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Windows 8 starts to take shape

It's at least a year away, but we're starting to get a flavour of how Windows 8 will look. The latest leaked screenshots of the next big thing from Microsoft show its menus and toolbars being replaced by a 'ribbon' of icons divided into tabs, much as with recent versions of Office.

If you haven't seen recent versions of Office, here's how they work: instead of a static toolbar with commonly-used commands, and menus with everything, it has a single 'ribbon' of icons in a sophisticated layout - divided into tabs for different types of activity, like formatting or reviewing - and no other menus. It freaked people out when it was first launched, but now people are used to it they really like it.

And what's more, bringing this approach to Windows would make the OS way more suited to tablets, where drop-down menus are famously hard to use. That's a vital part of Microsoft's strategy to compete with the iPad.

To be honest, we're starting to think Windows 8 looks pretty foxy. What about you?

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