resources from anywhere with an internet connection.
Windows 8 Enterprise is part of the Software Assurance programme, so you'll need to connect to a Windows Activation server. The Activation tools built into the desktop control panel will show you if and when a PC is activated, and what product key is currently in use.
The whole of the Windows 8 Start Screen is one enormous search tool. All you need to do is start typing, before choosing to focus on apps, settings or files — or the search interfaces built into many WinRT apps.
The preview builds of Windows 8 used traditional desktop icons on the Start menu, leaving them lost in large slabs of colour. The release code uses larger icons in Start menu tiles, making them easier to see and much more like the icons used by WinRT code — although there's no Live Tile support for desktop applications, while pinned websites need to have an alternate, larger, favicon.
Windows 8 comes with a new modern-style version of the familiar Remote Desktop tool. It's designed to support Virtual Desktops, as well as giving administrators access to servers from their desktops. There's touch support, as well as the ability to work with remote applications.
Windows 8 sees the end of the Aero transparent UI introduced with Vista. A new theme arrived with the final builds of Windows 8, bringing the Start menu and modern-style applications' flat look-and-feel to the desktop. The new, flatter, UI removes Aero's transparent window borders, making it easier to switch between traditional desktop applications and WinRT apps.
Microsoft's BitLocker drive encryption is now available to home and businesses users — it's a powerful tool that can encrypt whole disks or USB devices. IT administrators can push group policies to ensure device encryption — either directly through Active Directory, or indirectly through Exchange ActiveSync and the Windows 8 Mail client.
The Windows Store has only just opened to pay-for applications, but already there's a mix of modern-style and desktop applications in the productivity section. Apps include the touch-based note-taking tool as well as a mix of file management and time-keeping tools.
Windows 8's multimonitor support means you can have modern-style applications and the Start screen on one monitor, and a traditional desktop on the other — and just drag and drop modern apps from screen to screen to switch between the two.
Microsoft has given Windows 8 a series of attractive widescreen backdrops that work across two screens. If they're different sizes you'll need to tweak things manually, but two identical monitors will get the whole image, automatically.
If you're worried about backing up data, Windows 8's new File History tool will take snapshots of your documents every few minutes and store them on an external hard disk or a network share. Once stored you can use a viewer to scrub through all your previous versions to find the file you need.