Windows

Don't panic, we've been though Windows interface changes before

In terms of changing the entire look and feel of Windows, do you remember when Windows 3 arrived?

I pre-ordered two Surface tablets last week, one with the standard touch cover and one with the type cover. I was pleased to see that I could order them in Australia, although the MS site was a little slow and the HDMI cable wasn't in stock.


(Credit: Microsoft)

The pricing was also interesting, effectively AU$90 less than the AU$649 32GB Wi-Fi iPad at AU$559, and AU$679 for the 32G Surface with keyboard.

Of course, price isn't the only comparison, as the Surface is a Windows 8 device with a full OS that can be used for creation and production, without the need to buy clunky external products like you would to increase the functionality of the iPad.

As a developer, I need to be able to test my applications on the new Windows 8, and specifically Windows RT, which is based on the new Windows runtime WinRT. There has been some confusion about the Surface RT tablets, and even attempts to paint these ARM devices as not being real Windows. It's easier to think about them as the new Windows computers, while the Intel-based Surface tablets have the new Windows, with legacy support for Win32 desktop applications.

The situation isn't unfamiliar. In a time not so long ago, most of us moved from DOS to Win 3 — with the understanding that our beloved DOS programs would still be supported. Over the years, while developers have learned event-driven and object-oriented programming, our development systems have evolved into Visual Studio 2012, and the API has become more and more powerful.

For developers, the transition from Win32 development to WinRT is a lot easier than from DOS to Windows, as the development environment is the same, most of the Win32 calls have replacements in WinRT, and, if you've been using .Net, then you are familiar with XAML. The "modern UI" may cause some problems, and I'm still looking at how I transform my desktop application UI to the "modern UI", as well as using some of the new functionality.


(Credit: Microsoft)

Just as Win3 moved us from DOS with its infinite variety of UIs to a standard that the world came to use, Windows 8 will move us from a simple and fairly clunky UI to one that can be used by mouse/keyboard, touch, gesture, voice, and stylus across PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and consoles. Nor are you confined to using just one input method, and I imagine that most of us will be combining these various methods in the future.

As for the modern UI and the much-maligned Start screen, there is nothing sacred about a Start button, and a novice can look at a Win7 screen without any idea that they need to click the Windows logo button. They can click on those static icons in the icon graveyard currently known as the desktop without anything happening until they magically learn to double click. The XP and Win7 UIs are not intuitive nor special, and people's complaints are more about not wanting change. It's like wanting to bring Wordstar back, just because you managed to learn all of the special key combos.

The new Start screen is much better than the old Start menu, as you can immediately search by typing, and all of your favourite applications are immediately visible and dynamically update with appropriate information. If not having to click on a Start button bothers you that much, then think of the new UI as having the Start menu already visible. It's certainly a lot easier to use than XP or Win7, and a 3-year-old can do it, even without touch.

However, if this is a leap too far, you still have alternatives. If you liked XP that much and are prepared for less functionality, then there's all the myriad distros of Linux, and if Unix with lipstick is your desire, then OS X is still alive and kicking. You can also just stay where you are. XP still works, and Win7 will be supported for a long time to come. However, if you feel like embracing the tide rather than trying to prevent it, then jump in — the water's fine.

About

Tony is the owner and managing director of Microcraft eLearning and is one of the creators of the AUTHOR eLearning Development System.

36 comments
HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Now where have I heard that previously? OH I remember it's on the cover of the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy to make all those people feel safe. Col ;)

FortBragg_Surfgoddess
FortBragg_Surfgoddess

My network is switching to Linux, as not to bankrupt the company with these upgrades every 2 years!!!

