Windows

Windows 8 features we know about so far

The Microsoft BUILD conference will reveal more Windows 8 details, but Greg Shultz explores the features we know about so far.

At the time I am writing this, tomorrow is September 13, 2011, and it will be a notable day for Microsoft. It is the first day of the new BUILD conference -- a developer event that replaces The Professional Developers Conference -- where the company promises to unveil more details about Windows 8. In fact, the slogan on the BUILD web site is:

"In 1995, Windows changed the PC. BUILD will show you that Windows 8 changes everything."

Of course this conference is geared specifically toward developers who will be building applications for the new operating system. But the information that will be revealed during this three-day conference portends to provide all of us with details that have not yet been publicly discussed before, as well as more detailed information on what has already been revealed.

With that in mind, in this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I examine some of the new Windows 8 features that we already know about from Steven Sinofsky's MSDN blog Building Windows 8.

The touch factor

One of the first things Microsoft revealed about Windows 8 is the new Metro-style touch user interface, which will be the center of attention at BUILD. As I discussed in a June blog post, "Should There Be Separate Tablet and Desktop Editions of Windows 8?" there will be only one version of Windows 8, which will run on tablet, desktop, and laptop PCs, and the main UI will be Metro with its tiles, as shown in Figure A, while the standard Windows desktop with the Start Menu will also be available. Therefore, you will be able to use Windows with the touch interface as well as with a mouse and keyboard.

Figure A

The Metro UI with its tiles will be the center of attention.

In keeping with this scheme, in addition to developing the new touch interface for Windows 8, Microsoft will continue to enhance and fine-tune the standard Windows desktop.

Windows Explorer Ribbon

We were first introduced to the Ribbon toolbar in Office 2007. Then, when Windows 7 was released, we found the Ribbon in WordPad and Paint, two applets whose UIs remained virtually unchanged for 14 years. The Ribbon then appeared in Windows Live applets such as Movie Maker and Photo Gallery. Now in Windows 8, Windows Explorer is going to be endowed with the Ribbon.

While Windows Explorer has had several minor tweaks over the years, the team in charge of this integral part of Windows decided on three goals for the new version of Windows Explorer:

  • Optimize Explorer for file management tasks. Return Explorer to its roots as an efficient file manager and expose some hidden gems; those file management commands already in Explorer that many customers might not even know exist.
  • Create a streamlined command experience. Put the most-used commands in the most prominent parts of the UI so that they are easy to find, in places that make sense and are reliable. Organize the commands in predictable places and logical groupings according to context and present relevant information right where you need it.
  • Respect Windows Explorer's heritage. Maintain the power and richness of Explorer and bring back the most relevant and requested features from the Windows XP era when the current architecture and security model of Windows permits.
With these goals in mind they determined that the Ribbon, as shown in Figure B, would be the best way to go. Another benefit of using a Ribbon for Windows Explorer is that it lends itself well to a touch interface. Microsoft is also promising this new version of Windows Explorer will provide a level of customization like we had in Windows XP's version of Windows Explorer with the Customize Toolbar feature.

Figure B

Windows Explorer will get the Ribbon in Windows 8.

New File Copy Confirmation dialog box

Along with the improvements in Windows Explorer comes an improvement in one of the most-used file management tasks -- copying files. The new Copy File dialog box has several new features that are designed to make life easier. First, the copy dialog box will now show you individual progress bars when you have multiple copy operations occurring simultaneously. You can even pause a copy operation, as shown in Figure C, if you want to give preference to another operation.

Figure C

In Windows 8 you will be able to pause a copy operation.
When a conflict occurs while copying files, Windows 8 will display a new conflict resolution dialog box, shown in Figure D, that is designed to make it easier to decide how you want to handle the situation.

Figure D

The conflict resolution dialog box is easier to understand.

Support for USB 3.0

Still on the horizon, USB 3.0 will offer throughput up to 10 times faster than USB 2.0 and much better power management. When USB 3.0 devices begin arriving, Windows 8 will be ready. In the meantime, it will continue to support USB 2.0 devices -- and I would assume USB 1.0 devices.

