Hands On: Windows 8 Developer Build

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Right after Microsoft announced that people could grab their development build for Windows 8, we got to cracking and downloaded a copy for ourselves. For anyone who wants to try it out, keep in mind that it’s a huge download (4.8GB for the complete download, Windows 8 + apps) and you’ll want to install it in a fresh partition because it WILL overwrite your old Windows OS (something that we learned the hard way, doh!). Since we didn’t have a touch-capable PC on hand, we installed it in one of our old, middlin’ machines (a desktop rig powered by a previous gen Intel Core i3 with 4GB of memory). Please click on the pictures to expand.

After installation, you’ll be asked to create an account that will be used with the device. There’s two routes you can take with this – you can choose to create a local account as usual, or you could log-in using your Windows Live ID, which essentially allows you to sync your account to different devices using Windows 8. You’ll also be prompted to secure your account using passwords, and if you’ve managed to install Windows 8 on a tablet, you’ll be able to create a pictorial lock.

Right off the bat you’re assaulted with the Metro UI interface, and to be honest, we liked it a lot. It’s as if Microsoft decided to super-size the Windows Phone 7 interface. Every program here gets a metro tile, and the whole look is clean, organized and is extremely elegant.

Just like in Phone 7, the tiles get updated even if you’re not in the app itself, which is a nice touch.

There are a couple of trial apps included in the build, including third party Twitter and Facebook apps in the form of Tweet@rama and Socialite, respectively.

Naturally, you’ll be browsing the net using Internet Explorer. The screen defaults to full screen when browsing, with the URL bar disappearing once the page is fully loaded.

You’ll still be able to get your old desktop interface back via the desktop tile, though there will be a few differences. Like we reported before, the ribbon interface that’s present in Microsoft’s Office suite of products is making its way into Windows Explorer.

The start button now switches you back and forth from the home screen and whatever application you’re using at the time. It’s a little jarring, and though we never really got used to it we did manage to get by.

There’s also a location aware app included in the build called Near Me, which possibly is related to the location aware app that’s slated to hit the Mango update for Phone 7.

You’d think there’d be a huge disconnect from the overall user experience when it comes to the desktop version of Windows 8 since the Metro UI favors touchscreens, but you’d be wrong. Aside from the normal issues with coming to grips with a new UI, the build didn’t feel limiting to desktop users.

That’s pretty much it. We’re sure we missed a couple of things, but considering that we only got this code today, it’s safe to assume that we’ve only scratched the surface of Windows 8. If you want to download the development code and want to muck around the OS yourself, you can grab it here.