Microsoft explains decisions behind Windows 8's Start screen

The most visible change in Windows 8, the new Start screen, has arguably been the focal point of discussion on the Building Windows 8 blog and across the web regarding the upcoming operating system. Starting today, Microsoft is kicking off a set of posts on the blog to better address the concerns of a move to a new launcher mechanism that, to some, appears more touch-friendly than for keyboards and mice.

  

Chaitanya Sareen, a program manager lead on the "Core Experience Evolved" team (also known for his introduction of Windows 7's then-new "Superbar"), begins the post with responses to recurring questions regarding the Windows 8 Start screen and Metro-style applications:

  • There will be a way to close Metro-style applications without jumping into the Task Manager in the 'old' desktop.
  • There will be a more efficient way to scroll through the list of programs using a mouse in the beta.
  • There will be more details of switching through currently running applications via mice and keyboards as the beta approaches.

So why the move to a fullscreen launcher? What were the problems with the current Start Menu in Windows 7? According to Microsoft's telemetry data, the usage of the Start Menu actually decreased from Windows Vista to Windows 7. Part of the reason, as Sareen explains, was attributed to the much-improved taskbar introduced in Windows 7, which allowed for one-click launching and switching between most frequently used applications, and for Internet Explorer 9, favourite web sites.

The use of links to user folder locations - Documents and Pictures - fell with the availability of Jump Lists and the ability to pin favourite folders to the Explorer taskbar button. Pinning items to the Start Menu also fell in favour of saving one click by pinning the item to the taskbar, as the following graphs demonstrate:

The drop in the use of 'All Programs' is also tied with one of the usability challenges Microsoft identified with the Start Menu, which the new Start screen addresses:

  • Browsing the list of all available applications in a small cramped space, relative to the available screen estate
  • Search pane also not given enough space to show results across a wide range of sources, requiring an extra click of "See more results"
  • Limited customization of the Start Menu
  • Static icons for shortcuts

Image Credit: Building Windows 8 blog

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One of the first thing I did after installing it in a VM was edit the registry to disable metro! After that it was Win7 on steroids... 15 mins later I tossed the VM, & the ISO :-)

I run Windows 8 full time, as my main computer. I go days and days and days without ever running into the Metro Start Screen. If you pin your main apps to the taskbar like you would in Windows 7, then you shouldn't have any problems

windows 8 dev preview is a dogs dinner ..

Metro ui doesn't work, further the start menu is even more horrid than windows 3.11.. All of the intuitive work done in win7 has gone in win8 ..

The forced nature to use live ids on windows 8 will drive businesses away from adopting win8.

Even though win8 was designed for tablets it just doens't work - metro ui is **** poor, uses too much space with too little detail and also the ui is counter productive .. it don't doesn't work on phones, tablets or desktops .. just dump metro.

Further the ribbon interface on explorer isn't needed for most tasks. True the advanced features of explorer weren't easy to use or known to average joe but the ribbon interface is space bloat.

Windows 7 will become the new "xp" in terms of lifespan and windows 8 is the new windows Me III

krustylicious said,
windows 8 dev preview is a dogs dinner ..

Metro ui doesn't work, further the start menu is even more horrid than windows 3.11.. All of the intuitive work done in win7 has gone in win8 ..

The forced nature to use live ids on windows 8 will drive businesses away from adopting win8.

Even though win8 was designed for tablets it just doens't work - metro ui is **** poor, uses too much space with too little detail and also the ui is counter productive .. it don't doesn't work on phones, tablets or desktops .. just dump metro.

Further the ribbon interface on explorer isn't needed for most tasks. True the advanced features of explorer weren't easy to use or known to average joe but the ribbon interface is space bloat.

Windows 7 will become the new "xp" in terms of lifespan and windows 8 is the new windows Me III

Sounds like you haven't used it.

