Try Windows 8 Before Taking the Plunge

As Windows 8 gets closer and closer to in-our-hands reality, there’s a lot of buzz about how great or how horrible the new features are, especially the interface. Windows 8 “Metro” interface will replace the Windows Vista/7 “Aero” look which lots of folks, including myself, like a lot. Whether or not this is a good thing is up for grabs at the moment. But luckily you can try out some of the new features of Windows 8 to see if you like them enough to make the jump when it becomes available. In some cases, you may just decide you don’t need Windows 8 but keep the look of it through freeware or shareware programs.

The Metro interface is a pretty bold move for MS in terms of style. The move from XP to Vista in terms of the user interface was more evolutionary, with more visual effects like transparency and shading, smoother graphics, and just all-around looked and felt better while still using familiar things like icons and the taskbar. Metro moves from icons to something called Live Tiles, which are more like apps than icons. They can display information like live Twitter and Facebook feeds, display new email notifications, and includes other things like widgets that Windows 7 currently has but modified to the Windows 8 look. The visual differences are pretty dramatic and you will likely love Metro or hate it. Open windows look more similar to Windows 7, so that part will likely not be as jarring. It’s the desktop that seems to have the most dramatic change.

So how do you try before you buy? Actually it’s not that difficult, and can cost you nothing.

If you are serious about trying Windows 8, you can download and install the official Microsoft Consumer Preview version available on their website. This allows you to try not only the interface but the whole package. However the software is time-limited and will become inoperable at some point when 8 officially comes out, so you’ll want to keep your original version installed in most cases. You can have both 7 and 8 on the same computer if you install 8 as a dual-boot OS or run it through a virtual machine through VMWare. If this sounds confusing, then don’t bother.

If you just want to try the interface, you can get a feel for it by downloading the Omnimo skin for Rainmeter. Rainmeter is an extremely cool program that allows you to not only change the look and feel of your desktop through skins, but can add a lot of funcionality to Windows as well. Below is a video featuring the Omnimo skin so you can see it in action.

The nice thing with Omnimo is that if you don’t like it, you just turn it off or uninstall it. Having tried Omnimo I found it a bit tricky to use. It is highly customizeable – even allowing you to make your own tiles – but I wasn’t able to get it to pick up my Gmail account or read the weather right. Plus I ended up not liking the huge tiles that took over my desktop.

Both Rainmeter and Omnimo are free, and even if you don’t like Omnimo you may find other tools and skins for Rainmeter that can enhance your desktop to your liking. If you’re more tech-savvy and want to try the real deal, download the release candidate and publish your opinion online.

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Posted on May 23, 2012, in How To, Microsoft Windows, software and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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