Windows 8 optimize

Get the true story behind Windows 8

Greg Shultz wants you to read and watch what he believes is one of the best explanations of how the Windows 8 operating system was developed.

Like many Windows professional out there I followed the Building Windows 8 blog religiously during the last year of the development cycle and learned a lot from the often lengthy blog posts. In fact, since I began using Windows 8 RTM, I often go back to reread some of the posts and usually come away with a new or better understanding of something in the operating system. There's lots of valuable information in those blog posts.

While it might sound a bit odd to say that I have a favorite blog post, I do. It's titled Creating the Windows 8 user experience and written by Jensen Harris, Director of Program Management for the User Experience team. This well written post represents one of the best generalized explanations of how the Microsoft team developed the Windows 8 operating system.

How it came to be

The post begins by going all the way back to Windows 1 and recounts the significant points in the evolution of the Windows user interface all the way up to Windows 7. It then moves on to tell you that the Microsoft team began planning the Windows 8 user experience in mid-2009 - before the introduction of the iPad. During this planning phase the team began paying attention to some of the trends in computing and the article goes on to describe how those trends influenced the team's ideas about the design of Windows 8.

From there, the article moves on to describe in great detail the goals for the Windows 8 user experience. Along the way, we learn about the incorporation of touch into the operating system as an input method. We also see serious consideration given to the desktop and the keyboard and mouse experience.

I've read this very lengthy post several times and only very briefly summarize it here because there is just too much valuable information in the text to do it justice otherwise - you just have to read the entire post for yourself. In fact, I challenge everyone to do so. Whether you are a Windows 8 enthusiast or a Windows 8 naysayer, you really must read this post in its entirety.

In addition to reading this post, I highly recommend that you watch a video of a speech by Jensen Harris at the UX Week 2012 conference in San Francisco in August titled The Story of Windows 8. In it Harris covers many of the concepts from the blog post, but with a more generalized and entertaining angle.

Challenge

On second thought, maybe it would be better if you watched the video first. Then, when you read the Creating the Windows 8 user experience blog post, you'll have a better sense of who Jensen Harris is and will be able to better appreciate the information presented in the post. Again, whether you are a Windows 8 enthusiast or a Windows 8 naysayer, I challenge you to watch video and read the post.

Once you do, if you have comments or information to share about the story behind Windows 8, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

Also read:

About

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.

307 comments
SundayBiker
SundayBiker

I think that we see this wrong. Win 8 RT is for the tablet experience and full Win8 is designed for the touch screen laptop/tablets. Period, no one said we should all upgrade to Win 8 in the work environment. We are used to have the new Windows version for work, but this one is for home, as are the other tablets that are super popular now. It works great on my Ideapad Yoga 13, as soon as I got all my shortcuts in the Start menu, including my websites "favorites" and apps I love to use it as a tablet. When I need the mouse to actually work on Word or Excel I flip it over and I have a laptop. This is for personal use and I can see some use for work too, but I wouldn't put Windows 8 on my work desktop, WIn 7 works just fine

tomi01
tomi01

they have been drinking way too much Kool-Aid.

tomi01
tomi01

And I realize that they have completely lost their minds... A result of spending too much time in their "walled garden" no doubt. What world are they living in? A mobile phone and tablet perhaps but certainly not a power house PC ...

tomi01
tomi01

I have to force myself to watch this video and the worst situation is that I have to support and repair this system. It really does make me sick with disgust at what kind of problems and compromises have been forced onto the public because of their power and stupid stupid decisions. It really makes me angry to have to support these system designs that have given very little for what they take in expended time and effort etc....

tomi01
tomi01

We have been watching this movie for a long time.. no explanation necessary. Just people making stupid decisions who are allowed to reach pinnacles of power where the peter principle prevails. Had they considered the real world in any of this, Microsoft would not be in this mess. And indeed it is a mess they have cooked for themselves and everyone else in the world who needs to use a good basic OS like XP without the nonsense, bells, whistles and BS that has prevailed since in their subsequent OS designs. But Windows 8 is their death ticket if they take this path without a change of their own operations and decisions.

inet32
inet32

Both Google (Android) and Apple (IOS) had the good sense to use the same OS for phones and tablets. I don't understand why Microsoft chose separate Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 OSes. Add this to the confusion that already exists among consumers (and even some Microsoft staffers according to interviews by CNET) between Windows 8 and Windows RT and I think Microsoft has created some major obstacles for themselves with having such a confusing line of OSes. A few days ago Samsung announced they decided NOT to release a Windows RT product in the US because of the costs of educating consumers, due to all the confusion Microsoft has created.

