The traditional Windows desktop
The Metro environment might not be to everyone's tastes, especially when using a keyboard and mouse. So, Microsoft saw it fit to let the traditional Windows 7 desktop into the fray.
The legacy desktop looks all too familiar, but there are a few areas Microsoft has changed, with the Charms Bar and multitasking manager available from here too.
The most radical change though, is the removal of the ubiquitous Start button, a move sure to draw the ire of many a user. This means that you'll need to rely on pinning your programs to either the taskbar or create a desktop shortcut. Clicking in the old Start button space now takes you to the Metro start screen instead.
Personally, it would've been preferable to have a dropdown menu on the legacy desktop to go through all installed programs, instead of navigating to program files or creating shortcuts.
The Windows Explorer interface has seen a few tweaks too, still playing host to the likes of "file", "manage" and "view" - but with an additional "Ribbon" panel too. The panel features context-sensitive buttons for the most part, letting you copy items to different folders, burn files to disc and change your folder view pretty quickly.
There are also some smaller changes and tweaks too, such as the revised task manager. The new utility shows you a detailed breakdown of CPU, network and memory usage. Additionally, you can also disable and enable programs that you'd like to start automatically upon booting – no complicated menus needed.
The biggest improvement is under the hood – Windows 8's legacy mode runs at an impressive speed. From the above-mentioned boot-up times to general navigation, Windows 8 is much friendlier to older computers than previous iterations. Users only need a 1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM if they're running a 32-bit system, and 2GBs of RAM for 64-bit rigs.
Even if you fall below the system requirements, chances are that your machine can handle Windows 8. Kudos to Microsoft for resurrecting old hardware then.
Besides that, the traditional Windows desktop is still the same system you know and love (or loathe!). Older applications run without a hitch and connected gadgets work and charge just fine.
It's clear that Windows 8 is designed with touch input in mind, with large tiles and stylised fonts making for a finger-friendly experience in the Metro environment.
Despite this, using the new interface on a laptop is a pretty pleasant experience, occasionally dipping into slightly annoying territory.
Microsoft still has a few months to chop and change settings ahead of the speculated October launch, so here's to them ironing out those kinks. Regardless, there's a lot to like about Windows 8 and we can't wait to play with it on a tablet.