Apps, front and centre
Apps are special programs specifically designed to run full-screen using the stylish, minimalist Modern UI (user interface) that forms such a big part of Windows 8. You’ll find a number of apps are pre-installed with Windows covering a wide range of bases, from hourly and daily weather forecasts to the handy mail app. Apps appear as tiles on the Start screen – some tiles even provide ‘live’ updates, such as current weather conditions or breaking news headlines. And if you’re looking for more apps and games, click the Store tile to browse from hundreds of free and paid-for apps in the Windows Store.
The Windows Store is the only place you’ll be able to find, download and install apps in Windows 8 (you can, of course, still install programs in the usual way via the traditional desktop). This ensures that all apps installed on your PC are safe and trusted, helping to keep viruses and other malware away from your PC.
The Windows Store provides a safe, reliable place for downloading and purchasing apps
These days we work across a variety of devices and online services, from your smartphone and laptop to Facebook and Twitter. Windows 8 adds two new features to make this task much easier. First, by logging into Windows 8 using your Microsoft Account on each of your devices, you can synchronise settings, apps and files (by using Microsoft’s SkyDrive service). This allows you to enjoy a consistent experience whether you’re logged in on your desktop PC at home, laptop at work or tablet on the road.
Second, Windows 8 allows you to link to your social networking account, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can then get all the latest alerts and updates, plus find out what friends have been up to via the 'People' app. Better still, once linked up, you can also share content from apps – such as photos – with other services using the Share charm or an appropriate app (such as MetroTwit for Twitter accounts).
The 'People' app provides you with a central space for keeping tabs on all your contacts and key social networks
Run old favourites
Worried that Windows 8 might mark a radical departure from what’s gone before? While it’s true that Windows 8 introduces many exciting new features, underpinning it all is the traditional Windows desktop, easily accessible from the new Start screen via its own dedicated tile (or you can press the [Windows] + [D] keys together).
You’ll find the traditional desktop is reassuringly familiar, albeit with some nifty new touches, like a fresh clean look and ribbon-based File Explorer, which makes navigating your files quicker and simpler than ever. This is where all your existing applications will run too, just as they did in previous versions of Windows. In fact, if your program works in Windows 7, it’s almost certainly going to work in Windows 8 too, in exactly the same way as it’s always done. So you won’t need to learn anything new to use it.
The traditional Windows desktop isn’t too far away in Windows 8, giving you access to all your favourite programs
You’ve just made extensive changes to a document, then clicked Save before closing the program. Then it hits you – you’ve made a mistake. Perhaps your earlier draft was better, or you’ve accidentally wiped out half your document without realising it. In the past, you’d almost certainly be scuppered, but thanks to Windows 8’s File History feature, you can effortlessly recover earlier versions of your documents. File History backs up each and every version of a file in protected folders, including your libraries, contacts, favourites, desktop and Microsoft SkyDrive folders. It’s switched off by default, so type “file history” into the Search charm, click File History, then click Turn On to start protecting your files.
Should you make a mistake, just open File History and click Restore Personal Files to pick the date or time containing the version of the file you wish to recover. You won’t ever have to worry about saving the wrong version of a file again.
Now you’ll never have to worry about losing a file (or older version of a file) again, thanks to the new File History backup feature