FortBragg_Surfgoddess
FortBragg_Surfgoddess

I don't care what is looks like, I care about the cost.... Great, I am still trying to rid myself of 2003 servers. I even have a windows 2000 server that I am going to migrate to an 2003 server. It is killing my fiscally. Then there is the retraining of users. I wish these MS devs could spend a few months in my shoes!

davidfrazier1
davidfrazier1

When a OS tries to do everything for every type of equipment it usually winds up shortchanging everything. I personally do not like the WIN8 interface. I tried the prerelease version and thought it was counter intuitive. Windows attempt to consolidate so many different interfaces makes for a top heavy os with the obvious con of having more code to introduce problems. How many security updates can you stand before wishing for a simpler OS. I would like to see a far less complicated, more compacted code version of Windows.

Regulus
Regulus

money to spare. (IMHO) this is not a viable business application product, anymore than a skateboard. BUT - I've just updated my UBUNTU partition on my Win 7 Netbook from 12.4 to 12.10. I am very pleased - especially with the increased flexibility of the LaunchPad. I have had Win 8 loaded in a VM on another unit in all 3 forms. Professionally, I need to 'know' it. 'Use it?' No Way. And, yes, I started out with DOS 2.10

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

The GUI sucks, stay with Windows 7 until you can cross train to mac or Linux.

dinomutt
dinomutt

Finally, an article about the usability of W8 from someone who has actually taken the time to learn it. Every other article I've read is from someone who obviously downloaded the preview, spent a few hours with it, and decided they wanted to stick with what they already knew. If the flamethrowers would take the time to learn W8, or at least analyze it in detail, they would find that they can launch and interact with programs in fewer mouse moves and clicks than with the old Start menu. As the author said though, most people hate change.

Repeal
Repeal

Did Microsoft use focus groups to determine if potential desktop adopters approved of the new interface? In my opinion change for the sake of change is usually contra-indicated. And the START button provides easier access to programs than SEARCH! Linux lets users choose between KDE and Gnome. And Unbuntu adds a third choice: Unity. Is it really too much to ask Microsoft to offer the Start button? I predict adoption by Windows 7 users will be slow and Microsoft will soon offer a download to restore the Start button. At the very least, desktop users should be able to choose booting to the Desktop screen rather than the Metro screen. Remember the customer is always right. Windows 8 offers some real technical improvements, but one copy is all I will buy until Microsoft returns the Start button.

Scott.Geiger
Scott.Geiger

" If you liked XP that much and are prepared for less functionality, then there’s all the myriad distros of Linux, and if Unix with lipstick is your desire, then OS X is still alive and kicking." Seriously? At least up until the last paragraph you were making some decent arguments for Win8. Throwing in uninformed digs on Linux and Mac OS pretty much make your whole article less than credible.

mckinnej
mckinnej

Comparing a Windows 8 deployment to Windows 3 is like apples and oranges. Mainly it's a matter of scale. With Windows 3 we were dealing with people that had never used a computer before. There weren't very many users either. Today, EVERYONE uses a computer to do their job and they probably have one at home too. They have habits, paradigms, and expectations for how to interact with a computer. Some of these folks took a long time to learn the difference between a left-click, a right-click, and a double-click. Windows 8 will take those folks' productivity to zero. Even if you are lucky and only have a few of those problem children, the sheer number of users requiring training is daunting in itself. I guess the real point here is that Windows 8 is not an "upgrade" anyone should just casually jump on because it is the latest thing. It will be a huge and expensive effort and will be a disaster if not approached with careful planning, if you choose to do it at all.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I will just never use it. I will do what I always do, build programs to replace functionality removed in the OS.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Why do you describe W7 icons as "in the icon graveyard currently known as the desktop" but W8 tiles are "all of your favourite applications are immediately visible"?

Craig_B
Craig_B

Most opinions that I have seen of actual users, seem to like the Start button and the menu concepts of Windows XP, VIsta, 7. Your comments seem to imply that your opinion of Windows 8 (which sounds like you are trying to sell something to get benefit for you) is better than all those users. No need to push one way or the other, the market will decide. It seems that it would have been wise for Microsoft to allow the old style menu system, at least as a transition to the new style. Time will tell.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

