Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Initial Reaction to Windows 8 on a Desktop

I hate it.

Start up, log in, now there are the metro tiles. If you've ever purchased a Windows computer and found desktop links to a dozen or more promotional items you didn't want or need, welcome to Windows 8 - the nuisance is now a feature. Except unlike the old days, after you clear away the crud you still have the metro page between you and the desktop.

I expect that most non-technical users will simply deal with the start page in its default format rather than customizing it. That should make Microsoft happy, because by default it promotes their products and properties.

The missing "start" button. Sure, people used to make fun of it - "click 'start' to shut down?", the way some used to make fun of Macs "put a disk in the garbage to eject it?", but we got used to it. Now instead of clicking the "start" button to choose a shut down option you have a multi-step process that would involve unnecessary swiping and clicking even on a touch screen. (I was actually using a notebook computer with a touch screen, but I was setting it up as a gift so I didn't want to be the first to smear my fingerprints all over the display.) If you're not working on a tablet, it's an annoyance.

Somebody was touting a video a while back, with a three year old child pinning stuff to the Windows 8 start screen. Yes, once you know how to pin stuff it's easy - although it can be really annoying to manipulate tiles with a touchpad as opposed to a mouse or touch screen. But there's little to nothing that's intuitive about any number of the new functions. A lot of things are easy once you know how to do them - but a hallmark of good design is that they're mostly to entirely intuitive.

Adding back the equivalent of a start button... you can create a shortcut to the a line command to shut down, pin it to the start page, then drag it to the menu bar. You can learn (non-intuitive) keyboard shortcuts. Or you can use the cumbersome new graphic interface.

My net reaction: Although I can see its appeal on a tablet or phone, the new interface is an unnecessary impediment to the effective use of a standard computer. Somebody said that this was Windows doing what Apple didn't do - integrating its OS across platforms. To me it felt more like how I would react if Apple made you go through the launchpad after you logged into your desktop computer. Launchpad may be more simple than the new Windows 8 start page, but it's the same basic concept - and it's an optional feature, kept in the background where it belongs.

Windows 8 will be better for desktop users when all of the new stuff is easily switched off, and those who prefer can skip straight to the core operating system (which, unsurprisingly, isn't much different from Windows 7).

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