Metro revamped in Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Microsoft has released the Consumer Preview of Windows 8, introducing significant changes to the Metro interface and revealing a suite of apps.

Steven Sinofsky, the head of Windows, said there has been 100,000 code changes since the Developer Preview, which was released six months ago.

“Since the Developer Preview in September, designed to preview the programming platform, Windows 8 has progressed across every dimension,” he said in a blog post. “From completing the user experience for touch, keyboard, and mouse, to refining the development platform, to improving performance, quality, and reliability across all subsystems as well as new features, the Consumer Preview represents a complete view of the capabilities of Windows 8.”

This version unveils the Switcher, a sidebar for moving between apps via thumbnail images, while those using a mouse will now be able to scroll through the Metro style start screen.

One of the more controversial changes has been the removal of the Start button from the traditional Windows desktop. While the actual button has disappeared, the Customer Preview reveals that the functionality remains; simply swipe your finger or mouse cursor into the bottom left corner to return to the Start screen, or navigate using the Start button on the “charm” bar. However, the Windows 7-style Start Menu has not been reinstated.

Windows 8

Microsoft opened up its Metro app store featuring third-party software, while the customer preview includes 18 Metro style apps such as Bing maps, Xbox Live Games, and standards such as music, contacts and photos, as well as one for SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud syncing and storage system, which is being integrated into the new OS.

“Please note, these apps and the set of preinstalled apps are at an early stage of development and are available as an early App Preview, and will be updated via the Windows Store,” Sinofsky warned.

The release also includes the fifth platform preview for IE10, the next version of Microsoft’s browser.

Windows 8

Those tired of the green background of the developer preview will be happy to see a choice of colours and textures, but the user cannot set their own bespoke backgrounds in the same way they could change the wallpaper on the old desktop.

Minimum specs

The preview of the OS can be downloaded from the Microsoft website, and can be upgraded directly from Windows 7, although Grant George, corporate vice president of Windows Test, noted “that the final release of Windows 8 will not support upgrading from any prior Windows 8 ‘Preview’ release, though the migrate option will still be supported.”

Microsoft said most PCs running 7 would work with the preview, but also revealed more detailed specs: a minimum 1 GHz processor, 1GB RAM and 16GB of hard disk space for the 32-bit version, or 2GB RAM and 20GB of hard disk space for 64-bit, and a DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver.

“One new element to Windows 8 is the requirement that Metro style applications have a minimum of 1024 x 768 screen resolution, and 1366 x 768 for the snap feature,” George added. “If you attempt to launch a Metro style app with less than this resolution (e.g. 800 x 600, 1024 x 600) you will receive an error message.”

George also advised installing the OS natively, rather than running it in a virtual machine, in order to get the full experience.

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