Software

When will Microsoft complete the transition from Control Panel to Settings?

Lack of consistency between the options in Control Panel and in Settings leads to wasted time and frustrated users. Here's a textbook example of confusing design in Windows 10.

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Image: iStockphoto.com/SebastianGauert


For some reason, Microsoft has been dragging its collective feet when it comes to replacing the old configuration tools in Control Panel with new configuration tools in Settings. It started the transition back in 2008 when it was developing Windows 8. Now here it is 2016 and well into the second year of Windows 10 and it still hasn't finished.

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I've let this inconsistency slide over the last year, as Microsoft has been working on the transition. But a recent situation brought it to the forefront of my work. Indulge me for a moment as I relate this story.

The problem

The Snap feature in Windows 10 is quite useful in a number of situations. However, not everyone likes it. For instance, no matter how much I've advocated the benefits and features of Snap, a client of mine has been threatening to disable it. I was able to hold him off for a while, hoping he would learn to appreciate the benefits of Snap. The article How to juggle multiple applications using Task View in Windows 10 explains how to put Snap to good use. But it turned out to be a losing battle. So I let it go.

I told him he could disable Snap in Settings by navigating to System > Multitasking and turning off the Arrange Windows Automatically By Dragging Them To The Sides Or Corner Of The Screen setting, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Figure A
You can control and configure Snap from the Multitasking tab in in Settings.

However, he told me I was wrong and that the proper place to disable Snap was in Control Panel, by navigating to Ease Of Access Center > Make The Mouse Easier To Use and clearing the Prevent Windows From Being Automatically Arranged When Moved To The Edge Of The Screen check box, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Figure B
You can disable Snap in the Ease Of Access Center in Control Panel.

As it turns out, we are both right, you can enable and disable Snap in both Control Panel and Settings. Of course, it's pretty standard fare in the Windows operating system that there are usually multiple ways to change things. And being able to do so in Ease Of Access makes sense.

So I mentioned to my client that you could probably also disable Snap in Settings by navigating to Ease Of Access > Mouse. But that's not the case. As you can see in Figure C, only some of the settings from the Control Panel version exist in the Settings version.

Figure C

Figure C
Only some of the mouse settings from Ease Of Access in Control Panel exist in Ease Of Access in Settings.

Not only did this make me feel foolish in front of my client (serves me right for not fully investigating), but it also revealed big problems in Windows 10 that make it confusing to use and hard for us to let go of the old and embrace the new.

In the old days, when you wanted to configure settings in the OS, you went to Control Panel and everything you needed was there. So if the plan is to move us all into the new user interface, why isn't Settings the place to go for configuring everything? As my example situation illustrates, we're not even close.

As it is now, we have a mess: Some configuration options are available only in Settings, while other configuration options are available only in Control Panel. We also have configuration options that are available in both Settings and Control Panel that do the same thing. Furthermore, there are some configuration options that are available in both Settings and Control Panel, yet one contains just a subset of the settings available in the other. We even have configuration options that are available in both Settings and Control Panel where the full functionality of the task at hand is split between the two environments.

I'm tired of this mess! How about you?

Your take

Do you have examples of Control Panel vs Settings that you want to contribute? Share your stories and opinions in the discussion thread.

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About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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