Software, Technology

Review: What’s New in Windows 8 RTM

Windows 8 RTM Start screenThe Windows 8 ‘Gold Master’ or RTM version is supposed to be the version which will appear on new PC’s and in retail box editions from October 26. This release contains only a few minor differences from the Windows 8 Release Preview that appeared earlier this year.

With Modern-UI (not Metro, remember), everything is now flat. Most obviously, the conventional desktop has the new ‘flat’ look; with no more Aero 3-D and glassy transparency. Welcome to Fisher-Price land!

Add some of the worst font rendering on most of the Modern/not-Metro apps and it’s all a bit Windows 98. And we still have the worst mail client since ’98…

The slide show explaining how to bring up Windows 8 Charms (not ‘Charms Bar’) is new, as is a set of tips that appear when you boot Windows 8 software up for the first time. Aesthetically, the RTM version has ‘tattoos’ for decorating users’ Start Screens. There’s a new selection of custom backgrounds for the Start screen and the Lock screen and a wider selection of background colors.

The Windows Store has gained a small selection of Modern-UI (not Metro, remember), touch-friendly apps free and for purchase, with prices between $1.49 and $999.99. Any apps you download from the Windows Store in the RTM will be available for re-download and install after Windows 8 formal launch. The Store now features the Xbox SmartGlass brand, but not the expected deluge of modern/Metro apps; there’s still less than 500 in the Store, including some conventional desktop apps, mostly free Windows 8 apps and most of those being games.

The default set of Microsoft apps in Windows 8 RTM hasn’t substantially changed, including Messaging, Video, Music, and People – connecting you with Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks. Music is now called Xbox Music. Skydrive works seamlessly. Maps is surprisingly quick, and the Modern/not-Metro version of Internet Explorer is really quick.

Windows 8 Mail ClientDisappointingly the Microsoft version of Mail remains, frankly, God-awful. The worst mail client since 1998. Functionally it is a skeleton, there are no new features and only a few UI changes. Worst of all, it’s like Pol Pot’s Cambodia; Windows 8 RTM Mail treats this as Year Zero. I can’t see anything in Hotmail earlier than the day I first ran Windows 8.

So far, I haven’t found a way to refresh the Inbox; it only wants to show me new mail, nothing I’ve read or sent or deleted before my first login. Cut to Hotmail in IE10, it’s all there. I have no idea what Microsoft is thinking with this abomination.

Microsoft has now implemented its controversial Do Not Track setting in Internet Explorer 10. During setup, if you select the Customise option, the installer takes you through the settings for Windows 8 and includes the Do Not Track setting as the third item

On the desktop, the built-in file manager, Windows Explorer has a name-change after 17 years, now called File Explorer. Sadly the Ribbon interface is generally no more usable than in any of the previews. I’m finding that Search in, er, File Explorer is much faster, the filter options much easier to select and apply, while the file search results, enable right-clicking an item to display an app command that lets you jump to that file’s location.

I still find the re-arranged Control Panel to be fragmented and split up all over the place. However, a useful addition for tablet users under PC Settings, contains an Available Storage counter on the General tab, providing an at-a-glance measure of available storage, critical on tablets and small devices with limited space.

So far, Windows 8 RTM is stable, fast and smooth. Whether this tempts anyone into an upgrade remains to be seen. AJS

Related: How-to Get Windows 8 RTM

About Allan J. Smithie

Allan J. Smithie is a journalist and commentator based in Dubai.


11 thoughts on “Review: What’s New in Windows 8 RTM

  1. Metro is a wonderful UI. I like it, thank you very much!

    Posted by Clari Ica | September 1, 2012, 3:42 am
  2. i couldn’t agree with you more.

    Posted by Carla Mococa | September 1, 2012, 3:51 am
  3. I have to ask by what means you went about the job of investigating Windows 8 if you can’t even figure out how to get Mail to show you more recent emails or refresh the inbox. These are very simple, very basic tasks which are revealed in the same manner as extended options are revealed in every single Modern UI application yet published, and in the new Start Screen itself.