cowan12
cowan12

Exercise to try and convince people it all makes sense. However, the section on Windows 8 makes it clear that Win 8 is aimed solely at the mobile user personal entertainment market and totally ignores the real needs of business, the enterprise, and workplace productivity except where they can make it seem to fit in. That all makes sense for the smartphones and tablets, but is a major slap in the face for enterprise and those after an OS for productivity, and also for those who want to have something they're familiar with to use at home. If they'd left the Win Classic desktop and start as an available option they'd have ha d a winner, but what they've done is make life way too hard for too many users.

dogknees
dogknees

The main problem I had with those blogs was that the MS people writing them make claims about Windows 7 that are simply not true. Case in point, it's mentioned in a number of them that you cannot change the number of pinned items Start shows in Win7, but it's right there in the configuration dialog so you can change it. This limit is then used to justify the start screen. I did generally enjoy the articles but there are a few of these "errors" in them which destroys their validity somewhat.

keswick.chow
keswick.chow

While it is excellent to added new user interface into the new OS, I thought OS suppose to provide facilities and services to end users and not limit users with policies. There is no justisfication in taking away the whole Desktop/Start button interface and leave users with no choices.

Sunny Puddle
Sunny Puddle

I wanted to like it - thinking I would learn something - could not get past 15 minutes of bull. He conveniently retells history and exaggerates unnecessarily to make a point. Don't waste your time watching this.

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

A bad idea. Not only does the GUI suck, but all sorts of passive content pay per view junk is also jammed in as well. Poison always works better if it has a candy coating. Add that to the fondle and sniff user controls and you get a really bad mix.

Rembrandt1
Rembrandt1

I've noticed in the last couple of months MS puffing up the Win8 UI in various organs and media. They appear to have called in favors all over to get pieces in respected IT journals and blogs both on how much more wonderful Windows 8 is and, more telling, all the things you can do to make it more like 'classic' windows. The change management people at MS were obviously sent on sabbatical for a year or more. No supposedly professional software vendor would ever throw something so radically different at their customers and expect to see another year ouside of chapter 11. I've watched and listened to Mr Harris's presentation and I am still completely underwelmed. Windows 8 is a toy, for children, it is complete rubbish and the sooner MS put their hand up and acknowledge, and more importantly fix their mistake, the sooner we can look forward to using future versions of what I consider the best business OS, with assurance.

mheartwood
mheartwood

Like most geeks, I have too many computers. But there are 3 that I use the most. There is the desktop that I am writing this comment from. It is running Windows 7 because the Windows 8 UI with KVM, while it technically works, is clunky. Win8 is designed for touch and I don't have a touch screen. And even if I did have a touch screen, my arms are not long enough to touch my screen. The other one is my android phone. Clearly touch. But the third is my multi-media PC which is connected to my projection system. I interact with the system through a remote control (although I hope for a Kinect in the future). Windows 8 can work on it, all right, but again, it's clunky. The point I am trying to make is that different use-cases require different UIs. One size does not fit all.

Null4Ever
Null4Ever

Windows 8 will definitly be a successful OS... on moble hardware... as long as Apple will not release an x86-64 version of his own IOS! Then, Windows will DIE! However, did you even try Windows 8 on a "non touch" desktop/laptop (even a small factory one)? To be polite: It's just a pain in the neck! Just my two cents (and I'm far to be an Apple boy- just too costly for me).

phpdevelopment
phpdevelopment

Thanks for giving information about how the Windows 8 operating system was developed.Windows 8 represents the biggest change to Microsoft’s operating system. CS Cart Development

cybershooters
cybershooters

Fatal flaw in their logic is the comment about people carrying tablets and laptops around together and wanting one device that could do both. Hence you need a desktop environment and the tile environment and that is where they fell off the horse, because that mishmash is why people hate it, because it does neither well. What they should have done is had some sort of setting that could lock it into desktop mode with a traditional start menu for people who aren't into tablets. And Windows RT is an even bigger joke, because the desktop mode is largely useless, they should have just not had it in the RT version.

