Thursday, March 01, 2012

Windows 8 - Color Me Unimpressed

Actually, you could color me frustrated, too. I don't think this is going to go over well when it hits the market.

I installed Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit on my home desktop computer in November of 2009. Since then, I have installed and uninstalled a whole lot of crap. I subscribe to Giveaway Of The Day and will often download and test their wares. Sometimes I keep them and use them quite frequently. Occasionally I will give it a try, really hate it and seek to expunge it from my system. Very often, I will install it, try it, not be impressed by it, and finally just leave it there until I am purging my system months later at which time I ask myself, "What does this do, again? Oh, yeah, better hang on to that just in case."

The last couple of weeks my poor, tired, old desktop was simply not working right. It was not recognizing USB devices properly, some programs weren't working and it was taking an inordinately long time to boot up and get its s*!t together. It was time to reload the operating system.

Since it was released yesterday, I went ahead and installed the Windows 8 Consumer Preview to see what it looked like. Before even inserting the disk I figured I would wipe it out and go back to Windows 7 by the weekend. It may happen before that.

I didn't have much time to play with it after the installation so my first impression was... meh. That was expected. Modern versions of Windows are like Star Trek movies: Every other release is good.

I was expecting the start screen as I had seen a few screen shots. What interested me was how it handled dual monitors. I liked that it went ahead and set them up without me having to go into the display control panel but while monitor 1 was the start screen (the Metro interface), monitor 2 was showing the desktop. Why wouldn't they spread the start screen across both monitors?

The theory behind the start screen is to unify the look and feel of Microsoft's desktop and portable interfaces (i.e. Windows Phone). It also serves to create a more touch-friendly interface. This is great if you happen to have a touchscreen monitor attached to your desktop but most people don't and, while I can see that the trend would shift in that direction, I don't see it happening soon or rapidly. It seems that, perhaps, Microsoft is  leaning toward capturing some of the tablet market away from Apple and Google. As long as the tablet version of Windows 8 isn't a bloated pig that is ineffective on the devices, Microsoft may succeed. But again, I don't see it happening rapidly.

It took me a minute or two to figure out how to get to the desktop then back to the start screen. Tapping the Windows key will toggle between the two. In a remote desktop session the Windows key won't work. It will pop the start menu on your host machine. What you have to do in that case is move the mouse to the lower-right corner, hope the start screen icon appears, then hope is stays there while you move your mouse to click on it.

Behind the Start screen, Windows 8 is, operationally, Windows 7 with no start button... no menus... no window control buttons... and no close button. Figuring out how to escape the prison of a running program is pretty maddening. And I'm still not sure I have it down.

When you have the desktop showing on both screens, Microsoft got smart and put the task bar on both screens. Except they wasted the effort because the task bar on monitor 2 is exactly the same as the task bar on monitor 1 without the system tray. To the folks in Redmond: If you want to see how a secondary task bar should operate, check out Multimon Taskbar.

Overall, Windows 8, as much as they tried to simplify it, is not intuitive as to where to find things. As I moved the mouse around I was constantly surprised by sidebars and scrollbars popping up out of nowhere. And the search isn't much help. It's context-sensitive. When you open the search, apps will be highlighted and you can only search for apps. If you highlight settings, you can search for control panels and help guides for configuration operations. You can't just type in a question or the name of what you're looking for and have it go find it. I understand the need to compartmentalize in order to save resources but perhaps with better text recognition (i.e. more than 3 keywords should search in help, etc.) or other tweaks it can be more effective.

I'm not even going to get into the similarities between Windows 8 and Office 10 where they took simple 2-click tasks and made them complicated 4- or 6-click tasks.

Bottom line, I think if Microsoft distributes Windows 8 as a desktop/laptop solution, especially on systems without a touch screen, they are going to see a lot of returns and have a lot of unhappy customers. It's just too much of a paradigm shift for most people to handle and isn't really suited to use with a mouse.

1 comment:

AM said...

Heck, I still haven't gotten used to Office 10 and I have been using it for over a year. I still think in terns of Office (inster prior version here) where everything was on a drop down. I knew where everything was even if I didn't know how to use it.