Windows

User Interface Transition from Windows XP to Windows 7

38 comments
cquirke
cquirke

Scrolling is to user performance, what paging to disk is to system performance. Or to look at it another way; screen area is to user performance what RAM is to system performance, i.e. one of the most significant resources. So, does Windows 7 manage screen space effectively? Or are there still lots of space-wasting big dummy graphics, tiny areas for unbounded content surrounded by large areas of static "UI grey", and the biggest curse of all - non-resizable dialogs containing unbounded material that doesn't fit within the allocated area? A good usability-performance metric would be the number of scroll operations, vs. the more common metric of number of mouse clicks. How does Windows 7 fare there?

cquirke
cquirke

I preferred Classic Start Menu in XP, but switched to the new one in Vista because it helps with the problem of "menu sprawl". I used Run a lot in XP, but haven't missed it in Vista, because I use the Search prompt in exactly the same way. I still launch Cmd for a lot of stuff (either via Run or Search) that closes itself when done, so that I can see the results of what it did.

ladyjet
ladyjet

People hate change...it's human nature. You have to have some pretty great changes to make the die hard XP users to change. If it means that maybe, just maybe, Microsoft has de-bloated their software somewhat, I'd consider that a good change (and believe me, I AM NOT a MS monopoly fan), but until I try it and check things out, I won't know. Hence, I will be downloading Win 7 to check it out. I can always go back to XP if I want *Thank God for discs that come with new computers.*

fa023678
fa023678

It's nice to get newer/better os and interfaces!? For old times sakes users please, please give also the choice for a classic interface. Keep track every 2 years for every new interface is at least a big effort if one has to assist. And please try to have the same structural menu.

mgauley
mgauley

Using search to run programs is way easier than the run command box.

DHCDBD
DHCDBD

a bunch of hens picking at the yard trying to find a seed. I have not seen one person of you supposed experts examine or consider some of the more important aspects and needs, such as how big of a memory footprint does the beta require, how much HD space is required for a basic install, what is the network performance, what is the minimum specs required to run the OS, etc. So let me answer a few of those issues. The basic install plus Avast home AV requires 7.5 gigs. Compare this to XP's 1.5 gigs with current updates and Vista's 15 gigs. The memory footprint of the system I have running in a VM is 383 Mbytes, about the same as XP, and less than half of Vista; about the same as my Linux host. What about performance. Tough one because of the VM. However, the beta is far more responsive than XP in VMWare. I have the ram set down to allow 1 gig to the OS and am allowing 1.1 Ghz to be fed to the OS with a single core, the beta reports 914 mhz clock and a single core. I have not yet tested file transfer rates, nor network problems. Why don't you focus on the important stuff and not quibble that you don't like the GUI which is sufficiently close to Vista as to require a MINIMAL learning curve. Also bear in mind that I have had the beta installed < 24 hours and have done this basic testing.

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

Microsoft is like most big corporations. They have jobs for everything and to keep your job you have to justify its need. This is even more needful for "soft" science jobs like GUI design. Most if not all of the GUI work now for the OS is "make work" or real out there stuff of dubious value at least at Microsoft, the table top touch monitor comes to mind. Unless they come up with something to do (like a killer app) for this who wants to be waving their arms around like some idiot all day? The other fact is that Microsoft's long term goal is to keep all it's code on it's servers and rent it to us for use. When I worked there that was a major lament and now that the Internet is more than a idea it is possible. So they want the whole operating system to look and work like a web application. Once you know these facts, you can understand the mess made of the GUI by Microsoft for its systems, like the abortion used on Vista and Windows 7. The only really useful GUI-usability "stuff" is that being done on hand held stuff like the ipod.

