Windows 8 review: Still a two-headed beast

New 'fit and finish' enhancements in the final RTM version of Windows 8 don't ease the underlying tension between the interface formerly known as Metro and the traditional Desktop.

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Some app changes

Microsoft has also done work on several Windows 8 native apps (previously called Metro apps). The People app has gotten a minor makeover for the better, with slight navigation changes and a new notification feature. You can now see all of your notifications from Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets in a single, easily viewable list.

notifications in Windows 8 People app
The best addition to the built-in People app is the ability to see all of your notifications in a single easily viewable location.

In addition, the overall navigation has been cleaned up in People. In the previous version, navigation links for areas such as "What's new" and "Me" were strung across the top of the page. Now they're stacked vertically on the left, with smaller text. All in all, it's a nice makeover, albeit not a major one.

Windows 8 People app
Navigation in the People app has been cleaned up.

The Music App is now called Xbox Music, and aside from some small interface changes, such as adding icons in places where there used to be only plain text links, it looks largely the same.

There's also a useful addition: the Bing app, whose Start screen tile pipes in constantly changing trending information from social media sites. Without looking at the tile, I never would have known at a glance that "Spice Girls," "Chad Johnson" and "gas prices" were trending on a recent Monday night, or that "Texas shooting," "iPhone 5" and "Evelyn Lozada" were trending on an early Tuesday afternoon. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether that's progress.

The Bing Sports, Bing Travel and Bing News apps that were offered in the Release Preview are still around, but they deliver specific sports, travel and news content. The new Bing app, on the other hand, lets you search the Web using Microsoft's Bing search engine, but from within the app rather than in a Web browser.

The results are also displayed in the app itself, not in a browser, and are represented as big blocks of text. Because the app provides more information about each search result compared to what you get on the Web, I found myself frequently turning to the app rather than a browser to use Bing. When you click any search result, you're sent to the site in your default Web browser, not in the app.

Windows 8 Bing app
The Bing search engine now has its own Windows 8 app.

Many other apps, such as Calendar and Weather, are unchanged. Microsoft says that some apps will be updated between now and the general Windows 8 release on October 26, though it hasn't specified which ones or how major the changes will be. At this late stage in the development process, it's likely they'll be relatively minor.

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