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Windows 8: The Lifehacker Guide

After more than a year in development, Windows 8 finally goes on sale today. It’s a major shift for Microsoft, and one that will eventually impact the majority of PC owners, as well as signalling Microsoft’s full-blown launch into the tablet space. Check out our comprehensive Windows 8 coverage below, and don’t miss our live blog from the world-first Australian launch.

Just need the absolute basics? Welcome to Windows 8 101.

Windows 8 is (as the name suggests) the next version of Microsoft’s market-dominating operating system. It comes in three main flavours: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro (which is what most people will install), and Windows RT (designed to run on tablets). It offers a new interface, formerly codenamed ‘Metro’ but now known as ‘Modern’, which draws heavily on the design of Windows Phone, using a minimalist style. Apps which run in the Modern interface have to be installed via the Windows Store, where apps are all vetted by Microsoft.

You can still run existing Windows apps, in what is known as desktop mode. This looks like Windows 7, but eliminates the Start button; apps are accessed through search or by pinning them to the taskbar. While most of the discussion of Windows 8 has centred on the changed interface, only users running Windows 8 in a tablet will exist exclusively in this mode. The next version of Office (Office 2013), for example, still runs as a desktop app.

The interface switch is designed to make Windows run better on touch-enabled devices, both computers with touch screens and tablets. Microsoft is manufacturing its own tablet to run Windows 8, known as the Surface. Testing suggests Windows 8 runs faster than Windows 7 on equivalent hardware. Because of the changed interface, it’s generally assumed that business users will be slower to upgrade to Windows 8. Upgrade pricing is cheaper than for previous Windows versions.

Want more? Read on for our key Windows 8 coverage over the last year.

We’ve divided this list into three main categories: how to use and tweak Windows 8; the new features; and what’s happening with Surface (Microsoft’s tablet design relying on Windows 8).

How To Use And Tweak Windows 8

The 10 Most Useful Windows 8 Keyboard Shortcuts

Most of the design effort for Windows 8 has been focused around its touch screen interface, but there are keyboard shortcuts in place for those of us who aren’t using a touch device or who want the productivity boost of keeping hands on the keyboard. Here are the ten most useful keyboard shortcuts for Windows 8.


Restore The Start Menu To Windows 8

One of the most controversial aspects of the Windows 8 interface is the elimination of the Start menu, even when you’re in desktop mode. Microsoft maintains that the relevant code has been removed so it’s impossible to access, but with one simple free utility you can restore the Start menu to your Windows 8 system.


The Best Windows 8 Shortcuts And Tricks

Windows 8 sports a radical new interface, designed for both touch-enabled devices and the more traditional keyboard/mice combination. Like any new system, it takes time to learn and adapt to the new options, as well as find the more familiar Windows features. These are our top Windows 8 shortcuts and tips for getting around.


The New Windows 8 Touch Gestures

Windows 8 is very touch-centric, but which gestures are actually supported? This handy graphic summarises the main new options for Windows 8 on a tablet or touch screen.


How To Prepare Your Computer For Windows 8

Windows 8 has arrived. If you’re thinking of upgrading, here’s what you should do to prepare.


Ask LH: Should I Buy Windows 8 For My New PC Build?

Dear Lifehacker, I have just completed my own (and first) ever PC build and I am still contemplating what OS to choose. Should I fork out and get Windows 7 now or just wait seeing as Windows 8 is just around the corner? Also what version (32-bit or 64-bit) should I be looking at and what are the main differences between the two? Thanks, NewPCDude


The Best New Apps In The Windows 8 Store

Once you have Windows 8 up and running, the first thing you’ll want to do is start installing apps. Microsoft’s new Windows 8 store has some real treasures worth downloading. These are our top picks.


Australians Should Be Cautious With Windows 8 Express Install

f you’re setting up Windows 8 on a new machine, you’ll be offered an ‘Express Install’ option that uses common settings. That makes the process faster, but you’ll need to be careful: for at least some versions, Express Install will set the US as your location rather than Australia.

How To Build A Windows 8 App In 24 Hours [Video]

Windows 8 has seen a major interface overhaul, and one benefit of that approach is that apps can be coded relatively quickly. Five development teams built Windows 8 app prototypes at the AppFest event at TechEd Australia 2012, and shared their tips on how to effectively build for Windows 8.

The New Features

Get Ready For The Renewed Windows 8 No-Start-Button Scandal

In geek circles, we’ve been playing with Windows 8 test versions for so long that debates over the used-to-be-called-Metro updated Windows 8 interface feel like old news. It’s easy to forget that when Windows 8 actually drops on October 26, that change is going to become much more obvious to the vast majority of computer users, and there’s going to be a lot of complaining.


All The Windows 8 Editions Explained

Microsoft has outlined its version plans for Windows 8. The good news? Unlike some earlier confusing Windows releases, there are only going to be three main versions. Here’s what you need to know.


Five Reasons The Windows 8 UI Might Not Suck

Leaving aside the fact we’re not supposed to call it ‘Metro’ anymore, the radical user interface shift in Windows 8 has been praised and censured in equal measure. In a presentation at TechEd 2012 on the Windows 8 design language, designer Shane Morris offered up some reasons why you might want to give it a second chance.