thadb
thadb

This is one of Microsoft's larger problems. With every release they think they have to re-invent their entire interface. I think they would be better off to pay more attention to the underlying problems with their OS. I'm not a fanboy for any particular OS (as I use Mac OSX, Linux, and various versions of Windows depending on what I'm using it for), but I think that MS could learn something from Apple, as crazy as that sounds. One of the few things that Apple does right is that their UI is very consistent. I can go from the earliest version of OS X to the latest version and still find everything easily. The only major change that Apple ever put out was the switch to the OS X architecture. MS has also managed to do this with Office for the most part. Office 2007 was the first major change in the UI, and even though it's much maligned, I like the new ribbon interface. Yeah, it took a bit to get used to, but all in all it's pretty easy to use and makes a lot of sense. On Linux, KDE and Gnome have both managed to keep it fairly consistent, even with all the ridiculous changes between distros. MS has completely frustrated me with each new Windows release, however. It feels like they change things just for the sake of change rather than basing it on any real customer need. I almost get the feeling at times that they change the UI so drastically in an attempt to keep me from noticing all of the issues that they won't fix in OS functionality. My advice to MS is stop changing the interface and start fixing functionality. When you can put out a version of windows that doesn't require 15 Terabytes of Disk Space and 2 Terabytes of RAM, I'll have a very compelling reason to switch.

NetworkGuy55
NetworkGuy55

Please note that I am speaking as one who loved XP and fought using Vista for close to two years. I have to admit now that Vista's growing on me, even though XP is still a perfectly serviceable OS. If you really insist on having the Run function work similar to XP you can put it back on the main menu as noted above in the post "Re-Installing the xp Run to it`s original position." However, to my way of thinking, Vista (and I'm assuming the method carries over to Win7) makes the process much easier in the default setup. To use this method, you simply click Vista's Start icon and at the bottom of the Start Menu is the "Start Search" textbox (apparently in Win7 it's called "Search Programs and Files"). Type your "run" command string (i.e. cmd, or \\server\share) into the Start Search box and press , and voila it opens just as though you ran it from the Run box. In addition, the program is not required to be located in the search %PATH% to locate it and run it, since this method combines Run and Search into one function. With my old XP box, when I typed "putty" into the Run box I got: "Windows cannot find 'putty'. Make sure you typed the name correctly, and then try again. To search for a file, click the Start button, then click Search." With the newer OS, there is none of that when you use the Start Search textbox to run your command. When I type "putty" it starts my Putty app even though it is not in the search path. This is because the text box is tied to Windows Search which indexes the entire hard drive. I know people (including me) used to turn off Indexing to save PC horsepower, but since the system requirements for Vista are higher anyway, it you have the horsepower for the OS, you have the horsepower to run indexing. Also, you don't necessarily need to know the executable's name. When I type "VMWare" into the Search box (client executable is "vpxclient.exe") I get a categorized list, updated in real-time, of everything on my PC with the word "VMWare" in it, and Programs are at the top of the list. I get VMWare Converter, VMWare Infrastructure Client, and VMWare Server Console, and single click opens the app. The same listing includes recently viewed websites, files, and emails that contain the word "VMWare", categorized in that order. By the way, if you like, you can install a similar real-time PC search function that appears on your XP taskbar. More information is available from Microsoft at: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/desktopsearch/choose/windowssearch4.mspx Note, however, that in XP, Windows Search does not have the Run function combined with it, and the search results are not as conveniently sorted as they are with Vista. In any event, in evaluating the Run function, I believe Vista is better than XP.

RFPaul
RFPaul

When I change,it will not be the next Windows disaster. If I have to change, Linux or Mac will do the job! Paul

kjmartin
kjmartin

We have become a nation of whiners. --Phil Gramm

Nsaf
Nsaf

Get with the program you old thinker..technology is all about changes.

jpowers
jpowers

If you really like the Run command handy on the start menu (and I do), right-click, properties, customize button, check the Run Command box. There it is.

lastchip
lastchip

If you're so unimpressed, stay with what you've got or, if you really feel you have to learn a new system, change to Linux and get out of the Microsoft churn wheel altogether. I have and I haven't regretted it at all. I would have thought it would be very clear by now, these interface changes are Microsofts justification for squeezing more money from you. Ultimately, that's what it's all about.

