Articles about Windows 8

Microsoft’s Project Siena: Windows 8 app development for (almost) all

siena

Microsoft has released Project Siena, a Windows 8 app which allows anyone to create Windows 8 apps, no programming skills required.

Building the interface is as simple as placing, moving and resizing assorted objects on your page: images, videos, buttons, lists, checkboxes, whatever you need.

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Time is running out: How to upgrade from Windows 8.1 Preview

Windows 8 logo

The finished version of Windows 8.1 has been out for a couple of months now, but if you’re still using the free preview build, time is running out. Windows 8.1 Preview and Windows RT 8.1 Preview are both set to expire on January 15.

Upgrading from the preview to the final GA release is very easy, and there are a couple of ways of doing it.

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What have been the biggest disappointments of 2013?

Fail

It's that time of year once again. Approaching the end of another 365 and a quarter days cycle puts us all in a reflective mood. It's not uncommon to look back at what has happened in the previous 12 months and pick out the highlights of the year. It's also quite common to look forward in anticipation of what the coming year might have to offer. But how about something a little different, something a little more downbeat? What have been your lowlights and disappointments? There's no need to end the year on a high, after all!

I am one of those people still devastated at the loss of Google Reader. Both as a journalist and as someone who simply devours news from all manner of sources, this was my go-to service for getting my daily -- well, hourly… oh, OK, five minutely -- fix of headlines from hundreds of websites. Double disappointment came when I thought an ideal solution was to be found in Feedly, but slow updates and a pricing structure I found objectionable meant that this soon fell by the wayside. Disappointment number two. Still, it helped me to discover InoReader -- every cloud, and all that.

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Get a REAL Start button and menu in Windows 8.1

Windows 7-Start-Button

So Windows 8.1 is finally here and although it is a massive improvement over its predecessor (I recently had to install Windows 8 on a laptop and couldn’t believe how bad it is in comparison), Microsoft’s new Start button really isn’t what a lot of people were hoping for.

If you want to enjoy the benefits of the new operating system without being bothered by the Modern UI there are lots of alternative third-party options available. And when I say lots, I mean it. Some cost money, others are free. I’ll list my favorite three and then suggest some others to try if those don’t appeal.

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Should companies stick to their guns or give in to customer demands?

Listening

The customer is always right, right? As a customer it is understandable that this old adage seems like something set in stone, but looked at from a company's point of view things are rather different. A large proportion of customers are in fact idiots. While it is reasonable to expect a company to listen to what its customers have to say, does this risk stifling innovation as customers demand that things be done a certain way?

Here on BetaNews we've had a little debate about whether Microsoft should reintroduce the Start menu. Despite the number of people calling for its return, Brian does not think it is a good idea saying that "the company should ignore these customers, even if they are the majority". I am of the opinion that it would be good to at least make it optional, particularly for enterprise customers.

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The most popular stories on BetaNews this past week -- December 8 - 14

dec-8-14

Things are starting to get festive, and that means there's also a lot going on. This past week has been quite a busy one! It might not come as a surprise, but the figures are in -- Windows 8.1 is not performing anywhere near as well as Windows 7 in terms of sales. Part of the reason for the slower adoption could be the Start screen and the absence of the Start menu. There has been some debate here at BetaNews about the possibility that the Start menu could make a return. Brian is very much opposed to the idea, I think it's probably a good idea, particularly for business users, while Wayne showed us how to get the Start menu back right now.

The backlash against NSA surveillance continues, and now Microsoft, Apple, Google and a number of other big names have joined forces and written to President Obama asking for reform. Joe was not impressed. To help protect user accounts, Microsoft beefed up security.

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A Start button and menu won't save Windows 8.x, but Windows 7 could

magic Start button

I know what you’re thinking -- BetaNews doesn’t need yet another Start button/menu story surely! But actually, I think we do, so bear with me. My colleague Brian Fagioli believes that Microsoft most definitely shouldn’t restore the Start menu in a future version of Windows, and in fact wants the OS to run "legacy" (aka desktop) software full screen like a Modern app. Mark Wilson on the other hand, thinks Microsoft should re-introduce the menu and leave the Modern UI to tablets.

Both are interesting viewpoints, and the comments accompanying the articles show that there’s a firm split in opinion among Windows users. But the Start button and menu isn’t a magic bullet. Adding it to Windows 8.2, aka "Threshold", or even bringing it back to Windows 8.1 as a mini update, as some tech watchers have suggested could happen, won’t save the day. There’s too much negativity surrounding the tiled OS -- and that’s what Microsoft really needs to work to fix.

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Stop being so bloody-minded, Microsoft -- bring back the Start menu!

start-button

Unlike my colleague Brian Fagioli, and many other disillusioned users, I think Microsoft made a serious mistake when the Start menu and button were removed from Windows 8. The company practically admitted as much when Windows 8.1 saw the reintroduction of the Start button. But this was simply not enough. Windows is all about the Start menu, and for many people the Start button and Start menu are so inextricably linked that to have either without the other just makes no sense.

Sure, we have the Start screen in Windows 8.1 and from it you can achieve pretty much what you were able to do with the Start menu. But it is not the same. Windows 95 was all about the Start button and the Start menu that it conjured up. Yes, we may be the thick end of 20 years down the line, but this is at least partly the point. We have had almost two decades to get used to a particular way of working. It would be strange if there wasn’t a backlash against something we have become so used to.

