On Keeping An Open Mind When It Comes To Windows 8

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 6, 2012
Updated • Sep 1, 2018
Windows, Windows 8

As a Windows user, I'm keeping a close eye on all Windows 8 development tidbits and leaks that I can find online and offline. Most of what I know comes from the developer preview version of the operating system that was released last year and leaks that seem to have picked up in pace recently.

I have to admit that I have not used the Windows 8 Developer Preview that much, mainly because I could not find a suitable way to work with both the Metro UI and my desktop applications.

It always felt like I had to switch between the Metro UI and the desktop constantly to start and work with the programs I wanted. I never warmed up to the idea of gadgets or icons on the desktop either, and it feels to me as if Metro UI is a modern version of that.

The Metro UI start page feels out of place, like something that would make life more complicated instead of easier. I have to admit that I did not test it on a touch enabled device, and it probably makes more sense there. Most Windows PCs on the other hand are not connected to touch screens, and even if that number will increase in the future, I cannot see myself connecting my desktop PC to a touchscreen for a number of reasons.

The switching between the desktop and Metro UI does not make much sense to me at all. Why do I have to use Metro UIs search to find applications that I want to launch on the desktop? Why is there no file launcher directly on the desktop?

For me, it is nothing more than a startpage, just like Opera's Speed Dial feature for instance but with the difference that it does not make it more comfortable to open applications I want to run. Another thing that bothered me in the developer preview was the limit of two open application windows at a time in the Metro UI interface. On my desktop, I always have two web browser windows displayed next to each other. More often than not, I also have a video player open, an instant messenger, image editor or another program that I'm also using regularly.

Recent leaks highlight another change that is likely going to make it into the beta and final release of Windows 8. Microsoft has removed what's left of the start button from the desktop interface of Windows 8. If you have worked with the developer preview you may remember that the start menu was limited to five charms links there. With the start menu gone in current builds, users need to activate the charms menu otherwise to access its functionality.

windows 7 charms

Charms appear when you move the mouse over the area the start menu button was all those years. You can open them with the keyboard shortcut Windows-c as well. Moving the mouse to the lower left corner to open the charms menu on the rightmost location does not seem to make lots of sense from a usability point of view. It is likely that Microsoft will improve that to make it more intuitive to use.

The core problem as it stands right now is that users do not see options to return to the Metro UI interface. There is no button or tooltip that explains how this is done. If Microsoft fails to provide those, or at least a thorough tutorial after installation, it could end disastrous.

Why has Microsoft removed the full start menu, and now the start menu button from the Windows 8 desktop interface? The most likely reason is to get users to use the Metro UI interface. With all their programs gone from the start menu, the only option users have is to place shortcuts on the desktop or taskbar, to use the search, or the Metro UI start page to launch their applications.

It is hard to keep an open mind at the moment. Everything that I have seen and tested so far looks like it is impractical for the desktop. Still, it is too early to tell and leaks are not always a reliable source anyway. It is likely that we will know more after the Windows 8 beta gets released by Microsoft.

I still hope that Microsoft will pull something out of a hat that will make all my worries go away. The only thing that I can think of right now that would do that is an option to turn off Metro UI, or give me more control when Metro UI is activated, and when it is not.

Am I the only one who thinks that two user interfaces is one too many? That Metro UI is impracticable on desktop PCs?

Update: After reading through this again it appears to have become more of a rant than what I intended it to be.

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On Keeping An Open Mind When It Comes To Windows 8
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  1. punk bass said on February 14, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    This metro thing … this is a total eye-rape, soooo not good for desktop. Not helping me getting my work done. Is this where operating systems are going ? This is so stupid. The same thing can be observed on linux – gnome 3 and unity -interfaces for tablets being pushed on desktop users.

  2. berttie said on February 7, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    If indeed Win-8 ships without the option to switch Metro off, I suspect the longevity of Win-7 will greatly exceed that of XP.

    Trying to shoehorn the same interface into everything from 3″ smart phones mostly used to play Angrybirds to large desktop monitors running every imaginable app is plain stupid, IMunHO.

  3. DanTe said on February 7, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    For power users that need to have multiple datasheets up to compare and edit, this clumsy new UI is hell. And I for one don’t see myself reaching over the desk to a touch enabled screen in order to slide the Window to a panel I need. I guess businesses will be passing this one by too. I wouldn’t mind the Start button or Task bar being gone from the screen if the keyboard’s Windows Key can bring it up on demand.

