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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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