Punting the Start Screen

For those of you curious about every aspect of my technological life, I will note here a slight change to my UI experience of Windows 8, namely that I’ve installed Stardock’s “Start 8″ program, which reinstates a Windows 7-like start button and menu to the desktop, and banishes Win8′s Start Screen into an optional little area you can visit if you like, and not if you don’t want to.

I did this because simply put I’ve come to believe the Win 8 start screen, and the whole environment it propagates is just terrible UI for those of us who actually use their computers for work, rather than using them just to play games and get on Facebook. When I’m working I often have several programs open in several windows, and have those windows up where I can see them all, because each window has information relevant to what I’m doing. If I need to access additional programs, I don’t want to have to leave that environment; it messes with work flow.

But in Windows 8, that’s exactly what you have to do: You have to stop what you’re doing, fire up a separate screen that obscures everything you’re working on, and locate a program in a tile (you can also type in the program name and then click on the result, but you still have to first leave your work environment). It’s a hassle, but more than a hassle it’s an arbitrary imposition of the UI on actual workflow. Or to put it more bluntly: Windows 8 is wasting my time, and for no good reason.

When I started working with Windows 8, I didn’t think this would bother me too much, but I wrong. Even something as trivial as pulling up the Snipping Tool (for screen captures) or the calculator became a production, and I found myself getting annoyed at my sparkly new computer because of it. It’s not the sparkly computer’s fault, it was Win8. So now I’ve fixed that part of Win8 that was annoying me. The Start Screen is still around and I can access it if I want to, but I don’t have to go there, and that’s a good thing.

While I’m on the subject of the Start Screen and the new app environment it’s part of, I’ll make the observation that I suspect that the Start Screen and the apps probably make better sense on a laptop, which has a screen between eleven and fifteen inches wide, than it does on my monster 27-inch screen. As an example, when you’re using an app, if you want to close it, you swipe downward on your screen from the top. Probably not a problem on a small screen, but on my Dell XPS One? That’s a whole lot of real estate to drag through, and it quickly becomes impractical. As do fullscreen only apps, which would be more practical and useful in a smaller window. This is one of the reasons why on a day to day basis I don’t use any of the apps at all and stay in the desktop environment almost exclusively.

What it really seems to come down to — and I don’t think there’s a nicer way of putting it — is whether you’re using your computer as a work tool or a toy. If you’re using it as a toy, and as an entertainment machine, then with Win8 Start Screen and apps are probably cool and fun. If you’re using your computer as a tool, they’re just in the way. And now I have them out of my way, so I can do my work.

97 thoughts on “Punting the Start Screen

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve read many reviews that say similar things. I haven’t taken the Windows 8 plunge yet and do not know when I will. Based upon this feedback it will probably be awhile. I do not understand why Microsoft did not make a separate version of Windows for tablets and touch computers vs PS’s meant for serious work. Or at least make it easier to configure Windows 8 to be customizable based upon the type of machine it was running on.

    Also, small grammatical correction: “but I wrong.” seems to be missing a word.

  2. Haha, I JUST had this conversation with our IT guy this afternoon. He was saying that he thought the start screen was fine for if you’re using a touch screen device, but other than that it’s a complete mess. So glad I’m not dealing with it quite yet (though I’m still using a laptop with Vista, which is a whole other story…)

  3. Someone at Micro$oft thinks their customers all want an XBox, apparently. Because based on what I’ve seen of Win8, it looks pretty much like the XBox “UI”. No doubt some jeanius there convinced a boss that this is technological “convergence”, and that it’s cool.

  4. Just judging from the tile layout and the useless apps that are on that Win8 start screen are better suited to tablet users then for any serious desktop users. This is not one of Microsoft’s better ideas, they’d have been better to have reserved Win8 for tablets or Windows smartphones and retained Win7 for the desktop and laptop use.

  5. Oh, man, i read a book recently that explained exactly why our computers were such a mess… I know it couldn’t have been too long ago or I’d have forgotten. I’m trying to find the book now, so if you will just bear with me *turns on elevator Muzak to entertain you while you wait*

    Ah, here it is. Year Zero by Rob Reid. It explains definitively how, by wasting our time, Windows has saved the world. So feel free to check it out and I’m sure you’ll understand much more afterward why Windows has been designed to waste our time!

    You’re very welcome…

  6. No, it sucks just as badly on a laptop, if not worse, since it wants to pretend the touchpad is a touchscreen and really, it is not.

  7. I had exactly the same experience. I tried it (for months, starting with the first public preview) to get used to the Metro UI mantra, but it is simply not a good UI for work. It slows you down, takes you out of your environment and actively works against you. Since I installed a start button program it works fine – just like Windows 7 did. Not worth to invest the money into Windows 8 however, just to get the same experience you had before with some hacking. I would not be surprised it it is considered a flop like Vista when everything is said and done (Vista still sold 400 million copies, that’s a pretty big number for something that’s considered a dud).

  8. I started using Classic Shell on Windows 7 and continued using it when I installed Windows 8 on my VM. I just prefer the simplicity of the start menu over the Windows 8 tile screen.

  9. I’ve been very lucky in the timing of getting new machines. I missed ME and Vista, and my box is new and high-end, so I get to miss 8. Woo hoo! I’ve got two large monitors and from what I’ve heard, users with lots of open programs will go insane with 8.