Native Hyper-V support

If you will be running the 64-bit version of Windows 8 and your system will have at least 4GB of RAM, then you'll be able to take advantage of the Hyper-V virtualization technology that will be available in Windows 8. This will allow you to run both 64-bit and 32-bit operating systems from the virtual machines.

Native support for mounting VHD and ISO disc images

In Windows 8's new Windows Explorer, you'll be able to select an ISO image and access its contents via a drive letter. To make this possible, in the background Windows 8 will instantly create a virtual CDROM or DVD drive and assign it to the next available drive letter to the new removable drive.

For VHD, the process works pretty much the same, except a VHD will appear as a new hard drive, rather than a removable drive. You just select the VHD in Windows Explorer, and you can immediately access its contents.

Faster boot time

If you've used the Hibernate feature in Windows before, you know that a system wakes up from hibernation much faster than it takes to cold boot the system. In order to improve boot times, the engineers at Microsoft have developed a way of integrating the Hibernate system into the shutdown/startup operation.

In Windows 8, when you shut down a system, the operating system will shut down the user sessions as normal, but it will hibernate the kernel session instead of shutting it down. Hibernating just the kernel session is much faster than hibernating the whole system and results in a much smaller (hiberfil.sys) file. As such, when you turn on the system, the operating system will be able to boot up much faster since it has to resume only the kernel session rather than do a full system initialization.

What's your take?

What's your take on the Windows 8 features that I have mentioned in this post? I don't know about you, but I am already excited about Windows 8 just based on what we know so far and am definitely anxiously awaiting the new Windows 8 features that will be revealed at the BUILD conference this week. How about you? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

Also read:

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

105 comments
rob
rob

I don't like the ribbon, I don't like the way Windows 7 makes me use only certain paths to the same physical storage that are writable or locked when I'm writing to my own user files. I don't like an O/S "TELLING ME" that my files are "public" or not. Whatever happened to my "Network neighborhood"? I have 7 Microsoft PCs on my network and most don't recognize the others are there. So much for sharing files between Windows versions. Now, after years of litigation around Microsoft embedding functions that require a browser interface into their system, they are now taking the "explorer" and turning it into a browser, with addons and links and blah blah blah. A rose by any other name is a rose. They are just making the explorer into the Win9 browser and trying to get everyone to say what a great idea it is. What ever happened to a simple interface to handle files? Even as Admin, I can't override it's enforcing this "access by Library, not by C:\users\xxxx" so why would I want them to make a more complex interface that has the same inherent bad design associated with it?

katherine-5
katherine-5

Direct access to iso images is convenient but there are only 24 useable letters for virtual drives. My desktops are usually set up to use partitions as far as u, v and w, which doesn't leave much room for expansion. Perhaps Microsoft should consider using hda1 hdb2 hdc3...........

RWEGO BRIGHT
RWEGO BRIGHT

MICROSOFT GUYS, KEEP IT UP! U'R REALY DOING A GREAT JOB! HYPER V AND USB 3.0 IS SO COOL, WHEN IS IT RELEASED?

nmoore7
nmoore7

I think this looks awful, why do we have to dumb down every os with a interface that is like osx. First ubuntu with unity and now this...

sysop-dr
sysop-dr

My biggest problem with Win Phone 7 is no start menu. A powerful phone with more memory, cpu etc then ever but useless except as a toy communicator. May as well have an iPhone toy. Some of us who have used Pocket PCs because they are literally that and can use them as computers, which also happen to have phones and have been the loyal customers of WM devices would like our Pocket PCs back.

wds21921
wds21921

I thought M$ would have learned after Vista not to throw crappy products to us consumers in a rush to maintain market share? If I wanted a tablet I'd buy a tablet I sure as hell don't want this on my desktop or laptop!