jelabarre
jelabarre

The standard excuse of "if you don't like Win8, just keep using Win7" doesn't work if you're supporting machines that never left Win XP. My brother's computer (Pentium M processor) can't even ***RUN*** Win8, and MS has decided you can't buy Win7. Fine by me: When XP support goes away, my brother will just have to move to Linux.

jelabarre
jelabarre

I thought the designers had popped some LSD before designing Win8, and in their drug-induced state of mind really believed they were designing something clever.

sinis60
sinis60

Microsoft did a great job of making a mobile OS. It looks nice and works well on any multi-touch device. Metro on the other hand is a piece of crap when it comes to desktop computing. It's terrible for multiple monitor support. All Microsoft needs to do to fix their screw up is enable the Start Menu and booting into the desktop as an option. Microsoft needs to allow users to transition from Windows XP/7 to 8 and not force 8 on the user. I have yet to meet a power user that has anything good to say about the Metro UI and it's these power users that make the decisions on what OS the company operates on. The story of Microsoft trying to make their product sound like a gift to end users reminds me of Jay Wilson at Blizzard explaining that Diablo 3 is fun because he, not the gaming community, knows what fun is. Microsoft you targeted a niche and will do well with that niche market, but your decision to abandon the desktop was a big mistake. Anyone else feel like their IQ drops drastically when you use Metro?

Slayer_
Slayer_

Like the blue flash, big deal, yeah it looks bad, but whats worse is trying to do something simple like change the display brightness for the tablet. That requires you to go to the desktop, control panel, and power settings. Something like that is a huge failing grade. Or how about how the RT version is running a full windows system, that just has a whitelist of applications that can run in the desktop. The full version just removes the whitelist, and charges twice as much money for it. But no, they were more worried about the kerning in the Start font, so they added a custom font for that. But wait, don't fonts slow down Windows. They should have just used a vector image. And why can't the start menu search differentiate between metro and non metro items? DPI settings, printers, you have to guess which to click, one takes you to the right place, and the other to a useless Metro location. Did they even consider what people use desktops for? Probably not facebook. Why on earth would I want tiles that update from facebook, or show current bing searches. If they wanted tiles to be useful, make it so win32 apps can update tiles. Then devs could use them in legacy programs more easily.

kplesz
kplesz

Jensen said the reason Word usurped Word Perfect was because of a better experience. That's not how I recall it. The organization I worked in at the time (60,000+) was using Word Perfect and only switched because Microsoft offered the next version of Windows for free if we agreed to switch to MS Office. Most users grieved the loss of Word Perfect as it was a much better application (reveal codes anyone?). So sad to say, Microsoft doesn't always win on innovation, they win with shrewd business practises.

bmphill
bmphill

I too have to agree with Earnest. If they had added Metro as an optional primary interface and not broken the desktop, I'd be wildly enthusiastic about Win8. As it is, I'm still quite thrilled with some of the technical improvements.... But that means nothing since the UI is more of a hinderance than a help. IMHO, Win8 comes across as MS going into a blind mans house and not just replacing all his furniture with new, slightly different and occasionally better furniture, but then rearranging it too. I thought about this for a while. It seems like there are 3 ways to interact with your system... Mainly Mousing, Mainly Keyboard, and Mainly Touch. It seems that in the rush to push Touch on everyone/everything, they lost sight of the other two. This is not a big deal for those who fall into the Mainly Keyboard category. If anything, they seem to have added to the capability of getting around with the keyboard. Then again, this may just be the higher visibility that keyboard commands have, as I see them used a lot as workarounds or 'answers' to navigation issues in Win8. Those of us who Mainly Mouse though... We seem to be Microsoft's forgotten children. I'm assuming that those in this category are like me - Visualy oriented. If I want to do something, I want to see the option for it. Close a window? Look for the "x" and click it. Search for somthing? Click Start and type in the entry block. Configure the techy details on my system? Click Start, Click on Control Panels. It seems like most of my visual cues for what I can do have been removed and I'm now expected to remember a laundry list of keyboard commands or have the dexterity to get my pointer to the right place on the right corner for what I want to do... all whithout those visual cues to tell me which functions are hidden where. Now, don't get me started on why a single page PDF document MUST consume an entire 24" monitor's worth of real estate....