  10. @goy: Microsoft rolled out the Interface Formerly Known As Metro (IFNAM) to the xbox console some time ago. It’s slightly more usable than on a PC there.

    Micorsoft has been trying for about 2 decades, to produce a UI that works on both tablets and PCs, and more recently, on PDAs and smartphones. This may very well be the best they’ve done yet. Which means that it’s probably an intractable problem, much like porting wargames to consoles. (as an aside, when do we get a tablet version of Harpoon? pretty please?)

    Sadly, by restricting the app store to carrying solely IFNAM apps, as well as the difficulty in getting to and using the Win8 desktop, Microsoft seems to be following Apple’s lead to the return to the Bad Old Days of computing, where your computer vendor was the sole source of all your software and peripherals, so don’t expect things to get better, unless Win8 turns out to be an unmitigated flop, and by Microsoft’s strong preinstall position, that’s probably a longshot.

  11. I’m glad there’s a way to fix that problem. I think I’m more mortified than most by Windows 8′s UI because I’ve never even owned a tablet or a smartphone or anything, so I’m not even used to the tile thing at all. And I think you’ve hit the nail on the head by saying that it works fine if you computer is a toy, much less so if you need to actually work on it.

  12. I have a shiny new laptop but I’m still tapping away on my old one because the Window 8 UI is so unappealing. Like Joe P. I’ve never owned tablet or smartphone, so the whole apps layout seems annoyingly gimmicky and clunky. So much so that I didn’t want to deal with it. I’ll be installing Start 8 quick smart.

  13. There are other ways around it. For example in the tile window select the program then right click it and you will get some menu choices down the bottom one of these is pin to task bar – this will pin it to the desktop taskbar. Equally you can create a shortut and move the app to the desktop environment.

    Some other tips to make windows 8 more useful come in the following blog post by Scott Hanselman

    http://www.hanselman.com/blog/Windows8ProductivityWhoMovedMyCheeseOhThereItIs.aspx

    Personally I think the removal of the start button is an attempt to force people to use the tiles moving to a future ‘app world’. Microsoft has a history of learning from its mistakes and I think a better dedicated desktop environment will come with windows 9…

    Joss.

    PS Loving the b-team.

  14. 100% agreement. I’m currently setting up new PCs for relatives. I used Windows 7 instead of Windows 8 due to the issues you pointed out.

  15. What I can’t understand is why Microsoft no longer provides a parallel business operating system (think Windows NT). Stable, no frills, does what it ought to and doesn’t fall over all the time. I appreciate that the home PC market is vast, but surely the business market is even bigger? It wouldn’t need to be updated as often as their home OS; in fact as far as I’m concerned I’d still be happy using NT. As it stands I couldn’t live – and certainly couldn’t work – without Classic Start menu and the Ubitmenu program to revert the Word Ribbon. I don’t want large, friendly, colourful buttons and whizzy graphics effects, I want menus that work!

  16. I’ve never liked the Metro UI (though at least they have better color options for it, now.) But I’ve grown used to it on my phone, and the rest of it works so well that I’m fine with it there (a Lumia 920.)

    When I got my new Surface, I had a little bit of a learning curve, since that’s slightly different from the phone UI (and the swipe-to-close? Hate.) But in a tablet environment, yes, it definitely works fairly well. And when I want to use it for something more serious, I just switch over to the desktop version, break out the keyboard and use it like a traditional laptop (hint: create desktop shortcut icons for the stuff you use all the time.)

    But as a desktop-PC UI, Metro sucks ass. And I say that with all love to the people I know who work at the company. Anyone who wants to use a desktop computer for office productivity, multimedia production, gaming, etc., is going to be infuriated by a gesture-based UI that assumes you’re not sitting at a desk and using a mouse and full keyboard. They need to have an option to boot up to a traditional desktop environment, and skip Metro entirely, for users like us.

  17. Yes, I installed Classic Shell on my Win8 PC. I tried to live with Metro for about a month but finally gave up. I was about to buy Start8 but came across a review of Classic Shell. It works for me.
    I only have Windows 8 at work because I’m a programmer and someone needs to test the software under it. At home, when building new machines, I’m still buying Windows 7.

  18. I’m really wishing I had planned ahead and got myself a Windows 7 64-bit disk while it was available. I’m building a new computer next year on which I’d want it but my current installation is 32-bit so it looks like I’ll be forced to ‘upgrade’ unless I can find someone who stockpiled for the UI apocalypse.

    Between Microsoft’s apparent hostility toward the idea of working on a PC, prepping for a closed garden software world, and Valve pushing hard on Linux (and to a lesser extent Mac) gaming it feels like there is potential for a dramatic shift in OS demographics.

  19. For those avoiding Win 8, or opting for Win 7 instead–the Start menu is a bad UI decision, yes, but an easily avoidable or fixable one. Once it’s out of the way, Win 8 operates almost identically to Win 7 with some added enhancements and speed improvements. I too tried Metro for a while, and ultimately gave up when I’m in “work mode” then just added my commonly used tasks to the launch bar at the bottom, but stopped short of a full on start menu replacement, and that was that. In fact, that’s how I operated on Win 7 as well–pretty much all my apps I used on any kind of daily basis were in the launch strip at the bottom. Except for a few things–like an enhanced task manager, and a rather nice ribbon at the top of explorer windows–there’s pretty much no difference at all between this and Windows 7 in practical day to day working. I’d recommend it rather than opting for the older version.

