When Windows 8 was released in October 2012, I posted about it on our internal message board for financial advisors, hoping to get some questions, concerns, reviews, or comments from them. Now, five months later, Windows 8 has invaded our lives. The feedback I’m hearing from advisors and their staff members is typically “I don’t know how to use this thing!” or “I fear Windows 8."
Pretty soon, Windows 8 will be the only option when you purchase a new computer. Some manufacturers like Dell are allowing users to “downgrade” their new systems to Windows 7. But eventually, you’ll be forced to live with Windows 8.
Now, before you rush out and buy every computer left with Windows 7, let’s take a quick look at Windows 8. Once you see that it’s not so scary, maybe you’ll give it a shot and actually like it . . . like I do.
What’s New in Windows 8?
The first thing you’ll notice is that the Start button has been replaced by a Start page, where all of your apps live. You can view all the apps or choose which ones show up on your Start page; to hide the ones you don’t want, just right-click them and select Unpin. If you want to see all of the apps, right-click and choose Show All Apps.
Windows 7 users should be familiar with pinning things to the taskbar or to each app in the taskbar. Windows 8 allows you to pin apps from All Apps to the Start page or to the desktop app’s taskbar. In this way, Windows 8 is no different from Windows 7. Simply right-click an app to show the Pin, Unpin, and Show All Apps options.
By pinning the programs I use to the desktop’s taskbar, I don’t really need to go to the Start page. So, when my computer boots up, I head directly to the desktop app and run everything from there. If it weren’t for the missing Start button, there would be no difference between Windows 8 and Windows 7. The rest is really just a change in the way it looks.
Instead of the Start menu, Windows 8 has a series of really cool touch-based commands (for touchscreen laptops) and Windows keyboard shortcuts (for non-touchscreen computers). For instance, if I want to run an app that’s not pinned to my taskbar, I’d press Windows + Q (I think of it as “query”). If I need to search my computer for a file, I’d press Windows + F (I think of it as “find files”). With a touchscreen computer, I’d just drag my finger across the screen to show all of my apps.
What Does the Future Hold?
As more devices with touchscreen capabilities hit the market, we’ll begin to see the true power of Windows 8. Instead of using keyboard shortcuts, you’ll swipe your fingers and tap on tiles. You’ll hold down apps to uninstall them and move them around your Start page. At that point, the desktop app may be unnecessary. But until then, using it will get you close to the Windows 7 experience you’re used to.
As more business gets done online, there’s less pressure on your individual computer’s operating system (OS). Commonwealth’s tools, for instance, are no longer developed to meet different OS specifications; they’re designed for the web. In other words, if you can get online, you can do business. Whether you’re on Windows XP, 7, or 8, getting work done should remain the same.
The job of the OS is to help you get to the tools that make you more productive and efficient, and Windows 8 is great at that. Once touchscreen computers become the norm, I think Windows 8 will offer an even better all-around experience.
Tell us what you think. Have you made the switch to Windows 8? What has your experience been like so far?