Windows 8 is the latest version of Microsoft's Windows operating system. It was released on October 26, 2012, and is the first major update to Windows since Windows 7, which was released over three years earlier.
While Windows 7 offered several performance improvements over Windows Vista, there were few changes to the look and feel of the operating system. Windows 8, on the other hand, provides an entirely new user interface compared to its predecessor. This interface (initially called "Metro," but now labeled the "Modern UI" style) displays a collection of tiles rather than a traditional desktop environment. These tiles provide access to commonly used programs and tools, such as Internet Explorer, Maps, Weather, Photos, Videos, Music, and the Windows Store. Several of the tiles, such as the Weather and social networking tiles are updated in real-time.
The goal of the new Windows 8 interface is to function on both traditional desktop PCs, such as desktop computers and laptops, as well as tablet PCs. Windows 8 supports both touchscreen input as well as traditional input devices, such as a keyboard and mouse. This flexibility allows Windows 8 to run on a wide range of desktop and portable devices and it is especially well-suited for hybrid computers that include a touchscreen as well as a keyboard and mouse.
For users that don't need the touchscreen functionality, Windows 8 still includes the traditional Windows desktop and Windows Explorer, which can be accessed from the home screen. In other words, if you don't want to use the new tile-based interface, you can simply bypass that "layer" of the interface and access the Windows desktop you are used to. Microsoft has also provided several performance improvements to Windows Explorer and added a few new interface elements, such as "File," "Home," "Share," and "View" tabs to the top of each window. Each of these tabs include one-click access to multiple options. For example, the "View" tab allows you to show hidden files and show or hide file extensions, two options that used to require several steps to change in previous versions of Windows.
Updated: October 26, 2012