    That said, if I was installing for someone else, specifically someone NOT tech-savy at all, I think the 2 distinct interfaces can be confusing as hell and Win 7 might be the recommended option. Flipping back and forth between the Metro Start window single window apps, and desktop apps, can be confusing for people who have barely figured out how to launch Internet Explorer. So, in a weird way, Microsoft has managed to inject a “simplified” workflow that makes it harder for the users it’s evidently designed for to actually use.

  20. That sounds similar to our experience. We have Win8 with the Start Screen on our kitchen PC, which is a 21-inch touchscreen that is used for e-mail, spotify, light surfing, allrecipes.com, and netflix – the start screen works fine for that, and I would actually consider it an improvement over the old interface. On the other PC in the house that I installed it on, it was annoying, mostly because that PC is not a touchscreen, and is used by my kids for homework (and Minecraft).

    There is a nice free app that has made that 2nd Win8 PC much more usable by making the start screen an easy keyboard toggle that does NOT open up in full screen mode (you can configure the height and location that it opens at). Here is the initial post by the developer where he describes it: http://www.neowin.net/forum/topic/1104241-windows-8-start-menu-modifier/page__p__595159439#entry595159439. The latest version of the app is not in the link in the first post, but can be found here: http://www.diablocrafts.com/uploads/SMModifier1.2.zip (or go through the forum pages – he may post a link to a newer version later on). We’ve had great luck with it, and I recommend it.

    All of this just goes to show that a) you can’t please everyone, b) UI design is really hard, and c) Microsoft often has strategic plans that don’t always serve their users well (in this case, I think having a “One UI to rule them all” approach is the strategy, but when if are using a phone, videogame, tablet, home PC, or business PC, each device will have idiosyncrasies that the UI needs to adjust to).

  21. tracomart @ 8:04
    I review distributions on my blog.. there are several Ubuntu based Linux distributions that have a better UI than “Unity” IMO, and at this point I’d strongly recommend Linux Mint 14 over regular Ubuntu.for anyone willing to take (or retake in our host’s case) the Linux plunge.

  22. My 17″ laptop died a while ago, and I decided I didn’t need another laptop, so I got a 20″ HP Touchsmart Envy desktop with Win8. After a few weeks, I’ve come to the same decision you did, John. I’m currently looking over the available start button replacements to see which one I like best. I like the 20″ touchscreen, but I just don’t think desktops and tablets will ever be perfectly compatible. MS should remember how well ‘one ring to rule them all’ worked out for Sauron. :)

    Regards,
    Jack Tingle

  23. tracomart -
    There is also, unfortunately, the not-so simple matter of the UEFI Secure Boot challenge. At this point, suggesting to someone that they try any version of Linux (other than Fedora 18 is just not helpful at all, unless they have the assistance of someone who knows how to disable the Secure Boot and use Legacy, because computers being sold now with Windows 8 just won’t let you install anything else with the ease that we Linux users got used to over the last decade.

  24. I had the dismay of running into that this week. I wound up using http:\\classicshell.net

    This computer was going to an ambulance company for putting in their patient care records. This machine is not intended for screwing around with.

  25. Buy the system from a Linux system retailer, or build your own. system 76, ZaReason, ThinkPenguin, Los Alamos Computers, EmperorLinux.

    I prefer system 76 laptops. They are the same as Sager systems.

  26. This is good to know. The home laptop is now running Win8 and the interface drives me batty.
    Also, husband is enjoying “The B-Team” very much and I have to read it before he explodes from wanting to talk about it with me…

  27. “For those of you curious about every aspect of my technological life,”
    No, no, no. I’m only curious about those aspects related to the technology of churro waffles…

  28. I suspect windows 9 is largely going to be a backpedal from the UI decisions in 8

    Microsoft has a long history of selling us “upgrades” whose major selling point is removing stuff we didn’t want in the first place. Remember “Clippy” in Word 97? Or Word 2010, which is basically Word 2007 plus an interface to fix the f**king Ribbon…something Word 2007 should have had all along.

    Damn, it must be nice to have a virtual monopoly.

  29. Well said. I’ve been using Windows 8 since the earliest public release and find the lack of a fully functional desktop infuriating when I’m trying to get some real work done. I, too, use Start8 to banish the Windows 8 Start Screen. Installing Start8 has been part of my standard Windows 8 setup procedure since it first appeared.

  30. Win 8 has sent me back to DOS thinking – I find that I’d rather just hit the “Run” hotkey and type in program names by hand rather than trying to hunt down tiles or make shortcuts. My desktop is cleaner than it’s been in years.

  31. Yeah, there was a similar issue on the Linux side of the fence, regarding Unity and Gnome Shell. I like them both, but there are a number of people who don’t, for the same reasons you give. Much as I like the new Linux UI’s, my old computer doesn’t, so I’m running Linux Mint 13 MATE, which is the old Gnome 2 UI. Using it has helped me understand the problems many have had with the Gnoe 3 based UI’s. It looks like Win* made a similar decision to Gnome and Cannonical, by focusing on the touchscreen and laptop market. For all that, Unity and Gnome Shell still have (IMO) functionality for keyboard-and-mouse users. Win8 looks like it went way farther.

