If you want to try out Windows 8 you can download a developer (pre-beta) preview here. There are 64 and 32 bit versions of just the OS, as well as a 64-bit version that also contains early versions of Visual Studio 11 and Expression Blend 5 that will allow you to immediately get started with Windows 8 development.
To try it out I decided to load the 64-bit version with the tools in a virtual machine. I first tried if with VMware Workstation, but it seemed to have a problem with the Win 8 installer and it failed before the install even got started. Virtual PC doesn’t support 64-bit, guests but I presume the 32-bit version of Windows 8 will work with it. I finally got it installed using Oracle Virtual Box, just remember that you need to have a processor that supports hardware virtualization to do this. The install went very smoothly with the exception of one crash while entering my Windows Live password. After a re-start the install process finished without any more problems.
The new Metro user interface can be a little tricky at first, especially if you don't have a computer with touch capability, so here are a few tips to help you out.
- Be sure you have you screen resolution set to at least 1024x768 or the Metro style apps will not start up.
- You can click on the Desktop tile to get to a Windows 7 style desktop. Once you have done that you can switch back and forth between the desktop and the Metro start screen using the Windows key.
- There is no Windows 7 style start menu; it's just the Metro start screen. There doesn't seem to be a way to turn the old start menu back on and no indication if Microsoft will add this feature or not.
- If you don't have touch, then you will need to fall back to keystrokes for a lot of things. Here are a couple useful ones:
Windows Key+F: Opens the search files panel
Windows Key+Q: Opens the search apps panel
Windows Key+C: Opens the charms panel
Windows Key+I: Opens settings charm
- To shut down Windows (you would think this would be obvious), press Windows Key+I, click the Power icon, then click Shut down or Restart from the popup menu.