1. Microsoft Aust website shows Windows Surface not yet available, but will take orders for the Surface RT for A$559. No set delivery date yet. Hmm. No price on the Surface Pro yet, either. Comparable iPad is A$659, while a comparable Samsung unit is A$559. 2. The Surface RT is NOT a full blown OS according to the Microsoft website as it is NOT capable of handling any other major applications. Oops. OK, from what I see and read, it's OK as replacement for a Netbook or a tablet for checking webmail and the Internet, but not capable of handling much in the way of real time productivity due to it's physical limitations. Then the Win 8 large icons affect the usable screen surface too. This would make a great e-book reader, but I can get a good one of those for a lot less, too.

sydtsai
sydtsai

I remember I was switching from OS 9 to OS X, and the interface is hell a lot of different. However, I was not FORCED to do any silly gesture to shutdown / open apple menu with only a mouse. Windows 8 is going to fail, because those doesn't get the tablet will suffer with the terrible UI foundation. (Try using trackpoint to bring out the start menu just non-sense.) I have been trying Windows 8 PR on a Dell D420, all I can say is better performance. Sadly, power is nothing without control. BTW, I feel the same UI akward when controlling Android Tablet using a mouse.

blueash123456
blueash123456

Please try and use it with a work station with atleast 3 monitors with hot corners and without a start button.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I won't be rolling it out for years. Why panic over something that isn't even on the horizon?

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

passengers on the Titanic when telling them of the troubles.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

and have had all Windows versions since 2.1 (it came with a mouse I bought). It was very clunky so I didn't use it much. However, since we just bought new laptops for the family (the old ones were on their last legs, being 8-10 years old and developing hardware issues), we qualify for the $15.00 Win 8 Pro upgrades. I think I'll spend the money on it as I do like the other improvements to the OS and there are third-party options available to get rid of Metro. I've tried Ubuntu (and other distros) in the past, but I never get very far with it. I may give 12.10 a look on one of the old machines. I've heard good things about it.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

so what do you expect. On another note functionality is only good if it ACTUALLY does something for you that you can USE. If the biggest delivery you make is a box one foot by one foot by one foot and weighs ten pounds and the most delivered is twenty, all you need is a small van, but a ten ton truck has a plenty of extra functionality with a powered tail lift - so why not get the ten ton truck? The reason is you don't need it. The van does the job perfectly and better. However, the decision is easier when you can buy a van in your corporate colours or get the ten ton truck in a horrid mix of dayglo yellow and lime.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

I'm hoping a good third-party utility becomes available. I'm not a programmer (don't have the gene) or I'd do it myself. I'm still signing up for the $15.00 upgrade offer for our new laptops. Update: I bought a new laptop and in the process of configuring it, I went to tweaks.com to download the Logon Changer and found this: http://tweaks.com/software/start/. It looks like it might work. If you want to keep Metro, that option is still available and you can change the way it is organized quite easily.

Skruis
Skruis

Problem because of the level of interactivity. If the icons are on the desktop, they're just static icons which is different from the start screen in that the 'live' tiles populate with different information and are somewhat animated. That's probably it because he called the desktop a graveyard meaning the occupants are inanimate. Or it could be that he prefers that when he launches a desktop app from the start screen, the start screen and all of it's icons/tiles disappear from his view and are hidden? I think it's probably the first suggestion though.

spdragoo
spdragoo

He could be meaning that the icons on the Desktop in Win7 & prior versions a) were only there if the installation program put it there (or if you manually added a shortcut), and b) don't automatically update or shift position on the desktop depending on usage (aside from the "unused icon" option on XP that would remove unused desktop icons, but only after a certain amount of time & only if you told it to do so). Without having Win8 to look at to verify, it sounds like what it does is shifts the positions of the tiles so that your most recent and/or most commonly used ones are on the first screen... kind of like the "recent programs" list in XP and Win7.

