Microsoft talks more about designing the Start screen in Windows 8

Microsoft is using its official Windows 8 blog site this week to talk more about its decisions regarding the operating system's new Start screen. It began with an entry on Monday and today it continued its extensive look at the Windows 8 Start screen with a a new blog entry written by Alice Steinglass, the group program manager for the Core Experience Evolved team. As she writes, "We knew that we already had a powerful launcher for desktop programs in the taskbar. The Start screen is not just a replacement for the Start menu—it is designed to be a great launcher and switcher of apps, a place that is alive with notifications, customizable, powerful, and efficient."

Microsoft is designing the Start screen in Windows 8 so that users can customize how it looks and operates. Steinglass says that Microsoft has been bringing people in to see how they would customize and organize their versions of the Start screen via different groups. She writes, "We brought a variety of people of different skill-levels into our test labs and asked them to organize the apps and websites they use frequently. The variability was surprisingly large. People did not fit all their apps into the same predefined groups, or even the same group sizes."  Thus the Start screen will give Windows 8 users a ton of different options to naming groups along with the size and number of tiles that are associated with each group. While the Windows 8 team considered using folders, Steinglass states, " ... our experience with folders broadly and in the Start menu tells us that folders are a way of burying things, not organizing them. Folders also make it impossible to see the up-to-date information an app might present."

The Windows 8 team also wanted to make searching and launching apps in the operating system as simple as possible. Steinglass states, " ... we designed a search model for the Start screen where each app displays the data in an optimized format. Thus, instead of seeing just 3 results per category type (all as text), you now can hit Start, type a search term, see an entire page of app results, or continue down the list to look at the results for files, settings, email, web, social networks, or any other app on your system."

For people who believe that Windows 8 is all about the touch screen interface, Steinglass says that's not the case and that much has been done to make the operating system work well with the standard keyboard and mouse. She writes, "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). Once in Start, more items are directly accessible to the mouse without scrolling or opening menu flyouts. For keyboard people, pinning frequently used desktop apps on the desktop taskbar enables instant shortcuts: Win+1, Win+2, etc. And, getting to less frequently used apps through search follows the existing paradigm of hitting the Windows key and typing the search term. The larger search results improve speed (both for searching and browsing)."

Images via Microsoft

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29 Comments

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TRC said,
The Start Screen is probably the worst thing Microsoft has ever done.

It's only for touch screen devices. If you intend to use your PC in normal desktop mode, you can avoid the metro app.

I personally would like to see a version of the metro app that is an overlay that pops up over the desktop when you need it (the way the start menu pops up), or that can be left up the way widgets are.

WITHOUT THE BACKGROUND, mind you.

Under no circumstances am I wasting 30" of monitor real estate on a taskbar/start menu/dock/widget replacement.

But I would consider moving the tiled metro bar, scaled down, into one quadrant of one of my monitors, since it effectively replaces a bunch of different things I have on my desktops now.

I finally got round to install the Win 8 Dev last night in a VM.

The Metro UI Start Screen thing? Absolutely awful. While it may work wonders on a fully touch enabled device (I'd love to try it on my HP Touchpad for instance) on a fully functional desktop PC it's dreadful. Unless things change drastically I can't see me adopting Win8 on any of my PCs.

I'm not sure why people are still complaining about this. Doesn't anyone actually read... anything. Standard (classic) desktop is still in. Right now the full start menu of classic is disabled, but there is apps that unlock it, and MS has said so many times that the start menu will be something users can choose. It's only locked right now so people try out the metro start screen. The standard desktop is still there always.

http://img208.imageshack.us/img208/1306/desktopeer.png - minus the start button, you wouldn't know it was 8.

Most apps don't support 8 yet, so every time you load any app (that doesn't use metro) you'll be brought to the standard desktop. I hardly ever see the metro start screen. When I need it, I use it. It's much faster than the "classic" start menu. It brings you to what you want to do faster than the classic menus ever could.

Point is, everything in 8 is better than 7. I use it as my main OS cause its blazing fast compared to 7, and for people who hate change, you don't have to use the new start screen ever... and you still get all the bells and whistles of 8's amazeballz.

One thing's clear from the comments on the W8 blog: Windows 8 won't be as well received if the Start screen becomes the default on desktops and laptop PCs. Nearly everyone there is saying they prefer the desktop UI on well, desktop PCs and that the Start menu needs to stay.

Philippe Pomerleau said,
People are reluctant to change. The system is in alpha and still many claim it fill be a fail. Relax, chill out. It's pre-season.

@ThePitt Windows 7 is now more used than XP :

http://gs.statcounter.com/#os-ww-monthly-201009-201110

Hey, I love Metro and support Microsoft in a lot of what they do. This however is going to hinder efficiency. Bouncing in and out of the desktop to use apps like that. It's a mess. Business will not approve and that's a big portion of Microsoft's business... I'd like their stock to go up at some point...

they are assuming that by default ALL THE PEOPLE have a touch screen, which is NOT and WRONG. Even more, most of the people still use XP and that people wont upgrade to 7 or even 8 because microsoft want or make force them. Just think about that bunch of people and you will understand that microsoft is heading (again) wrong.