stephens
stephens

Sounds like 8's gonna be interesting; progressive. I hope there is a "lock" feature so that unwanted touches do not inadvertently delete/change data (e.g., children). Also, moving from touch on the screen to touch on the K/B and mouse should be fluid and readily available. I like Windows 7; very much. I still use and support XP - and like that very much too; I think it's a great OS. I use both Office 2003 and 2007; I hate the ribbon in the latter! What is the point? Are new users too lazy/slow to chose from a menu format that takes minimal space? The ribbon is big, intrusive, clumsy and takes up too much real estate. Even when it's been minimized, when you choose a function, it expands. And, because the option you want may not be readily available, you still have to go a level deeper using that little arrow on the bottom right of the expanded ribbon! It defeats itself. I would like to see 4 tools in particular in 8: 1: ALL file AND folder sizes. 2: A built-in file/folder synchronization tool so data is not duplicated every which way. These two essential tools have been missing from day one. I had bought two fantastic tools to do these tasks in XP - and still use them there - but haven't done so for 7. 3: A supper defragmentation tool (like Piriform's Defraggler). 4: Built-in, fantastic RAM optimization! I just closed all open apps save for Outlook 2K7 and my Firefox browser and got back just 3% RAM. My 7 system continues to hog 46% of my 3GB of RAM! There may be others, but these are on my mind at the moment.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

I don't want to buy another third party plugin for media center...

diammeter
diammeter

I don't like this because it is cluttered and offers more options than you want. With Vista the photo gallery had useful editing tools, now the picture viewer has reverted to xp style and the Live photo gallery is too complicated to use.

Funashi
Funashi

features sound good as long as microsoft wont keep u staring at the window as it loads each of those features

C-3PO
C-3PO

So, instead of shutting the computer down completely, we now save any possible kernal corruption so that when we "reboot", we end up with the same problems when we shut down? Is that what this means? That doesn't sound like a great solution. Sure it may make "booting" faster, but it isn't really booting, is it. Things have gotten far too complicated in the computer world. There are too many things that need to be run when a computer starts. Perhpas there are other ways to make booting faster: - pare the boot process down to the bare minimum and start services on demand (ie. when they are required) - boot services in the background (this does happen to some extent) with limited resources being used to do so (so you can actually work while the services are starting) - reduce the overhead on services so that they actually don't take as long to start - remove legacy services that are never or used very little - possibly have them as add-ins if you absolutely need them. I'm sure there are hundreds of other ways too. After all, Linux boots faster and it has pretty much all the services Windows has.

Crazyhatman
Crazyhatman

I really hope that there is a way to automatically have the paused copy continue when the other one is finished. The continuing on errors is a good suggestion too. That has caused endless frustration.

MakeItSo
MakeItSo

So many times I've been copying/moving a large number of files and at some point there is an error and you get "There was an error" and an OK button. What I'd like to see is a feature that asks what to do if there is a file copying error instead of leaving you in an unknown state. Wouldn't it be nice if it said "I've copied 998 of the 1,000 files you wanted copying but there was a problem with [path\file names]. What do you want to do?", or "I've hit a snag copying [path\file name] but I'm continuing with the rest."

robert.a.hatcher
robert.a.hatcher

So if someone purchases a PC now with all cutting edge features it seems that it will still not have the hardware to support these new featues especially the hibernation. The new hardware ready PC would need NVRAM of some sorts.

jamalxp
jamalxp

V currently rollin up.. win7 quite big headache :^< specially interms of user aceptance and a lot of pre-work required while moving on to 7 from XPSP3.... I hope from 7 to 8 MS Guys must have made a lot of inner stuff compatible.. but cant understand why microsoft has to build a new OS so quickly..! can anyone put some light on this.

mbrello
mbrello

The performance improvements will be nice; I like that you can use it with or without a touch display. I can even handle the Ribbon integration into the OS; I still find it a little difficult to navigate, but I'm learning. However, I'm curious to see if this OS will only be offered in a cloud-based format/environment. If so, I will stay with Windows 7 - and start learning Linux & Unix.

emsigy
emsigy

pausing a file-copy process and smarter conflict resolution are nice but would it kill them to make the file copying continue in the background if there is a conflict, rather than stop and wait for user input? This has to be one of the most frustrating experiences: you come back an hour after starting to copy a bunch of files, and find it stopped at around 5% because of a read-only file or some other stupid thing like that.

