Editorial

Windows 8: A compromise for desktops users is needed

Before we start, this article explains why Windows 8 is on to a good thing with Metro, but not so for the desktop.

So I'll leave out repeating what is already explained very well and move onto what I think Microsoft should have offered. Not only as an option, but also as a gentle shove toward their ultimate goal for a uniform user interface of which we're seeing as a proposal across all Windows powered devices.


Remember me?

Active Desktop was a feature of Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0's optional Windows Desktop Update that allowed the user to add HTML content to the desktop, along with some other features. This function was intended to be installed on the then-current Windows 95 operating system. It was also included in Windows 98 and later Windows operating systems until Windows Vista, where the feature was discontinued.

Users could add HTML both in place of the regular wallpaper and as independent resizable desktop items. Items available online could then be regularly updated and synchronized so users could stay updated without visiting the website in their browser.

Active Desktop worked much like desktop widget technology in that it allows users to place customized information on their desktop. (source: WikiPedia).

This was a great idea that was ahead of its time when it launched, it turned the native desktop into a live desktop and Microsoft could have revisited this concept with Metro for desktop PC's, leaving the Start orb, menu and taskbar intact.


Hello Metro for desktops!

But why?

As you can see, it's almost like Active Desktop, giving the user full control to launch Metro apps or switch back to the desktop easily with a click of the mouse. The charms bar would remain, but instead of just having a Aero Peek target area, Microsoft could add another visible target area above it that always shows on the Metro and native desktops.


Full screen Pictures Metro app.

The above screenshot demonstrates how I can browse my pictures library, but also see any alerts or easily switch to native applications with a click of the mouse.


Full screen Weather app.

For Metro apps, they could even go so far as to add a way to go full screen that hides the taskbar completely just like you already can with most browsers; you're then offering the best of both worlds. Simply allowing the taskbar and Start orb/menu to remain would appease a lot of prospective upgraders.

Switching to the desktop from the Metro start screen is easy as you can see, this is one thing I don't even have to explain or create a tutorial for because the Desktop tile -- in an ideal world -- would always appear in the same spot.

Switching from Metro apps back to the desktop or Start screen could then be achieved by hovering over the target area above Aero peek which then brings up the Charms menu with options to view the native or Metro desktop.

Lets forget about Winkey + letter and ensure these tasks can be achieved easily and quickly using a mouse.

It took Microsoft years to finally realize that people wanted to shutdown, standby, restart, log off or switch user directly from the Start menu and not some popup dialog that included a drop-down menu. Now it seems they are forgetting that with incremental versions of Windows, making things easier with less clicks was what everyone wanted.

Here's another idea; add an option to the Windows 8 setup asking if the device you're installing Windows to is a touch device or not.


Windows 8 Setup, for tablet or desktop?

The setup screen could include an option Type of setup: "For touchscreen devices" and "For Desktop PC's without touch capability"; the second choice would put the start menu and (always visible) taskbar back on the desktop.

I know what some people are thinking, that I won't embrace change. That is simply untrue as evidenced by my constant upgrades from Windows 3.1 right up to Windows 7. I even own a copy of Windows Millennium!

You can bet that this concept won't be enforced on Windows Server 2012 system administrators, because Microsoft knows how important native applications and the taskbar is for them, but it's equally important for the average and power user too.

Metro isn't ready for prime time, and even though some of our own forum users will state till they're blue in the face that it is, I can only agree with them to some extent. It is the future, but the future isn't here yet. Native applications aren't going to be replaced by the time Windows 8 is available in stores, and people won't want to be forced to switch all of their native applications to a Metro version for quite some time. Asking users to dump them for a concept that is still making baby steps just isn't going to work.

It will work though if it is implemented properly, just like it already is on Windows Phone.

I just hope I'm not forced to write another Windows 2003 as workstation type guide by the time Windows 8 and the Server version rolls around.

Images: WikiPedia, Tim Schiesser (Neowin).

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Microsoft are idiots.

They even removed the Classic skin from Windows 8. On a server you dont need some retarded glassy UI, you need productivity and low memory footprint.
You need to see things BLACK ON WHITE.

Thy could have added the effects like Aero Peak into the Classic look, since they could make the taskbar buttons slide with animation, but no. They want higher system requirements, so people can buy new hardware, this way both software/OS providers and hardware providers have their back scratched.

I have used Windows 7 since 2009. Now I have Windows XP and I can accomplish the same things I could in 7.

This whole idea of new versions is stupid. Windows XP was good (except the fact that all the latest Windows versions still use that old, outdated Windows NT Kernel... the Linux kernel gets updated literally every month, while those slackers at Microsoft probably even want to be paid for blinking), so why not update it and add new features as optional updates, so people can decide if they want to have those features or not, instead of buying a new OS and never use some of the new key features, simply because they don't need them. Two people I know have brand new computers and they use Windows 7 with the Classic skin, just because they don't need that shiny garbage that comes with 7 by default.