Windows 8 start screen will never work for desktop, there is too much scrolling, and too many icons. designers who use Adobe programmes thats like 5 blocks itself

Wow they throw all kinds of these telemetry figures at user trying to convince how decisions based entirely on collected data instead of common sense are correct. They have in that post drawn their own conclusions that the Start menu is a bad launcher compared to the Taskbar, therefore the Start menu should be replaced by the Start screen! Unbelievable!

Extreme usability != efficiency. Not always what the public want is the best, because the public don't know what precisely is the most efficient thing. I have my very nice star menu in win 7, here is an idea, why don't "summon" the all covering desktop new start menu with a combination of keys or with a win+something key? is that difficult? man....

I first hated it when saw the photos, after using it I hated it more.
This thing, besides being very ugly (specially the colors), makes using the desktop much harder and less productive.
If this became the default, then it will be time for me to finally switch to Linux or Mac, once Windows 7 becomes too old.

God damn, I am in the few-percent catagory, I have no apps on my taskbar, and about 10 in my start menu - I like them there, out the way! I also use ObjectDock for additional shortcuts to keep those out the way, and use shortcut buttons on my keyboard for opening pictures/documents/media player/interwebs etc.

And as for opening anything else, I press start and then type what I want.

Hmmm, surely we'll still get to keep our original start menu style for desktop use!?

cleverclogs said,
God damn, I am in the few-percent catagory, I have no apps on my taskbar, and about 10 in my start menu - I like them there, out the way! I also use ObjectDock for additional shortcuts to keep those out the way, and use shortcut buttons on my keyboard for opening pictures/documents/media player/interwebs etc.

And as for opening anything else, I press start and then type what I want.

Hmmm, surely we'll still get to keep our original start menu style for desktop use!?

I am like you,I have no icons on desktop either,15 in start menu,only reboot when 7 updates
Microsoft,listen to us )

Usage of the start menu started to decline right after vista introduced the hard to navigate-fixed window size, start menu replacement.

zorpedo said,
Usage of the start menu started to decline right after vista introduced the hard to navigate-fixed window size, start menu replacement.

What? You mean to tell me you prefer XP's horrible cascading start menu? That thing was a horrible UX just like Windows 8's Start screen.

Windows 8 is either going to allow MS to finally shake the uncool and un-innovative image that they have or its going to hammer their image harder than vista did

Cash Money Billionaire said,
Windows 8 is either going to allow MS to finally shake the uncool and un-innovative image that they have or its going to hammer their image harder than vista did

+1. Unfortunately, I think that this will likely hammer their image among business, which is a big part of their business.

Missing from this discussion by Microsoft is any talk about being to totally disable the Metro interface and use the traditional desktop interface via a Control Panel element. Making a "one style for all purposes" Start Menu isn't going to work well for a lot of people. Microsoft still doesn't seem to understand and recognize that Tablet and laptop/desktop users have two totally different needs and requirements for an Operating System and its interface.

Don't really care for graphs and studies on minority groups it isn't practical for mouse and keyboard very well and needs to be a selective feature for certain devices or users.

Digitalx said,
Don't really care for graphs and studies on minority groups it isn't practical for mouse and keyboard very well and needs to be a selective feature for certain devices or users.

+1

Their report shows that less and less people use the start menu, and people prefer pinning programs on taskbar. BUT I pinned ZERO program on my taskbar, I still prefer pressing Windows key, type the program name (e.g. paint), start menu will highlight the closest result and I just need to press Enter key. My way to open the programs took me about 2 seconds while not messing the taskbar (oh BTW I have nothing except the recycle bin on my desktop). I really hope and I am quite sure that MSFT will provide an option to choose which UI to use.

GraphiteCube said,

+1

Their report shows that less and less people use the start menu, and people prefer pinning programs on taskbar. BUT I pinned ZERO program on my taskbar, I still prefer pressing Windows key, type the program name (e.g. paint), start menu will highlight the closest result and I just need to press Enter key. My way to open the programs took me about 2 seconds while not messing the taskbar (oh BTW I have nothing except the recycle bin on my desktop). I really hope and I am quite sure that MSFT will provide an option to choose which UI to use.


and how cant you do that in new start menu? win key , type pai, pain or paint and press enter.

so your point can be easily done in new start screen. so i dont know what you mean.

press win key, immediately (not letting animation finish) I type Jet, then immediately (not letting diplay what it found) i press enter. and in 1 second i got jetaudio to run.

