Windows 8 Lock Screen
Windows 8 brings an entirely new lock screen experience. Not only does your desktop look beautiful when it first boots up, but it can actually display useful data on the screen when it’s locked—a count of emails, messages, and other interesting data. In fact, you will be able to install applications that hook into the login screen and show whatever data you want there, as long as it fits the Windows 8 UI specs.
From the lock screen, you can swipe the screen up with either the touch interface or the mouse to reveal the login screen, which can be a standard password, a PIN code, or even a touch screen swipe password, where you touch the picture in various places to unlock, instead of using a password.
Note: we grabbed these images from Microsoft since we weren’t able to get high-quality pictures of the lock screen.
It’s hard to see in this screenshot, but you might notice in the bottom right-hand corner, there’s a little notice from Windows Update saying that your PC will restart in 2 days to install security updates. That’s right, no more annoying Windows Update popup.
Using Windows 7 Applications (and Taskbar) in Windows 8
My Twitter feed has been flooded with people asking about whether you can use Windows 7 applications in Windows 8, and also if you can use the Windows 7 style Taskbar instead of the Metro interface. The answer is that yes, all applications will continue to work perfectly, and the Windows 7 taskbar is still there—but sadly, as of right now, the Windows 7 Start Menu is completely gone, replaced with Metro instead.
To reach the Windows 7 style desktop, you can either click the Desktop tile in the Metro interface, hit the Windows + M shortcut key, or you can simply Alt+Tab or open a Windows 7 application some other way. You’ll immediately be taken to a very familiar screen, albeit lacking the Start Orb. Everything else throughout Windows 8 works just about how you’d expect it to, except clicking on the Start button will take you to the Metro screen.
Start at that screen long enough, and you’ll start to ask yourself the question I did… wait a second! Where’s the Shut Down Button! How do I restart?! And you’d be right to ask that question. The answer is that you need to use the Win + I shortcut key combination to pull up the Metro settings menu (more useful for Metro applications, of course)…
And here’s a close-up of the bottom right-hand corner, where you’ll find the new Power options. From here, you can shut down or restart your PC. You could also create a shortcut on the desktop to shut down or restart, but it’s nice to know how the built-in method works.
Since we’re already looking at the Windows 7 style side of things, we should talk about Explorer.
Windows Explorer Updates in Windows 8
There’s been a lot of complaints about the new Ribbon interface in Windows 8, especially since it does take up a lot of screen space—but after using it for a while, it’s actually quite natural to use, especially since you can keep the Ribbon minimized most of the time. Update: turns out, you can force the Ribbon to stay minimized all the time.
For instance, here’s the default view with the Ribbon expanded:
And here’s what it looks like with the Ribbon minimized. So much simpler, even clean looking. All the functionality is there, easily accessed from the Ribbon should you need it.
You can also use the Quick Access Toolbar, and add a couple of useful options on there. This ends up with an Explorer window that’s actually a lot cleaner than before while giving you more functionality.
One of the nicer changes in Windows 8 is the new file copy dialogs, which came in really handy during a bunch of file copy jobs I was doing. The default view gives you way more information about your file transfer, and seems to be a lot more accurate than all the other versions of Windows.
Where it gets really interesting is once you hit a few conflicts—you’ll see a dialog that’s somewhat similar to previous versions, but cleaner. Click the “Choose” option, however…
And you’ll end up on a dialog that allows you to manually choose which files you want to keep, with a little preview of each file. Double-click on any of the files, and you can open them up. It’s extremely useful.
Mounting ISO Images!
That’s right, you can finally mount an ISO image or VHD directly from Explorer. So useful.
Keep reading for more about the new Task Manager, more details about Metro-style data sharing, the new Control Panel, and the new Refresh feature.