Windows 8 review (for desktops and laptops)

Microsoft has ditched the Start button, added Live Tiles, beefed up security and touch screen support. But is the revamped OS suitable for business use on desktops and laptops?

Desktop changes

The better news is that the traditional Windows desktop sees plenty of worthy improvements in Windows 8.

First, the styling of windows is flatter than before, to complement the look of Metro. We feared it might be an unnecessary step backwards, but it isn't particularly noticeable: everything can be dragged and resized as before, and the combination of the Windows key and cursor keys still snaps windows to the edges of the display.

Windows 8 - Desktop

Explorer windows now have the ribbon interface, but it can be hidden away to be opened on demand with a click of one of the menu tabs some of which appear only when relevant file types, such as images, are selected. SkyDrive is integrated directly into the file tree, so placing your documents in the cloud to share with other devices is a breeze.

Windows 8 - Explorer

You might think that the file copy and Task Manager dialogs are trivial, but it's amazing how quickly you come to rely on their new designs. Copying a file now brings up a line graph of the transfer speed that's updated every second, along with a generally accurate estimate of the duration. If you copy a second file, it's neatly stacked in the same window.

Task Manager now provides all sorts of detail, from the CPU, memory, disk and network usage of every running process, to live graphs of overall system resource usage and histories of which programs have been running. It's graphical, well designed and now a tool that even non-experts may find useful.

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