Windows doesn't worth it's money. I never payed for it and I never will. It would be against my principles to buy such a garbage. Acquiring pirated copies of Windows somehow gives a meaning to this flawed product - at least some people are smart enough to get that piece of garbage for free. Mac and Linux are so much more stable, but many important applications will probably never be native for both.

So I really hope that Microsoft keep Metro for the desktop, in fact make it worse, force the people to learn without tutorials and welcome screens. People will stay with Windows 7, then when they buy a new computer it will most likely have Windows 7 or Mac installed, others will go for Linux and the "reign of terror" will slowly come to an end.

Saex_Conroy said,
Microsoft are idiots.
Windows doesn't worth it's money. I never payed for it and I never will. It would be against my principles to buy such a garbage. Acquiring pirated copies of Windows somehow gives a meaning to this flawed product - at least some people are smart enough to get that piece of garbage for free. Mac and Linux are so much more stable, but many important applications will probably never be native for both.

So I really hope that Microsoft keep Metro for the desktop, in fact make it worse, force the people to learn without tutorials and welcome screens. People will stay with Windows 7, then when they buy a new computer it will most likely have Windows 7 or Mac installed, others will go for Linux and the "reign of terror" will slowly come to an end.

If all you do is pirate their software, you have right to complain in the least!

Saex_Conroy said,
Microsoft are idiots.

...snip...

Microsoft are far from idiots. They collect terabytes and terabytes of usage information from every computer around the world where the "provide anonymous usage statistics" option is turned on. Despite what some of the metrophobes here would have you believe, they know the truth about what the majority of people actually use their PC for, and what parts of the UI are important to them.

They know for example that the average windows user doesn't use much of the start menu in Windows 7 any more beyond the search box, and the shutdown button. Metro reflects that (albeit with Shutdown being somewhat hidden away which I hope they tweak).

jimmyfal said,
One word to fix the whole thing. DISCOVERABILTY IS MISSING.

On desktop PCs you could make the Charms Bar and App Preview Pane to show by default with a visible toggle giving you the option to Auto-Hide. Now, there's no reason to look for it.

But, I fully expect MS, a company that has been making billions for quite some time now, to implement a tutorial, pop-ups, overlays or some such to aid the user in discoverability.

I'm so flippin confused. All metro is, is a replacement to the traditional start menu...Just press the windows button on your keyboard to get on and off metro. I don't understand what the fuss is all about. It's something new and different and it needs time to work out. It's not terrible looking in my opinion as well.

xXgreatestever said,
I'm so flippin confused. All metro is, is a replacement to the traditional start menu...Just press the windows button on your keyboard to get on and off metro. I don't understand what the fuss is all about. It's something new and different and it needs time to work out. It's not terrible looking in my opinion as well.

You are most definitely confused if you think that metro is just a start menu replacement. Metro IS Windows 8. The windows key merely switches between the last app you used and the start screen, it doesn't turn metro off and on lol. Open up a metro app and press the windows key, you go back to start screen, press it again, back to that metro app.

The main reason for not doing that way comes down to the fact that it is not an extension to the desktop shell (explorer.exe). They are making a clean break from the desktop which means the taskbar cannot function on top of it.

They basically have to rewrite all of Windows UI including the taskbar, cascading menus, window manager, etc. They can't do it all in ONE release.

I agree they need to figure out how to make it work better, but please stop talking about this as if you are a newbie. This is a tech forum for crying outloud. Why are there no techinical people coming up with ideas that could work!

libertas83 said,

I agree they need to figure out how to make it work better, but please stop talking about this as if you are a newbie. This is a tech forum for crying outloud. Why are there no techinical people coming up with ideas that could work!

The problem is that the majority doesn't know the history and development of Windows 8, and the majority, if you noticed, doesn't even know that desktop and Metro are two separate piece of Windows 8 as you commented. Some of the people here probably didn't download CP, or if they did download it, either they didn't really understand Windows 8 or they already have preconceive notion about the OS.

RommelS said,

The problem is that the majority doesn't know the history and development of Windows 8, and the majority, if you noticed, doesn't even know that desktop and Metro are two separate piece of Windows 8 as you commented. Some of the people here probably didn't download CP, or if they did download it, either they didn't really understand Windows 8 or they already have preconceive notion about the OS.

That would be great for a discussion in the Wall Street Journal or some consumer magazine. I expected higher quality comments on Neowin than simply that it sucks, whine, whine, whine.

SierraSonic said,
Step 1: Add startorb back
Step 2: Click to hold = Start Screen; Click = start menu. (configurable option)

I think to stop all of this debate, Microsoft should just put the Start Orb on the lower left hand side of Windows 8 desktop. If one can launch it from the Start Menu, then one can go back to the Start Screen from the desktop by clicking on the Start Orb ...although clicking on the lower left will bring you back to the Start Screen.

