Windows 8 – A Tale of Two Desktops

by on Monday, August 27th, 2012

Microsoft is taking a gamble and a big leap forward with Windows 8. Windows 8 has been released to manufacturing (RTM), so this is the build of Windows 8 that will actually ship to the public. While it does have a shiny brand new interface, it can be a shock to the senses.

In this article I won’t be describing the features of Windows 8 so much as the little nuances and not-so-intuitive functionality of what Microsoft is calling the new “Modern UI”. In addition, this commentary will be coming from the perspective of using Windows 8 on a desktop or laptop computer as opposed to a tablet.

Biggest Gripes

Internet Explorer 10

The address bar is not always visible. To bring up the address bar, you have to right click on the screen, but specifically on a non-link portion of the screen, which can sometimes be difficult to find on pages with a lot of links.

The address bar is at the bottom of the screen. I’m used to and I like the address bar on the top. This is not the end of the world but I prefer it at the top. I have a feeling I will be utilizing a different web browser unless this gets changed or I have the option to change this.

Saving files can be tricky. On one particular website, there was an option to “Download Wallpaper”. I clicked it and instructed Internet Explorer to save the file. After I clicked save I have no idea where it went. I simply could not find my saved file. Nasty issue here.

Placement of the “New Tab” button is at the far top right. This might be fine for tablets, no so user friendly for a mouse.

Maps

There is no option to search for a basic address. The only option with this application is to search for “directions” meaning you have to input at least two addresses. It even complains and prevents you from inputting two addresses that are too close to each other.

Modern UI

Multiple applications side by side in Modern UI? Forget about it on on a desktop. I still have not figured out how to accomplish this.

Navigating the “corners” of the screen is awkward. I have a tendency that when the corner start window is revealed, I do not expect it to disappear on me unless the mouse navigates outside of the corner window. The problem is that the window closes after you move your mouse towards the center of the popup. This made it awkward trying to get the sidebar to display because it kept disappearing on me! Another learning curve, but not the end of the world. My request is that Microsoft changes this functionality!

Classic Desktop

By default, items are deleted and placed into the Recycle Bin without a confirmation dialog box. I haven’t gotten used to this yet.

Snipping Tool

This application is rendered partially useless since it only works on the classic desktop. You can only take “snips” of the classic desktop.

It’s not all bad …

Store

Searching the Microsoft Store is not immediately intuitive. To search the Microsoft Store, I would have first thought to go to the application and search within there. That is not the case. To search the Microsoft Store, you will want to use the Charms Bar. The Charms Bar is located on the right hand side of the OS and it will allow you to search not just the Microsoft Store, but also any other application in Windows 8! A great feature no doubt, just not immediately intuitive.

Modern UI

Closing apps is clunky at first. The best way to do this is to point the mouse to the top left corner or the bottom left corner to bring up one of the corner windows. Then bring your mouse towards the center of the left hand side of the screen to bring up the running applications. From there you can right-click the individual applications and select close to close them. This may take some getting used to.

If you right click on apps in the Modern UI, you will find links to “Pin to Start” and “Pin to Taskbar”. This is the crux of what we are dealing with. There are two main methods of firing up applications. Applications either fire up within Modern UI or within the classic desktop. This is the duality we are going to have to deal and live with until a better design comes our way.

*Windows 8 Protip*: If you make another browser (like Google Chrome) your default browser, then Internet Explorer 10 will no longer open up in Modern UI. It will actually open on the classic desktop!

Google Chrome in Modern UI appears to be functional enough to use on a desktop. It is basically Google Chrome maximized. In fact, if you try to click the Maximize button while in Google Chrome Modern UI, it doesn’t actually do anything. In contrast, if you click the Minimize button, the window will shrink down the bottom left of the screen and you are left stranded with the rest of the screen blank. Strange functionality indeed.

Conclusion

Eventually you should find yourself on the more familiar classic desktop working they way you do best. You will soon realize you have running applications in different places! You will eventually have multiple windows on your classic desktop taskbar, multiple windows on your Modern UI taskbar, and not to mention multiple tabs within your Internet browsers! There is definitely going to be a learning curve remembering what is running where!

So is Windows 8 worth the upgrade? Despite the learning curve and the gripes, I am going to say that Windows 8 is worth the upgrade. The Modern UI is slick, fast, and it may take some getting used to, but I believe Microsoft is going in the right direction. Unifying the desktop and the tablet is the future of computing and this is the first step. There are gripes with the new operating system but they are user experience gripes. The Modern UI retains all the functionality needed to have a complete operating system while unifying the desktop space and the tablet space. I happily look forward towards things to come so we might as well get started in getting over the learning curves now.