Wikipedia states that “60 million Windows 8 licenses
have been sold” as far back as January of 2013. Furthermore, according
to Alex Wilhelm of techcrunch.com, Windows 8 reached 8
percent market share in September of 2013. With these figures in mind, I’ve
been doing some testing with Windows 8 to get more familiar with the operating
system. Nobody at my business has deployed it yet and we’re happily running
Windows 7 at my house, so this was the first time I really got a hands-on look
at Microsoft’s new OS.
My verdict? The interface has some challenges – if you approach it from
the expectation that it will work in the same manner as prior Windows versions.
At first I was harshly critical of Windows 8 due to the missing Start button (frankly,
I missed the train on the whole “pinning apps to the Taskbar” concept,
since I like things tucked away neatly until I need them) and the way-too-busy Metro
screen which reminds me of the flashy Las Vegas Strip. There is also the fact
that navigating to familiar functions involves some seemingly tedious and
unnecessary changes. Swipes, hotkeys and other non-intuitive procedures bogged
me down. Furthermore, I have some concerns about the quality of the functions
running underneath the interface as well (see “A word about the Windows
I approach new technology from the mindset that if it’s well-designed I
should be able to mind-meld with it and figure things out on my own. However,
to be fair, one size doesn’t always fit all. It’s impossible to really judge the
Windows 8 interface without reading instruction guides, any more than you might
try to fly a helicopter by playing with the collective or the pedals. Articles
such as “The
10 most useful Windows 7 and Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts” and “A
look at some Microsoft Windows 8.1 highlights” can help prepare you
for the new OS, and a detailed
video by Scott Hanselman can also be educational. These brought me to a
point of semi-comfort where I could limp along to find the functions I needed.
Fortunately, add-ons are also there to help improve the experience and
allow you to be more productive so you spend less time spinning your wheels. Classic Shell, for instance, can help
restore familiarity to the Windows interface so you can get work done. On that
same note, Google provides a search application which can be useful for Windows
8 users. Not only can you perform traditional search functions, but the program
links you to other Google services such as Gmail, Calendar, Maps and Drive. Let’s
see how it works.
(Note: A Microsoft account is required for this process. I tested the
steps below on the standard Windows 8 release; I think the process and
operation of the add-on should be the same for Windows 8.1 but if you try it
and find out otherwise please let me know in the Comments section).
You can find the Google Search app by opening the Windows Store tile
from the Metro screen, pressing Win-Q to bring up the search box (Figure A) and
entering “Google Search” (if you take this route, skip down to the “Figure
An easier method is to access
the Google Search app installation page directly in your browser.
Click “View in Windows Store.”
Click the “Install” box and the installation will proceed (if
prompted enter your Microsoft account credentials during this process).
The text “Installing Google Search” should be displayed in the
upper right. When the process has completed a box will notify you that the
installation has finished.
Return to the main Metro screen and you will see the new Google tile,
A word about the Windows Store
The above process is easy – assuming Windows 8 will allow you to access
the Windows Store. I had some frustrating issues which I eventually
straightened out, and they are as follows:
-I couldn’t open the Store on my test Windows 8 virtual machine due to an
error stating “We weren’t able to connect to the Store. This might have
happened because of a server problem or the network connection timed out.
Please wait a few minutes and try again.” The Internet connection was
confirmed to be fully functional. Recommendations I found online to make sure
the date/time were correct and confirm the proxy server settings did not help. I
think the issue was related to the fact I couldn’t sign into my Microsoft
account on this system using the “Charms bar / Settings / Change PC
Settings / Users” option; I kept getting the error that “This service
isn’t available right now – please try again later.”
-I switched from my test Windows 8 VM to a physical Windows 8 laptop,
logging in as the local administrator since the laptop was not on my domain. However,
I still couldn’t access the Windows store due to an error that “Store can’t
be opened using the built-in administrator account. Sign in with a different
account and try again.”
-I joined the laptop to the domain and signed in with my domain account.
I was still unable to access the Store because of an error stating: “Your
PC isn’t connected to the Internet.” Once again, the Internet connection
was confirmed functional; the issue seemed to have been a refusal on the part
of the Store app to use my proxy server.
-Finally I connected the laptop directly to the Internet via a wireless
connection then tried again. I was told I needed to enable User Account Control
to get to the Store. Summoning what remained of my patience, I did so, rebooted,
and then logged back into Windows. At long last, after I accessed the Store and
logged in with my Microsoft account, I was able to proceed with the
installation of the Google Search app. Then I went to find some champagne.
In a word: unacceptable. Hopefully your results with the Windows Store have
Back to our regularly scheduled programming
Now that the Google Search tile is present in your Metro screen, click “Google”
and the following tutorial will load (assuming you’re running this for the
first time). (Figure D)
You can click “Close Tutorial” to start using the app right
away, but if you click “Next” the tutorial will take you through the
following helpful screens. (Figures E, F, G, H, and I)
Once you get to the final screen I recommend clicking “Sign in to
your Google Account” since you’ll need to do this to get the most benefit
from the Search app.
Once you’ve signed in, you will receive the following prompt. (Figure J)
Choose “Allow” or “Block” depending on your
At last you will see the Google Search app interface, shown in Figure K.
From this portal you can conduct a web search, view your History, access
your Google Applications or use the Voice Search function.
For instance, when I clicked “History” my recent web searches
showed up right away. (Figure L)
(OK, I’ll admit it – even us system admins consult the Google for tips
on things like searching in the Windows app store)
Clicking the “Applications” icon displayed the following
icons. (Figure M)
And finally, when I accessed the “Voice Search” function I was
prompted whether Google Search could use my microphone. (Figure N)
I clicked “Allow” and then the feature was available. (Figure
Simple and straightforward
The singer Morrissey recorded a song titled “You’re gonna need someone on
your side” for his album “Your Arsenal,” released in 1992. The
song came to mind during this process because I found the Google Search app a
friendly addition to an otherwise complex environment that didn’t always want
to play nicely.
The cool thing about this program is that it’s laid out intuitively with
no surprises or potholes. Of course, you can get to these same functions via
your browser, but it’s handy to have these shortcuts for direct access.
On last thing to point out: I mentioned the free add-on “Classic Shell” which can bring the
traditional start menu back to Windows 8. (Figure P)
Windows 8.1 has a start button of sorts, which resembles the following.
Regardless of what your choice may be (or whether the default interface
works fine for you), it’s nice to have choices, period.