I have always been a late adopter of new Microsoft software, under the "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it" principle. I only just started using Windows 7 extensively last year, and based on the few screenshots and incomplete information I’ve seen on Windows 8, in magazines and on web sites, I hadn’t been particularly interested in hopping on the bandwagon any earlier than I had before. But I’m always willing to change my mind, and I definitely wanted to see if Ed Bott’s Windows 8 Head Start would show me anything to make this new operating system more appealing. Would this book do the trick?
Ed Bott’s Windows 8 Head Startcomes to us from Fair Trade Digital Exchange. This is a new kind of publishing venture, in which Ed Bott is a partner. Fair Trade Digital Exchange provides books on technology, each available in a package that includes three digital formats: EPUB, MOBI, and PDF, all DRM-free. If you’d like to read more about this publisher, check this post: Fair Trade DX is open for business.
New operating system, new book
The book is devoted to the Windows 8 Developer Preview, with an up-front acknowledgement that the preview software is far from a finished product and is available in English only. As the new development versions become available, people who have purchased this book will get free updates. That’s one of the many ways in which digital publishing can outshine printed materials. This book is short (only 123 pages) but will grow longer and more detailed as time goes on.
The reader is given complete and easy-to-understand instructions for downloading the latest public test version of Windows 8, burning it to an installation DVD or flash drive, and installing it. There are plenty of cautions and warnings about the perils of using pre-release software on computers with vital data. The book is extensively illustrated throughout with screen shots, which is something I always like to see.
The new view
Windows 8 has a new interface paradigm, called Metro, that’s designed mostly for tablets and touch screens. It’s different from anything that’s ever been in any previous edition of Windows, and understanding how it works is essential for success with Windows 8. Therefore, the book carefully walks the reader through the start-up process from beginning to end. The illustrations make this process much easier to follow.
To me, the Metro interface looks like a bad marriage between Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant ordering screen and a Las Vegas blackjack table, and I remain convinced that touchscreen computers will not replace mouse-and-keyboard computers any time soon, so I was pleased to see that Metro is not the only option—you can also use the classic Windows style (which looks pretty much like Windows 7). The book’s focus, quite rightly, is on the Metro style, because that’s where Microsoft’s focus is going to be for the foreseeable future, but it was good to know that Metro isn’t the only interface available.
Some of the old familiar Windows applications have been transformed and have new interfaces and features, and Mr. Bott walks his readers through each of them. With the instructions and the illustrations, it should be very easy for anyone to feel more confident exploring this new Windows world.
Since the Windows 8 Developer Preview is designed for, well, developers, it’s clear that Microsoft released it with the understanding that most of the people who would be trying it out would be far more advanced than the average Windows user. After walking the reader through the setup, use, and configuration of the basics, Ed Bott’s Windows 8 Head Startincludes sections aimed at much more advanced users and covering things like virtual machines, dual boots, remote access and the new, much more advanced Task Manager. After being walked through the basics by the earlier chapters, I think many non-expert, non-developers would feel confident trying out some of these more advanced topics. Having instructions from someone who really knows what he’s doing, and who can write everything clearly and without confusing jargon, is always important to understanding.
The Verdict: For early-adopting Geeks!
Since there’s been so much buzz about Windows 8, it’s likely many people will want to try it out before its official release. In the past, early adopters and beta testers pretty much had to flounder through new software on their own (I know this from experience). This book should give most people confidence, plus the vital information they need to keep from creating a disaster. The fact that Fair Trade Digital Exchange will update the book as more information about Windows 8 becomes available, and not charge the purchaser of the original extra for the new material, is an outstanding feature that makes the book even more valuable.
So if you’re willing to give Windows 8 a try, definitely keep Ed Bott’s Windows 8 Head Start handy. It will make the experience just that much easier.
You can find Ed Bott’s Windows 8 Head Start on Amazon US or Amazon UK. The readers who will buy from Amazon using any of these two links will help us receive a small percentage of their purchase. Thanks a lot for that.
UPDATE: Ed Bott just published an article where he shows how to get a nice discount when buying his book. You can find it here: Get a head start on Windows 8 (and get 30% off my new book).