  4. MartinJB said on February 7, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    The average personal computer user is becoming ‘dumber’ as MS strives to be more like Apple. For those of us that started back in the MS DOS 2 days Windows has always meant bloated software and unnecessary frills. However much we dislike these new changes can we actually change MS thinking or designs. Apple users have only one way (or the highway) Through the years we have been fortunate in the MS world to have great 3rd party developers who offer, sometimes, much better solutions.
    Remember what could be done in 128K in DOS as to what can be done in how many megs, gigs? :) Progress ;) Rant on Mr Brinkmann – it gets the juices flowing ;)

    1. Leslie said on February 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm

      MartinJB, unfortunately it is not only end users that are getting dumber. IMO Developers are also getting dumber. Those of us who got into computers in the late 70s/early 80’s were educated as Computer Scientists, now they are taught (maybe/hopefully) to be programmers. There is a big difference.

      Microsoft must accept quite a lot of the blame for this state of affairs with the .NET framework which I expect them to abandon at any time. I have lost count of the many simple programs I have seen that demand the .NET framework. Just how we did we manage in the past ?

      1. Leo said on February 9, 2012 at 3:37 am

        Leslie, sorry if I offended you in any way – maybe the fact that my english isn’t very good make my words sound harsher. Did you used metro UI on a touch enabled device running windows 8 yet? Could you tell me what would be better than metro on tablets? iOS? Android? Since you said metro is rubbish I got very curious about what you think is good.

      2. Leslie said on February 9, 2012 at 3:11 am


        “I do not understand people who love to say (and do it all the time) that they prefer the old ways”

        I don’t recall I actually said that. In fact I do not prefer the old ways at all.

        What I prefer is improvements in usability, stability and security. To give Microsoft credit they seem to be achieving the last two. Its the Usability on the desktop that is the potential fail here. If they give us the option to disable Metro then I will be far happier, but I do not want other interface changes to be linked to whether or not Metro is enabled or not. So an improvement is full customization allow me to device which bits I like and which bits I do not.

        Also before I forget, your assumption that you need to move fast is incorrect. Business moves a lot slower than consumers, they think in chunks of 3 to 5 year plans etc. So Windows 8 is going to be skipped by probably 90% of my customers because they just bought Windows 7.

      3. Leslie said on February 9, 2012 at 3:01 am

        @Leo, for me it has never been about the money (or at least the need to be rich). For me it has always been about producing quality software, something I can be proud of. The type of application is irrelevant, so if I write an app I want it to be well coded.

        Where you insult me is that If I say that the Metro UI is rubbish then I am a rock in the road. No I do not think so.

        So lets make it clear, the Metro UI is totally a waste of time on a desktop – it has NO place there.

        Lets also make it clear that I like Tablet devices and I see some excellent uses for them. However, the Metro UI for that device is also rubbish. It looks chunky and about 5 years out of date. Personally I would steer clear of a tablet device with Metro on it as of now because it is just ugly all round.

        The only advantage of Metro in the future will be the ability to easily port software from a windows desktop to Metro. Time will only tell if this will ever really be a success.

        So, right now, there is better out there and I would choose any of them over the Microsoft offering. So am I a rock, No I just expect better.

      4. Leo said on February 7, 2012 at 7:39 pm

        Leslie and MartinJB did you see the Channel 9 GoingNative videos? C++ is getting a lot of love from MS.

      5. Leo said on February 7, 2012 at 6:57 pm

        Leslie, thats how the world goes. Did you see how high is the money pile those punk kids are doing with iOS apps? And without a “computer scientist” degree! Outrageous!
        I sure miss the old days as much as you but that do not get in the way of my love for innovation. It sure did the work in the past but we do not use punched cards anymore. I’m not a huge fan of .NET too but for the developer it saves a huge amount of time and you can be much more productive than ever. With global market you need to do things fast. You need to adapt, or die. You can tell everyone that disagree with you that they are dumb as much as you want, and ask them to get out of your lawn. It wont change anything. I do not undesrtand people who love to say (and do it all the time) that they prefer the old ways, even without fully understand and analyse what the new options are. Don’t be a rock on the road to progress, Leslie. Adapt. The old days are gone.

