Windows 8 blog talks about landscape and portrait modes

Microsoft has designed the Windows 8 Metro interface to work on tablet devices in addition to PC and laptops and because of this added platform for the operating system, it also needs to work well when a tablet owner is using it in both landscape and portrait display modes. In the latest entry on Microsoft's official Windows 8 blog, Microsoft's David Washington writes about how he and the Windows 8 user experience team are working to optimize how the OS will look on tablets in both positions.

Washington writes, "We spent a considerable number of hours studying people as they used tablet devices in our usability labs as well as in their own homes. We’ve watched people who were already familiar with tablets, and we’ve watched people new to these form factors get started, and we stayed in touch with them for months afterwards."

The company examined how tablet users gripped the product, how they interacted with a tablet's applications, where in their home they used the tablet and lots more. In the end Washington writes, " ... there’s no one way to hold a device and people naturally seek to find a comfortable position and orientation that feels right for what they are doing with the device at the time."

Sometimes the app selection influenced how a user orients a tablet device with Washington saying, "If the content and experience felt better in landscape, people naturally used the app in landscape-mode.  If the content and experience felt better in portrait, the app was used in portrait." As an example, people apparently prefer to watch a movie in landscape mode on a tablet.

When Windows 8 is in the landscape position on a tablet, Washington says, "We found that a comfortable posture for using a tablet in landscape is to hold in both hands and touch the screen with your thumbs. For this reason, we’ve designed the majority of the experience to be easily accessible under your thumbs. We also optimized the system to scroll horizontally, which feels fast and fluid in landscape as well as in portrait mode." Most people will use the landscape position when Windows 8 is running on a desktop PC with a monitor or on a laptop.

When a tablet running the OS is in portrait mode, it's likely that the users will be reading news, looking at email messages or scrolling through pictures in a portrait gallery. Washington says, "We tuned the system experiences like the keyboard, file picker, and charms to work great in portrait as well as landscape. We wanted to make it so you don’t need to relearn the system when you switch to portrait mode; it just works."

What about the transition between landscape and portrait mode and vise versa? Washington says the Windows 8 team is striving to make that move as seamless as possible. He says, "Before the rotation starts, the system waits for the accelerometer to stabilize to prevent accidental rotations. We also wanted to keep you in control of the rotation experience, so that it wouldn’t be triggered accidentally. We introduced a hardware orientation lock to 'override gravity' and keep the orientation the way you want it."

Windows 8 is also being made to work on different sizes of screens, whether they are 4:3 displays all the way to 16:9 widescreen monitors. Washington says, "Our scaling platform enables Windows and apps to seamlessly adapt and reflow content to of these different screens and make use of the space. You can use many of these devices in either portrait or landscape." The minimal resolution for Metro style apps to run in Windows 8 will be 1024x768.

Washington says that the the minimal resolution that will support all of Windows 8's features will be 1366x768. He writes, "We chose this resolution as it can fit the width of a snapped app, which is 320px (also the width designed for many phone layouts), next to a main app at 1024x768 app (a common size designed for use on the web). These limits cannot be changed, by the way. Washington says, "We are breaking from past practices in not providing a workaround for this, given that the main motivation is to make sure Metro style apps are designed to function fully at a specific published resolution."

While most Windows 8 app developers will likely support landscape viewing modes for their creations, Washington writes, "However, if an app’s experience could support both landscape and portrait, supporting the portrait view is just an incremental amount of layout work."

Images via Microsoft

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15 Comments

calimike said,
Video here: http://youtu.be/CyhTZoXe20c what about desktop, netbook and notebook?

You don't normally see people using desktops, netbooks, or notebooks in portrait mode, so it probably isn't worth considering. But it applies just the same.

Washington says, "We tuned the system experiences like the keyboard, file picker, and charms to work great in portrait as well as landscape. We wanted to make it so you don't need to relearn the system when you switch to portrait mode; it just works."

"It just works." Nice to see Apple's saying being applied to a Microsoft product.

In all honesty though, I like Windows 8... As drastic of a change as it is, I think it's time for us to break free from the same-old, same-old, and try a new style...

JaykeBird said,

"It just works." Nice to see Apple's saying being applied to a Microsoft product.

In all honesty though, I like Windows 8... As drastic of a change as it is, I think it's time for us to break free from the same-old, same-old, and try a new style...

Agreed.

I think I sorta understand now why iPads are 4:3 and not 16:9...it's too damn tall in portrait mode, it looks atrocious, I mean just look at it, the tiles look cramped together and too many fall off the screen, and the apps look horrible, ugh. I do like the fact that it is 16:9 because it'll be more comfortable and support HD, but we've always used portrait that switching to landscape is gonna feel weird.

Digitalx said,
Unfortunately I don't turn my desktop over for portrait mode... thanks anyway.

That's like saying "I don't use Windows with multiple monitors, therefore it shouldn't be implemented."

Digitalx said,
Unfortunately I don't turn my desktop over for portrait mode... thanks anyway.

airport monitors showing schedules are in portrait, and so are some stock market traders along with some graphics designers; (e.g. one portrait and one landscape monitor connected.)

I have, on occasion, rotated my desktop monitor since I switched to widescreen. For some content it really does just make sense.

Digitalx is correct, I don't turn my desktop or my laptop for portrait mode. Even more glaring in all these Windows-8 blogs is the absence of what Windows-8 is going to do for the millions of people who use their PCs for intensive data entry--Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, etc., etc.

TsarNikky said,
Digitalx is correct, I don't turn my desktop or my laptop for portrait mode. Even more glaring in all these Windows-8 blogs is the absence of what Windows-8 is going to do for the millions of people who use their PCs for intensive data entry--Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, etc., etc.

Mostly because there's no real change?

Office 2010 works the same way in Windows 8 that it does in Windows 7 - there's literally no change in how you use any application in the suite. (And if you're wondering why there are no desktop shortcuts for it, Office 2010, like Office 2007, doesn't create any - not in 8, 7, or even Vista. Office 2003 was the last Windows version of Office to create any desktop shortcuts - and that was only for Outlook.)

PGHammer said,

Mostly because there's no real change?

Office 2010 works the same way in Windows 8 that it does in Windows 7 - there's literally no change in how you use any application in the suite. (And if you're wondering why there are no desktop shortcuts for it, Office 2010, like Office 2007, doesn't create any - not in 8, 7, or even Vista. Office 2003 was the last Windows version of Office to create any desktop shortcuts - and that was only for Outlook.)

one feature I really miss about '03 is its dock for the whole suite. Amazing stuff that. Don't know why MS chose to remove it.

SteelToast said,

one feature I really miss about '03 is its dock for the whole suite. Amazing stuff that. Don't know why MS chose to remove it.

Perhaps they thought it was cluttering up the screen or something? I don't know... There was a way to hide that dock thing if you didn't want it... Microsoft has, in my opinion, removed a couple of good features from Office in the past couple of years, and it kind of bothers me... (Clippy, though, I can live without... Lol.)

It's only the Metro UI that's optimized for both portrait and landscape modes, when they should have also made to optimizations to the taskbar and Windows Explorer.

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