Time sure does fly when you’re having fun!

As I wrap up my week here in Redmond at the annual Microsoft MVP Summit I am also at the end of my first full 24 hours with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview which was released yesterday.

My intent with this post is to share with you some observations I have gained in that first day of use from a touch perspective but also from using the consumer preview with a mouse and keyboard.

I used the preview for about half of the time in touch mode and with a keyboard and mouse for the rest of the first day on my Acer Iconia Tab W500.

Some touch observations:

  • Getting the right case is critical.  I have a leather case I bought from Amazon and it is a well made case and stand.  However, the opening for the screen of the tablet is not big enough to give me proper access to the edges of the screen on all four sides to properly swipe in for various functions.  I am probably going to try and find a stand as opposed to a enclosed case to eliminate that issue.
  • Swiping in touch mode is an art.  It takes deliberate motions to make sure you get the action you’re after.  Once I figured out what it took it became much easier.
  • One change that has occurred in the consumer preview for Windows 8 is that in desktop mode if you tap in a text entry box you no longer get the icon for the keyboard.  You now must go to the taskbar and tap the keyboard icon there to get the on screen keyboard.  As I have said before, I would prefer to see a consistent implementation across the OS and have the keyboard come up on screen when I tap into a text entry box whether I am on the desktop or in the Metro side.  The on screen keyboard has changed in the consumer preview and no longer spans the screen in undocked mode but leaves a border on each side with it centered on the bottom of the screen.  The word Undocked/Docked no longer appear on he top left side of the keyboard but now docking can be done by clicking on an icon on the right hand top side next to the X icon to exit the keyboard.  From what I can tell so far it also only appears at the bottom of the screen.
  • Organizing the tiles on the Start Screen is easy enough by touch and all movement actions start with a touch and slight downward motion on the tile and then you drag it where you want it to go.  To get the context menu for the tile in touch mode you just pull straight down just a few pixels until the border changes to your accent color and then release.  The context menu appears across the bottom of the screen.

Mouse and keyboard observations:

  • One aha moment I had earlier today while using the keyboard and mouse was when I moved the mouse into the upper left hand corner and hovered there.  That brought up a live tile view of one of the apps I had in the background.  By keeping my mouse there and left clicking I quickly shuffled between all of my open Metro apps and the desktop.  One note – it does not rotate through multiple programs you might have open on the desktop – just the desktop itself.  Once on the desktop you can use the taskbar to move between desktop programs just like in Windows 7.  It really is a very easy way to cycle through things with a mouse.  Of course, ALT TAB still works as well and it cycles through all apps and all desktop programs that are open. That key combination also works from the Metro side as well.
  • While you are hovering over that pop up on the top left side of the screen you may see some light outlines running down the same side of the screen.  If you drag your mouse cursor down the left side of the screen a bar will pop up with a live view of all your running apps.  You can either click on them to switch to that specific app/desktop or you can right click on them and get a content menu to close them.  If your screen resolution supports Snap then you will also get context menu options to Snap that app to the left or right side of the screen.
  • If you take your mouse down to the lower left corner of the screen, you know down where the Windows Start Orb used to be, a small preview image of the Start Screen pops up and a click will take you straight to the Metro Start Screen.  In case you are wondering that pop up image is an exact representation of the tiles on your Start Screen just without text and images.  The colors and size all match as well – great attention to detail in my opinion.
  • The next two hotspots on your desktop, whether in Metro or desktop mode, activate the Charms Bar.  When you initially hover your mouse in either the top or bottom right corners you will get a clear Charms Bar and as soon as you move your mouse cursor over the bar it fills in with black so you can interact with the charms.
  • When on the Metro Start Screen if you simply drag your mouse either to the left or right side of the screen your tiles will scroll in that direction.  You can also use your mouse’s scroll wheel to slide the tiles back and forth.  The scroll wheel works in any Metro app that you need to slide back and forth with.
  • To get context menus in a Metro app with a mouse simply right click like you did in previous versions of Windows and the context menu will appear across the bottom of the screen.
  • I do miss the Peek hotspot on the desktop taskbar, which appeared on the far right of it, not so much for the ability to see through windows to the desktop but for the Show the Desktop functionality which would minimize all Windows.  It is still available as a context menu on the taskbar.  Hopefully a similar functionality with one click access to the desktop returns however a quick WINDOWS KEY + D does the trick.  Read my next observation for one more way to get to the desktop as well.
  • Take and hover your mouse down in the lower left hand corner of your screen and then right click. On that context menu you get 16 menu entries for quick access.  Is it a Start Menu replacement – not by any means – but it does provide quick access to some functions we used to have on that that old Windows Vista and Seven Start Menu as you can see in the screen shot below.


General system observations:

  • App Preview means App Preview.  That is an incomplete product and no where near its final form and functionality.  All of them have a feedback button on their context menu so if you see something you like or dislike use that tool and give them specifics in the comments block so they can put to use to improve the software in the long run.
  • Remember it is also a consumer preview, aka beta version, of an upcoming operating system.  Just because we get to download and try this out at no cost that does not mean this is ready for mainstream use.  Always back up your data and do not trust anything you can not afford to lose to it.  Based on my past experience with beta’ version of Windows it will be fairly reliable but the unexpected will happen.
  • Reset works very well.  After my initial install I decided to run through that process to see how it worked in the consumer preview.  The entire rest took about 25 minutes to complete.  Once it was done my system was just like it was right after a clean install.  This is going to be a great tool along with Refresh.  Remember the difference between the two is that Reset removes all installed desktop programs, Metro apps and your data files.  Refresh will retain your data files, reinstall any Metro apps you had installed and remove desktop programs you had installed.

There will be more usability and system info coming your way as I continue working with the consumer preview.  I also plan to install this in a dual boot on my desktop system to see how it runs on full size monitors without any touch at all just my mouse and keyboard in hand.

Got any questions, issues or comments?  Please comment below so we can get the dialog moving forward – thanks!

By the way, did you hear it was downloaded more than one million times in the first day of availability?