Windows 8: The official review

Microsoft's efforts to woo mobile-device users may leave traditional desktop PC owners feeling abandoned.

By Loyd Case, PC World |  Windows, windows 8

One configuration option that Microsoft has buried in the past is the startup configuration. In older versions of Windows, customizing which applications launched on startup required entering the Msconfig system-configuration utility. In Windows 8, you can select which applications launch at boot-up with the new Startup tab in Task Manager, which you can easily launch in the simplified Start menu.

Some customization configurations are less obvious. One example concerns the games you might buy from Valve Software's Steam download service. When you install a game from Steam, the procedure asks you whether to create a desktop shortcut. But that shortcut isn't an application shortcut; it's actually a URL, which points to the local Steamapps folder where the game is installed. If you right-click a URL shortcut, you'll find no option to pin it to the Start screen. Instead, you have to copy the shortcut to the Start Menu folder (yes, it's still called the 'Start Menu' folder), typically in C:\Users\user folder\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu.

Desktop customization is also available, except for the obvious lack of Start-menu tweaks. The taskbar is present, as it was in Windows 7, and you can pin applications to it as before.

Graphics improvements

Nearly all of the desktop and Start-screen functionality now relies on acceleration from your machine's graphics processing unit. Many of Windows 8's windows subsystems use the DirectX API. HTML5 and SVG (scalable vector graphics) also depend on GPU acceleration, in the form of enhanced 2D geometry rendering. Applications tell Direct2D what to draw in the form of 2D objects, such as circles and rectangles, plus additional features such as color and style. The API converts the instructions into a format suitable for Direct3D, which passes the instructions to the GPU. As a result, normal desktop windows will likely see substantial performance increases.

On top of that, Microsoft has added a new programming interface, DirectText, which offloads text rendering to the GPU. Text-rendering performance in desktop programs and in Windows 8 apps is double that of Windows 7--often better than double.

Why, then, did Microsoft return to "flat" windows, eliminating the transparency and other 3D effects it used in previous editions of the OS? Direct2D and Direct3D will also work with Windows RT and Windows Phone 8, and removing the eye candy will help Windows perform equally well across diverse platforms.

Storage and file system


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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