Windows 8 Start Screen
Windows 8, picture by Microsoft (Source)

I was ob­serv­ing the news about Win­dows 8 as of late. Here’s my com­men­t about it.

No­tice: this ar­ti­cle was writ­ten with­out a look at the Win­dows 8 De­vel­op­er Pre­view. It is pure­ly based on ar­ti­cles and videos.

Win­dows 8. The new OS from Mi­cro­soft. It will in­cor­po­rate many new fea­tures. But some of them are not good.

Sources of Microsoft’s Research

Be­fore we be­gin with the fea­tures, though, let’s talk about some­thing else.

In many of those blog post­s, Mi­cro­soft refers to sta­tis­tics. This is not a good idea. First of, some cus­tomers opt out from the thing, called the ­Cus­tomer Ex­pe­ri­ence Im­prove­ment Pro­gram. Sec­ond of,

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and s­tatis­tic­s.

Benjamin Disraeli

New features

Time for the fea­tures. Here they are:

Metro

Metro it­self is touch-­cen­tric. I’d be more than hap­py to re­mind you that ­most of the peo­ple have a reg­u­lar PC with a mouse and key­board. But­tons in­ Metro are big and you need to move your mouse fur­ther than in reg­u­lar Win­dows. It low­ers my pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.

For ex­am­ple, the new Start Screen. I’m not quite sure what do y­ou do, but I, for one, of­ten for­get what do I want to lanuch. In reg­u­lar app start en­vi­ron­ments (like 95-7 Start Menu), I can just look be­hind my ­menu and re­mind my­self what do I need now. With the Apps screen, though, it’s im­pos­si­ble to do.

An­oth­er case: I want to open Li­bre­Of­fice Writ­er (an app I use rarely).

In Lin­ux, I go to Menu→Of­fice→Li­bre­Of­fice Writ­er. You need to move around 600 pix­els from the top left cor­ner (my menu is here) and make at least 2 click­s.

In Win­dows XP, it is Start→All Pro­gram­s→Li­bre­Of­fice→Li­bre­Of­fice Writ­er. We get more pix­els in terms of mouse move­ments, but still 2 click­s.

Win­dows Vis­ta/7 low­ers the mouse move­ments, but it re­quires at least two ­more clicks (if you will use the scroll wheel).

In Metro, it is some­thing like this: Start but­ton → Hov­er in cor­ner → Search but­ton to launch Apps screen → Scroll­bar → App = 5 clicks (source: blog post). Mouse clicks are the same if you will let me use my mouse wheel (if you’ll not, I’m gonna kill you.) But the mouse move­ments are big­ger. I am sure I will tra­verse at least the width of my screen if I’m lucky (hin­t: I’m not.)

An­oth­er prob­lem is the ex­is­tence of two par­al­lel UIs: the reg­u­lar one, sim­i­lar to Win­dows 7 and the Metro UI. It would be much bet­ter to have Win­dows Touch 8 and Win­dows Rest-of-the-U­ni­verse 8.

Oh, and by the way: did you for­get about the Search func­tion? If I had Win­dows Vis­ta/7, this would be my main way of us­ing the Start Menu. It is faster.

Okay, so let me com­ment on some more stuff.

Because we have often demonstrated touch interactions with Start and its lineage in the Windows Phone Metro style, many believe that our design is all about touch rather than keyboard and mouse, or even that we’re putting the phone interface on a PC—it is neither.

BULL­SHIT.

For mouse people, the position of the Start button in the lower-left corner of Windows 8 makes it an easy click-target (even in a full-screen app).

The Start but­ton is in the low­er-left cor­ner of Win­dows since 1995. Y­ou did this be­cause peo­ple are used to this, not be­cause you’re mak­ing a nice­ly us­able UI in Win­dows 8.

One picture we often use to talk about change is the following. The y-axis is some measure of efficiency—such as time to complete a task, seconds it takes to do something, etc. The x-axis is calendar time. If someone is proficient with something and then a change takes place, there is by definition a dip in functionality. But after an adjustment period, the metrics of success improve. The net result is that over time, work becomes more efficient, even for the same task. And combined with new tasks and capabilities there is an overall net win.

It is re­al­ly hard to ad­just to some­thing new af­ter 16 years, you know.

At the same time, we recognized that Windows 7 has been a huge success. Not just as measured by sales figures or by the number of people using it, but also by the depth of usage. Hundreds of millions of people rely on the Windows 7 UI and existing Windows apps and devices every day, and would value (and expect) us to bring forward aspects of that experience to their next PCs.

Guess what will not be a suc­cess: Win­dows 8. Try to wait with push­ing it to new com­put­er­s: you’ll see that peo­ple don’t like it, and the nex­t year, we’ll see Win­dows 9 with­out Metro (nor­mal­ly, it could be pos­si­ble ­to do in a Ser­vice Pack, but many peo­ple will al­ready think Win­dows 8 = Metro = a bad de­sign idea)

Why not just start over from scratch? Why not just remove all of the desktop features and only ship the Metro experience? Why not “convert” everything to Metro?

Be­cause it is a waste of time and mon­ey?

IE10 in two modes. IE10 is gonna of­fer two mod­es: the up­scaled WP7 ex­pe­ri­ence with no plug­ins and the reg­u­lar ex­pe­ri­ence, with­ ­plu­g­in­s, avail­able in reg­u­lar Win­dows. Do you re­al­ly need that? Do not ­like. 5/10.

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This part of Win­dows 8 gets a 2 out of 10.

Windows Explorer

Mount­ing ISOs and VHD­s. Fi­nal­ly, Win­dows has sup­port for that. That’s a great thing. If I’d have to rate it, I’d say 7/10 be­cause they are a bit late.

File copy UI im­prove­ments. Re­al­ly nice and use­ful. 9 out­ of 10.

Rib­bon. This has to be the dumb­est idea ev­er. It looks like on­ly 10.9% of ­com­mands in Ex­plor­er come from the tool­bar (or the “com­mand bar”, as called by Steven Sinof­sky in the blog post). They al­so show that, out of the top 10 ­com­mands used in Ex­plor­er, on­ly two of them are in the tool­bar. How would y­ou fix this prob­lem? Ei­ther add the com­mands or just ig­nore it. But what did Mi­crosoft do? Add a rib­bon (the com­mand bar is still here) and put a lot of stuff to that. Se­ri­ous­ly? This does­n’t fix the prob­lem. Peo­ple will stil­l ­work with the con­text menu and hotkeys. On the plus side, you get two more items in the di­rec­to­ry view. Yay! There are al­so key­board short­cuts for all the rib­bon el­e­ments, but they are in­putted in a crazy way. 1/10. Yeah, it’s that bad.

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This part of Win­dows get a 3 out of 10.

These two things, vi­tal parts of Win­dows 8, get a to­tal of 2.5/10. Is this what you wan­t, Mi­crosoft? Please, re-­think ev­er­thing. For the ­good of all of us.

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UP­DATE 2011-10-14: Yet an­oth­er new idea. New Task Man­ag­er. I’ll rate it: very nice, I hope I’ll be able to stay in the de­tailed mode forever, re­minds me of Win­dows 95, 8/10.

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