emoyer
emoyer

Microsoft is moving the wrong way....... Their mobile platform is clunky and not good at all and they are trying to throw it in to the desktop model. Anyone else smell the same failure as Vista.(Bloated, slow and not very useful.) Anyone have any recommendations on a Linux flavor that doesn't require a lot of extra work to get Microsoft products to install and run? i.e office and games.

tim.hawes
tim.hawes

It sounds like Windows is on the right track. I'm excited about the boot time. I run Linux Ubuntu at home on an older laptop and it is booted up and ready to work in about two minutes. Windows XP on the same laptop was taking fifteen minutes or more to be ready to use.

ness
ness

Our fingers are too fat. Ever use a news website (or any website with more than 3 links) on an iPad? You have to constantly zoom in before you can hit the right links. Unless we use really large displays (and don't mind reaching across to the thing we need) or use a styles, then touch screens really don't work. Sorry - it seemed like a nice idea. Maybe an open air gesture interface would work, but we may need to distort the apparent distance between the user and the screen to avoid the same problems.

gechurch
gechurch

You do realise Microsoft was released more than five years after XP, right?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

That's why you give the kids separate accounts, and don't give them Admin or Power User privileges.

drouellette
drouellette

Does anyone have any details on the file system? Iv downloaded the ISO and installed but haven't explored yet- still using vista at work and windows 7 at home- based on thread comments, someone should of thought of SubMetro or MiniMetro panels to replace the annoying ribbon tool bars-

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

any talk of stripping out Media Center entirely? It's another example of shoving in something that has no business being in an OS in the first place.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Instead of having everything load from slow hard drives, instead leave these start up processes loaded into memory. They can stay in memory after the computer is shut down, just maintain minimal power. Of course if the system loses all power, the system will boot slowly as it has to re-read the information from the drive.

gechurch
gechurch

Wow - it's really evident how many people are still using XP. This is the second post that has complained that a file copy feature is needed, when in fact it was introduced years ago with Vista. And both posts were modded up. XP copy was a royal pain for exactly the reason you gave. As of Vista though the copy continues, and at the end you are told of any problems and given options for resolution.

FTAdmin
FTAdmin

Too many times, have I had to dig through dozens of nested folders to see where a copy stopped. Then I have to complete the job by running several dozen smaller copies. The only thing that seems to help so far has started only since Win7. The copy function allows folder merging. However, I'm not experienced enough with its operations to give it my full trust. If merging was around before, it must have been a command line switch... and really, other than scheduled batch jobs or otherwise complicated scenarios, how many people actually go to a command prompt to make a simple folder to folder copy?

FTAdmin
FTAdmin

The hiberfil.sys file is normally held on the hard drive, so an SSD would easily handle the same function without hacking Windows to make use of NVRAM, while still operating at NVRAM speed (or close.) I know of someone who has a laptop with an SSD, and he says that full boot time for Win7 is about a half minute. I can only hope that resuming from hibernate on Win8 will cut that down to about 10 sec.

gechurch
gechurch

It wasn't mentioned in the article because that feature isn't new to Win8 - it was introduced in Vista.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

Search for y-copy. It logs what it can't copy and keeps going. Then you can go back and check the list and go from there. The developer's site is either down or gone, but the program is still available at cnet and other places. Would be nice to have it integrated into the OS, though.

rustys
rustys

Personally I like my XP desktop and the way most things work. Leave me with that and give me HyperV, IsoMount and USB3 suport natively and I am relatively happy. Redo the kernel and I am happier still, but dammit - I hate that freaking Metro desktop, don't need or want touch-screen support on my PC and the ribbon can be used to tie up my MS certifications so I can chuck them. When will people ever learn that change for the sake of change is uneconomic and a waste of resources.

rdp870
rdp870

I personally use Ubuntu 10.10, but I would also recommend Linux Mint if you're new to Linux. The real problem with MS working on Linux isn't so much the desktop you choose, but the program you are trying to run. WINE is a Windows compatibility layer for Linux that lets you run some MS products...however it hasn't really worked that great for me. Linux has many excellent alternatives to MS software. LibreOffice is a full Office Suite (compatible with MS Office), GIMP is a very powerful image manipulation tool, Audacity is a great multi-track recorder/editor. The only thing you would really need Windows for is for those $^ websites that require IE or Active X and PC games.