RommelS said,

I think to stop all of this debate, Microsoft should just put the Start Orb on the lower left hand side of Windows 8 desktop. If one can launch it from the Start Menu, then one can go back to the Start Screen from the desktop by clicking on the Start Orb ...although clicking on the lower left will bring you back to the Start Screen.

Why do people need a physical icon at all? Just move the mouse to the bottom left hand corner, you know where the start button used to be, and the start screen icon appears to click on.

Can Metro's colours be more bright or vibrant? I think they look rather dark and dull.

I like the idea how Metro sits as an "Active background" instead of when you press the window button on the keyboard.

Metro is a good UI......for touch screens and phones. I've seen Windows Phones and I like the way the tiles work and it has a good flow to it.

IMHO, after using Windows 8 for several days, the UI feels clunky and unintuitive on the desktop using a mouse.

I agree...give me an option to NOT use the Metro UI and I'll be interested in it. Better yet, give me a way to switch on the fly once more Metro apps come out and I'll make my decision then.

Basically, give me the option on what UI I want to use.

Please, every Windows 8 hater - read this carefully. I'm not justifying anything, I just think my input may help you realize the beauty of this change.

I for one like Metro for my desktop PC as well. I love the fact that the desktop is now a "box" that runs inside a fluid environment. I also like the concept of the immersiveness and the chromeless interfaces instead of having a taskbar being there.

Also, applications can use toast notifications to notify when things are done, or something requires attention - globally. There's no longer need for individual applications such as Skype and Messenger to use their own notification types, and these notifications will be able to be turned off at one central location - the control panel. This theoretically elliminates the need for the cool Windows 7 progress bar indicators in the task bar. While not offering itself as an alternative, it is indeed a nice complementary feature.

I don't see how Metro is not good for desktops actually - please help me understand. I've read this article entirely, and I still don't understand. You move your mouse to the lower-left screen, and voila - there's your start menu.

Finding apps has never been easier - do a search while in the Metro menu.

Don't want Windows 8 to start up in Metro? Turn it off. I like when my PC starts up in Metro, because then my PC isn't spending 99% of its resources on launching all kinds of apps in the background, when I know exactly what I want.

For instance, if I want to start Visual Studio to do programming as the first thing I do, I click my pinned Visual Studio icon on the Metro screen. It takes me to the desktop, and starts loading the application - even with full priority (allowing it to be priored over all the other program processes while it starts up).

I get the idea that people want some kind of "Default" state that their PC is in, but really, I believe people have become way too used to the old "inside the box"-way of thinking. Let's face it. You start up your PC anyway, and you always start out by launching 1 single app to do your primary purpose, isn't that right? You never start out by launching 20 apps at a time. These will be started automatically for you.

For those having issues finding the power button I can only ask "really?". Pressing your power button on the computer itself will shut down your PC as default in Windows 8, so why bother anyway? Isn't it more natural to hit the power button to turn something off? They just removed the noise that we thought was needed for centuries. If you're not happy with that, you can configure what happens when clicking the power button.

If you're on a desktop, hitting Windows + I to launch the Charm bar isn't that hard either, although, less intuitive.

Normal applications will be offered through the marketplace as well as Metro apps, so the app-store is still going to be awesome.

As a developer, I see clearly what Microsoft is doing here. The following is based on knowledge within the field, and common sense. However, some of it is based on beliefs and assumptions.

Microsoft will make Windows Phone 7 apps compatible with Windows 8. When these apps run, they will run in the docked mode (left or right) always for compatibility reasons, since that'll match the proper phone aspect ratio.

Windows 8 apps that are compatible with the docked (left or right) app format will run in that mode always when running in Windows Phone 8.

Scaling is no problem, since Silverlight (or WPF for that matter) is resolution independent, and uses vector graphics. Hence a much higher compatibility with larger screens.

Too much clutter. ****ty as idea.

2 articles bashing Windows 8? Even Vista didnt get much attention (Granted Vista was a great OS)

Frankly, coming from neowin I find this kind of honest candor refreshing. and wholly unexpected. Bravo on having the stones to tell it like it is.

Afraid of CHANGE? Seems it's now of Epidemic Proportions here on Neowin and about every place else. Most likely due to a heavey dose of iCrAppleholism sweeping the world. You know.... RDF inebriated ignorance. Spawned by their total obsession with their Orwellian 1984 Doublethink Propaganda turning most humans into ordinary iDiot Proles unable to grasp the basics of a far faster and far easier Windows 8 OS to use than Apple's Heinz 57 mix of NeXT, some FREE-BSD all kind of wrapped around their archaic old hijacked Xerox's pieces and parts! ;-P .....sorry but I'll take a side scroll-able Start w/ large Panels over a bunch of lists n menus w/in menus or small icons with big gaps covering a Start Menu or Desktop any day. Windows8 is fast and extremely efficient!!!!

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