I had a recent scare when my computer threatened to die in the midst of a deadline-driven project. I needed a new computer—one that wasn’t on the brink of death—and I needed it immediately. As in, before my old machine gave up the ghost with catastrophic timing.
Normally, I would take my time choosing a new computer: research which version of Windows I wanted, how fast the computer I wanted, test out keyboards, etc., and then I’d probably buy from online because that’s usually where you can find the best deals. In this case, however, I needed to buy a new computer from some place where I could carry it out of the store and have it up and running in a matter of hours, which meant my options were pretty limited. Since it turned out that my computer shopping expedition coincided almost exactly with the Windows 8 release date, I came home with a computer with a touchscreen and Windows’ wacky new operating system.
I’m not big on change, so I probably would not have gone this route except for the time crunch. Now, having used Windows 8 for a few weeks, it’s starting to grow on me.
- I love the touchscreen. I worried that it would take some getting used to, and decrease my productivity in the meantime; instead, I got used to it so quickly that when I use a computer that doesn’t have a touchscreen now, I find myself trying to scroll up and down, click, and move windows around on the screen with my finger. The touchscreen definitely speeds up portions of my writing process because it is slightly faster to navigate between through documents using the touchscreen then it is using keystrokes or a mouse.
- The touchscreen has a second unanticipated benefit. As someone who spends way too much time either on the computer were writing longhand, I have a perpetually inflamed tendon in my right wrist. I’ve worked with the physical therapist, know the right stretches to do, and so on, but I found that the single best thing I can do for my hand is to change up the way I use it. That is, I tried to avoid repetitive motions by switching between the keyboard, voice dictation, different types of mice, and a Wacom bamboo tablet when working on my computer. The touchscreen gives me one more option, one that I find easy to use with my left hand as well as my right and one that is significantly easier on my hand then using a mouse.
- The Windows 8 interface has a significant cool factor. I’m not convinced that finding programs is easier using Windows 8, but it’s not more difficult either. Little by little, I’ve been rearranging the "tiles" to make the programs I use most often more accessible. And I kind of like some of the bells and whistles, like the fact that the tile for pictures scrolls through my recent photos.
- A surprise bonus—apparently, the camera on this new computer (the acer Aspire V5, for those who are interested) is far superior to that on my old machine. Since I do quite a bit of video calling, it was cool to learn that my picture is much clearer!
- Although Windows 8 provides a sleek, simple interface for accessing programs, at times it’s almost too simple. For instance, the built in application for looking at photos is great for looking at photos — but that’s it. In their attempt to simplify, it seems that many of the built in applications have lost functionality.
- Third party applications that are compatible with Windows 8 seemed to have the same problem. For instance, there’s a very slick Windows 8 version of Skype. It fills the entire screen, it’s pretty, and it performs basic Skype functions like sending and receiving calls. However, if you want to use Skype’s more advanced features such as the ability to transfer files, you need to reinstall an earlier version of Skype on the "desktop" which, as far as I can tell, is Microsoft’s nod at the fact that almost no programs are actually ready to run on their new operating system.
- Certain web browsers also seem to have issues with Windows 8. I’m certainly no expert in this arena, but apparently "plug–ins" such as QuickTime and Google voice/video fail to function when running the browser in Windows 8 mode. This seems to be the result of Microsoft’s push toward “plug–in free browsing”. My interpretation is that Microsoft doesn’t work and play well with others, which is created a number of conflicts with other programs I find especially useful. Bummer. On the flipside, I’ve been able to work around most of these problems by running programs in the desktop mode.
Overall, I’m darned happy with my new Windows 8 machine. I think it will take a while for third-party programs to catch up with the new operating system. In fact, I think it’s taking Microsoft a while to catch up with its new operating system, based on some of the glitches I’ve found in their programs as well as those written by other software developers.
Note: I also think the Windows 8 interface would be much less user-friendly without the touchscreen, so if you’re thinking of giving it a try, make sure to test drive the touchscreen version.
But I’m warning you—you might never readjust to the normal, non-touch variety!
Anyone else have experience with Windows 8 and/or a touchscreen computer? What do you like or not like?