Windows 8 - A new platform for a new way of working

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What does the launch of Microsoft's new operating system mean for end-users? Kiril Grasevski provides some tips on what to expect.

Microsoft’s latest wave of  new technologies  are spearheaded by a radical new design for the company’s flagship Windows operating system, an improved new Office suite, and a host of back-end improvements.

The new interface design represents a significant shift in user experience. The new operating system lets people work in a normal PC environment using keyboard and mouse as well as a mobile one suited to touch interfaces on smartphones, tablets or hybrid devices.

With an increasing number of people bringing their own devices into the workplace and flexible work styles gaining popularity, it makes sense to have a user interface that is seamless, familiar and secure across all devices independent of location.

While Windows 8 is very different and can take some getting used to, it is nevertheless a welcome first step towards a modern interface designed for the new device-independent way of work of today and into the future. It offers huge potential for increased productivity through major changes in workplace culture, however organisations contemplating an upgrade to Windows 8 will need to consider the impact and ensure the change is managed carefully to get the best return on the investment.  Engaging an experienced Microsoft partner to provide advice and guidance in planning for organisation-wide upgrade will help mitigate against the risks and help accelerate the return on investment.

Here are some simple tips to help get people ready for Windows 8.

Practical tips to help with transition

  1. Producing or consuming?

The easiest way for people to orient themselves to the new way of working is to think about how, where and on what device they intend to use a particular application. The logic will make much more sense if people think about how they currently use their desktop applications (MS Word, Excel etc.) compared to smartphone or tablet applications (Maps, Photos, Facebook etc). For example, if you are going to create a lot of content, you are better off using a keyboard and mouse whereas if you are going to read or review content, it is easier and more natural to use touch and swipe. Seems like common sense doesn’t it? While most applications will let you transition from produce to consume mode seamlessly, it is important to know that they behave differently depending on the mode. For example, if a document is opened from an email it may open in read mode. In this mode, it will display full screen and you will see a limited set of commands for reading and reviewing optimised for a touch and swipe. Once you decide you need to edit or create content you can switch to edit mode (View, Edit document) to get the full command set and start typing.

  1. Getting to know the Start screen



 

Although desktop applications will continue working in the Desktop view much the same way as they did on previous versions, it is important people get familiar with the Start screen as this is the base in Windows 8. This is also where they will find most of the key changes that will either make transition fun and easy or extremely frustrating.

Microsoft says that the Start screen is “about you and what you like”. It lets you open apps (Store and desktop apps), websites, contacts, and folders. Each tile can be connected to a person, app, website, or whatever else is important to you. You can pin as many app tiles to Start as you like, move them around and group them and add more from the Store as you need (see my customised groups in the screen shot). You can also just glance at the ‘Live’ tiles to get the latest headlines and updates. This way information comes to you rather than you having to find it – can be a real time-saver in today’s information overloaded workplace.

You can always return to Start by swiping the right edge of your screen (or using the mouse), and then taping the Start charm. You can also press the Windows logo key.

  1. Make sure people know when and how to close apps

Apps that are installed from the Windows Store including the standard ones like Maps for example, don’t slow down a PC so they don’t need to be closed. When an app is not being used, Windows will leave it running in the background and then close it eventually. It’s still, however, a good idea to close desktop apps like Word and Excel when they are no longer needed as these continue to use system resources and are subject to the same constraints as in older versions of Windows. It is important people know there is a difference between these two types of apps to avoid system problems and data loss

You can close an app you're using by dragging the app from the top of the screen to the bottom with either a mouse or touch or by using the Close X icon when working with the app in the Desktop.

Recently used apps appear when you swipe in or click on the left edge of the screen. When in the Desktop, recent apps continue to appear on the Taskbar.

 

  1. Charm them

The five charms—Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings can be accessed by swiping in or clicking in the right edge of the screen. Charms may be new to people who have not used a smart phone or tablet device. No matter where you are in Windows 8, charms help you do the things you do most often, like search, share links and photos, and change settings.  Because Charms can be a bit tricky and can lead to user frustration, it is important to make sure people understand how to work with them and about the various options available under different circumstances.

 

About the author

Kiril Grasevski is author of TP3's white paper on Windows 8/Office 2013.  For further information visit www.tp3.com.au

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