Windows 8 coming in October – five changes you need to be prepared for

Just days after Microsoft stunned the market by announcing Windows 8 will cost just $US40, the software maker has confirmed the retail version of the software will hit store shelves in late October.

Any new version of Windows always turns heads, and with good reason. Microsoft controls a huge chunk of the desktop market and any new updates they make to their software – used by millions of businesses – needs to attract attention.

And with Windows 8, it certainly will. Not only is the upgrade being designed with a completely new layout, but some of the features and settings people are used to will be gone, or at least, will be changed.

So with just a few months to go until Windows 8 hits the shelves, here are five things you should be prepared for when it hits.

1. New user interface

The way you’ve used Windows in previous versions won’t be the same here. Instead of being greeted by the traditional desktop environment when booting up, you’ll see a screen that has been nicknamed the “Metro” user interface. Like Windows Phone and Xbox, Windows 8 will use rectangular tiles in order to organise apps and programs.

What’s more, these apps aren’t just shortcuts to the traditional desktop. These Metro apps will actually run within the Metro UI, including enterprise software like Office. It’ll be the same programs you always use, they’ll just look a little different –more streamlined and simplified.

Of course, the traditional desktop environment still exists for legacy programs. But Metro ushers in a new age for Microsoft, in which it starts to abandon that desktop for something much simpler and user friendly.

2. It’s designed for a tablet

Although Windows 8 will be available on desktop PCs, the software is really designed for a tablet. The way you can flick through apps from left to right is really designed for a touch screen, and when using a mouse and keyboard it isn’t necessarily as intuitive.

That’s not to say it’s horrible to use, it’s just different. It may feel strange when you’re navigating through apps and tiles – but that’s only because this software is tablet-first.

3. The desktop is being simplified

The traditional Windows desktop still exists – but it’s being changed. For one thing, there’s no “Start” menu where you can search for all your programs and open shortcuts to Windows Explorer. In its place is just a Windows button where it will take you back to the Metro user interface.

The “aero” theme is also being changed to be less reflective, with less gloss and a more clinical feel. You can still run all your old programs there, but it’s definitely the less preferred desktop. Some small features you may have been used to will be taken away.

4. It’s quick – very quick

One of the best things about Windows 8 is its super-quick loading time. Because many apps are using the Metro interface, they take up less memory and so the software can work on less intensive machines.

But that also means to get the best out of Windows 8 you’re going to need to install it using solid state drives – and those can get expensive.

You can use normal drives just like you’ve always done, but to get the best out of Windows 8 you’ll need to shill for the extra solid-state storage, which allows even faster load times.

5. Buying software as apps

This isn’t actually a new development. Apple introduced the Mac App Store last year to rousing success, and so far Mac users have shown an eagerness to buy and download software directly onto their desktops from an App Store-like environment.

You’ve used it on your mobile phone for years, too. Now, it’s coming to the desktop in the form of the Windows Store.

For many programs, you’ll be able to navigate through the Windows Store and then download directly to your computer. This isn’t so much something you need to be prepared for because it’s hard, but because this is just a sign the way you download and buy software is changing.

Increasingly programs are being sold through app stores. It started on mobiles, then to tablets, and now, on the PC. Get used to it, because it’s not going away.

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