  32. As an alternative/addition to a Win8 start button, I’d suggest people check out Launchy (www.launchy.net). You type a key combination, up pops a teeny window, you type the first few characters of the program you want, say Chr for chrome, and it opens the program. I haven’t used the start menu in Win7 in ages. This guy shows how to set it up for Win8. http://www.oscarcao.com/blog/2012/08/21/launchy-and-auto-hotkey-revisited-for-windows-8

  33. Interestingly enough, this is exactly why I *do* like working on Windows 8 when I’m writing on my new laptop. I have a REALLY bad habit of getting distracted by the internet or some other shiny thing (or more to the point, having a really bad case of the “don’t wanna’s” and want to look at cat gifs or Russian car crashes or something mindless). Having to back up out of the Word window and back to the Start cloud to do anything unrelated is *JUST* enough for my forebrain to say “eh, is it really worth it? GET BACK TO WORK YOU SLACKER!”

    I can see where it might irritate some, but I’m trying to keep an open mind about it. I like the feel of it, but yeah, it definitely takes some getting used to.

  34. Maybe I’m alone here, but so far I really like the Start screen. I’m the type of person that doesn’t really clean up their installed programs all that often, and clicking through the old Start button menus actually took me a second or two to find the proper program I wanted. It was cluttered. With the Start menu, I can literally get from zero to photoshop in half the time – it’s a nice big button on my main screen, along with all the other apps I use daily. I find it clean and easy to use.

    To your point, I do use it on a laptop (and a rather old one at that, which Win8 has actually made workable again) so the screen real estate isn’t an issue so much, so perhaps my mileage may vary.

  35. @Beth – there’s a little computer place near me that also ships thier stuff, and they have Win 7 disks – iguanamicro.com. I’ve shopped from them for years, great place!

    Recently got a new laptop for the husband – he lasted about an hour on the new win 8 interface before begging me to ‘fix’ it – so I put on ‘classic shell’. he HATED the new interface with a passion, and he’s definitely a ‘entertainment only’ user on his computer.

  36. The thing I don’t like about Win8, and the metro apps in general, is that they seem designed to take my hands off the keyboard. One thing that does help though, at least when you have a real keyboard, is <alt>F4 to close a metro app. A little harder on the Surface since there aren’t any Function keys, but there’s an <Fn> modifier, and the top row of keys doubles as an unmarked function keys if you have it pressed, so <Alt><Fn><Play/Pause> works on the Surface keyboard.

  37. I think that the start screen would be a decent idea if MS had simply left a configuration setting in the system that allowed those who needed it to default to the desktop and re-enabled the start menu. For those who aren’t all that computer literate or those who come to like the start screen, they’ll use the new UI and for those who find that the old interface is a better match the check boxes can get set to enable it. I suspect that the next version (at least of the ‘pro’ and up packages) they’ll add that to one of the shell property pages for those who care…

  38. I put my most go to items on the task bar at the bottom, which eliminates most of the need to go to the application screen.
    However, if I make a left to right swipe on my track pad, I pull up the magic menu that is supposed to replace the start menu. (except it really doesn’t because you need yet another click to get to your programs.)
    Well, actually it does that UNLESS I want to go to that menu, and then I can only get that motion to pull it up about 40% of the time. Happily there is a short cut key. I will say that the short cut keys for windows 8 are nice, except that I shouldn’t need them, because the old ways was FAR MORE EFFICIENT.
    It’s like Windows has decided it no longer is Windows. Now things are applications that take over your entire screen. I pull up pictures, they are all over my screen, without the standard header bar that allows me to adjust window size or close them. I pull up media player, picture gallery, or anything non office related from that start app menu and it is my entire screen.
    It was a VERY dumb idea to try and make the computer and smart phone interface be the same.

  39. First up: thank you. I received a sparkly new laptop for Yule this year and my thrill has been somewhat muffled by the frustration of Win 8.
    Also: weighing in from a 17″ laptop, it’s still a pain in various anatomical locations. The way I figure it, it’s best suited for a tablet, but that’s because tablets are black magic in my world.

  40. One of the things I read (I haven’t used it yet myself) is that there are some apps that are essentially deeply embedded in the “metro” interface (one of the examples I saw people mention was the music player) to the point that if you fire them up you wind up switching into that mode whether you want to or not. So at one point Win 8 had a “Win 7 mode” that gave you the Windows 7 UI (without the start button), but if you launched one of the “metro native” apps it immediately switched over to the plaid panel thing in order to launch it.

    Do the start menu replacement solutions take care of that problem?

  41. I just have to say, did you have to go with Stardock? There are other solutions out there made by organizations who aren’t run by raving egotistical misogynists.

  42. Microsoft has clearly looked to Star Trek for inspiration. Not the series, the movies. Let’s look at a bit of history of the Windows consumer product releases going back a while:

    Windows 95 – Popular, worked well, great advance
    Windows ME – What happened when they tried to work the Ballmer peak (http://xkcd.com/323/)
    Windows XP – Great and long lasting
    Windows Vista – User Account Control, need I say more?
    Windows 7 – Great job, works well.
    Windows 8 – The jury is still out, but do we see a trend here?

  43. That “you can only run one program at a time” thing makes sense on tiny screens like iPhones and iPads, but is completely broken for a desktop or laptop (i.e. productivity machine). I almost never use OS X’s new full-screen mode on my MacBook Pro. I can’t believe Microsoft is trying to force that paradigm onto their desktop operating system. What do they do in their usability labs?

