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Chief among the complaints about Windows 8 was the extreme departure of its user interface from previous Windows norms. Windows 8 still implements the Start menu as a full screen of application tiles, but the release version is far more responsive to mouse movements in the hot corners. And it's quick to point these out to users as well, starting at installation and repeating it later with an image. When moving the mouse pointer to a hot corner, Windows 8 quickly brings up the appropriate function.
As we'd expect, inactive features and other loose ends found in the beta versions are all tied up, but there are still a few puzzlements. For example, there are still two partially overlapping control panels: the traditional Control Panel that is accessed from the desktop, and another less powerful Settings panel that is accessed from the Charm bar. We also were disappointed to find the same mediocre networking controls.
There also are a number of important features omitted from all versions of Windows 8. For example, there's no DVD player. Windows Media Player could do that, of course, but no longer includes the codecs to do so. DVD Maker also has been removed. Windows Media Center is now sold separately as an add-on to Windows 8 Pro, but is limited as to how it can run.
There's also no way to search for all files on a system. The Charm bar's Search function looks only for some files and apps; it can't find Outlook messages or OneNote notes. Along the Start menu, Microsoft removed "Recent Documents" and no longer tracks the most frequently used apps.
Also missing are Windows Desktop Gadgets, the Aero Glass theme and Aero Flip 3D.
Bottom Line We expect desktop users running Windows 8 will tolerate the Start screen for launching apps and spend most of their time in Desktop mode. It's perhaps telling to note that unlike all the betas we tested, the release version of Windows 8 contains only one version of Internet Explorer -- the desktop version.
But Windows 8 is certainly not another Vista. Microsoft's rethinking of Windows offers an adequate UI for tablets, and with changes in the release version, it's no longer so terribly different from Windows 7 as to be unusable. The best scenario we came across for using Windows 8 in the office was to run it with two monitors, using one monitor for the Start screen and the other for the desktop. That way, live tiles continue to inform us of trending hashtags, incoming messages and upcoming appointments while we remain productive with apps on the desktop.