by Ian Barker
It may not have escaped your attention that there's a new and very different version of Windows due out in October. Whilst Vista was XP in smart suit and Windows 7 was Vista that worked properly they didn't make major changes to the day-to-day experience. Windows 8 does, and how.
Part of the reason for this is that it's designed to work across a range of new touch screen and tablet devices as well as conventional PCs. To accommodate this Microsoft has opted for a very different design philosophy. The resulting look is smartphone meets website with a dash of electronic programme guide. It works like a mobile phone too, you install programs or download music and other content from an integrated app store. All your programs are displayed as tiles on a new Start screen.
Some things that have been familiar since Windows 95 have been swept away - most notably the old bottom left corner Start button. There is a conventional desktop but you can't boot straight to it, so like it or not you will have to get to grips with the new interface. On first encounter this makes Windows 8 something of a Marmite experience, people love it or hate it.
Go beyond your first impressions and give the OS a chance though and it's hard not to be impressed. The screen's "hot corners" make it easy to switch to the Start screen or use the new charm bar to access system settings and conduct searches, whether you're using or an old-fashioned keyboard and mouse.
The integrated app store makes it easy to load extra software. In fact integration is very much the name of the game. It's never been easier to get online and you can move seamlessly between local and online content. On the other side of the coin many of the applications that used to come packaged with Windows are now missing - if you want to play Minesweeper you have to go and download it.
Microsoft is taking a big risk with this release, you only have to look at the polarisation of opinions it's generated online to see that. Once you've spent some time with it though there's a lot to like and as an upgrade it's set to be pretty cheap. So suspend your prejudices and give Windows 8 a try - there's a good chance you'll like it.
Ian Barker is the author of The Instant Guide To Windows 8 published by Endeavour Press.