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Friday, March 02, 2012

Windows 8 Consumer Preview (First Impressions)

Windows 8's new Metro UI
I downloaded and installed the Windows 8 Consumer Preview the day it came out (Wednesday) and I've been running it since then on a secondary computer. I wanted to share some of my impressions about the new OS that Microsoft has launched.

Metro UI: This is probably the biggest change, and the most visible. The Start button is gone (all the way gone, unlike in the Developer Preview where you could revert back with some registry edits). All your programs live in the Metro UI interface (well sort of). When you first start up you see this arrangement of multi-colored tiles (pictured) that give you all the options on your computer. Right up front is the Internet Explorer tile, a Store tile, a Mail tile and a Messaging tile. All of which link to the Microsoft apps for those utilities. The apps that launch when you click are also in the Metro UI scheme, so you get a very touch friendly version of IE or the mail app. The problem is, touch friendly translates into mouse & keyboard un-friendly. It's a frustrating experience to figure out navigating through things (here's a hint, right-click is essential to see everything you need to get around). But what's even more annoying is that you're only a click or two away from a Windows 7-like desktop. If you try to use any plugin (any plugin at all) in the Metro IE, you'll be redirected to the desktop version of the app. Once you get out of the Metro interface it's jarring to have to suddenly shift your working to "typical" Windows actions after you've been shifting your thinking to the Metro style.

Desktop: When running Windows 8 in the desktop mode, it's fast, responsive and feels good. It's like a polished version of Windows 7. All your favorites are there, the jump lists, program pinning, aero snap and all those goodies. They've also made some improvements to the task manager and windows explorer that are quite nice. But, when you go to launch a new program you're faced with a gaping hole (in your heart?) on the task bar - there's no more Start button. If you point to the lower left corner of the screen you see a pop-up of the Metro UI screen or if you press the Windows key, you get the Metro screen. That is your new Start button (and you'd better like it). If you start typing the great Windows search will automatically start looking for the file or program you want (just like in Windows 7). If you right-click you can select "All Apps" to see a more Start-Menu-ey list of programs on your computer. But that's the best you're going to get.

Impressions: Windows 8 wants to bridge the gap between tablets, phones and computers, but it ends up leaving computers in the back corner weeping softly. In order to make it easier for touch-based devices to get around, Microsoft has put barriers in the way for non-touch devices. I'm running into the Metro UI far too often and it doesn't offer me anything good or helpful. I don't want to use Bing for search or IE for browsing (the apps look good, but the functionality is the same or less than other programs). And I don't want to be locked into a full-screen app view when I'm working on a computer. That might work for tablets, but I'm switching between programs too much to do the same on a desktop or laptop.

You can download Windows 8 here if you want to give it a try.

What do you think? What do you want to know about?

1 comment:

Ryan said...

Sounds like windows in general. THey expect others to get used to their ideas. Not the other way around.