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  • Microsoft showcases a markedly re-designed Windows 8 - Inside all the new features

    Windows 8 home preview..
    WINDOWS 8 is just at the horizon -- and it looks nothing like the Windows you are used to!

    Microsoft is definitely blurring the line between mobile and desktop operating systems with Windows 8, which combines an attractive Windows Phone-like interface thatís optimized for touch with the versatility of traditional computing. Developers will be able to download the developer preview this week from Microsoft's website, however we got an in-depth look at the latest OS from Microsoft's stable and wanted to share our impressions.

    Windows 8 promises much faster boot up times

    Windows 8 will have much faster boot-up times, promises divisional chief Steven Sinofsky. "When it comes to talking about "fundamentals" we want to start with boot time Ė no feature gets talked about and measured more," Sinofsky noted. "We designed Windows 8 so that you shouldn't have to boot all that often (and we are always going to work on reducing the number of required restarts due to patching running code). But when you do boot we want it to be as fast as possible."

    In Windows 7 when we shut down the computer we are closing all the user sessions, Windows 8 on the other hand uses hibernation as a technique doing the same thing to minimize the booting time on restarting the computer next time.

    The textbook definition of Hibernation is that it saves the userís previous session and open applications and when the session is resumed, no data is lost. Only it isnít a full hibernation for Windows 8, it does not save the running applications but just the kernel session, so that the Operating System doesnít have to spend time constructing a complete new session. That obviously saves time, and in this case enough to make the OS boot within 8 seconds.

    Windows 8 fast start-up mode is expected to yield on all systems with a Hard Disk Drive or a Solid State Drive. But, Solid State Drives would have a far greater outcome than Hard Disk Drives because of the speed at which they operate and their ability to swap memory pages from secondary storage to primary storage in a far lesser time.

    Choose Your Weapon: Touchscreen, Mouse, or Pen

    We already knew that Windows 8 sports a slick Metro interface just like Windows Phone, complete with Live Tiles that provide at-a-glance info and a panoramic presentation that invites swift sideways scrolling. Itís tailor-made for touch, but when you attach a keyboard and mouse the way you interact with the OS changes. For instance, the start button will appear in the bottom left corner instead of the right-hand side, and a right click reveals the tabs and address bar in IE10 instead of a swipe up. Windows 8 also supports pen input, both for navigation and for pen-enabled apps like Ink Pad.

    Internet Explorer 10: Totally Chromeless

    windows 8 IE 10 preview image

    The developer preview of Windows 8 includes the new Internet Explorer 10 browser, which provides a full-screen view of websites. Swiping down from the top of the screen reveals the tabs and address bar. In this view you can also pin sites or specific articles to the Start screen. When you start typing into the address bar, youíll see a list of Frequent sites up top for quick access. Pressing and holding on the new Tab button starts an InPrivate session for those who donít want to leave a trace of their online activities.

    Picture Password

    Windows 8 Preview - Picture password

    Windows 8 lets you log in with a password, but you can also create a Picture Password. You select a photo, then perform three gestures on the picture that you can easily remember. For example, on a face you might touch the two eyes than and then draw a line between the peepers with your finger.

    Streamlined Control Panel

    Windows 8 preview - control panel

    Microsoft has finally modernized its Control Panel in Windows 8 with an intuitive interface that lists categories down the left side and options for those categories on the right. From this menu you can personalize the Lock Screen, manage users, toggle notifications for various apps, and more. Unfortunately, you canít access all the settings from this menu. If you want to dig deeper you need to open the old-school Control Panel in desktop mode. Why not put everything under one roof?

    Desktop as App, New Explorer and Task Manager

    Windows 8 preview - desktop

    The traditional Windows desktop is always just a tap or click away on Windows 8, as Microsoft treats it just like an app with its own Tile. We found it odd at first that pressing the Start button re-launches the Start Screen instead of presenting the usual list of options.

    In addition to running more sophisticated programs like Photoshop, the desktop environment includes an Enhanced Windows Explorer that has a Ribbon interface that presents a lot of options at a glance. For instance, you can uninstall a program right form the Computer tab.

    Windows Task Manager gets an even bigger overhaul in Windows 8, with a very simple menu of tasks you can end. However, those who crave more information can check out the detailed view, which shows just how much resources each app is using (CPU, Memory, Disk, etc.) Those on metered mobile broadband plans worried about how many megabytes each app is eating up can look up that info under App History.

    Weíre just not sure why the Task Manager needs to live in desktop mode. Yes, Metro UI apps suspend when theyíre in the background but we think you should be able to close apps from withing the Metro environment.

    Microsoft began revealing some of Windows 8's features as early as June. In a YouTube video, the company showed off some aspects of the new "Metro" user interface, and since then, the company has been giving weekly sneak peaks in a blog written by Sinofsky.

    The company hasn't yet set a launch date for Windows 8, but it has hinted that its new operating system will begin rolling out in 2012.