  44. I wasn’t going to leap to Windows 8. Win 7 was fine. My Linux-evangelist girlfriend kept sending me blog posts and videos of how crappy the Win8 UI was. My field tech friend agreed with the UI assessment, but raved about Win8′s back end, and said “just use this Start8 app and you get the Win7 desktop with the Win8 back end. 30 Day free trial, and if you like it, it’s only $5.” I paid the $5 two days later.

  45. @John Scalzi: That’s understandable. I just have a severe dislike of Stardock after the whole mess with the sexual harassment lawsuit against their CEO came out last summer:

    http://kotaku.com/5940401/pc-gaming-studio-said-she-ruined-their-game-but-only-after-she-sued-the-boss-for-sexual-harassment

    (The Quarter To 3 thread was one of the most bizzare things ever. I’ve never seen someone pull the rug out from under their case with so much…gusto.)

  46. I don’t understand the “one app at a time” complaint. Maybe if you’re trying to use all metro apps, but I just use it as a program springboard for desktop apps mainly. Are people trying to have a full desktop experience from the start screen? If so, then I guess I understand your frustration, but I think for actual work it’s a lot better to work from the desktop and just use the start screen as a launcher.

  47. No offense to all the Ubuntu/flavor of the month Linux people out there, but Stardock FTW. It’s the best solution we have found so far if you delayed too long and are stuck with Win 8 on anything but a tablet.

  48. @Charles, your list reflects my own take on the Windows progression. Until last Friday, I had a desktop running Vista and a laptop running Windows 7 and gave some thought to putting Win 7 on the desktop, because it was just that much better in some ways it would take me a while to define but matter day to day. Then, lucky me, the 3-year-old desktop died on Friday, and I was able to find a good replacement that runs Windows 7. Not happy to have the sudden expense, but I’m happy that it didn’t happen a few months down the road, when finding a non-Windows 8 computer would have been harder.

    Meanwhile, my 10-year-old Dell running Windows XP is still chugging along fine, just too slow and underpowered for daily use. My mom still uses an XP computer that’s almost as old, but her needs are limited to e-mail and some browsing. When she had cardiac surgery two years ago, the workstations in the ICU of the (excellent) hospital were still using Windows XP.

    I’m hoping that by the time I need to replace either of my daily workhorse machines (new desktop, two-year-old laptop), the next iteration of Windows will have fixed Windows 8.

  49. @TheMadLibriarian You use what works. Linux works for most of what I do (flavor of the month? Really?), and I dual boot with Win7 for the things it does well (mainly games, Netflix, and iTunes). I don’t spell Microsoft with a “$”, or Windows as “Windoze”, and I tend to roll my eyes at those who do. Windows 7 is a perfectly good OS. I just prefer Linux.

  50. I will definitely have to take a look at that, because I’m hating Win8 on -my- shiny, new computer (that I had to get a few months ago when the old one died). Win8 was the only option for an OS, so that’s what I got stuck with. I’ve blogged a few times about how much I hate Win8.

    And, um, there’s a calculator? Where the heck is it? I had to actually go find a for real calculator a few weeks ago when I needed one, because I couldn’t find one on Win8. That’s how horrible the system is.

  51. I’ll chime in agreeing with chrnoble. I tell people about my experiences, but try not to push Linux on people who aren’t asking already, and I have dual-booted with Win7 (which I really like) since I bought this laptop. It is only this year that I’ve seriously thought I could leave Windows behind permanently, because there is now a way to get Netflix working quite well on Ubuntu and its relatives, and because Steam on Linux is getting more games I own or want to own.

  52. You can whisper ubuntu or shout linux all you like, but those of us whose employer buys the stuff don’t always or even often have the choice. We’re still on XP and slowly upgrading to Win7 at work.

  53. This iteration of Metro was truly designed for tablets and hybrids, and the Surface in particular. It really does work well in that configuration. And for me, the classic desktop UI works fine as well when it’s in laptop configuration–I don’t need the start button if I have shortcuts on the desktop or taskbar.

    Where the problem comes in is with traditional laptops or desktops that don’t have touchscreens, or for which touchscreens wouldn’t be useful. For those users, being able to boot straight to the traditional UI and skip Metro entirely is crucial. The fact that this isn’t a native option is annoying as hell.

    My only other complaint is that there’s absolutely no tutorial on how the new gestures work (at least on the Surface.) That right there is a massive failure of the Windows PM to properly account for in-field user testing. If you’re going to muck with the UI in such a drastic way, you MUST teach people how to use it. People switching over from another tablet device may be able to figure it out, but people upgrading from Win 7? Yeah. No.

    I do think they meant well with this, and were looking ahead, but I think they got ahead of themselves and didn’t do enough market research to figure out who would really be using this.

  54. Ya know, they ought to have a place, like at the bottom of the screen, or one side, where you can instantly access fifteen ort twenty of your favorite programs, and clicking on the icon for those pops you right to your open window. Plus a spot for folders you can use to access the rest of your stuff.

    Apple calls it the ‘Dock’. ;-)

  55. >> Apple calls it the ‘Dock’. ;-)

    Microsoft calls it “The Task Bar”. Been around since Windows 95 or so.

  56. My windows comp is only play right now, if I want to work, I use my mac, because MacOS has the civility to get out of my way when working.

