First Looks: The Windows 8 Desktop - Page 2

By Helen Bradley | Posted April 10, 2012

The Metro version of IE 10 has a bar across the bottom of the screen and icons that disappear as you browse. Some functionality has been removed from the IE 10 app and applied to the Charms icons (Settings, Devices, Share, Search, and Start), so you access the Devices charm to print a Web page and the Share charm to email it.

The two IE 10 versions share a history list, but they're so different that it can be confusing when moving from one to the other. Which IE version you run depends on where you are when you click the IE 10 icon -- from the Start screen you run the Metro version, and from the desktop you run the older version.

Happily, you can switch from the Metro version to the more familiar and functional desktop version by clicking the Tools icon and choose View on the Desktop.

Charmed by Charms

On the desktop the Charms operate a little differently to how they work in Metro. For example, Charms are not application-specific on the desktop, so they give you access to general desktop settings and not specific application settings.

The Search charm, which replaces the old Programs menu as one way to run programs, will be forced on users even when using the desktop. While programs install as tiles on the Start page, you can also use the Search charm to find them by typing their name or selecting them from the list.

Windows 8 Search

Figure 5: One method of launching programs will be using the Search charm, which is an improvement on the Windows Vista and Windows 7 programs options.

While this might seem an unwanted change from a user point of view, it is a significant improvement on the clunky programs option featured in Windows Vista and Windows 7. There is, in fact, a lot to like about the Windows 8 Search charm, and most people should find it easy to use once they know it's there and where to find it.

Metro or Desktop: Is it a Choice?

Most business users will be focused more on the desktop than they will on Metro, because the desktop is where you'll run legacy programs such as Word, Excel, your small business accounting software, Photoshop and the other day-to-day programs.

In this sense the desktop will be familiar territory for most people. You'll like that you can run multiple programs at a time and adjust the size of their windows to suit yourself. This freedom doesn't exist in Metro where you can only view two applications at once and their size is fixed - one app runs at a large size and the second app in a shrunk down narrow panel.

Instead, you can display the desktop over multiple monitors. If you're using two monitors you can arrange things the way you want them to look.

In the business environment, the desktop won't cause a lot of problems. The biggest issue will be training employees how to switch between Metro and the desktop, how to deal with the fact that there is no Start menu, and how to find and use the Charms that contain features they will want and need to use.

Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com

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