Editorial

Why Windows 8 still isn't my idea

Looks pretty, still needs work.

So it's been a few days since the final version of Windows 8 was made available to select groups of people, and if you're like me (not liking the idea of the Start screen too much) you'll probably give it a go anyway, if you have access to it.

While I absolutely cannot fault the speed at which Windows 8 installs (around ten minutes for a clean install) and the setup options, there are still a few problems which deserve a mention, and possibly expose why it was a bad idea not to expand the beta test to a larger group of enthusiasts like me.

Am I annoyed that I wasn't in the beta test? You bet! When I tested Windows 7 I was able to submit reports either on Connect, or from the OS with the Feedback link, and I'm pretty sure quite a number of the issues I'll cover here would have been reported had a larger pool of testers been given the chance.

There was a feedback forum for the Release Preview (at this point it wasn't a beta anyway) but did you know about it?

So lets just dive in with a few glaring issues I've discovered with the final offering of Windows 8, which may or may not get patched over time.

Except you can't at this point.

Windows 8 comes with a short tutorial to educate users about changes to the desktop, and one that surprised me is the above example that shows a description of hot corners during setup. Although the mouse can be used during setup, it can't at this stage of the installation. So even though you're told about hot corners, you can't try it yourself. The whole thing appears to be a mere afterthought, offering no real world example of how it actually works.

So in this case, even the Windows 95 first run tutorial did a better job at telling the user about the drastic changes that had been made to the desktop from Windows 3 versions.

Modern app issues

The modern UI Mail app has a lot of potential, it's a great looking client but it fails in a few important areas:

  • How do you print an email? I learned you can by doing ctrl+p. There is no button choice in the right click taskbar, and I later learned the option is also available by opening the charms menu > devices > select printer > print. How is this helpful or even productive?
  • Composing a draft is always in full screen, and I have yet to find a way I can switch back to the Mail app inbox or folders view so I can reference other content. You have to save draft, close it, find your reference and then reopen the draft for editing again.
  • Links within the email. This really annoys me; any links in emails are forced opened in the "Modern app" version of your default browser, and since sessions aren't even shared between the desktop and Modern browsers, it just creates a real annoyance. You can't change this behavior. But you can for IE10 - Thanks Brandon

Messenger App.

Windows 8 would rather have you use the Messenger app, because it comes preinstalled and linked to your Microsoft ID if that's how you setup Windows 8. But, it doesn't even try to replace Windows Live Messenger.

Share? This app CAN'T share.

Apart from forcing you to full screen again, unless you snap it to the side of your screen, you can't share files like you can in Windows Live Messenger. Due to my discovering the way to print emails via the Charms menu, I figured the same Charms menu would allow me to share content over Messenger, nope. So right now, I'm logged in at two places at once. In the Messenger app, and also in Windows Live Messenger 2012, the latter at least allows file sharing and tabbed chats in window mode, on my desktop.

Other problems

You'll need to use this alot.

Default Programs.

It also appears that desktop applications can no longer register themselves as default (even if you want it) or certain file types too. The only way around this is to open the Control Panel (or Start screen) and search for Default Programs, wait for all your installed software to load and appear in the left pane, then select your preferred program and click the Set as default option. An added bonus is that you can set different file types to open in different applications, but Windows will keep reminding you that "there are other apps that can open this file type" as well.

The mess after installing programs.

It's also counter productive to have to manually right click every icon that gets put on the Start screen after a program is installed to remove them, one by one. Installing just a few (desktop) applications will soon fill up your Start screen with readme's, uninstall icons, and a bunch of other things that used to be hidden in the cascaded Start menu.

Click and miss.

How often have you gone down to the bottom left corner of the desktop to open the Start screen, and accidentally clicked on the Internet Explorer icon instead? The tiny little space on both sides of the taskbar have proven to be a major annoyance on the desktop. Sure, I can try to change my behavior by instead just using the Windows key, but the option to do it the old school way is there because it's needed, and is supposed to be helpful.

Which brings me to dual display annoyances, it takes patience to activate the Charms menu when you are on dual display with a mouse, because more often than not, you're already on the second display and your Charms menu has already disappeared. A little delay here would have helped us mouse users, but again this wasn't thought through enough, and I'm even starting to believe that the bulk of testing was done on touchscreens by this point anyway.

Another annoyance that doesn't take full advantage of dual displays, is that you cant snap a Modern app to the second screen and view another Modern app on the first one, they merge again on the same screen. So you are limited to one screen and a total of two Modern apps in view at any one time.

Those fancy new notification toasts that appear for a few seconds can't be modified to display anywhere but top right of the screen either. I also noticed that if the Mail app is opened while you're watching full screen video, they will just appear over the top of it anyway. This requires further testing, but so far this appears to be another thing that was missed during testing, and another annoyance that can't be modified other than disabling the alerts completely.

Gone, but not forgotten.

Windows Vista/7 Desktop Gadgets are pulled from Windows 8 as well, so there's no "at a glance" Clock or Weather when you're in a Modern app for dual display users. There is an unsupported way around this though which works really well.

The desktop is still there, so why remove the option to use these gadgets? A full screen weather app isn't going to be taking permanent residence on one of my screens any time soon! 

Conclusion

I've only just scratched the surface with some immediately obvious annoyances that people will experience out of the box, there are many more covered here by our members that include UI inconsistencies, as well as Microsoft programs that don't seem to follow suit as far as UI guidelines go.

I know I can learn to start using keyboard shortcuts, but I didn't have to with any previous Windows release.

So in conclusion, my opinion of Windows 8 hasn't changed much from when I first wrote about it back in February. I still believe that Microsoft has made a mistake by alienating traditional keyboard and mouse users without touch features, and I'm not alone either.

I'll just leave you with this comment that one of our members posted here:

Live from Microsoft Build conference 2014!

VP Windows Steven Sinofsky: What we discovered based on our telemetry data for users running Windows 8, 99.9% were using the Desktop App most of the time. This was really surprising! Get this, most of these are Tablet users!

User Experience President Julie Green: That's why, we are now making the Windows Desktop experience the default when you turn on your Windows 9 device. The Start Screen is now a hidden charm you call up with a swipe from the left or point your mouse to the left hand corner. So its out of your way only when you need it.

User Experience President Julie Green: We also made it possible for you to disable the little f**ker permanently if you want to. Oh my, did I just say little 'little f**ker'? Forgive me, I'm a bit nervous, btw, that's just a code name.

VP Windows Steven Sinofsky: We also removed Start Screen apps being the default for your media. You will now use the default apps for your Music, Pictures and Videos. Also, you can now access all Start Screen apps as windows in the desktop environment, you can now pin them to your Taskbar.

Humongous cheers and applause and standing ovation from crowd.

Julie burst into tears after being a nervous wreck through the entire demo.

11 months later, Windows 9 becomes the best selling operating system of all time, 100 million licenses in one month.

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