    My parents new laptop uses Windows 8, and my father had to walk me through using it for the first time, simply because it was so counter intuitive.Now, my bread and butter is software developement, but luckely my company’s still on windows XP, although there is an upgrade in the works. The admins are already ranting about it, strange, isn’t it? ;)

  57. The last time I remember not being able to have more than one program open at once, in Windows, was with Windows 3.1. I haven’t used Windows 8 yet — hoping they haven’t killed off the ability to create a launch key combo (like Ctrl-Shift-N for Notepad, e.g.)? I’ll definitely keep StarDock in mind when we inevitably end up with 8.

  58. I find it hard to believe that Microsoft will long-term hang its professional users out to dry like this. No business will ever install Windows 8 en masse (unless they have some weird contractual obligation with Microsoft to do so, which some will).

    Windows 9 almost has to include some concessions for professional/business users, or there will be mass defections.

    Strangely (and terribly) the server version of Windows 8 — server 2012 — also comes with this UI abomination.

    That is even less explicable than the desktop version including this UI travesty.

  59. I ran Start8 as training wheels for about a month on my work desktop and my work laptop, but after a while, Windows 8 started to make sense to me. The full page start menu no longer feels like anything other than…start. It’s just like the button, to me. One thing that helped: putting the desktop tile in the upper left corner. That way, when the start menu comes up if I want to go to the desktop, which I do most of the time, I just hit ‘enter.’

    A couple three things I really like about Win 8:

    - the new app switcher. I like the larger thumbnails, and the way they’re organized on the left side of the screen.

    - the snap feature. I thought this was a poor replacement for regular windows for a while, but lately I pin my Twitter feed to one side of the screen and put the desktop in the remainder. A snapped Metro app displays its information better than a regular window squished into a corner.

    - The search charm. Again, something that felt weird, awkward and bolted on at first that I’m now using a lot.

    Both of my computers are of the older, non-touch variety. Maybe it helps that I wasn’t a devoted Windows user to start; my main work computers at home are Ubuntu machines, and for several years, my work desktop at the office has been a Mac running an old version of Windows under a virtual machine. For what it’s worth, my job requires me to write all day (I run a small tv newsroom) and with very few exceptions, my switch to Win 8 has been seamless.

  60. Unmentioned above is my biggest complaint about the Windows 8 UI; for all the value that the tiled interface is supposed to bring to users, how many of those are “live tiles” that show constantly updated information. I don’t think that most people have that many services which are constantly updating that would make that a valuable feature.

    This is the same argument that went on with desktop widgets and few people had more than a small handful. Let’s see what we can name.

    Clock (it’s nice to have something more than the minimal task bar clock)
    Weather
    Stocks (many people just deleted this one)
    Twitter
    Facebook
    IM (if that doesn’t fall under Twitter and Facebook these days)
    Photos (which would include Instagram, Flickr and the like)
    Music (which would include Spotify, Last.FM, Pandora)
    and …

    At that point I run out, but there are probably a few more categories. Eight “live tiles” of information. That number can comfortably cover a smartphone or tablet screen, but when expanded to even a 15 inch laptop or worse a 20+ inch desktop, it leaves a lot of “dead tiles” that are no more useful than an icon and more confusing to navigate when there are a large number of them.

  61. Splitting Windows into two separate environments with one overlaying the other is a huge gamble from a desperate company who sees competitors closing in and taking entire market segments like the tablets completely away from them. And unfortunately for them it doesn’t look like it’s going to work.

    By the way – you need more screens, too. One 27-incher is nice but you need at least two or three. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to having all that screen real estate – I can’t recall when I last used alt-tab. It’s not even hard – just get the screen, plug it in and spend 30 seconds in the settings and presto. If you want to, add UltraMon to fill in some of the blanks in the way Windows itself handles multiple screens.

  62. One thing that occurred to me is that the Windows 8 tiled interface may have been created to accommodate an expectation that cell phones (and computers to a lesser extent) would not have rich graphic capabilities. The tiled interface is visually flat and very simple for the processor to render on the screen and wouldn’t consume too much in the way of computing power to accomplish.

    Now, as we know, all of the contemporary ARM processors are paired with significant graphic processors as well which permits sophisticated and power economical rendering of images for games and video. I wonder how that will effect Microsoft going into the future.

  63. Your an idiot, start screen works better than start menu once you delete all metro apps and add a shutdown shortcut. Windows 8 doesn’t hamper productivity your stupidity does.

  64. Noob Hunter:

    That’s the dumbest thing anyone’s said yet in this thread. Independently, your opening three word phrase has a delightful irony in it. Guess what it is!

  65. Need to run an App? Press Win+Q & type the name.
    That’s it.
    I only have one-arm & even the added hassle of moving away from mouse/trackball becomes quickly forgotten after you get used to this. It is fast, Windows 8 is excellent at guessing your intent and you ever have to look at a tile.

  66. I think the person who wrote this article as well as many other people didn’t actually take the time to sit and figure out Windows 8. Everyone is so quick to whine and be a cynical asshole when it comes to….well, EVERYTHING.

    Technology is moving so fast that we have to hear this cyclical moaning every other day. Nobody can accept change and give it a chance. Which is why they usually miss out on the fact that if you commit to ditching old habits and learning new ones the experience will be MUCH better.

    I hate to call you stupid but the whole reasoning behind your distaste for Windows 8 is completely invalid. Your open programs/apps are always available to you by simply moving your mouse to the top left corner. It is the EXACT same thing as having the icons on your taskbar and having the taskbar disappear when your mouse isn’t over it.

