Windows 8: Something old, something awkward

Microsoft's old Windows desktop and tablet-friendly Metro UI make strange bedfellows

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The Share charm has a long way to go. You would think that Share would allow you to copy items between apps, but it doesn't. At this moment, People, Calendar, Messaging, Mail, SkyDrive, Camera, Music, Video, Finance, Weather, and any application on the legacy desktop all come up with a notice saying the app "can't share." Photos will "share" with Mail -- which means you can click on a photo, select Share, and have an email automatically created with the photo attached. That's the only Share combination I could find that works.

The Start charm cycles between the Metro Start screen and the legacy desktop. That's it.

The Devices charm doesn't do much just yet. The Settings charm leads to a severely restricted (but very pretty) set of Windows settings: volume, brightness, power. In case you were wondering, that's where you go to turn off your PC.

On the left side of the screen, you can see thumbnails of all running programs by clicking or touching in the upper-left corner, then dragging your finger or mouse down the side. If you have a Metro app or the Windows desktop running, you can click one of the thumbnails and drag it to the right. You'll then arrive at a split screen, with one app occupying 20 percent of the screen and the other occupying 80 percent.

You can split screens between two Metro apps, or one Metro app and the legacy desktop -- no other combinations allowed. (Split screen is officially called "Metro snap," no doubt to confuse Windows 7 users, who know full well what "snap" means.) There is no interaction between the two split applications; you can't drag anything from one side to the other. The only size adjustment is to put the small pane on the left or right.

The Windows Experience Index has changed; the maximum score has been raised to 9.9. To get there, right-click or tap and hold in the bottom-left corner, then choose Control Panel. Under System and Security, choose Review Your Computer's Status and Review Performance Information.

For those of you who take screenshots all the time, Windows 8 has a one-step shoot-and-save capability. To shoot the entire screen and store the shot as an incrementally named PNG file in the default Pictures folder, hold down the Windows key and push PrtScr.

Microsoft is finally catching up with Apple's Time Machine by introducing a very straightforward file backup feature called File History, found in Control Panel. While you're spelunking, don't overlook the Windows 8 Refresh and Reset options (click/tap the Settings charm, then More PC Settings) and the Storage Spaces approach to virtualizing pools of hard drives (back to Control Panel again). I talk about all of these in my Windows 8 Consumer Preview slideshow.

Windows 8 has a new Task Manager, and it runs rings around the one in Windows 7. To see it in action, right-click or tap and hold in the lower-left corner and choose Task Manager.

Windows 8: Something old, something awkward

Finally, there's Internet Explorer 10. In spite of the terminology, IE10 Metro and IE10 legacy desktop are two separate apps that work in completely different ways, though they use the same rendering engine. IE10 Metro's great claim to fame is that the working parts disappear when you don't use them; Web pages fill the entire screen. IE10 legacy's interface is very similar to IE9. Microsoft has been proffering IE10 previews for almost a year now, and you can expect many more changes before the (fraternal) twin browsers ship with Win8.

Internet Explorer 10 doesn't play well with other browsers in Windows 8. If you set a third-party browser to be the default on the legacy desktop, IE10 Metro disappears. The only way to bring the IE10 tile back is to make IE10 the default on the desktop. It isn't clear at this point if this is standard behavior or a bug.

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