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11/16/2012
11:23 AM
Jeff Bertolucci
Jeff Bertolucci
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10 Great Windows 8 Apps

Transitioning to Windows 8 isn't easy, but these apps can help.
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Windows 8 has a dual personality. Its hybrid interface represents both the Windows of the future -- the slick, touch-oriented Start screen with its colorful Live Tiles -- and of the past, better known as the Windows Desktop.

The venerable Desktop has been around since Windows 95 (yes, 17 years ago), and for good reason: It's a mature UI that's well-suited for a keyboard-and-mouse PC. To borrow one of Apple's pet phrases: It just works. Unfortunately, the Desktop in Windows 8 is a little less capable than its predecessors. It lacks a Start menu, the starting point for finding local files and programs UI, and feels tacked on. Windows 8 novices, particularly those who've upgraded from earlier versions of Windows, will find themselves jumping between the new Start screen and the old Desktop to perform basic tasks.

If this sounds confusing, well, you'll probably have plenty of company as more users upgrade to Windows 8. Because by trying to be all things to all users -- it's a desktop OS! A mobile OS! -- Windows 8 is a big ol' mess.

Don't get me wrong. The new Windows 8 Start screen is wonderfully designed, particularly for multitouch tablets and hybrid tablet/laptop devices with keyboards, such as Microsoft's new Surface RT.

The problem is that the Windows 8 Start screen and the old-school Windows Desktop shouldn't coexist in the same OS. Each works very well on its own, but Microsoft made the mistake of cramming both in the same UI. The result is a design compromise that will please no one. (In fact, I didn't appreciate how polished the Windows Desktop truly was until I began using its crippled Windows 8 variant.)

To be fair, there's a lot to like in Windows 8, particularly if you spend the majority of your time navigating the new Start screen, running apps downloaded from the Windows Store, and avoiding the Desktop like the compromise solution that it is. The best way to achieve this is to buy a new Windows 8 PC or tablet, but leave your old Windows 7 machines unchanged.

Which raises an important question: Will most enterprises bother to upgrade to Windows 8, particularly when Windows 7 is so capable? There's a good chance many will not, as doing so could result in a litany of end user gripes, costly retraining sessions, and lost productivity.

If you plan to upgrade to Windows 8, click through the slideshow below. We selected 10 great apps and utilities from Microsoft's Windows Store, some of which will help ease the transition from earlier versions of Windows.

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RpDn
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RpDn,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/17/2012 | 9:33:29 PM
re: 10 Great Windows 8 Apps
Win8 Desktop did -not- have to remove the Start button/menu... it seems obvious MS decided to force the issue of using "Modern UI". As I use Win8, I've come to appreciate the Modern UI side and Apps... but I also downloaded 'Classic Shell' to restore the Start button/menus to Desktop (it also allows skipping the Modern UI Start screen, booting somewhat directly to Desktop).
With Classic Shell, I have no problem accessing my old Desktop programs, and add/removing shortcuts, etc... and I still investigate and make increasing use of the Modern UI side, but I'm not forced to it or the confusion of using non-touch workarounds. And the Apps have limitations compared to Desktop programs... many Internet Explorer settings (shared by the App version) have to be set from within the Desktop version; Skype and TeamViewer desktop versions are more powerful (more already existing features). It still seems UNnecessary to me for MS to have removed the Start button/menus, as I come to like things about Modern UI.
MS is apparently betting touchscreens and Apps are going to supplant old mice and desktop programs a lot earlier than they should have. Perhaps they'll service pack the Desktop back to normal use, until possible improvements in Windows 9 might make a true Desktop replacement (by better incorporating Desktop). Win8 is an unfinished transition. Perhaps they should change the name to Windows Touch. There is still something to be said for mice... as the new Logitech T620 touch mouse shows.
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