    The problem right now is that most apps are still legacy apps and weren’t made into a polished metro app yet. The programs that are metro apps look beautiful and are WAY better to use. I wish all of my programs were like that. Even using for example a Newegg APP instead of opening firefox and loading the newegg website is 100x better. It’s beautifully polished, organized, and incredibly simple to use.

    Once everything is an metro app it will work beautifully since you won’t need the traditional Windows desktop at all. If you somehow think that the idea of all programs being apps is stupid then you might want to take a look at this operating system they call Mac OS. I heard it’s pretty successful.

    What I don’t get is people whining about the start menu the most, as if that thing had a purpose since Windows Vista. In Windows 7 all of my most used apps were pinned to my taskbar and anything else could go on my desktop. Although I basically only ended up with My Computer and the Recycling bin on my desktop. The ONLY purpose for the Start menu was to search for something. With Windows 8 Start Screen you simply just start TYPING and it finds what you want. Much easier!

    What people fail to realize is that the Windows 8 Start screen is the EXACT SAME FUNCTION as the Windows desktop! They only included the desktop for current legacy programs and the children who would cry if they just yanked it away completely like a baby blanket.

    The TILES are your desktop icons and/or taskbar shortcuts, the “All Apps” function is your start menu, and the programs are resizable and dockable so you can show two apps at once like WINDOWS EXPLORER. It’s the god damn desktop just with a different interface and everyone is so confused just because the regular desktop is still there. The gears are grinding in your heads with disbelief as if it’s that complicated.

    Trust me… I love Windows 7 and it took me time to get used to Windows 8, but anyone with a brain will see it’s the right direction for operating systems. To have an OS that is universal across all platforms and doesn’t sacrifice functionality on either end is the FUTURE. The only ODD thing about Windows 8 is that it works better for touch screens and touch screens are mobile devices by majority. So desktop users it’s a little harder to get used to. But even desktops are coming with touch screen monitors now, and laptops are becoming tablet hybrids.

    Only problem is for those who use their TV as their monitor or sit far away from their monitor and a touch screen wouldn’t be useable. But with a little more time and patience you can figure Windows 8 out on a desktop or regular laptop setup as well.

  67. Nemesis has it all wrong. The problem isn’t that it’s changing our UI and we just don’t like change…The problem is that the UI just doesn’t work for production. It only works for consumption of data, articles, and other media. When I’m testing software I generally have multiple applications open, and in use, all at the same time. I have a web browser, Visual Studio, and SQL Server Management Studio all open on different monitors at the same time. Modern UI only uses one window/monitor at a time. Also, if you look at the steps it takes to open an application with modern UI, it just takes longer as you normally can’t see everything on one screen and end up scrolling sideways all the time. Also, it doesn’t do a good job of organizing tiles for you.

    Modern UI was created with only the tablet user in mind. Even touchscreen laptops and All-In-Ones are impractical, as it’s much faster the use a keyboard and touchpad, close to where your hands are already in place to type, rather than to take your hands off the keyboard and smudge up your screen with oily fingers. This is fine for tablets and smartphones, for which you give up the large keyboard and mouse in favor of a small, portable device.

    I agree with the author. Microsoft totally missed on this one. I guarantee Microsoft’s own engineers are using either Windows 7 or Windows 8 with Stardock Start 8 right now. I would put money on Microsoft taking the emphasis off of the Modern UI in desktops in Windows 9…Or at least creating a more unifying start screen which doesn’t alienate desktop users.

  68. hikeyplay has it all wrong and clearly another user who hasn’t actually used Windows 8 enough to understand all of the options available to you.

    The only major change is the start menu! You are acting like the metro UI is the entire thing. The majority of your distaste is due to being used to one UI for all these years. It has nothing to do with productivity. You don’t even need the start menu at all if you don’t want to use it. You can put all of your most used apps pinned to your taskbar like usual and if you need something else just simply run your mouse to the top right corner and type it in the SEARCH. It finds it instantly.

    You can make it a Windows 7 experience with the improvements that Win8 offers. Adding the start menu back is just stupid though. You DON’T NEED IT. The programs can be categorized perfectly with Metro UI or just use your taskbar icons. I don’t understand how you find it so difficult and it certainly does NOT take more clicks to open a program. I hit the Start menu and BAM i see my categories and most used apps right there. I click it and it runs. With the traditional start menu (which i NEVER used even in win7) I had to click start, go to “programs”, and then sift through EVERY PROGRAM INSTALLED just to find the one I want.

    Why would you need to sift through all your programs at all? You only need access to the programs you actually utilize. Otherwise you have a start menu full of crap that just runs in the background taking up a program slot and making your search more difficult.

    Multi monitor setup is still the same with windows 8 desktop. Either multiple desktops or you can even have the start screen on one screen and the desktop on another. The SAME options are available to you. You can use windows 8 the way you want to use it. They will probably never get rid of the desktop because of people who are working on it all day. I’m sure they dont care if people stick with windows 7 either… considering they created that too… its not like they are losing to competition.

    The actual purpose here is that all computers are going to become portable machines in the future. So when you’re out and about you use the start screen with a touch device and when you’re home you switch to the desktop to do your productive work with a keyboard and mouse.

    That’s exactly how I used Windows 7 and I’m doing 80% work and 20% media consumption. Yet I seem to not need a multi monitor setup since I use my HDTV as my monitor. Plenty of desktop room. You might want to try that. I’m doing video encoding, editing, recording, photoshop, and much more all with one screen.