GraphiteCube said,

+1

Their report shows that less and less people use the start menu, and people prefer pinning programs on taskbar. BUT I pinned ZERO program on my taskbar, I still prefer pressing Windows key, type the program name (e.g. paint), start menu will highlight the closest result and I just need to press Enter key. My way to open the programs took me about 2 seconds while not messing the taskbar (oh BTW I have nothing except the recycle bin on my desktop). I really hope and I am quite sure that MSFT will provide an option to choose which UI to use.

That's exactly how it still works. Hit the Win key and start typing

Digitalx said,
Don't really care for graphs and studies on minority groups it isn't practical for mouse and keyboard very well and needs to be a selective feature for certain devices or users.

yea, until my mouse has a wheel that scrolls left and right, i'll skip the metro UI... and i don't want to buy a new mouse just to use it, my wheel only scrolls up and down

The only thing I really dont like about Windows 8 is the fact that it isnt opt in for the Live integration for user accounts. I'd rather have my account be stored locally... And allow certain things to be on the cloud.... Also. A little bit more use of the classic desktop rather than relying nearly 100% on Metro.

xbamaris said,
The only thing I really dont like about Windows 8 is the fact that it isnt opt in for the Live integration for user accounts. I'd rather have my account be stored locally... And allow certain things to be on the cloud.... Also. A little bit more use of the classic desktop rather than relying nearly 100% on Metro.

i really dont understand your comment. when you add a local account, it ill be local... and if you use your Windows live account, it WILL be local and then it will SYNC your settings, and whatever you choose with Windows live... you dont even need to have internet connection to log in. even with your live password, so you can use that or pin or picture.

its not like it will upload everything to windows live.... its like a normal account but windows live will be used to upload some files and thats it. you can still access your files in your hard disk.

EmilyTheStrange said,

i really dont understand your comment. when you add a local account, it ill be local... and if you use your Windows live account, it WILL be local and then it will SYNC your settings, and whatever you choose with Windows live... you dont even need to have internet connection to log in. even with your live password, so you can use that or pin or picture.

its not like it will upload everything to windows live.... its like a normal account but windows live will be used to upload some files and thats it. you can still access your files in your hard disk.

I must not have tested throughly on the Developer Preview. But as far as I found you have to integrate your Windows Live ID into Windows 8 (unless there was an option around that) I get that most files will still be stored locally.

Put it this way, with Xbox Live you HAVE to have a Windows Live ID otherwise you wont be able to use Xbox Live. But if you dont have or need Xbox Live you create a local account which has no connection to Xbox Live.

In essence, I'd rather have the traditional style of user accounts rather than relying on Windows Live.

xbamaris said,

I must not have tested throughly on the Developer Preview. But as far as I found you have to integrate your Windows Live ID into Windows 8 (unless there was an option around that) I get that most files will still be stored locally.

Put it this way, with Xbox Live you HAVE to have a Windows Live ID otherwise you wont be able to use Xbox Live. But if you dont have or need Xbox Live you create a local account which has no connection to Xbox Live.

In essence, I'd rather have the traditional style of user accounts rather than relying on Windows Live.

well not exactly. it asks you or your email yes, but if you clicked on "More about logon options" then it explains different stuff, and buttons say "Windows live ID" "Local Account" and it says it wont sync what you tell Windows to sync.

http://fc06.deviantart.net/fs7..._accou_by_kophs-d4br180.png

see, you can use both. the difference is.. you wont be able to sync your info, it doesn't mean you still require internet to use Windows 8. it means, if you dont have internet it wont sync files. but you still will be able to use your Windows like if you had Local account. so when you get internet Access it will sync files over Windows live. and then if you go to another comp, it will read those files and download info.

the only time you require internet connection its when you create live id account. but if you dont have internet, you still will be able to use your computer normally.

xbamaris said,
The only thing I really dont like about Windows 8 is the fact that it isnt opt in for the Live integration for user accounts. I'd rather have my account be stored locally... And allow certain things to be on the cloud.... Also. A little bit more use of the classic desktop rather than relying nearly 100% on Metro.

