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I'm one of today's best-selling computer book writers, with more than 15 million books in print.

This website keeps you up-to-date on my books, and your computers. Each week, I answer a reader's question on-line.

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Will Windows 8 be too difficult to learn?

Windows 8 works best on a touchscreen, be it a tablet, touchscreen laptop, or touchscreen monitor on a desktop PC.Q: I am considering purchasing a Windows 8 laptop. Being a senior and not as savvy as these young whippersnappers, do you think it’ll be too difficult to learn?

I’m presently using Windows XP, and I have used a computer for the last ten years.  But I understand that Windows 8 is a different animal altogether.

I’d appreciate your input.

A: Having written three books on Windows 8, I’m very well-acquainted with Microsoft’s newest operating system. And you’re right. Compared with Windows XP — or any other version of Windows, for that matter — Windows 8 is a completely different animal.

It’s a two-headed beast, and that upsets many people.

Why two heads? Well, half of Windows 8 is the traditional desktop that’s been around for years. The desktop works fine with a mouse and keyboard. In fact, you need a mouse and keyboard to navigate the desktop. If you’ve used earlier Windows versions, you’ll find Windows 8’s desktop to be quite familiar.

Windows 8’s second half, though, is a new tile-filled Start screen and apps —  miniature programs. And the Start screen only shines when you can control it with your fingers on a touchscreen.

So, if you’re planning to buy a Windows 8 laptop, I urge you to buy a laptop with a touchscreen. In a few years, every computer will come with a touchscreen: tablet, laptop, and desktop.

Buying a laptop with a touchscreen now will give you a head start on what’s to come. That will put you one step ahead of the whippersnappers.

Personally, I haven’t upgraded any of my desktop computers to Windows 8. When I need a taste of Windows 8 on a desktop PC, I slide a Windows 8 hard drive into my Windows 7 computer, and boot from that. When I’m done, I pull out the hard drive, and return to Windows 7.

Windows 8 runs on two of my tablets, however, and I love them. On my main Windows 8 tablet, I run Start screen apps to read newspapers and magazines, answer e-mail, and browse the web. Then, when I need to work, I plug in a mouse and keyboard, and open the Desktop app. It’s like having a portable tablet and an workhorse PC in one gadget that fits easily into an overnight bag.

When shopping for your new Windows 8 laptop, consider a Windows 8 tablet with a detachable keyboard and trackpad. That would give you the best of both worlds.

By using the touch controls on the Start screen, and falling back to a mouse and keyboard on the desktop, you’ll find that Windows 8 isn’t really two separate beasts. It’s one device that gives you two ways of computing: You can consume information in your leisure, and create information when it’s time to work.


Comment from evelyn
Time February 18, 2014 at 10:48 am

I have been using Windows XP. Do I have to ugrade to Windows 8 for microsoft protection? I read your answer to another person’s inquiry where you said desktop Windows people won’t see a lot of difference when they buy Windows 8. I do not want a laptop. If I buy a new computer that has Windows 8, will I be able to navigate at all like with XP? I just want to look up things, access my bank account, get & write email, and write letters with MS Word. I am a senior that has never used the full capacity of my current computer and now this new computer topic has me scared.

Comment from Andy Rathbone
Time March 11, 2014 at 11:51 am

If you’re still using Windows XP, it’s time for a new computer. However, I’d recommend buying a new computer that has Windows 7, as Windows 7 behaves much more closely to Windows XP than does Windows 8. Windows 8 introduces a completely new way of working with Windows. Many people don’t like that level of change.

Comment from stella
Time March 29, 2014 at 2:56 am

I am working in media.am a sales manager.the company bought for Me a new lap top and they installed Windows 8.will that Be difficult for Me once am using Windows 7.? Just want To Be able To write emails,presentations in power point etc..so?

Comment from Andy Rathbone
Time March 31, 2014 at 8:11 am

Some people are able to adapt to Windows 8 without problem. Others find the obstacle too great to overcome. Only you will be able to discover which camp you fall into. However, try to stay on the desktop as much as possible, and you’ll have the least problems. Also, check out the portions of the Windows 8 For Dummies book that explain how to avoid the Start screen and maximize your time on the desktop.

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