barry.gray
barry.gray

Can't say that it looks that bad to me - with the exception of the shut down button it looks clean and usable. Sure it's different and will require people to re-learn how to use a Windows pc. But isn't that what we expect of OUR users when we make changes?

guy
guy

Yup, if it works don't fix it. Microsoft should make XP more secure (if they really have to) but leave the interface alone.

mwberg3
mwberg3

Maybe it is time to go to Macintosh. Microsoft still has to learn that if it is not broken - do not try and fix it.

songhurst
songhurst

From the look of Windows 7 I will not be "upgrading" to that anymore than to Vista. Next OS must be Linux. PS we are not all "cozy" with "My ...." - never use them - there for idiots only. Personal documents etc should not even be on the same drive as the OS. I've kept them on separate drives ever since the good old days of DOS.

blackepyon01
blackepyon01

Yes, Microsoft, please give us a "clasic mode" option, cause some of us work better that way (productivity and system performance wise).

nwilt
nwilt

I have never heard such a bunch of whingers and whiners. OK, so different operating systems suit different people, like people have different taste in clothes etc, etc. Pick the OS that suits you and leave it at that. Then again, I guess some of you have so much time on your hands that while you are whining about OS's you are leaving some other poor sod alone !!

blackepyon01
blackepyon01

Unless technology on your end becomes about money (or lack thereof), then it is NOT about change, but rather "not changing it if we can avoid it, cause it costs too much".

naebeth
naebeth

what is wrong, is that his opinions are coming through so strong in this article. i've been subscribed to this website for a while now, and pretty much everything i've seen has been factual. even the more "fun" stuff has still been primarily written as facts. if TR is going to start posting articles like this more often, at least get 3 or 4 people to do the same article to get rid of this one-sidedness which is going to discourage less savvy users straight off.

rick
rick

Obviously Jason has a disdain for change and is easily confused. By the way, XP SP2 out of the box also did not create My Docs, IE, or My Computer by default on the desktop. It takes 8 clicks to add them.

TechRepublic
TechRepublic

I agree. It took a while to convince me to move to XP (like SP2). Once the bugs were worked out it has been solid and finally I had an application that would not run on Windows 98se. Even though XP was a big performance hit over 98 it fixed and improved so much else that I appreciated it. So far Vista and now W7 have not shown significant improvements in any category to over come the performance hit (my test show Vista to be 40% slower on the same computer opposed to XP?s 20% back in the day). I'm afraid that if Microsoft don't fix the GUI by simplifying it better than XP when the time comes that the non-XP supporting app comes along and it exists for Linux, MS will not only force me out of XP but out of MS as well. Don't even get me started on 'activation' support. What is the divergence? Linux is becoming more and more the power user's choice and Microsoft products are becoming more and more "Windows for Dummies".

mckinnej
mckinnej

People don't seem to understand the quandary MS is in. What happens to a company that builds the perfect product that never breaks, never wears out, and never needs replacing? They go out of business because once they hit market saturation, their sales drop to zero. Now, since perfection isn't something we encounter in the real world, MS is actually faced with a much lower bar called "Good Enough". XP isn't perfect by anyone's standards, but it's Good Enough for the majority, probably even the vast majority. What this means is MS is facing an uphill battle against its own users who have no compelling reason to change and most assuredly do want to pay (a lot) for a change with no tangible benefits. The result? XP will be around for a long, long time. It will only fade away as newer applications (most likely games) are made to run only on its successors (think DX10). While MS is certainly going to try and make this period as short as possible, it could easily drag on for a decade or more. I for one have no upgrade plans in the foreseeable future. It's not that I hate Vista/Win 7, it's just that I have no reason/desire to change.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