      6. MartinJB said on February 7, 2012 at 7:17 pm

        I agree with you there Leslie. I cut my teeth on BASIC when people like Peter Norton etc were writing databases in it. C was my main language for a long time now I just try to write in English ;)

  5. Nebulus said on February 7, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I also think that the Windows 8 will be the new Microsoft failure. It might work on a tablet (though I don’t know if that will be enough), but it will be very impractical on a desktop. The sad part is that if they would put in place 2 separate interfaces (one for tablets, one for desktop), this problem will probably go away, but they seem so absorbed by their plans to “conquer” the tablet market…

  6. Leo said on February 7, 2012 at 10:40 am

    (sorry for my bad english) – I’m a developer. I develop windows and web apps. I think that all those rants about Metro are from people who do not understand what the end user think and how people whose jobs are not 100% computer based use and interact with their computers. For them, metro is perfect. You have email, facebook, twitter, the latest news and your music collection. Easy, fast and beautiful. They are used to this kind of app-based experience on their mobile phones. On the corporative world i agree, metro seems a little out of place but i hope MS will have a switch that the admin could use to simply disable it if needed. The main reason for that is because our work apps probably would not be metro for a long time. I’m using windows 8 DP since the release on a HP tx2500, with touch. I do not use metro UI when working but like the experience to read RSS or twitter and I can see myself spending more time when the apps start to appear. People always complain about changes, always. I remember when they released the ribbon. When MS do not innovate a lot between versions, people complain. When they do, people complain. That’s what people do on the internets, I guess. But I think we all need exactly what the title of your post says, “an open mind”. Microsoft don’t always get things right but lets give them some credit. It is a hard problem they are trying to solve and I think they are doing a amazing job. Can’t wait for the beta.

    PS.: And to base your impressions on leaked screens of an unfinished and unreleased product do not help at all.

    1. Leslie said on February 7, 2012 at 5:06 pm

      Leo, which type of End-User are you talking about. I develop applications for the small business sector with an emphasis on data entry and reporting – the Metro interface is next to useless for that type of User.

      So obviously the answer to my initial question is that Windows is used by a variety of user types in a variety of industries. Hence the need for different flavours of Windows – one size does NOT fit all.

      So, whilst I can see some benefit of a tablet as a presentation device one of my pet hates is fingermarks on my monitor and I reckon that many people will be driven mad trying to use a touch device when clearly a KEYBOARD is the obvious peripheral. This is where Windows 8 currently misses its mark.

      Personally I had no problem with the concept of the ribbon if it was utilized correctly apart from the amount of screen real estate it uses. However, in many cases the Ribbon simply does not work – Winword is a disaster IMO, but other applications have done a good job. Again its about the implementation and ultimately its usability.

      So whilst I do have an open mind, unfortunately the nerds at Microsoft have closed their minds and ears to their traditional user base. This is their final chance to impact on the iPad, but should that come at the expense of traditional users, NO I do not think so.

      1. Leo said on February 7, 2012 at 6:41 pm

        (again, sorry for my bad english)
        Leslie, why the metro is “next to useles” for data entry? And again, win8 works just fine with keyboard+mouse. “the nerds at Microsoft have closed their minds and ears to their traditional user base.” – well, maybe you do know something i do not. All Microsoft has released until today is a Developer Preview. After that I only saw some leaked images that are not sure to be the final version of win8. How can we all judge the quality and what MS is doing by that? And are they not using consumer data and feedback to build it? C’mon, lets first they release the bits and we can judge using it and seeing what fails and what works. Of course they cannot let the user guide all the development process. If they did that, they would end up with windows 7. They are sure betting high and there are a lot of risks. But i like where they are going and think most users would too. As a developer, I probably would not migrate my apps to metro. So maybe metro is not perfect for all my work too. But that doesn’t make it less interesting, beautiful and a step in the right direction. And metro is only a part of windows 8, there are a lot of other cool innovations on the OS.

        Windows 8 still has the “classic” desktop. This is a huge demonstration that MS do respect their old consumers. Besides, if metro is not what you want at all, stay with win7. Probably you are right, metro isnt for everyone, but no OS is. Just because you are used to something, it don’t necessarily mean is the best way of doing it. People (like your costumers) can change and adapt. Soon they will ask you to do a metro app, you will do it easily and happily and gain lots of money with it :)

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on February 7, 2012 at 10:50 am

      Leo, you forget that the average computer user who knows Windows, will have a hard time adjusting to the design changes that are introduced in Windows 8. Where is Office, where is my document, where is Solitaire, where is the start menu? You assume that they will like Metro because of its simplicity. I on the other hand think that many will feel lost, will complain, and eventually try to get “their” Windows back.

