In Pictures: Top 20 Windows 8 features

From Metro Start to reduced hardware requirements, here is a look at the best new features Windows 8 users will love

  • Top 20 Windows 8 features As with any technological overhaul, Windows 8 has been met with passionate and mixed response among those who have had a chance to download and test run the Consumer Preview of Microsoft's flagship OS. The company's bold new direction for Windows, with its dual interface and emphasis on tablet functionality, certainly means changes ahead for IT departments when Windows officially ships. But for users there is a lot to like about the forthcoming OS. Here is a look at the 20 features that Windows 8 users will appreciate the most.

  • 1. Metro Start Metro Start is Windows 8's new location for launching applications. It includes updating live tiles that you can regroup as you desire, increasing the flexibility of your Windows 8 experience.

  • 2. Traditional desktop For those who prefer the traditional desktop experience, this still exists in Windows 8, which offers a traditional desktop view akin to that of Windows 7. Applications that run in Windows 7 will also run on Windows 8's traditional desktop.

  • 3. Metro apps Part of the new Metro UI, Metro apps are full screen and easy to install, offering an immersive new way to work with Windows.

  • 4. Windows Store Integrated into Windows 8, the Windows Store offers Metro apps for download and purchase and soon will also offer desktop apps. A tile located on the Metro UI start screen offers one-click access to the Windows Store.

  • 5. Tablet ready Unlike previous versions of Windows, which were not built for tablets, Windows 8 has been built from the ground up as both a tablet and desktop operating system, providing a hybrid approach to computing on both PCs and mobile devices.

  • 6. Internet Explorer 10 for Metro Windows 8 ships with two versions of Internet Explorer 10, the classic desktop version and a new full-screen immersive browser that is lightweight and easy to use.

  • 7. Touch interface Windows 8's touch interface allows you to use a variety of touch commands to navigate the operating system.

  • 8. SkyDrive connectivity SkyDrive is not a new feature, but its tight integration into Windows 8 is. In Windows 8, the data you store in the cloud is easily accessible on all your Windows 8 devices, and the files you store in the cloud are easily viewable on your tablet, smartphone, or other Windows 8 device. SkyDrive soon will support large file sizes, meaning you will be able to transfer files that are up to 2GB in size.

  • 9. Charms bar The Charms bar is a replacement for the Start button, offering quick access to search, sharing features, devices, and settings.

  • 10. Search bar Search is by no means a new feature for Windows, but the search bar in Windows 8 is a powerful improvement on previous generations.

  • 11. Windows 8 snap-to feature Windows 8's snap-to feature allows you to multitask Metro apps, so you won't be stuck with just one Metro app at a time. With the snap-to feature, you can snap together multiple Metro apps onto the screen, or you can snap Metro apps to your classic desktop applications, giving you the best of both UIs.

  • 12. Recover your PC A new feature in the control panel, called Recovery, allows you to refresh or reset your PC. These are two new options offered in addition to the existing system restore and other recovery options available in previous versions of Windows.

  • 13. Simplified settings The Control Panel still exists in Windows 8, but now it is accompanied by a new PC settings section available through the Metro UI. The PC settings section offers access to the several of the same commands but in a simplified format so you don't have to dig deep into Control Panel to find popular options.

  • 14. Storage Spaces A new feature called Storage Spaces allows you to pool hard drives and access data across them as though they were one large hard drive. All these drives will show up on your Windows 8 system as one single drive letter pooling these devices together.

  • 15. File History File History offers a new, easier way to back up and restore files.

  • 16. Ribbon and quick access toolbar The unified menu system in Windows 8 now includes the ribbon and the quick access toolbar that were introduced in Office 2007. These are now standard features of the Windows operating system.

  • 17. Windows Reader Windows Reader is a native PDF reader included in Windows 8, freeing you from requiring an additional application to read or mark up PDF files.

  • 18. Metro Video app Microsoft has enhanced its video capabilities in Windows 8 with Video, a simple-to-use Metro video app. Both Windows Media Player and Media Center are still part of Windows 8, but Windows 8's Metro Video gives a lightweight alternative for video viewing.

  • 19. Integrated social networking Microsoft has made considerable effort to integrate social networking throughout Windows 8. Applications like Socialite and Tweet@rama allow you to post directly to Facebook or Twitter, and you'll find these among the tiles in the Metro UI.

  • 20. Reduced hardware requirements Perhaps one of the most important features for many users is actually having the ability to run the operating system. Machines that run Windows 7 and Windows Vista already meet the hardware requirements for Windows 8, and many systems running Windows XP will also be eligible to run the latest OS.

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