"Can't say that it looks that bad to me - with the exception of the shut down button it looks clean and usable." True enough. No argument. "Sure it's different and will require people to re-learn how to use a Windows pc. But isn't that what we expect of OUR users when we make changes?" Here is the real issue. In my line of work we install and program DDC devices (Direct Digital Controls) that control assorted mechanical, electrical, and electronic equipment found in commercial, industrial, and large institutional buildings. Everything from the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment; to lighting; to fire and safety equipment; video surveillance, door access control, etc. Now, these controllers are standalone devices, dedicated purpose computers in a black box so to speak. However, they are connected together by a data network so they can share information as needed. And so that they can provide info to a "front end" computer so operators can modify operating parameters, issue override commands, and so that data can be collected, archived, and/or analyzed. For instance, energy usage and consumption reports can be generated. In any event, part of our job and task is to program those "front ends". They are GUI screens that present data and system controls. For a large building, there may be hundreds of different screens. Each representing some logical function or grouping of data and associated controls for a particular part of the overall system. Now, as far as what is "under the hood", the underlying programs that make this system work ... our customers could hardly care less. If we need to upgrade the "under the hood" stuff, make programming changes, and so forth we are free to do that all we wish or need to do in order to make the system work better, add a feature, and so forth. But ..... If we need to make changes to the GUI screens of that front end, we have to do so cautiously, prudently, and in a logical manner so that there is overall consistency in the way the scheme worked before. As much as is humanly possible to achieve. Why? Because our customers are USERS of the system. Not computer geeks. Not bored people who like a new look all the time. Or who are entertained by trying to figure out the new way to do something, find something, etc which has changed from the way it was done before. They are especially unhappy at the prospects of an employee(s) having to be retrained, or having to retrain self, to do something he or she knew how to do efficiently and in the least amount of time previously. So to keep OUR customers happy ... we make changes to that user interface (those GUI screens) as seldom as possible. And when we do make a change, as in its unavoidable, the change is consistent with the general way we did things before. Logical groupings of functions are done the same way, naming conventions remain the same, where we put things like navigation buttons are the same, icons are the same, etc in all possible cases. Even the colors used for various screen elements and components remain unchanged. Those were carefully considered in the first place. Selections made based upon such factors as easy viewing, easy to pick out this or that most important piece of data, colors and color scheme look consistent on a variety of different system with varying video cards and types of monitors, etc. To make major changes to the look and feel, or to the layout of things (i.e. What and where do I click to find THIS data or control or to navigate from this screen to that) we have to justify to our customers. And we have to justify it WELL. Better have a good, darned excuse. Because they're not gonna like it. I can guarantee it. Been in this business for years. USERS, especially business users ... as versus computer geeks and technical types ... just want to USE the system. If before they could just click here and then there and whatever they wanted to happen took place that's pretty much how they prefer things to remain. In MOST instances. As long as the sequence was logical and convenient to start with. If some function was named "KickTheRat" before and they understood what that function did and was used for, that's what their eyes and brains seek out automatically when they need that function. Arbitrarily renaming the function "RoughUpTheRodent", and then putting that under a different menu or on a different screen/window, without some damned good reason for doing so isn't gonna make em happy. It just makes em spend more time trying to find that function they could find before without even thinking about it. Our customers prefer "automatic mode". That is, once that "front end" is learned, they know it. Can get done the things they need to do without even really consciously thinking about the interface. I.E. Where and what to click on? What does this button mean? Etc. They want to have their conscious minds on the work they need to get done ... not on trying to navigate through a newly re-designed interface. They're not on that computer for entertainment, or to be wowed by new, snazzy looking displays. Get my point? In most cases, we can introduce new features and functions without making the USER relearn all they knew before. The old remains as it was. The new is added in a way that it is either totally invisible as far as the USER is concerned. Or its added in a way that is logically consistent with the way things were done and laid out before. We do this whenever it is possible. And our customers LIKE it. Now, sometimes one does have to make major changes to the look and feel of a GUI interface, its unavoidable for some reason or reasons. If that is the case, customer will just have to do some relearning. If you can make a good case for it, they'll be understanding. Probably still won't like it, but can accept it if you can make a good case for the change. Do it TOO often ... or don't make a good argument for the major changes ... and you may lose a customer. At the very least, you've got a customer who isn't as happy with you as before. That's the way it is in my world. Some of what Microsoft faces is the same thing. USERS who knew how to do X, Y, and Z before ... on automatic mode without really thinking about it. Who still just want to do X, Y, and Z today ... but the new system requires them to relearn how to do exactly the same stuff they were doing before. And they see no significant benefit for THEMSELVES, in the things THEY wanted to do and regularly do, in the changes that were made. Let's face it, often changes in an OS or application are new features that the average user has no interest in using. Average person dislikes having to spend the time and effort to relearn something when there is no perceived benefit to that particular person. Businesses dislike it because it means that 95 percent of their employees have to spend whatever amount of NONPRODUCTIVE time relearning a system, whose new features will only benefit maybe 5% of its employees. Often its less than 5%. This can be a major out-of-pocket expense to a business, with no or little perceived ROI. Yeah, MS needs to make feature changes and improvements in Windows. But they need to carefully review the idea of repeatedly and frequently changing the user interface. Even when they can justify it ... they're still gonna piss some folks off. Given the number of Windows users ... SOME means millions of folks.