I had to explicitly look for the option to switch to a Windows Live account, it wasn't connected by default. That's the definition of opt-in. Then everything's stored locally, it just also syncs settings with the cloud

robert_dll said,
There will be a classic mode, this is completely optional

Yes, but unless you can boot to Classic mode and not be thrown into Metro all the time, it isn't really a solution. This is never going to be used in business... It's good for tablets, but desktops not so much...

My guess is that the developer preview from a consumer stand point is very old, despite the relatively recent build number. A lot of the consumer level features probably haven't been included in the main build to prevent peering eyes from looking in and unlocking features that haven't been unveiled yet.

And it's probably pretty obvious that the developer preview is no where near feature complete. That's what a beta is for. Microsoft has to have something to show off during CES of course!

I hated it when it was first leaked and I hate it now. It doesn't belong on the desktop, IMO. If there's no Classic mode then I'll just stick with Windows 7. In fact, I don't really see a good reason to upgrade anyway; Windows 8 seems more like a novelty item than a necessity.

robert_dll said,
read the previous news, there WILL be a classic mode, this is optional.

Is there a source where Microsoft explicitly says this? Because I've yet to ever find one. In fact, the very post this article is based on has more the tone that there will be no going back.

Edited by ~Johnny, Oct 4 2011, 1:43pm :

I cant wait for Beta! i installed it in an old computer but it didn't work nice with Office. so i had to install 7 back .
but i keep running it in my main machine as my main OS and i just love Windows 8. not only for the new UI but also all the features they want to add, like pictures, people, Messenger hub. sounds even better, and less memory usage, and new ribbon explorer, and new copy file dialog thing.

anyway i really hope they get rid of old start menu, no hacks, no special button.. nothing will revive it. i hope it will be buried and forgotten with time! so i hope no-more-old-start-menu!

well if they make an option to allow a NORMAL windows desktop as the startup its ok otherwise people will complain about this

that picture is confusing, what am I looking at?!

also, Denis, the downtown campus is awesome, chem building is full of .... chemistry hahhaah

zeta_immersion said,
that picture is confusing, what am I looking at?!

also, Denis, the downtown campus is awesome, chem building is full of .... chemistry hahhaah

If you mean the top screenshot, nothing much. Just the Start screen with the charms overlay (a leftover from a few weeks ago).

As you can tell from my description, 99% of my time is spent in glassy Bahen.

TRC said,
A full screen start menu on the desktop is the dumbest thing they've ever done.

not really, there will be tons of people using it, specially those who just want to surf the internet and so.

TRC said,
A full screen start menu on the desktop is the dumbest thing they've ever done.

and that shows how dumb your comment is, did you read the blog post? i bet no... have you used enough to see its the same thing than old start menu but better?... i dont know and i dont care. but I think your comment is more dumb than a full screen start menu

TRC said,
A full screen start menu on the desktop is the dumbest thing they've ever done.

You are so right. It might work for Tablet users who surf the Internet or may want to check their e-mails. What about people with serious work to do, using one or more applications--both proprietary in-house and commercial?

TRC said,
A full screen start menu on the desktop is the dumbest thing they've ever done.

and you do the blind tests in your home with real consumers, as Microsoft does to have the data to prove this? Sorry you ARE wrong and Microsoft wouldn't be making this bet unless it was sound.

