Microsoft’s SkyDrive app in Windows 8.

Change is usually a good thing for technology, as products become slimmer, lighter, faster, and better for their users. However, Windows 8 rips that theory to shreds. With an unfamiliar interface, a lackluster web browser, and mail client that rejects a popular standard, Microsoft has taken a step in the entirely wrong direction. Perhaps it works with tablets, but on a PC, it just doesn’t make any sense.

Bottom Line

Windows 8 may contain some appealing features and a flashy interface, but its lack of an intuitive feel could cause confusion among its users.

Full Review

Email | 

Windows 8 has a native mail client, which has a beautiful full-screen mode and what seems to be a well-thought-out interface. However, it lacks support for POP3 email services. Since the POP3 protocol is used by many companies, including Comcast, to provide email, I was not able to set it up for my parents. This utter rejection of widely-used standards upsets me greatly, since Microsoft either uses sold technology or releases it too early; this is another example of how they are changing things too quickly, and not adapting it slowly enough for other companies to adopt the changes.

Aside from the lack of support for POP3 accounts, Microsoft does have a good concept in creating the mail application, and it will be interesting to see it evolve.

File Management | 

The file management in Windows 8 is a definite improvement over Windows 7. Microsoft integrates the libraries into more programs, making everything easier to organize since it only has to be done once, rather than multiple times. The ribbon in the file browser makes it easy to view hidden files, and provides some nice tools for managing files.

In addition, SkyDrive is now an important part of Windows, and it shows. With a great interface, Microsoft’s Dropbox-like program works without a hitch and provides easy syncing to many devices. I can’t wait to see how developers utilize this resource!

Settings | 

Thank you, Microsoft, for finally cleaning up the look of settings in Windows 8! Settings look fantastic in the full-screen view, are now searchable, and are accessible from both the desktop and start screen. My only complaint is that you must go to the desktop to change some of the more advanced settings, or change your default search provider (Google, Yahoo, etc.).

Speed | 

Boot and shut-down times in Windows 8 are much better than they were in Windows 7, but once you start using it, it slows down. I find that running programs in the desktop causes them to move faster than running them in the native interface. However, it will take some time to figure out what programs really cause it to slow down or speed up.

User Interface | 

Attention all people who have ever used Windows before: YOUR START BUTTON IS GONE!!! (Insert panic attack here.) Now, there is the start screen, which actually is quite beautiful and sleek and contains your apps and settings all in one place. However, the desktop has not disappeared; it still exists. To make things even more confusing, when you switch apps, the previous one continues running in an invisible left sidebar that can be revealed by hovering over the bottom left corner of the screen, then moving up along the side.

The problem with Windows 8’s interface is that they tried to move forward by adding the start screen, but left the desktop there as well. When you have programs running in the native Windows 8 interface, and the older Windows 7 interface, it just gets confusing to find where everything is. If you find yourself having problems while navigating Windows 8, I recommend just using the desktop for everything, since it is simple and familiar; don’t use the start screen to do anything except to get you to the desktop.

Web Browsing | 

Internet Explorer in Windows 8 is like an abusive relationship… Every time you think you have done something correctly, it punches you. The URL bar no longer resides in the top of the browser, but rather on the bottom, a difference that sets it apart from all of the other web browsers. However, the tabs remain on the top. To make things worse, they both disappear automatically and can only be revealed by right clicking outside of a web page’s content.

Although the user interface might be awful, the speed of the new browser is an even bigger issue. With some of the longest load times I have ever seen, it drastically underperforms. A seven-year-old iMac (3GB RAM, Intel Core 2 Duo), loaded webpages five times faster than my Windows PC (8GB RAM, Intel Quad-Core Processor) with Windows 8.

Get the discussion going! Leave a comment or reply below.