Preview Windows 8 with Metro7

Try Windows 8's Metro interface in Windows 7 with this free app.

You've probably heard about Windows 8 and how it brings a smartphone-like functionality to the desktop. While it's designed for touch screens, Windows 8 is supposed to offer a unified platform for all your computing devices. A big part of Windows 8 is its Metro interface, which is based on Swiss transportation signs with a heavy emphasis on typography and legibility. Metro7 is a free desktop enhancement that lets Windows 7 users try the Metro interface. It requires .NET Framework 4.

If you haven't yet seen Metro, it uses a series of rectangular and square widgets to quickly access your data and features, everything from local weather to Facebook. But if you've ever used Windows Media Center's user interface, you'll have a good idea of how Metro7 works. The default look is a full-screen black background, though we could change the color or add a background image by clicking the Options button on the program's disappearing toolbar, which also let us add and configure new widgets to the display, pin items, and add friends to our Friends widget. The supplied widgets displayed local time, the weather, our Google account, the Metro store (for downloading more widgets) as well as Live TV and other ad-related Web sites. Right-clicking on a widget let us remove it or access its settings, if any. We set the weather to our location and removed some of the ad widgets, cleaning up the look. But there doesn't seem to be any way to resize the widgets or rearrange them. While nice thumb-size icons are great for flicking apps on a smartphone, there's no reason they need to dominate your desktop. As it is, they're no improvement over the current Windows 7 desktop, which handles all the widgets you could need without sacrificing a familiar, efficient design to trendiness. Real estate is an issue with smartphones. With wide-screen LCDs, not so much.

Like Windows 8, Metro is a work in progress. The same seems to be true of Metro7, which exhibited some clunkiness, especially when starting. But if you're curious about Windows 8, try Metro 7 for a look at things to come.

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