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Reviews

Windows 8 review (for desktops and laptops)

Microsoft has ditched the Start button, added Live Tiles, beefed up security and touch screen support. But is the revamped OS suitable for business use on desktops and laptops?

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Although Windows 8 has pushed mobile and touch-enabled devices to the forefront, the vast majority of users will be installing the OS on traditional PCs and laptops. Think you know your way around Windows on a PC? For the most part, you still do with Windows 8, but a few changes in approach are impossible to avoid.

Start Menu

Like it or not, there's nowhere else to begin but the Start menu. Many people complained when the Start button was absent from early builds of Windows 8, and despite hopeful speculation, it has indeed gone for good. Instead, to open applications, find files and access system settings, you now use the same Metro Start screen that's front and centre on tablets and touch devices.

Windows 8 - Start Menu

You needn't move in wholesale if it isn't to your liking pinning applications to the desktop taskbar is the post-installation priority, and if you set up your environment correctly you can last the day without having to see Metro. However, you'll inevitably find yourself there from time to time.

For unpinned programs you tap the Windows key, type a few letters and results begin to appear ready for opening. Annoyingly, however, they're divided into application, setting and file screens, with applications set as the default. So even if you type the precise name of a setting, you won't be able to press Enter to open it without first selecting that option.

The Metro Start screen scales reasonably well on large desktop monitors and it's customisable to a degree, but it's hard to shake the strong feeling that Metro or whatever Microsoft eventually decides to name it - is an inefficient use of space. Its full-screen approach isn't at all suitable for screens larger than around 17in, and it isn't surprising that most of the team have settled into routines that avoid entering Metro if at all possible.

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