Windows 8: Start Screen Not Final

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 5, 2011
Updated • Jun 25, 2018
Windows, Windows 8

If you had the chance to play around with the Windows 8 developer preview that Microsoft released publicly last month you may have noticed that it feels different from previous versions of the operating system in many regards.

This can be largely attributed to the new Metro start screen that pops up whenever you start the operating system on your computer; this new start screen is optimized heavily for touch based devices.

Users who use mouse and keyboard as their primary means of working on a computer have commented on and criticized the start screen. At the top of the complains list is the inability to disable Metro Start natively, missing scroll wheel support for the vertical scrollbar, the inability to close programs in Metro, and that it takes longer to load programs or files that are not regularly used.

Microsoft responded to some of the criticism in a long-winded blog post at the Building Windows 8 blog. The company dodged the question if it will be possible to turn off Metro to use the desktop exclusively.

Some user concerns were addressed on the other hand. Haitanya Sareen, Microsoft program manager lead of the Core Experience Evolved team, noted that users will be able to close applications in Metro, and that Microsoft is working on improving mouse support as well.

I do not want to paraphrase all that has been said in the article, but would like to address two issues that I consider most important. The first one is a paragraph that compares the touch debate to the mouse debate in the 1980s.

The debate around touch today is looking eerily like the debate in the 1980s over whether a mouse was a gimmick, a productivity time waster, or an innovation in the user experience. We say this knowing that many comments have been emphatic about the superiority of the mouse over touch. Unlike when the mouse was introduced—before desktop publishing programs came along there were few use cases for the mouse other than early paint programs—today we are surrounded by touch screens—at the airport, the gas station, the movie theater, every cash register, and of course, on our phones.

The one place touch has not yet become mainstream is on the most capable of all the devices you use. Just like the introduction of the mouse, innovations like this do not happen without new OS support, new apps, and new hardware. We believe that, as with the mouse, we will see touch augmenting, but not replacing, most every aspect of the PC experience over time. Achieving this starts with the Windows 8 Developer Preview. So with that, let’s start the dialog about how things will evolve, not just in the Windows core user experience, but in hardware and apps as well.

The issue that I have with this approach is that most desktop users do not have touch, and won't for a long time. I do not have statistics on average times a monitor is used in a desktop or business environment, but it is likely that it is a long time.

While it is fine and dandy that users find touch based devices almost everywhere, they do not find them where it matters most: their workplace.

Another aspect that seems to get overlooked is that it is obviously easier to buy additional peripherals, say a mouse, than a new monitor. Not only is the former a lot cheaper (I do not have figures for the early 80s though), but it is also completely opt-in. If you do not want to work with a mouse, you do not have to but it will make things more difficult.

You cannot say the same about a touch monitor on the other hand. The bulk of desktop systems have monitors without touch capabilities and even if those would be added, it seems unlikely that many users would make use of touch as it would mean having to extend the arm to touch the monitor that is in front of the user and not on the lap or desk.

The second issue I have is about something that Microsoft did not address, but that many users would like to know. Will Windows 8 have a feature to disable, turn off or bypass Metro Start? Considering that Microsoft did not mention it completely, my initial reaction is that it won't. Chaitanya even mentions the question in the second paragraph of the post, but fails to provide an answer for that.

Lets take a look at some of the - many - user comments that followed the blog post.

Xpclient writes:

The big difference between Windows 9x, Windows 2000/XP and between Windows 7/8 is choice. In earlier versions of Windows, UI and design changes were not forced on us. We had the option to use Program Manager and File Manager even in Windows XP. We had the option to use Classic Start Menu in Windows Vista. The newer OSes seem to FORCE what Microsoft thinks is best for us and leave no option/choice to return to the older interface. That is Microsoft's single biggest shortcoming in UI design and user experience. Another thing Microsoft needs to learn is that user interfaces not need to constantly see radical overhauls, they need to evolve building on what was built previously. Don't push the reset button far too often and start everything from scratch. You don't realize how annoying users find it when working UI features that people use everyday in their work was entirely gone instead of simply being turned off or disabled by default. No one's going to complain about Windows being more customizable. Instead, you make it less customizable, remove what's working previously and on which considerable time has been spent on in previous releases and then say to these users, this is it, to simplify we just had to eliminate features. Take it or leave it.

Windowsfan has positive things to say:

I actually like the idea of using the Metro Start screen to search for apps. the full-screen view can present the user with more apps at one time (about 20) while the start menu can only show 14. Also, the "tap windows key and type to search" approach is fast and simple. More attractive+Live Tiles for application updates+presents the user with more at once = a solid win for the Start screen, in my opinion. BUT, perhaps instead of forcing us to switch screens when we want to perform a search from the desktop, you could only bring up the Search charm menu at the side, and have us choose apps from there. This approach would make searching for apps via search less complex and jarring. I DO have beef with your taskbar though:

tNO criticizes the new concept:

With the new design you leave the "task oriented" concept behind and move back to an app centric approach that in my opinion isn't modern.

I don't want to start apps. I wan't to do something with my PC. Were is this document I was working on yesterday? I don't find it in the new Start screen. Where is this tool I was using earlier? Oh, I have to search again, and again... You call it improved search? Why? Because I have to filter content manually again like in the 90's?

A strange fact that comes to mind while reading this article is, that your data shows that people like to use the taskbar as a launcher but the taskbar isn't present when you turn on Windows 8. The Start screen hides the taskbar. And on the other side you showed that people don't like to pin apps to the Start menu but now, this is the only thing they can do on the new Start screen. I don't get that logic.

And what about other basic features like power off or restart? Did people use this less often in Windows 7? Or why did you removed this functionality?

Part of the new Start screen as we know it yet is this hover menu when you put the mouse pointer in the lower left corner. Not that the functionality is hidden to the user but it also feels very uncomfortable. It is one of the most important UI elements but does work like no other element in Windows. Nowhere else is such a menu that you don't have to open, that pops up automatically from nowhere. It just doesn't feel right.

Microsoft in the mean time has published the second part of the start screen series. You can read it here.

It too makes several arguments that I cannot really agree with. Probably the biggest is this one:

But, when you’re launching a new app, you’re leaving the thing you’re currently doing. So we wanted to take advantage of the whole screen to make launching and switching apps as efficient as possible. The full-screen Start gives you the power and flexibility to launch more apps with a single click.

I cannot agree with it, for a number of reasons. For instance, I start programs that I want to run in the background. This includes the Thunderbird email client, Skype, other communication software and programs that automatically run tasks for me. I do not need to see their interface until they notify me that I have received mail, a call or whatever.

Another element here is that I have a large monitor, and that I like to have multiple apps open at the same time, for instance Firefox and my feed reader and sometimes maybe an always on top video that I watch while working. I cannot do that with Metro, it seems.

Do not get me wrong though. Metro is surely damn fine for touch based devices, but I cannot really see myself working with it in a desktop environment. I will stick with Windows 7 if Microsoft won't add options to disable or bypass Metro Start. I'd also like to predict that the majority of desktop users who worked with other Windows systems before will be shocked when they see the new user interface.

Windows 8: Start Screen Not Final
Article Name
Windows 8: Start Screen Not Final
Microsoft addressed some user concerns regarding the launch of the company's Windows 8 operating system and the use of the Start Screen interface.
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  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–Error-Message-of-Windows-11-Update-KB5029351-Preview-142215

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–caused-BSOD-on-MSI-s-Intel-700-and-600-Series-Motherboards-142277

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