Windows 8: Something old, something awkward
Microsoft's old Windows desktop and tablet-friendly Metro UI make strange bedfellowsFollow @woodyleonhard
Second, the Metro apps can and will be updated asynchronously with Windows itself. If that sounds like the Windows Live shtick, it is: Microsoft originally created Windows Live to let app development proceed asynchronously with Windows releases. We're seeing the same mechanism here. Microsoft claims, with little conviction, that the Metro apps aren't part of Windows itself.
It's entirely possible that the specter of antitrust actions past is influencing the weasel words. It's also undeniably true that Apple and Google are doing the same thing -- but without the market share that Windows enjoys. In the end, you have to believe (or at the very least hope) that the Metro apps are going to get much, much better before the final Windows 8 bits arrive.
We're also seeing Microsoft marketing in action: The Metro Start screen has all sorts of hooks into Microsoft properties, where we can while away our excess time and money.
You can click and drag tiles anywhere on the screen, forming a new group by dragging a tile to the right of all existing groups. Click on the tiny icon in the lower-right corner or pinch your fingers, and you'll see the "semantic view" shown below. To give a group a name, tap and hold or right-click inside the group, choose Name Group, and type in the new name.
In the Windows 7 world, when you install a new app, you usually get a handful of entries on the Start menu. In Win8, those same entries get turned into tiles and stuck in the right-most group on the Metro Start screen. In Windows 7 and previous versions, Start menu entries had a hierarchy -- menus and submenus kept items sorted out. In Win8 there is no hierarchy; the tiles are dropped en masse in the right-most group on the Start screen.
You can put just about anything on your Start screen -- drives, shortcuts, folders, files -- just as you could with your Windows 7 Start menu. To pin an item to the Start screen, navigate to it (using Windows Explorer in the legacy desktop, of course), right-click, and choose Pin to Start. If that doesn't work, create a shortcut to the item, and pin the shortcut. You can pin people to the Metro Start screen as well, using the People app.
What's new with the legacy desktop
As you may have heard, the Start button has turned into the Metro black hole: Click in the lower-left corner of the legacy desktop, and you're rocketed back to the Metro Start screen. It's jarring but, like it or not, it's the way of the future. Presumably, tapping the lower-left corner will accomplish the same on a touch-driven device, but this -- and a few other gestures -- didn't work on our Samsung Slate 7.
Right-clicking (or tapping and holding) in the lower-left corner brings up a menu of tasks (pictured right), many of which were buried in Windows 7. This trick works in both the legacy desktop and in the Metro Start screen, although I've seen many reports that people can't get it to work in one or the other.
The Programs and Features, Power Options, System, Device Manager, and Disk Management entries all bring up Control Panel apps of the same name. Event Viewer and Computer Management invoke the respective MMC snap-ins. I talk about the new Task Manager and the new Metro-fied, tiled Search in the next section. Yes, that's the old Windows XP Run box -- and you thought the 'Softies weren't nostalgic.