I quote myself from a past post:

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....

When is Microsoft going to show serious, i.e., business, PC users how the new traditional desktop is going to look. This obsession with the Metro interface for tables is wearing very thin. So, tablet users are going to be fully services. What about the majority of users who will be using PCs?

Article Said
"We knew that we already had a powerful launcher for desktop programs in the taskbar. The Start screen is not just a replacement for the Start menu

[quote=Jose_49 said,]
Yes, As I took 35 mins to discover how to turn the OS off, without using the CTRL+ALT+DEL combination...
And I can assure you I am not the only one.

cleverclogs said,
Has the desktop start menu completely gone for good?

I sure hope not! I much prefer to have a minimal desktop with with a few icons for those applications I use. Having the desktop cluttered with clunky tiles is not a pretty sight.

TsarNikky said,

I sure hope not! I much prefer to have a minimal desktop with with a few icons for those applications I use. Having the desktop cluttered with clunky tiles is not a pretty sight.

Except for the fact the start screen is just that a start screen ... you still have your desktop. I installed Windows 8 as the main OS on my laptop the first day the preview was available. I use it everyday and I see the start screen maybe once or twice.

I was a little skeptical about win 8 at first. Then i tried it and saw that it boots up time is 9 to 10 sec in my PC and sleeps/wakeup in about 1 sec. i was impressed. It was difficult for me to first work on the new start screen but the problem was not the screen but using a new layout.. it might take a while to adjust.. I am sure Microsoft will improve the user experience and they have about 1 yr to do it

Good article... saddly you can see in comments people who actually or read but don't understand everything Microsoft typed. or they read and still dont want to try to use it but still think it sucks.

seriously... do these people have used new start screen vs old start menu? its more efficent the new start screen AND its not finished. like they said, they would fix alot of stuff and they will show more features in a beta.

but these cheap excuses from people not even trying the damn new UI its stupid. one thing is people not liking the UI design, like tiles and such. (not the ones that say I dont like it Green bla bla because it will change), and others are the ones who think they are so special that new metro UI is not efficent nor productive and no matter these post they still dont want to understand how new start screen works. and yeah is better than old start menu, BUT both do the same =_____= how can they say its worse?? of course new UI brings faster and better stuff. but BOTH DO THE SAME.
I have used it for 3 weeks and its not like i live in start screen. just like i didn't spend hours nd hours in old start menu. still when i had to go through start menu i always thought how it sucked sometimes with so many folders. or the search was stupid enough that i never used it much.

if people dont want it, then stick to win7. but if these people just dont care about learning and about a change and they just think it sucks but they dont try to understand it. then i think its pretty stupid.

How about people trying to use it on a Laptop / Netbook using a Touchpad

Those scroll bars are hideous and difficult to use

Detection said,
How about people trying to use it on a Laptop / Netbook using a Touchpad

Those scroll bars are hideous and difficult to use

Then don't use them. Does your touchpad have scrolling regions or multitouch gestures? Use those instead, even the main screen will scroll across with the up/down scrolling motion

Detection said,
How about people trying to use it on a Laptop / Netbook using a Touchpad

Those scroll bars are hideous and difficult to use

"Those scroll bars are hideous and difficult to use" so i guess you also refer to old start menu, because if it wasn't in your MFU or Pinned. you had to go to all programs and use a scroll bar through folders and folders. like if you had to use snipping tool but you dont use it enough to pin it or being in MFU.

I dont know what laptop do you have but the ones in my house have scrolling region... but yeah, even in old start menu i used scroll regions on touchpad

Detection said,
How about people trying to use it on a Laptop / Netbook using a Touchpad

Those scroll bars are hideous and difficult to use


Just about every laptop has a scroll region or multi-touch. Very easy to use.

EmilyTheStrange said,

so i guess you also refer to old start menu, because if it wasn't in your MFU or Pinned. you had to go to all programs and use a scroll bar through folders and folders. like if you had to use snipping tool but you dont use it enough to pin it or being in MFU.

I dont know what laptop do you have but the ones in my house have scrolling region... but yeah, even in old start menu i used scroll regions on touchpad

Or use the Search box . . .

Most "normal" people don't know about "scrolling regions" or "gestures", just so you know.

farmeunit said,

Or use the Search box . . .

Most "normal" people don't know about "scrolling regions" or "gestures", just so you know.


Ok so just type on the new start screen, does the same as the search box

Chris4 said,

Just about every laptop has a scroll region or multi-touch. Very easy to use.

Which would be great if it would work with said touch pads. Which it doesn't at this time.