    When I want to consume media the metro UI looks beautiful in 1080p and makes my computer a lot more fun to use. The traditional desktop only remains for me because its the only way to open legacy programs. But if they converted all of my programs to metro apps I would gladly use those instead.

    Windows 9 will be even more like Windows 8. So sorry to disappoint you. You clearly didn’t do your research either. The Metro start screen is here to stay. Microsoft said so themselves and that they are making the change. So the usual clockwork of “Bad OS, Good OS, Bad OS” is over… Windows 8 is not vista… it’s the new OS and the way it’s going to stay.

  69. Nemesis4670:

    “The only major change is the start menu!”

    Which interferes with my work flow, so I got rid of it and replaced it with something that does not interfere with my workflow. If you wish to suggest to me, Nemesis4670, that I’m doing my work flow wrong or that I should allow my work flow to be dictated by Microsoft for reasons that appear arbitrary and inefficient to me, I’ll likely show you a short pier to take a long walk off of.

    Beyond that, it’s not the only major change; another major change is the full-screen app experience, which again doesn’t work well for me as Win8 performs it (it worked better for me in the Mac environment, for various reasons I won’t go into now, but even then it had limitations).

    As noted, I think the Start Screen is probably a good idea in different contexts; it doesn’t work for me in the context of getting my work done on a desktop.

    I’m delighted for you that you like the Start Screen and I wish you joy with it. But most of your posting here seems to come down to “I like it and therefore you are wrong because you don’t like it as much as I do.” And to be blunt, while it’s nice for you that you like it, I don’t care. For my work flow, I don’t want the Start Screen. It gets in the way.

  70. The best Metro style application I have seen is Windows Media Center, which runs fine in a window. Check it out if you have Windows 7. Interestingly this is not included in Windows 8 and it’s not in the app store, you have to download it separately. It’s as if Microsoft don’t want you to realise that Metro apps don’t have to be fullscreen and can have a close button.

    Also, the minimum requirement for running Metro apps split screen is ridiculous, considering how much screen space they waste. Also, why not have the Close button pop up if you hover in the top right, instead of having to hover in the top left for what feels like an eternity and then right click to get the option to close a Metro App, or do that whole drag to the bottom thing if you have a touchscreen, which gets old really fast. At least ALT-F4 still works, but how many average users know the keyboard shortcuts?

  71. Addendum to my above post:

    You may have noticed that Windows 8 doesn’t play DVD’s out the box, God knows why, seeing as Microsoft are part of the DVD standard committee (whatever it’s called). Installing Windows Media Center fixes this, although Microsoft are going to start charging for it, apparently. Installing VLC or SMplayer also fixes it.

    On the subject of multimedia, if you installed additional codecs, Windows Media Player and Media Center could play media that required them. As far as I can tell this doesn’t work with the XBox Music Metro App? Can anyone confirm this?

  72. I guess I am a troglodytic luddite, but I have four computers here in my home office (two belonging to my employer and two belonging to me) and they are running Windows XP Pro.

  73. Oh I nearly cried when I read this. You FEEL MY PAIN! Our work computers were just updated with Windows 8 and yes… as a tool it does nothing but waste time and delay productivity. I hate it. As a toy it would probably be fun and shiny but as a work tool it’s completely useless and yes, it wastes my time and I hate it when things waste my time.

    Thank you for the workaround. I hope it stops me from chucking this new computer out the window.

  74. I think the characterization at the end is a little childish, but if the Start Screen is an imposition, getting it fixed is easy enough. I like the (about) 20% speed increase I am seeing more than I dislike the start screen.

    The “childish” part is the characterization of people with other work flows than you as using “toys” was silly and not needed. My main work tools are Eclipse and Visual Studio 2010 and 2012. All three benefit hugely from all the real estate you can give them, so working with them in full screen makes a lot of sense. For play it is Lightroom, Photoshop CS6, Premiere, After Effects (etc, you see what I do in my spare time) all of which not only benefit hugely from working in full-screen mode (for some, like After Effects and Premiere full-screen mode over two or more monitors is preferred) so again, there is no “jarring” experience when using the Start Screen.

    Saying that Software Developers of people who work with images or movies for a living use their computers as “toys” is childish.

  75. I’ve been using Windows 8 as a work system for a few months now and I don’t mind the Start Screen. It’s really just a customizable Start Menu that happens to take up the whole screen. I don’t need to see rest of the the programs running in their windows while I’m using the Start Menu and I don’t need to see them running while using the Start Screen. In fact, I like the Start Screen because it is customizable more than the old Windows 7 Start Menu. I have not tried any third-party tools yet since this is not a problem for me.

    That said, Windows 8 Store apps on the desktop are stupid and the Start Screen as a menu is only okay if nothing else is done with it. Getting to the settings without a touch screen just sucks. There should be a button for it. The same goes for the charms bar. The file picker (open file dialog) of Windows Store apps is horrible because it uses the full screen to sometimes display one file and the OK button is in the lower right corner of the screen. My arm gets tired moving the mouse that far.

    So as a user interface element, the Start Screen is a bold easy to use customizable menu of programs. The rest of the new touch-oriented UI is as horrible as you are describing.

    I stick all of my commonly used programs in the taskbar. Less used programs are in the shortcut toolbar in the taskbar; that toolbar needs to be enabled using some tricks but once there, has enough room for lots of stuff. Maybe I don’t hate the Start Screen because I don’t have to use it all that often.

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