The word “metro” brings to mind terms like urbane, sophisticated, stylish, refined, while “desktop” says plain, modest, functional. Windows users, of course, know that this is not the way to describe the Windows Desktop. In the Windows 8 Consumer Preview those terms for “Metro” are, let’s say, premature. Metro is a new way of interacting with your computer. There is much to like and there are some tantalizing hints of things to come. The Windows 8 CP desktop and desktop programs are not just copies from Windows 7 but bring new features and functionality.
There are several desktop programs or features that have counterparts in the new Metro world.
Internet Explorer 10 comes as a desktop program as well as a Metro app. This gives me a chance to make some comparisons. I should say at the outset, that such appraisal is unfair since the Metro interface and apps are just previews, and very much a subset of what is to come. The Metro interface and the apps are new and still in development while on the desktop side we see refinements on many years evolution.
Running Internet Explorer 10 on the desktop and running the IE Metro app at the same time shows that these are worlds apart and don’t share with each other. The favorites lists are not shared. Logging in to a site on one will not log you in to the same site on the other. The Metro IE is definitely aimed at the smaller devices.
There is an interesting difference between Metro IE and desktop IE: I logged into my favorite music service, Pandora on both. Yes, separate log-ins required. Playing music on the desktop will continue to play when other apps, including Metro apps are selected in the foreground. When playing the music in the Metro version the sound stops when switching to another app, but continues when going to another site in IE.
Some other differences between Metro and desktop are also notable.
Pinning a site or program to the taskbar provides a jump list when the icon is right-clicked. That feature is not present with items pinned to the Start screen. All you get there is an option to “Unpin from Start”.
The Windows 8 Consumer Preview comes with a Metro Mail app. This too, is an “APP PREVIEW”. On the Start screen the Mail tile pages through current items in the inbox so you can instantly tell that there is new mail. Clicking the tile brings up a full screen – all Metro apps run full screen. The layout is clean and pleasant. Three columns show the connected accounts on the left, the listings of the emails in the center, with a reading pane on the right to display the content of a selected email.
The “new email” page is very Spartan looking, but functional.
There is a limited but adequate range of fonts, text sizes, colors, etc. I have not found how to paste an image, except for emoticons, but there is an “Attachments” link. The attach options provides a very clean page for selecting a photo or document from the computer. No sign yet of photo emails.
The desktop side of Windows 8 Consumer Preview does not have a mail client installed. I downloaded Windows Live Mail from the Windows Live Essentials page. It installed and worked just like it does in Windows 7. This program is reported in the process of being extensively revised.
© 2011 Ludwig Keck