BaconSmoothie4-2
BaconSmoothie4-2

You are undoubtedly running a lot of startup icons and services that you don't need to have running. It's a shame it take so much research to know which ones you definitely need to have and which ones are running for no real reason. Like acrobat for instance. Why would I want to load an acrobat kernal every time I boot up when I use it 6 times a year? I don't even care if there is an update and certainly don't want to wait all that extra time for all that crap to start up. MSCONFIG is my best friend when it comes to windows.

BdeJong
BdeJong

I actually dislike that, when i press the off button i would prefer the device to listen and shut off. Booting is not a real issue as my current SSD boots win7 within 10 seconds, seeing SSD are going to be mainstream drive when Win8 comes out I dont get why they are bothering?

wds21921
wds21921

What in the world are you running that it takes Windows XP 15 minutes to be ready to use? LOL OMG is this from a 1996 laptop?

gechurch
gechurch

Don't have kids, eh?! Your advice is, of course, the correct way of going about things. But it's not that simple, particularly with young kids.

gechurch
gechurch

Windows is used by millions and millions of people around the world. Suggesting any particular feature shouldn't be included is a really strange comment.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

I guess if Microsoft wanted to abandon their dream of owning streaming media in the home it might make sense. Seems to me that the notion of what should be "in an OS" is a highly subjective topic. Go back thirty years and I'm sure you could find folks complaining about those darn "raster graphics" being part of the OS. :)

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

but I have no SSD, I have 2x 2005 HP NC6220 laptop systems running XP SP3 - Intel 915GM chipset with 1.76Ghz Pentium M processor - 2GB PC4200 533MHz DDR2 RAM 1 - has a 120GB 5400 RPM E-IDE disk 2 - has a 60GB 5400 RPM E-IDE disk both use a 30GB partition for C:\ (OS & programs only) both do full boot from full off to usable desktop in: #1 - 30 seconds #2 - 32 seconds

gechurch
gechurch

... the apps. LibreOffice (a varient of OpenOffice for those that don't know) is ok, but it's not a scratch on Microsoft Office. And saying it is 'compatible' is only true for a very limited definition of the word ("all your text will show up, and if you're lucky most of it will even be on the correct page!"). The GIMP is certainly a powerful tool, but I can't imagine anyone being happy with dropping Photoshop to run it. And games... that's a real biggie. If you tell anyone who plays games "Hey, that Windows 8 Metro interface is real ugly. You should move to Linux instead - it's way prettier and a better all-round system. The only problem is you can't play any of your games." they'd tell you to go get stuffed. Especially since they can turn Metro off.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I am used to it, the price I pay for having a messy install and a couple thousand programs installed. My registry export is about 500 megs.

JJFitz
JJFitz

They have usernames and passwords to log on to their laptops. They are not admins. If they need something installed, they need me to log in. I can remote in from the internet and help them if I am not nearby. If I had younger kids, I guess I would log on for them as a non-admin. But then again, if they are smart enough to navigate on a computer, they should be smart enough to log in with a simple password. I also block internet access at certain times and days of the week so they get a good night's sleep. :) It's all quite manageable. That's what I don't like about non-Windows tablets. You can't set up separate user accounts.

ness
ness

If you whack the kids' knuckles, they won't tell you what they changed your admin password to.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

No, I don't have kids. Maybe my intolerance of indulgence is one reason why. Whack their little knuckles and tell them 'No.'.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Especially an app I can't remove. They just make the OS larger and add more opportunity for failure. I feel the same way about Internet Explorer; it may be useful to a percentage of the users, but that doesn't mean it has to be hard coded into the OS. Make it a freakin' option during installation if MS wants to try to get a stranglehold that particular arena.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I mean, store the byte data of the executing files, not the results. That way, when it comes time at bootup to run these programs, they do not need to be loaded from the hard drive.

BdeJong
BdeJong

@slayer this is exactly what MS is doing with standby

JJFitz
JJFitz

Application Hoarders We come to your house and clean up your hard drive. :)