TsarNikky said,

You are so right. It might work for Tablet users who surf the Internet or may want to check their e-mails. What about people with serious work to do, using one or more applications--both proprietary in-house and commercial?

ehmm im a FreeLancer who uses 3dsmax, and i have no problems. i have my 3dsmax tile or i go to desktop and i use the icon.
in Windows 7 i usually used desktop icon, and sometimes start menĂº when i didn't want to minimize something to click on desktop icon. yeah it was pinned to my start menĂº.

so i do practically the same with old start menu and new start screen (although it feels cooler now, and easier to search). so your point?

but ohh yeah maybe i dont do serious work /s

TRC said,
A full screen start menu on the desktop is the dumbest thing they've ever done.

Says YOU. Personally, I think those who can't catch on to the new meme are simply antiquated idiots. =P

TRC said,
A full screen start menu on the desktop is the dumbest thing they've ever done.

I wouldn't say it is the dumbest thing (Bob comes to mind), but for certain types of users it simply isn't practical, at least as far as it has been shown in the preview. Hopefully they will fix some of its shortcomings in the beta and RTM.

TRC said,
A full screen start menu on the desktop is the dumbest thing they've ever done.

-1 (they really need a dislike or vote down button on these... having just a like link is very one sided)

I entirely disagree with this. The new start menu behaves almost identically to the current one for launching apps. You hit the start key, type a few letters of the app name, and press enter. No difference. If it's a metro app it'll load right there, if its a classic app it'll launch on the classic desktop.

Either that or you just pin the app to the taskbar, or have a desktop icon... as MOST people did before Windows 8 anyway.

"Will there be a way to close Metro style apps without going to Task Manager? (Yes there will be, but we also want to talk about why you probably won't need to use it.)"

"Are we going to do anything to make the mouse more efficient in scrolling through your programs in Start? (Yes, we'll improve that experience, and show you much more in the beta.)"

"Some of you have talked about it feeling less efficient to cycle through your recent programs compared to using the taskbar (and we'll have more to say about that in future posts)"


All good to hear

BoyBoppins said,
"Will there be a way to close Metro style apps without going to Task Manager? (Yes there will be, but we also want to talk about why you probably won't need to use it.)"

"Are we going to do anything to make the mouse more efficient in scrolling through your programs in Start? (Yes, we'll improve that experience, and show you much more in the beta.)"

"Some of you have talked about it feeling less efficient to cycle through your recent programs compared to using the taskbar (and we'll have more to say about that in future posts)"


All good to hear

Nice...If i had read your summary first i wouldn't have read the article...

BoyBoppins said,
"Will there be a way to close Metro style apps without going to Task Manager? (Yes there will be, but we also want to talk about why you probably won't need to use it.)"

"Are we going to do anything to make the mouse more efficient in scrolling through your programs in Start? (Yes, we'll improve that experience, and show you much more in the beta.)"

"Some of you have talked about it feeling less efficient to cycle through your recent programs compared to using the taskbar (and we'll have more to say about that in future posts)"


All good to hear

What is sad, is that Microsoft has stated all of this since Windows 8 was first talked about a long time ago.

Somehow though, as the Build release hit, all the blogs and media had amnesia and started to make really bad assumptions, and lead a lot of people to making the same bad assumptions.

I wonder why when Microsoft states this stuff over and over, and is fully available in online videos of their presentations, in white papers they are releasing and in developer documentation, the blogs/media don't take a minute to Google/Bing what has been said consistently. I have varied from thinking they just don't want to understand and ignorance to willful FUD to derail Windows 8.

Seems so silly that Microsoft has to explain things like a they are talking to a 5yr old, when they are addressing 'technology' people, and also debunk anything people could make up based on what is not said.

Yet companies like Apple and Google work from secrecy and don't fill in gaps, and the same media/blogs assume these gaps are the 'best thing ever' instead of assuming they are the horrible assumptions that are made about Microsoft products.


Just a weird time where public perception is so easily manipulated.

thenetavenger said,

Just a weird time where public perception is so easily manipulated.


Yeah this is exactly what i think every time i read your post. Keep drinking the kool-aid bro ...