abegeman
abegeman

There is something wrong with this presentation. I understand the "Content is King" philosophy. But in business - all I want to do is access office and view my directories. The last thing i need is a million different tiles distracting my users from doing their work. Further -more, the deal breaker for me with the surface tablet is that it doesn't support Outlook. Even with the lack of support for a domain, Outlook would have been the clincher for my mobile staff. It strikes me all Microsoft have done is add an extra GUI that windows 8 boots into (yet another thing to crash?). I have experienced enough problems over the years just getting explorer.exe to boot on start-up. Never mind an extra GUI? So are they really innovating, or just copying Google and Apple. Show me some true innovation!

nrhudson
nrhudson

I can understand how Microsoft would like to develop a touch screen based operating system similar to what is on the tablet surface. I don't understand how they expect corporate environments to replace all their computers with touchscreen computers in order to functionally use the operating system to be productive. In order to recapture the corporate market, they will have to remove the touchscreen component and provide a usable GUI as I am sure that corporations are not going to go out and replace all their computers with new touchscreens. They should rebrand the OS, Windows 8 Touch or something, leave Windows 7 support forever, or develop a new OS that will not include a touchscreen interface.

dswanson2609
dswanson2609

I have used many versions of Windows for 20 years before it was overhauled into a phone OS for power hungry devices. It used to be a very interesting, and significant product, it was actually a general purpose Operating System that supported many windows at the same time, and was useful for many general purpose computing tasks. Now when one of my friends or customers calls in desperation and says, "I just bought a new computer with Microsoft Window version 8, and I can't get it to do anything" I say, "Calm down, that is normal, neither can anyone else, bring it back to the store"

kuesco
kuesco

I really welcome every attempt of Microsoft to cope in every market they can, but why, WHY they don??t have made that stupid metro interface an optional item? Maybe Microsoft must learn from the automotive industry, if something works well don??t change it. For sure today we can build cars with joysticks and touch sensitive brakes on a screen, but cars still have wheels and gear shifts and pedals just because is what we expect when we drive a car (and i know that some concepts have joysticks and stripes and so on but how many of them have you seen in the streets?). So Microsoft has dumped the wheel, ther gear shift and pedals and replaced all with a "concept user interface" that suits well only to certain devices, and forget the huge quantity of us that works in front of desktops or notebooks. And because human fingers are not stylus or 3 pixel width sticks, you can say goobye to precision, not to mention the fact that i don??t like my finger messing over my screen and my own arm hiding what i am doing over a 23" vertically shaped LED screen. Is excellent for tablets, is excellent for phones, is crap for PCs. Please, do not get my wrong, i love tablets and i love smartphones and i use them everyday, and i love the idea of one unified OS behind all these devices, but i also believe that one user interface can??t cope with all the situations, so let??s give the user the choice. Give us back that desktop!!

jruble
jruble

Even if you take Windows 8 out of his talk. The "message" itself makes it worth watching. Excellent principles.

lk_bellsouth.net
lk_bellsouth.net

SundayBiker, I believe that you have summed it up nicely. Windows 8 is for the mobile & tablet users. I'm confident that if one was forced to use it in a corporate production environment then it could be done. However, the pain & suffering on multiple levels would be present, without doubt. While Windows 8 might translate into success for the SOHO users, it will not convert to financial well-being for Microsoft in the corporate arena and that is where they make their money. Let's face it, Microsoft has made a mistake. They have stopped listening to the people that put them at the pinnacle of success for many, many years. They have, IMO, ceased to be innovators and have basically become instead re-sellers in a sense by trying to emulate Apple's every move. A sad commentary to make about what used to be the greatest computer software company in the world. I'm glad that Windows 8 and Windows 7 both work for you. I believe that, all said and done, many users will find this combination works for them also. Hope you have a good one!

JJFitz
JJFitz

However, if you give Windows 8 a try, you may end up asking yourself why you thought you needed it.

JJFitz
JJFitz

If you don't like them, hide them. If you want access to them but you don't want the tiles to keep changing, disable the live updates.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We've hacked this around repeatedly. Yes, you can buy W7, both pre-installed or as a standalone software package. However, you have to work a bit to find it.

jelabarre
jelabarre

> Anyone else feel like their IQ drops drastically when you use Metro? I usually feel my IQ drops drastically when I use MSWindows in general, but I'm stuck with supporting it on various systems.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

MS word for about a third of what you could buy Word Perfect in the early years, and that's what got it into a lot of places here.