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Microsoft would be foolish to return the Start Menu to Windows

featWrong

The year 2013 has been a roller-coaster ride for me -- full of surprises when it comes to computing. After all, I am a self-proclaimed Linux user who fell in love with Windows 8. While I struggled with the operating system, I have ultimately settled in with it (Windows 8.1 helped improve the experience).

However, I am a bit dismayed -- no, livid -- that Microsoft is allegedly considering bringing the Start Menu back in the next version of Windows (code named "Threshold"). While it is only a rumor thus far, it warrants some consideration. The Modern UI is the future of Windows and Microsoft should not listen to naysayers. In other words, the company should ignore these customers, even if they are the majority.

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Don’t wait for Windows 'Threshold', get a Start button and menu in Windows 8.1 NOW

Windows-7-Start-Button

According to Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott, Windows 8.2, or "Threshold" as it’s apparently being referred to internally at Microsoft, could see the return of the Start menu for desktop users. "After bringing back the Start button in Windows 8.1, Microsoft will take the next logical step in the next Windows version and make the Start menu available as an option. It's possible this will appear only on those product versions that support the desktop", claims Thurrott. He also suggests Threshold will allow users to run some Modern UI apps on the desktop, as you can using ModernMix.

The absence of a real Start button and menu is seen by many as one of the main reasons why Windows 8.x is doing so badly. The Start button and Apps screen in Windows 8.1 is -- for me -- a great compromise, but it seems many consumers would rather just have things back how they were, and if Thurrott is right those disgruntled users might finally get their wish when Threshold arrives sometime in 2015. Don’t want to wait that long to get a proper Start menu in Windows 8.x? The good news is there are plenty of quality third-party options available now.

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The stats don't lie: Windows 8.1 seriously underperforming compared to Windows 7

snail graph

Following Windows market share on NetApplications, as I do every month, it’s clear to me that Windows 8.x isn’t the hit Microsoft hoped for. There are several reasons for this, all of which I’ve discussed previously -- dwindling PC sales, users dislike of touch and the Modern UI, and so on.

Last month Windows 7’s growth outpaced that of Windows 8.x by four fold, and it’s not the first time the older OS has proven the more popular choice either. It’s becoming something of a regular occurrence. Adoption of the tiled OS is slow, very slow. Especially compared with the strong pick up Windows 7 enjoyed from the start.

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The most popular stories on BetaNews this past week -- December 1 - 7

december-calendar

The tech world seems to be slowling down slightly in the run up to Christmas, but there have still been a lot of stories over the past seven days. There are sure to be a whole new raft of sales to look forward to both before and after Christmas, but if the Thanksgiving sales are anything to go by they may not offer as good a deal as first appearances would have you believe. Whether you bag a bargain or not, it looks as though tech presents are going to be as popular as ever this year -- and if you buy a Windows device, you'll get a free gift card.

After Microsoft tried comparing the Surface to the iPad Air, Amazon decided to follow suit  -- guess which was more popular! Microsoft kept its fire trained on Google, taking a swipe at the Chromebook. Tablet makers may be pushing their product in the run up to Christmas, but PC shipments have suffered the largest decline ever. New computers will have an updated USB connection in the near future. USB type C brings to an end a problem that has plagued anyone who has ever plugged in a USB cable -- this generation can be plugged in either way up!

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What changes should Microsoft implement in Windows 'Threshold'?

Future threshold

Microsoft took a huge gamble with Windows 8, reinventing its operating system for tablets and touch screen PCs. Unfortunately, when it was first released there really weren’t many touch devices for it to run on, and the majority of desktop users (myself included) hated the bolted on full screen Modern UI that replaced the traditional Start menu.

With Windows 8.1, a lot of the complaints aimed at the tiled OS have been addressed. Desktop users can pretty much avoid the Modern UI altogether, and overall 8.1 is a much more polished affair. Despite the improvements and near ubiquity on new hardware, Windows 8/8.1 is still struggling to find an audience. Last month, Windows 7’s growth was four times that of the newer OS. So where does Microsoft go from here? Mary Jo Foley of the All About Microsoft blog reports the answer is "Threshold".

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Microsoft giving away gift cards if you'll buy a Windows 8/8.1 device for the holidays

Christmas Presents

The official holiday shopping season kicked off last week and reached full speed today with Cyber Monday. Like every year, Microsoft hopes to see a Windows product on everyone's wish list. This year the company is even planning to throw in a little something extra to sweeten the deal.

The software and services company is announcing that starting now, and running through December 28th, anyone who purchases a new touch PC or tablet is eligible for a shiny new gift card to go along with it. The card can be used to purchase any app or game in the Windows Store.

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Banning bad reviews undermines the very purpose of reviews

Thumbs down

In an interview with Poynter back at the beginning of November, BuzzFeed book editor Isaac Fitzgerald said that the site will not include negative reviews. "Why waste breath talking smack about something? You see it in so many old media-type places, the scathing takedown rip. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all". Is this the right attitude to adopt? I won't even pretend that this is a rhetorical question. It is absolutely the wrong attitude, and any publication that adopts it does both itself and its readers a disservice.

Of course, Fitzgerald was talking specifically about book reviews, but the danger is that other publications follow suit. His justification for this line of thinking is that people understand that authors "have worked incredibly hard, and they respect that. The overwhelming online books community is a positive place". But this is hardly a reason to avoid negative reviews. The fact that someone has worked hard on something in no way means that it is automatically worthy of praise.

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