Adversal 728*90

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Windows 8: Apps, Store and Metro; What It's All About

Yesterday I posted my initial walkthrough of the Windows 8, getting to know basics, specifically the mouse/touch gestures required to fully utilize the new UI layout and start screen. Now that we've gotten that awkward part  out of the way let's delve into the juiciest bit of Windows 8, APPS! After all isn't that what it's all about these days? (Just ask Mr. Elop).

One of the biggest changes affecting the way you use Windows 8 (besides the start screen of course) is the inclusion of an App store (golly!). This is the first time Windows has ever had an integrated app store of any kind at all, thinking about it; it has become second nature to Google whatever program I wanted and either download it or torrent it (yes I admit I torrent... A lot).

Microsoft has decided to make things easier for you by creating a centralized store to download all your favorite games and applications from (you can still install .exe files or whatever you like the old fashion way, this is just a simplification process). The App Store, aptly called "Store" (funny how that happens huh?), anyways since you should have already linked a working Live/Outlook/Hotmail account to your Windows User account you should be all set (see those of you who didn't are panicking now, this is what happens when you don't follow my instructions- don't worry you'll be prompted to link one anyways, but next time listen to me).

Back on topic, one of the greatest advantages to having a centralized app store (besides the obvious plus of being a centralized app store-DUH) is being notified when updates are available to apps you've already installed on your PC (check upper right corner of the Image above). These notifications are also visible on the Store live tile, something that Windows Phone users are undoubtedly familiar with:
What about the apps themselves in the store? Not every application that you had running on Windows 7 or-god forbid- Windows Vista is eligible to be placed in the store, Microsoft have placed some UI guidelines and quality tests that must be passed before an app is admitted into the store. Most importantly the app must be compatible with the new "Metro Design language"; which very smoothly transitions us into an explanation of the two different types of apps in Windows 8 (I'm quite proud of that transition).

Applications and programs in Windows 8 can be divided into 2 types, Metro apps and Non-Metro Apps. Metro apps are those that follow the new UI guidelines and are available in the official centralized store, while everything else can be classified as a non-Metro app. The biggest difference between the two types of apps (besides the look once again) is the way Windows 8 behaves with these apps, honestly I'm still a bit unclear about it all.

First off the biggest difference between the two is the fact that non-metro apps run "in" the desktop "layer" of Windows 8, while Metro apps run on the Start screen. This leads to a decent bit of confusion, since each type of app behaves a different way; for starters when viewing the running application through "Windows + Tab" or by using the left side of the screen, only the applications running in Metro mode are shown, any non-metro apps can only be accessed by choosing the "Desktop pane" in the app switcher. (See image below).

 Alternatively to view all your running applications together, Metro & non-Metro you can use the "Alt+Tab" method which doesn't discriminate between apps.

Applications running in two different layers admittedly leads to a great deal of confusion, especially when multi-tasking; for example Windows 8 comes pre-loaded with two different version of Internet Explorer 10; a Metro Version and a Non-Metro version (Metro is flash free). While they are both essentially the same program they act as independent applications (tabs running between the two DO NOT cross-over), meaning although the settings, bookmarks and homepages sync between the two, running tabs do not; which in my personal experience has lead to many duplicate tabs running on the two.

Another difference between the types of apps is the way they interact with the screen/desktop itself in my last post I mentioned that Metro apps asymmetrically "snap" to either side of the screen allowing for the smaller pane to give notifications on the go without using too much screen real estate. The issues is that Non-Metro apps snap the same way they did in Windows 7, splitting the screen into two equal halves; leading to another set of differences to get used to. Of course this also means that I can run one small "snapped" metro app on my desktop while using the rest of my screen for normal work (trust me it's a lot more helpful on a 17" screen).

The third and last major difference is the way each program is displayed on the start screen, Metro UI guidelines dictate a "Live tile" be part of the application, which of course is not needed in non-metro apps; leading to a "rift" in the start screen separating Metro apps and Non-Metro apps

That pretty much covers the basics of the Windows 8 Store and the different types of apps, tune in later for another in depth look at whatever I decide to share (since it's up to me of course). 

No comments:

Post a Comment