    To get mail to show you a greater timeframe worth, invoke the charms bar (either go to the lower or upper right corner of the screen and drag up or down respectively. Alternatively you can press Win+C) and then click “Settings.” For future reference, getting to the settings of every single Modern UI application works the same way. Once in settings, click “Accounts” and then the name of the account whose settings you’d like to change. The bar on the right will reveal what you need. There’s a drop-down labeled “Download email from,” which defaults to a period of the most recent two weeks. You can change this, however, to anything from the last 3 days to “Any time,” which syncs all the mail in your account. Personally I prefer the two week option, but to each his own.

    In this settings menu, you can also set your signature for each and every account, independently set the range to sync for each account, choose how often to sync, whether Windows shows an alert when any given account receives an email, whether to sync contacts, calendars or email (except in the case of your primary Windows Live ID, if you use Hotmail, or Windows Live Domains–this account will always sync contacts and calendars) and whether or not to automatically download external images.

    Second, getting the mail application to sync is a simple matter. While in the mail app, simply right-click in a blank space anywhere in the application. A bar will slide up from the bottom, and the Sync command rests neatly at the bottom left, near the Pin command. Incidentally, with the Pin tool you can pin any folder or message in the mail app to your start screen for easy monitoring. If you connect to 5 email accounts, you can pin a separate tile for each if you like, though the default tile shows an aggregate of new messages from all.

    Perhaps the mail app isn’t so lacking in features as you thought, eh? Might I suggest a more exhaustive examination of Windows 8 and its apps in the future? I recommend trying two things in every app:

    1. Look at the settings, accessible via the Charms bar
    2. Right click an empty space and see what items might be revealed.

    Happy exploring! :)


    Posted by Jason Ward (@Jasongw) | September 1, 2012, 9:16 am
    • Jason: I am lining this up as a follow up post, since, as you say, once you discover the mechanics of the new Metro – doh! sorry, Modern-UI – operation, it is indeed consistent enough to operate all the Modern-UI apps the same way.

      I have two issues, though;
      – Modern-UI is no more intuitive than any other computer interface, you have to go through that process of discovery. I suspect smart-phone users will have an advantage from a couple of years of poke-and-swipe around the screen. Non-technophiles and existing Windows users are going to be **confused as hell** with this change.

      I’m sure there will be some interesting studies into the psychology of the switch from Windows Conventional to Modern-UI. That isn’t to say that one is innately better or more efficient than the other, just different.

      I have to say I don’t think Microsoft is handling the switch from legacy interfaces all that well.

      – second, and more pertinent to mail; I have no idea why the sync button **refused to sync anything for two days**. I had been scrambling around the UI, settings and the MS-Answers forum ( – an excellent resource, btw, *if* you can home in on your specific issue) thinking I was doing something dumb. I wasn’t.

      I have a feeling a lot f users are going to get this sinking feeling of nagging self-doubt and incompetence.

      I tried it again today using your simple summary (can you write the Win8 new user’s introduction, please, it’s so much clearer than most of the other intro’s).

      Lo! Mail suddenly decided to sync. Something I had done? Something in Hotmail? My ISP’s? Who knows. It is now working. A new post with screenshots will follow.

      Thanks, AJS

      Posted by Allan J. Smithie | September 1, 2012, 11:40 am
  4. Many thanks for your post the following.

    Posted by Samantha Cummins | September 1, 2012, 10:02 am
  5. your post is interesting and useful.

    Posted by Campru Biassessoria | September 1, 2012, 2:35 pm
  6. You can change how much of your email the Mail app shows by going to Charms, Settings, Accounts, [your account] then choose how much email you want synced under “Download mail from”.

    Posted by doctorwhofan98 | September 1, 2012, 3:35 pm
  7. thank you for posting such a useful website. your weblog happens to be just informative

    Posted by Carola Maloko | September 3, 2012, 3:14 pm


  1. Pingback: How-to: Synchronise Windows 8 Mail app « Everything Express - September 5, 2012

  2. Pingback: Opinion: New Explorer Ribbon in Windows 8 « Everything Express - September 7, 2012

  3. Pingback: How-to: Windows 8 Start-tip Power-menu « Everything Express - September 11, 2012

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