      1. Leo said on February 7, 2012 at 11:05 am

        Well Martin, I think you are right. It wont be easy, but that’s how innovation works. Given the needs to adapt to a new market, what could they do? I think they are doing an amazing job, given the size of the problem. Office, solitaire, documents would have a beautiful tile on metro UI. You can organize, categorize and find it just typing the first letters. People sure will have to adapt but i do not think it would be so hard. Most people did not have difficulties to adapt or understand the ipad. I love the win7 start menu, the way I can search things there (but i still prefer launchy). Most “normal” users that I know don’t even use this, they go click, scroll, click, click. Microsoft are using this user data to try to develop the best experience, metro make this much more simple. I saw people disabling Ribbon on office 2007. They wanted their old office back. Today no one does that. Metro is a step bigger than Ribbon but i think it is the same reaction people are having. It will pass.

  7. Sublym3 said on February 7, 2012 at 9:45 am

    If you dont like the metro interface don’t use it as you can see in the screen shot there is a normal desktop.

    To be honest its surprising to see (on a tech type website especially) that people still use the start menu.

    You all claim this is the next Vista and its impossible to do things, but you don’t actually say why. I am glad Martin admitted this was a rant because there is nothing informative in here.

  8. Anonymous said on February 7, 2012 at 3:04 am

    I see Windows 8 turning into the new Vista. I ran Windows XP for the longest time because it worked and Vista was a real departure from that. I run Windows 7 today and really see no reason to upgrade to Windows 8 due to all the UI changes.

  9. BlueRaja said on February 7, 2012 at 2:13 am

    I remember people complaining about the office ribbon (which I liked), and the new control panel (which I liked)… hell I even remember people complaining about the start menu (which I liked).

    Then again, I also remember people complaining about the terrible ideas which have since been removed (eg. Vista’s constant UAC prompts).

    I’m not sure how I feel about Metro yet. I agree with you that if MS is going to stick to having two UI’s, there needs to be a much more obvious way of switching between them. My gut feeling is that, if they’re doing this to transition to eventually having a fully touch-enabled Windows 9, they should just keep the task bar, remove everything else and have only Metro (with a task-bar).

    The Metro UI, then, would take the place of today’s desktop (which for most people is either almost completely empty, therefore useless; or so cluttered you can’t find anything, again useless).

  10. Joey said on February 7, 2012 at 2:05 am

    “I never warmed up to the idea of gadgets or icons on the desktop either, and it feels to me as if Metro UI is a modern version of that.”

    This turns me off to Windows 8 Metro UI. I dislike gadgets on my desktop. IMO, they are too cluttery and I dislike anything unnecessary running in the background.

  11. SuilAmhain said on February 6, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    It’s likely for “rants” like this one that Microsoft are so proactive with their leaks these days. All of the criticism is surely being analysed for use by the devs to deliver the final product.

    My own feelings were that the Dev Preview was intentionally that way to force testing of the Metro UI. The Metro UI is the new bit the rest will just be Windows 7 with enhancements here and there.

    Windows will still need to be a desktop/office OS and Ii trust they are not willing to completely self sabotage that.

    1. JohnMWhite said on February 7, 2012 at 12:37 am

      I hope you’re right. At the very least, the Metro UI has to become something that is easy to switch off, but at that point 8 will look to desktop consumers to be merely 7 with a few enhancements that could readily have been included in a service pack.

      I do not get Microsoft’s strategy at all here. They’re trying to splice two types of OS for two types of device together and sell it to everyone. I can’t help but feel that ultimately no type of customer will be satisfied with this, whatever device they use it on.

  12. Robert Palmar said on February 6, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    Nothing wrong with a rant when you are right.
    The Metro UI looks only to be suitable for tablets.
    At least as presently constructed and unless Microsoft
    is adding mitigating features before release they are headed
    for a major trainwreck that will make Vista look like major success.

  13. Roman ShaRP said on February 6, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    :) If you ask it again, I have to repeat it again: I would prefer to not see Metro at all.

    I had to make my own Start menu with Windows PowerPro “show folder as menu” functionality even instead of Win 7Start menu “improvement”, so I plan to do in future. Launcher and my own menu, no Metro, no charms (Doesn’t name “chimeras” suit them better?).

  14. Bart Degryse said on February 6, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    No, you’re not the only one who thinks that two user interfaces is one to many. While I’m all in for the Metro UI concept on a tablet, it just doesn’t work on a desktop. As a programmer I couldn’t believe my eyes when I tried using the developer preview. I honestly did try very hard to do my daily job for a day on Windows 8. It is not just impractical. It’s plain impossible. I still can’t imagine Microsoft is so dumb as to think that everyone can do with tablet functionality on his desktop. If they go on with this the way it is now they’re gonna loose millions of users. Not because companies don’t want to upgrade, but because the employees will simple not be able to do their job anymore.
    So was your article a rant? Yes it was and so it should be. We can’t complain loud enough about this horror.

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