Several weeks ago, Microsoft released a developer preview of Windows 8.  They provide three versions – a 64-bit version with Visual Studio, as well as 64-bit and 32-bit versions without Visual Studio.  As of right now, Windows 8 does not function on any version of Windows Virtual PC.  (It will work on Hyper-V servers.)  We’re going to briefly explore the Windows 8 interface and some of its features.

The initial screen is the “Metro” interface, which was shown in Microsoft’s preview over the summer.  This interface is designed with touch screen users in mind.  (As of right now, touch screen monitors start at around $300, but presumably they will drop in price once they become more popular.)

Metro-enabled applications, such as the news reader (below) are displayed full screen.  From within a Metro application, you can return to the home interface by hitting the window key on your keyboard.  (If you have an old keyboard without a window key, control+escape will also work.)

Launching a non-metro application such as Windows Explorer takes the user out of Metro and into the familiar Windows 7 interface.  The interface behaves very much like Windows 7, with one notable exception – the start menu is not actually a start menu – if you hit the windows icon that was formerly the start menu, Windows goes back into Metro.

One of the more interesting new features is the new task manager.  It gives far more detail than previous editions of the task manager and shows us that Metro apps are suspended when not running.

So now, let’s take a look at the Visual Studio 11 preview.  The edition included contains templates for five types of Metro applications.

Metro applications are created using XAML.  So what I did was create a very simple XAML app that contains three buttons.

Our deployed application can be found on the rightmost panel of the Metro homepage and when we click on it, we see exactly what we would expect – three buttons.

What do you think of Windows 8?  Let us know in your comments.

Photo credit: Erik Dolle

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