Microsoft Talks Ribbon, Metro UI in Windows 8
Since the beginning of last month, Microsoft started pushing out blog posts over on the Building Windows 8 blog.
This is more or less a repeat of the marketing efforts when the company was about to release the Windows 7 operating system which it did in 2009.
The long articles sometimes offer interesting insight into the decision making process, and more often than not into changes, improvements and new features that will make their way into the next version of the Windows operating system.
Up until now Microsoft has revealed that it plans to improve the file management functionality of the operating system, improve Windows Explorer with a new ribbon user interface, add ISO and VHD mounting and switch to a new Metro style desktop interface.
Especially the ribbon interface of Windows Explorer and the Metro UI have received criticism both in the form of comments on the official blog but also on Twitter and third party sites that reported about the changes.
Steven Sinofsky acknowledges that Microsoft knew that those two topics would receive criticism, especially from readers of the blog and followers on Twitter, but he stated as well that criticism would not come so much from average users.
When you look at the comment count, you will notice that the Windows Explorer announcement post received more than 1100 comments, which is double the size of the article with the second largest amount of comments.
The post addresses the criticism without going into much detail.
Without repeating the first post, I would add that we do believe we have taken into account many of the criticisms we were certain would surface. We chose the ribbon mechanism, and to those that find that a flawed choice, there isn’t much we can do other than disagree.
It is obviously difficulty to argue about new user interfaces but simply stating that Microsoft disagrees with the critics is not going to help "sell" the new interface. It is clear however that Microsoft is intent to go forward with the change, even though Mr. Sinofsky mentioned that Microsoft continues to refine the commands, settings and graphics.
One thing is sure though, Windows Explorer will ship with a ribbon interface.
Metro style, which has not received quite as many comments, will have a much bigger impact than Windows Explorer. Users will boot into Metro style, and it is not clear yet if they can opt-out of it to load the standard desktop right instead on Windows start.
Users who do not want to use Windows Explorer can download and install file management tool alternatives. With Metro UI, that does not seem to be possible.
Metro for Microsoft is a "reimagining of Windows". A phrase that is used several times on the blog. It is not as simply as saying that Metro is the successor of Windows Aero, as it appears to be more than that for Microsoft.
For Windows 8, Metro style means a new type of app—an app that learns from and improves upon the current (and most popular) platform.
Microsoft is "fairly certain" that users will warm up to Metro once they are able to use it.
That diversity allows us to say with confidence that going from Metro style to the desktop will be harmonious—as harmonious as switching apps or sites is today. It will take orchestration at the top level to make moving seamless—that’s why you see things like switching between apps, snapping apps, or even using ALT+TAB between apps, and the desktop itself, all mechanisms that just work.
You can see Metro in action here:
What Microsoft fails to address, and likely for a reason, is how Metro and the standard desktop operations will play together on a day to day basis.
While it seems possible to add program shortcuts, and maybe even files or folders to one of the Metro widgets on the screen, it looks as if it is more complicated to access folders and files that are not.
How fast can you access programs that are not linked directly, and is that approach faster than using the standard start menu? How well do windows integrate into Metro? If I open a window, will it be shown in front of Metro? Will I use Alt-Tab to switch between windows? Without a taskbar visible, that seems to be one of the options remaining.
Many questions are left unanswered at this point in development. We might get some answers from the Build conference later this month, as Microsoft intents to reveal a lot about Windows 8 there.
I personally do not think it is all as bad as some users paint it. I only do hope that Microsoft adds the right level of customization to the operating system to please all kinds of users.Advertisement