How Much Quicker Is Windows 8 To Deploy?

Businesses aren’t that likely to upgrade to Windows 8 this year, but eventually many Windows-using businesses will make the switch. When they do, one less-obvious benefit will be speedier deployment when rolling out to multiple machines.


Ask LH: Does Windows 8 Create Fresh Security Problems?

Dear Lifehacker, With Windows 8 due for everyone in October and Windows Phone 8 also out soon, convergence between computer, phone, tablet, game console and TV (via media player) appears within reach. But that makes me worry: if all my devices are all connected with Windows 8, what are the odds that it’s easier for a virus, a trojan or something else nasty to infect my system?


How Windows 8 Semantic Zoom Makes Sense

When I first saw the Windows 8 Semantic Zoom feature, it struck me as another touch-centric feature that looked flashy but wasn’t actually useful. It’s only when you see it in an actual app that it makes sense.

Windows 8 Gets A Service Pack Before It Starts

Conventional wisdom has often held that you should hold off any major operating system upgrade until the first service pack or point release. That logic is going to be difficult to apply with Windows 8, since the first service pack is essentially appearing before the operating system goes on general release on October 26.


Windows 8 Built-In Apps Get Updated

Windows 8 officially goes on sale on October 26, but the updating process continues. Microsoft has tweaked a stack of the built-in Windows 8 apps, including SkyDrive, Mail and Weather.


Microsoft Worried Windows 8 Will Boot Too Quickly

Yes, that headline says exactly what you think. We know faster boot times are one of the key goals for Windows 8 (and early testing suggests that goal is being met). So much so that, as Microsoft puts it: “Windows 8 has a problem – it really can boot up too quickly.”


How Windows 8 Makes Disk Repairs Less Annoying

If you’ve ever rebooted an ageing Windows PC, you’ve probably experienced the annoyance when the CHKDSK utility kicks in and decides to carefully and slowly check your drive for possible errors. CHKDSK isn’t disappearing entirely in Windows 8, but it is getting somewhat smarter.


Windows 8 Will Finally Learn To Spell Correctly

Windows 8 includes some fairly major under-the-hood improvements, but also some welcome smaller changes. One I’m very happy about: UK English will be a fully supported display language, which will mean (if we’re really lucky) that the word ‘favourite’ will finally be spelled correctly


Windows 8 Can Automatically Skip Duplicate Files

We’ve known since last August that Windows 8 would include a much-improved file copying system, with better ways to track copy jobs and deal with conflicts. A recent tweak to Windows 8 also means you can automatically choose to skip obvious duplicates when copying files from one location to another.


Windows 8 Will Include A Factory Reset Option

In the past, the only real way to get a Windows machine back to its original out-of-box state has been the tedious process of formatting and reinstalling. Windows 8 promises to make the process much simpler, offering a complete reset option as well as the ability to reinstall Windows while maintaining your data.


Why The Windows 8 Touch Keyboard Has No Numbers (And No Tab Key)

If you use Windows 8 on a touchscreen device, you’ll notice that the keyboard is somewhat unusual. Unlike most conventional keyboards, it doesn’t have a row of numbers, and it doesn’t have a Tab key either. What gives?


Windows 8 In-Depth, Part 1: The Metro UI

This week, we’ll be going in depth on some of the big, new changes coming in Microsoft’s next version of Windows. Today, we’re looking at the new, spiffy Metro UI.


Windows 8 In-Depth, Part 2: The Desktop

While the Metro interface is certainly the biggest new feature in Windows 8, you can still access the desktop with the click of a button — it just works a little differently than previous versions of Windows. Here’s how to use Windows 8′s version of the desktop.


Windows 8 In-Depth, Part 3: Windows Explorer

Tablet users won’t be the only ones impressed by Windows 8 — some big changes have come to the desktop too, especially the newest version of Windows Explorer. Here are some of the biggest changes in Windows’ default file manager.


Windows In-Depth, Part 4: The Task Manager

Last but not least in the tour of Windows 8′s new features is a revamped Task Manager, which makes it easier to monitor running apps, resource usage and startup apps, and quit them when necessary.

Surface

Microsoft Surface Gets Australian Pricing, Pre-Orders Open Now

Australia is one of eight countries worldwide that will be able to order Microsoft’s Surface tablet online from October 26. We’ve got all the local pricing and availability details.

Will Surface Be The Secret Route Into Business Sites For Windows 8?

Microsoft’s Surface tablet finally has pricing and a release date, with much of the initial discussion around the device focussing on competition with Apple’s iPad. But that’s not the only game at stake. One market observer argues that the tablet will be the main route for Windows 8 into businesses in the short term.


Can Windows 8 Bring Tablets To The Enterprise?

Windows 8 is already available to enterprise users, but does that mean they’ll use it? Lifehacker chats with Gartner analyst David Mitchell Smith for an insight into how Windows 8 will penetrate larger workspaces, and why IT departments still don’t like tablets.


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