eaglewolf
eaglewolf

...that when Win 3 arrived, it enabled an *increase* in productivity. Win 8 is a step back. I don't want to have to grab the mouse and point at corners to bring up functions. I don't want to have to click on a 'run' field and enter program names to access things. I have a resurrected Quick Launch toolbar on Win 7 .. other programs simply remain open and I'm constantly switching between them. And yes, I still mostly use keyboard commands. Having to constantly reach for a mouse and play clickety-clickety is silly. Touch screen(s)? Not for 10-12 hrs a day. I don't give a rip about 'tiles' that are constantly updating useless information: Facebook, Twitter, news, weather, games, etc. Aside from loss of resources, when I'm working .. guess what? I work .. not play. Sure, we've been thru interface changes before, but there was benefit and it wasn't done just to convert Windows to an entertainment system.

mckinnej
mckinnej

You must have a "fan". Someone regularly votes you down for mostly quoting facts. Fixed that. To be fair, Windows 8 RT does more than you describe. What it doesn't do is run regular Windows applications. It will only run Windows 8 apps from the Windows Store. In that regard it is somewhat like an iPad in that you're stuck with whatever is in the store. I'm with you on your point though. The RT versions are not what most people are expecting. I suspect some folks will mistakenly buy the wrong thing and be upset with their purchase.

grayknight
grayknight

and don't miss the start menu at all. Really, I hardly ever used the start menu, other than clicking on the recently used programs or pinned ones. So the start screen is actually easier. I have 3 monitors and really the only complaint is that I can only run one monitor at a time with modern ui apps. If we could only have multiple monitors with modern ui/Windows store apps (like multiple Remote Desktops at the same time), then it would be perfect. This is probably coming as more apps are created.

Skruis
Skruis

And have no problem using it.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

then how did we end up with that ugly Metro thing? At least the iPhone is attractive. For the record, I don't have one.

Skruis
Skruis

I haven't seen Windows 8 automatically adjust the placement of my tiles depending on usage. The only thing I've seen with tile placement is that it throws any new tiles all the way to the right of the start screen so you have to drag those requested tiles all the way back to the left sometimes...though it is easier to pull them down to the bottom of the screen...triggering the semantic zoon (zoom's out) and then drag left and release which automatically zooms back in.

khiatt
khiatt

If you prefer keyboard shortcuts, the Windows key will open the Start Screen, the same as it has opened the Start Menu since I first found it on the keyboard of a new Win95 machine. The CTRL-ESC combo works too. Don't get me wrong, I'm with you on the uselessness of live tiles in a working environment. For example, the Email tile ties to a Windows Live login, basically a Hotmail account, not my Exchange server account. I've got 75 users in my corporate environment. Am I supposed to give them all Hotmail accounts? That's just stupid. In experimenting with different setups, I find the best option is to remove all the live tiles, they're useless.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

I was going to make the same points, but you have done it well. Every interface change since 3.0 was an improvement (even Vista/7). In addition, "Metro" is ugly.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

would LOVE the surface, but I can't afford the rates that wireless broadband service providers charge around here, something that happens in most countries outside the USA, the wireless Internet is about four times dearer than adsl Internet and not yet as fast as adsl. So I do all my browsing at home. I use a 23 inch monitor to do all my image manipulation work and write all my stories as I can have two whole pages of the book open side by side and also have some note or the browser with research off to the side too. Can't do any of that on tablet. Most enterprise situation will also need 20 inch or bigger monitors, so the tablets aren't all that useful in the enterprise, except to the sales staff and the senior staff who have nearly all their work on documents typed up by others after they dictate them - such people only need a calendar and a webmail checker, and that's about it.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

My son has an XBox. I've seen it occasionally (had to fix the networking on it a couple of times when our router lost its mind). Haven't seen the other things either. I don't have a SmartPhone as I don't want to pay the cost for the data plans. I do have a semi-smart phone. It has Web capability if I want to use it (I don't). Media Center is proto-Metro and I've used that a few times. For watching movies on the PC, it seems to work OK, but the titles don't seem to be in any kind of order and it hasn't bothered me enough to check and see if that can be changed. I thought DE's comment was humorous.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

haven't seen a W7 Phone, haven't seen an XBox, haven't seen a Zune (who has?). Other than those with XBox experience, I doubt there are many users with proto-Metro experience.