JJFitz
JJFitz

1: [i]"If they had added Metro as an optional primary interface and not broken the desktop, I'd be wildly enthusiastic about Win8."[/i] There are 3rd parties that can help you with that if you don't want to press the enter key to get to the desktop. 2: [i]"Win8 comes across as MS going into a blind mans house and not just replacing all his furniture with new, slightly different and occasionally better furniture, but then rearranging it too."[/i] To me it seems like MS rearranged the foyer of a blind man's house. If you take one step, you are out of the foyer and all of the 98% of the furniture in the rest of the rooms are untouched. 3: [i]"It seems like there are 3 ways to interact with your system... Mainly Mousing, Mainly Keyboard, and Mainly Touch. It seems that in the rush to push Touch on everyone/everything, they lost sight of the other two. "[/i] I have to strongly disagree with this one. The mouse and the keyboard are even more useful. They are actually making more use of the scroll wheel and the Windows key. Plus, search only requires the keyboard. The dialog box is not used. This makes search faster. 4: [i]"Close a window? Look for the "x" and click it." [/i] That is still there on the desktop. If you read about how the apps work, you will understand that you do not need to close them - but you can. Go to the upper left corner and hover, the apps you had open will appear. Right click them to close them. 5: [i]"Click Start, Click on Control Panels." [/i] Right click in the lower left corner (where the start button used to be) and choose Control Panel. Or type "contr" + enter on the start screen. 6: [i]"Now, don't get me started on why a single page PDF document MUST consume an entire 24" monitor's worth of real estate..."[/i] Yes, the PDF viewer [u]app[/u] can take up the entire screen. It can also share the space with another app. But that's an [i]app[/i] - not a desktop program. That should be expected. If you need more functionality, use the PDF reader [i]program[/i] on the desktop and work within a window the same as you can with Windows XP, Vista, and 7.

Davinder Sangha
Davinder Sangha

@nrhudson Agreed. I genuinely enjoy Windows 8 and 8.1 having come back to Windows from OS X for a number of years. But can you imagine Adobe Illustrator in Metro format? It just can't happen. Metro apps are just dumbed down versions of bigger apps. Using eBay, for example, is much nicer in Metro, but in reality, when I want some detailed info, I just go to an Internet browser.

I also use RT on a Dell XPS 10, and that's where the apps come in.  However, can you imagine iOS apps working on OS X. Handy, but you're more likely to use the full blown app, or website.

JJFitz
JJFitz

You will find that you do not need it at all. The blog and the video say that as well.

JJFitz
JJFitz

Yes, the metro tile, modern style, start screen (whatever you want to call it) looks like the tiles on the windows phone and there is some integration between apps. I must confess that I have little experience with the windows phone. I have used one in a store so correct me if I am wrong. Is there a desktop on the windows phone? It seems to me that it would be quite awkward to use it. Can I install Office 2010 on a windows phone? I doubt it. So aside from the start screen, how do you justify your claim that Windows 8 is a "phone OS"?

jelabarre
jelabarre

> However, if you give Windows 8 a try, you may end up asking > yourself why you thought you needed it. You mean asking yourself why you thought you needed Win8??? Yeah, I could see that being the case...

JJFitz
JJFitz

go to Amazon.com Type "Windows 7" in the search box. Enjoy

JJFitz
JJFitz

Reading comprehension: unsatisfactory I gave you both a + though. :)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

that's exactly the question I reached, not the one JJ intended; at least for this year.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

That's right next to 'The Tape Shop', across from 'Stapler World', right?

JJFitz
JJFitz

It's right across the way from the Apple store. Unlike the Apple store, it's very chaotic. Most customers walk out of the Linux store empty handed because their "geniuses" can't agree with eachother on which distro you should use. 1. Amazon ships physical installation disks of Windows 7. 2. You can purchase Windows 7 online at Best Buy and ship it to the nearest store if you like the physical store experience. Don't be surprised if the Best Buy clerk looks a bit puzzled at you. Neither of us see the point.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

You don't want use an online store to buy Windows 7, the product you apparently prefer. Didn't you have to use an online download site to get your Linux installation media, and an online repository to get applications? I find that ironic, bordering on hypocritical.

jelabarre
jelabarre

I still buy my products in physical stores. So no, no one has it anymore. Next excuse? Like I said, I think I'll be spending the next year setting up a migration to Linux for my brother (I've already been on Linux since before XP came out).

Slayer_
Slayer_

It's the middle people that are frustrated I think.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Windows 8 is the same as DOS. Both I end up having to google to figure out how to use. Both end up with tons of workarounds.