The Evolution of Windows 8 - Part 2: The Desktop

The desktop in Windows 8 has come a long way since it was first revealed back at CES 2011. While the desktop looked almost identical to Windows 7, it had some minor changes that were noticeable when looking closer. The first ever public showing of Windows 8 was at CES 2011, where build 7687 was shown running on ARM.

Pre-Release Windows – BUILD 6.2.7867

While not much is new in this early build of Windows 8, it does reveal larger window controls. The close, maximize and minimize buttons are larger than what they were in Windows 7. Other than that, there is nothing else noticeable in this build, other than the fact that it says “Pre-release Windows Operating System” in the bottom right hand corner. Build 7687 was a build of the next version of Windows running on ARM, so technically this is Windows RT, not Windows 8. But since Windows RT and Windows 8 shared the same development cycle, we can assume the builds of Windows 8 looks exactly the same. It’s also hard to pinpoint when this build was compiled, as build 7850 was compiled in September 2010. For all we know, this build could have been compiled back in 2009! Also, as this is Windows RT, we have the version number at 6.2 instead of 6.1. We assume that the Windows 8 version of this build would have been 6.1.7867.

Pre-Release Windows 8 – BUILD 6.2.7989

I promised myself before I began writing this that I’d stay clear of any Windows 8 leaks, but as the Windows 8 D9 demo build number was rumored to be around 7989, I have no choice but to mention it. This version of the desktop is beginning to look a lot less like Windows 7, sure, we still have a Start Orb, and even a Start Menu, but the actual UI of Windows is beginning to change. Aero started to look more metro like, just like the Start Screen, although this build didn’t include a Start Screen. Along the bottom of the taskbar, we can see a user tile, this allowed quick access to certain user features, such as customizing the user account picture or password. This feature was removed in later builds of Windows 8. We can also see a dramatic update to the explorer, as it now features the new Ribbon UI which was first introduced in Office 2007. The Windows Explorer had been using Ribbon UI since before build 7850, so Ribbon UI wasn’t really new for those who had been working on the OS. This version of Windows 8 also featured pattern login, which was accessible from the Control Panel. This build of Windows 8 also featured the smaller single Close window button. This feature had been part of Windows 8 since build 7927.

Windows Developer Preview – BUILD 6.2.8102

The Windows Developer Preview was the first time Microsoft allowed the public to download and test the new version of Windows. Straight of the bad we can see that Aero had gone under yet another UI change. It looks flatter and more polished than that in 7989. The taskbar has since removed the user tile, but introduced a new Start Button UI. This build of Windows was the first to remove the Start Menu, which means the Start Button in this build just opened the Start Screen. This build also introduced a few new features, starting with File History (also known as History Vault in leaked builds) which is a backup utility new to Windows 8. File History allows you to make identical copies of you files on another drive, making it easy to restore if you ever lose them. This build introduced IE10 in desktop mode. Nothing new was visible UI wise, but the thing was defiantly faster than IE9. Multi-monitor support was ten times better in this build then that of Windows 7. You could now pan wide wallpapers across both monitors, and the taskbar would reflect what apps you had open on each monitor. Aero was becoming squarer with icons on the desktop, although the taskbar was still featuring rounded squared when selecting programs.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview - BUILD 6.2.8250

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview was the first time Microsoft actually named one of their builds Windows 8. It featured more improvements to the Start Screen, but very little had been updated on the desktop. Aero was beginning to look a lot less like Aero now, the glass look was becoming more like a stained glass look, removing the shine effect it had in Windows 7. The taskbar also received a small UI update. This time around it no longer featured rounded squares, instead everything had sharp corners, just like Metro. Oh, and did I forget to mention that the START BUTTON IS GONE?! Storage spaces was also something new in this build, it allowed you to create pools of Hard drives, minimizing the risk of losing files and data in the event of a hard drive failure.

Windows 8 Release Preview – BUILD 6.2.8400

The Windows 8 Release Preview was the last preview build of Windows 8, so technically it should have replicated what the final version of Windows 8 looked like. HA! This build of Windows 8 featured yet another Aero overhaul, this time bringing that glassy feel back. Window controls looks more flat, but somehow looked more Aero like too. The Ribbon UI and buttons had been flattened to match the simplicity of everything else. Scroll bars in the Release Preview had also been flattened. This change wasn’t apparent in any preview before this. Some explorer icons had also changed.

Windows 8 RTM – BUILD 6.2.9200

The Windows 8 RTM, the final build of Windows 8 on sale today. It featured another desktop UI overhaul, but this time for the better. Aero Glass was completely removed in this build. It was just gone, sure the taskbar had a hint of transparency, but it wasn’t the glass effect we all came to know and love. Window borders were flat, had no transparency and generally looked nicer than the preview builds of Windows 8. The flattened taskbar also made the desktop feel more metro-y. So there you have it, the evolution of the Windows 8 desktop in one single post. It’s come a long way since it first began development.