The 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.
Disappointingly 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