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Tour the first Windows 8 beta (screenshots)

Windows 8 takes another step closer toward public availability with the wide release of its first beta. If you're not able to install it yourself, check out these slides from Microsoft's next-generation, dual-interface operating system.

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Seth Rosenblatt
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This may be the Windows 8 beta, but it's far more stable than the name suggests. Much of its key architecture is in place, and we found it to be extremely usable.
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The lock screen has been enabled to surface content from your apps, including unread e-mails and calendar appointments.
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Essential apps

Once you've logged in, Windows 8 beta takes you to the Start screen. Essential apps like Mail, Calendar, Messaging, and Weather are front and center.
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The People app is for organizing your contacts across multiple services.
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The People app tile will surface recent updates, too.
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Pinch-to-zoom out gives you a global view of your app groups, making it shockingly fast to switch between them.
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Microsoft SkyDrive will allow you to sync files. Microsoft hasn't revealed yet what the memory limit of the SkyDrive is.
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The Windows Store is where you'll get all your Windows apps. Apps bought through the store will sync across multiple Windows 8 devices, too.
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Internet Explorer 10 in Metro runs on a minimized interface that hides completely when you're not using it.
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Swipe up from the bottom edge of an app and you'll get app-specific controls. In the case of IE 10, this means your URL bar on the bottom and tabs thumbnails on top.
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You can search your apps in Windows 8 by clicking the right-edge Search icon, or just begin typing on a keyboard from the Start screen.
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Windows 8 is optimized for both tablets and PCs. It comes with several soft keyboards, and the main one is impressively responsive.
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This quirky split keyboard works best with thumbs. Think: tablet, held vertically with two hands.
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The desktop tile will take you to the desktop view of Windows 8. It's like Windows 7, but with a cooler secret identity.
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Windows 8 offers some interesting dual monitor support. You can go for a traditional extension, shown here, or display the Metro Start screen on one and the desktop view on another.
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It's not all flash and bang in Windows 8. The decidedly unsexy Task Manager has been given a new coat of paint, and is easier to use, too.
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Task Manager processes are much easier to navigate, too.

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