Windows 8 Developer Preview (First Look)

On September 18, 2011, in Programming, Technology, by Akash Kava

I installed Windows Developer Preview of upcoming operating system Windows 8, and it has few good and bad things. Just like a new product, it has new dashboard and cool way to navigate between apps using touch gesture, these things sure excites me up but also looking at the internals, there are more challenges for everyone to catch up with Window 8.

New Task Manager

Nice of all, I like the new improved Task Manager, which lets me look into complete Process Tree as well as I can see user wise Process Tree.

WindowsTaskManager

It also displays Process Tree grouped by Users.

UserProcesses

And best of all, it lets me control my startup items from here, I can disable items I don’t want to auto start.

StartupItems

New File Copy Dialog

Another improved user interface is, File Copy dialog, instead of old style animation, it now displays a graph of progress with real cool line graph that’s very live.

FileCopyDialog

New Search

Search is redesigned completely and you can search for settings by pressing Window + W key. Let’s say I want to change my desktop background, so I pressed Window + W and I typed “wallpaper”, it did give me these options.

Well I just tried all combinations of Window keys and only found following five useful combinations.

  1. Window + W lets you search the settings (usually control panel)
  2. Window + P lets you switch between dual desktop and connect to projector settings
  3. Window + D brings back the desktop
  4. Window + F lets you search the files
  5. Window + Q lets you search Metro App’s Items

To a big disappointment, I did not find anything to search apps, so I have to click on Windows + W and then click on App to actually search applications installed on my machine.

Wallpaper

No Old Apps on Metro Desktop

Metro UI Apps are redesigned using HTML5+JS and Appx with Windows Runtime (XAML + Windows Runtime). So none of your old Win32, .NET apps will execute on Metro UI. They can only execute inside the desktop (old fashion windows). So we have to redesign and rewrite the applications for Metro Desktop completely from scratch.

Metro Desktop Apps are not Silverlight

Although they quite look like silverlight, but looking at the documentation, Microsoft has introduced complete new set of library with “Windows.UI” namespace, which represents complete copy of Silverlight controls (and more) but they are not silverlight. So if you wrote your apps in Silverlight, they wont directly run on Metro UI, but you might be able to port them to Metro UI with some code changes as namespace changes System.Windows.Controls to Windows.UI.Controls. However, it may not be so easy but you will get very unexpected behavior if you try to port it directly.

Three Different UI Technologies to Deal With

Well the only sad part is, now we have total 3 different UI technologies to deal with.

  1. WPF 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 (Original WPF based on XAML). Apps written on WPF are old fashioned, and they will not execute on Metro UI, they will only run in Desktop version.
  2. Silverlight (Web and Phone), Once again, two different forms of same Silverlight for web and phone. However all web that runs Silverlight (and even flash) wont run on Metro UI.
  3. Windows Runtime (XAML,HTML5+JS), this is complete new set of library including various controls from Silverlight and WPF, however it is still not complete with both of them and it also includes more controls of its own. This is purely for Metro UI. HTML5 and JS are once again little different as Microsoft has its own API embedded to make developers feel easy to write code. But this does not mean that your HTML5 code will work absolutely correctly without any changes on Metro UI. In IE 10, it may run, but to make it an appx, you might need to change few things.

As new UI stack is introduced by Microsoft, we will soon release a new version of “UI Atoms” that will allow users to write Windows Runtime Metro UI apps with UI Atoms Controls.

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