roybarras
roybarras

Calling us Microsoft users Idiots is not a good way to go through life.I have both Linux and Windows Vista. Both have there +'s and -'s.If the system your using works for you then be Happy and leave the name calling out of your comments.Explaining why one system over the other would be better is much more constructive then name calling.My personal choice will be Windows 7 when it is released.The pre-beta Builds I've been playing around with make me think Microsoft may finally be getting it right! Have a Good Day

DHCDBD
DHCDBD

that these experts who at some time will have to support XP, Vista, and W7, probably all concurrently, are too busy complaining about the GUI changes to examine under the hood - even a little. Other of these experts will at some point have to make a recommendation on which system best meets some persons or organizations needs best. Is this recommendation going to be made on whether they like the GUI or on the technical merits and liabilities. It is also a way of saying that the experts are nothing more than clerks if they do not investigate the systems they speak of. The ROI is another question; this one can not be answered until we see the final price.

dogknees
dogknees

In this industry change is a constant. It's not going to stop anytime soon, so trying to hide from it's pointless. If you don't keep learning and changing, you're a dinosaur and will go the way they went.

blackepyon01
blackepyon01

Yep, I mostly work with XP due to older hardware and other compatibilty issues. In some cases we are forced to go backwards to older OS' like win2k and 98 cause it did the job on an older machine for older app., thus there's no reason to change/upgrade the app., thus we still use the older out-of-date OS. The only way people would stop using XP any time soon is if Microsoft suddenly forced Windows XP not to work.

cjshelby
cjshelby

You made the case beautifully. People are pretty much sick and tired of having to figure out which button/icon to push. Like it's some kind of recreational activity....... NOT! I remember how many different ways there were to program a VCR, and PCs just increase the aggravation of non-technical folks ten-fold. I'm a Biomedical Equipment Technician myself, and I can also add this. Even trained, skilled Physicians and Nurses only really want 2 buttons. One to make the darned thing work, and a second to stop it.

Kyser Soze
Kyser Soze

Amen, brother! I have been singing this song since Vista came out. I do desktop managment for a school district and I wish I had a dollar for every time a user said "i don't care how it works, I just want to do my job!" I suggest that MS provide template to TOTALLY contol the GUI thorugh GPO's BEFORE they release a new desktop version. If I cannot control it, I don't want it!

