Living with the Windows 8 Release Preview: Part 3 (Week 4)

Windows 8 RP Desktop Week 4 - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

Last week was more than a little busy with the Microsoft Surface and Windows Phone Summit announcements, so I wasn’t able to delve into my impressions about my third week with the Windows 8 Release Preview. Thankfully, things have quieted down a bit on the Microsoft front. My experience with the Windows 8 Release Preview has been fairly uneventful since my last update, and it’s hard to believe that I’ve been running this near-final version of Microsoft’s next big OS for almost a month.

If you look at the screenshot above, you’ll notice that I finally got around to updating the desktop background and lock screen wallpaper. I even decided to change the Start screen color for the fun of it. As a side note, this particular background theme still reminds me of the fictional OS interface seen in the James Bond films Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

Windows 8 RP Taskbar - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

In my article “Why my next computing device will be a Surface,” I noted that I’ve slowly found myself moving away from desktop applications and promised to expand upon this in the next Living with Windows 8 update. Looking at my taskbar, it’s easy to see which desktop applications I use on a regular basis. Internet Explorer (both the desktop and Metro versions) is used heavily, as is Skype and the Microsoft Office suite, particularly OneNote and Word. Windows Explorer is used off and on, and Chrome gets occasional use as well. Then there’s the rare PC game (I’m currently getting back into Star Wars: The Old Republic) and other Windows accessories like the Calculator or Sticky Notes which are used sparingly. In fact, the only desktop applications not currently visible on the taskbar are Photoshop (which I use fairly regularly), SkyDrive for Windows desktop (for syncing my local files to the cloud), and Audacity for recording podcasts like CrowdGadgets. That’s pretty much it. Everything else I use now has a Metro-style equivalent. Sure, there’s the occasional desktop application that I might use once or twice a month, but I’d venture to say that at least two-thirds of my time is spent in Windows 8’s new UI and app model. And this percentage is only increasing, thanks to new Metro-style apps like MetroTwit (which has replaced the desktop version on my main PC) and Feed Reader (which, unfortunately, isn’t yet publically available, even though I recently said that it would be coming soon… sorry!).

This, of course, has led me to wonder what will happen to my second screen once nearly everything has a Metro-style equivalent. Office isn’t going completely Metro – at least, not yet – and it’s unlikely that Photoshop will as well. But Skype is almost certain to have a Windows 8 app in the near future. As my desktop application usage decreases rapidly, my secondary screen becomes increasingly more dedicated to a select few programs. Sure, I can move the Metro UI to either screen, but it only supports one at a time. Soon, my smaller monitor might become the Microsoft Office screen, occasionally used for browsing the internet or managing files in Windows Explorer.

This is isn’t the only issue with Windows 8’s somewhat lackluster multi-monitor support for the Metro UI, which seems to be taking two steps back even as desktop multi-monitor support is taking a much-appreciated step forward. In fact, I recently became so frustrated with it that I decided to set my secondary screen as the “main display” in the Control Panel, even though this has more than a few drawbacks.

I’m still enjoying my time with the Windows 8 Release Preview, but I hope Microsoft makes a few more improvements to multi-monitor support before the OS is released this fall, particularly support for simultaneously displaying different apps on each screen and the ability to choose which screen notifications and the like appear on. If Windows 8 doesn’t support things like this, setups with multiple displays like mine might eventually become less and less useful.

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William Devereux

William Devereux is the former Microsoft editor at Pocketables, as well as a Microsoft MVP and SkyDrive/ Insider. As his title implies, he wrote about all things from Redmond, including Windows 8 and Windows Phone. He is currently carrying a Windows Phone 8X by HTC and a Microsoft Surface with Windows RT tablet.

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