NetworkGuy55
NetworkGuy55

Sometimes we IT types get so wrapped up in system tinkering that forget that the whole point of our work in the business world is productivity. Any system change that requires re-learning to do one's daily tasks cuts into that productivity. The reduced need for retraining as employees move from system to system is the whole reason that Windows supplanted DOS as the business desktop OS of choice. File/Print being in the same place as user moved from app to app, version to version, or even from employer to employer, reduced the cost to run a business. When Outlook 2007 moved Print functions to the "Ribbon" it cost businesses money, as employees went looking for how to print a document. Decision-makers dont care how cool it looks, or how fresh the interface is--it's all about ROI. As you said, there is a need for all system engineers to approach changes from a business standpoint and not simply create in the IT ivory tower and dispense.

cfbandit
cfbandit

That was one of the best comments I've ever read on TR - clean, concise and clear, without any bizareness or foolishness. Thanks. I 100% agree. One of our biggest problems at the business I work for (and part of the reason I have a job) is because of user interface issues. Our users click an icon in the same spot for 5+ years, and when it changes on them, they freak out. Even if its just been moved to the left by accident. They know that "this icon" does "this function" and its "always right here". A lot of the stuff pointed out in this article is never going to affect our users - its just going to annoy the tech people that have to change the system when a user says they "can't find this thingie where all their documents are stored and it used to always be in the upper left corner." Aside from the really annoying "shut down" button, nothing in here seems like it will be that hard for the techs to learn, but it will be different on users who haven't had Vista.

lastchip
lastchip

It sounds like you work for a company that understands their users. More power to you all!

NetworkGuy55
NetworkGuy55

Good post. In my situation, only about 10% of our employees are Gen-Yers. In our business it will be a while before people to whom computer technology seems as common as a toaster become the rule rather than the exception.

DHCDBD
DHCDBD

I can not argue with the merits of your arguments. They are both good and supply an insight I lack. All of the systems I mentioned I support. I do know that when I have to use an OS X system, I actually have to log onto a VM and walk myself through the process before I can explain it to someone else. Regarding the limited experience that exists for W7 and not having used Vista, nor any M$ product for close to a year on a regular basis, I can say that W7 at this point is close enough to Vista that I was slowed for a microsecond. Your ROI does involve training costs, but the kids today were raised with computers. Would it not be primarily the older workers that would need re-training. Would not the significant savings in hardware costs, if not reuse of old hardware, reduce the ROI. Believe me, I am not an M$ fanboy; I subscribe to the theory of using the OS that meets the need. If you don't know it, learn it. With my limited contact with W7 I can say that without a doubt the beta is better than Vista ever was, and that it is probably as good as XP is now; it is also closer to an RTM then it is a beta. I am not trying to sell it; I just want others to look at the technical merits, perhaps explore them. If they are like me, then I want them to shake the d@mned thing down for security. In this fashion, maybe we can make a reasoned determination as to the real merits that are overlooked when you focus on the layout of a GUI.

NetworkGuy55
NetworkGuy55

The price of the OS is pretty much irrelevant to the ROI question. I am the Sr. Systems Admin, plus I do virtually all the IT purchasing for our company, so I see both the operations and the financial side of IT, and I don't really care whether Win7 will retail for $99 or $199 or $599. The real cost of implementation is: --my time in creating the implementation plan, --systems personalization (in our operation there is no one-size-fits-all system image-one person needs MS Project, while another needs Acrobat, etc and we don't have enough users to justify centralized app rollout), --babysitting users through their inital contact with the machine, --the huge hit to productivity as users get used to a new menu layout, etc., and of course again, --my time answering user questions and checking out things that "don't work" when in fact they've just changed. The total productivity cost can literally run into thousands of dollars per user, depending upon how radical the user-experience change is. When I started, we had some users using Win95, some Win98, and some WinME, and users could pretty much bounce from machine to machine without too much getting used to the system. About five years ago I rolled out XP and as good as the OS is, it was a huge change that cost us dearly in productivity for a while. When I had to explain to some users what I meant when I said right-click, you can imagine the level of re-education that was necessary. I'm not saying never upgrade, I'm just saying the intangible costs are often overlooked when making implementation decisions.