Windows 8 Preview: Day 3 First Impressions
Verdict: All in all, while I’m going to keep running Windows 8 myself, I can’t in good faith recommend a Windows 8 upgrade for our business clients. A new PC, fine, but the frustration level with Metro in a full desktop setting is a deal breaker in its current form.
Running a full tablet computer Windows 8 will be great. However, even then I have my doubts about the touchability of the interface once it jumps back to the standard Windows look. Of course then I guess you can pull out the keyboard and mouse.
Allow me to explain.
Before I start discussing the new interface, I just want to say that I really want to like Windows 8. I love Windows 7 and I’m hoping that Windows 8 will improve upon it even in its pre-release form.
Having had a chance to work with Windows 8 for a couple of days , I must say that I’m very happy with it even in its current pre-release state. It’s very fast, extremely responsive, and once fully configured, very easy to work with.
What I love:
- Boot times are phenomenally fast
- The task bar that is now replicated across all monitors, making multitasking a breeze
- application sessions are maintained between reboots
- Drivers load automatically and I have yet to find common hardware that it can find drivers for
- it would be great if the taskbar was unique for each display, showing all the apps running on that display. I’m not sure how that would work with pinning the apps to the taskbar, but it would be nice.
- It would be nice to be able to save directly to cloud based storage from any app, such as Microsoft’s Skydrive.
- A back button in the Metro apps.
- The ability to keep Metro open on one display while working on the desktop on another.
All of that being said, Microsoft’s latest has one new feature that has me pounding my keyboard in frustration: the new Metro interface.
To be fair, Metro began as the Windows Phone interface and was designed for a touchscreen. I’m testing it on a 17 inch laptop in a docking station with 2 extra monitors and an external keyboard and trackball. I can barely reach the laptop from my chair let alone the screen.
Furthermore, everything has been much smoother since I finished installing apps and configuring advanced settings. Metro seems to be designed to keep most frequently accessed apps at your fingertips, which could be useful now that those are apps are the ones I’m using.
Designed for touch or not, this is supposed to be a computer operating system and not a phone operating system.
Metro first impressions…
- Very clean, minimalist and functional layout
- Dynamic updates such as social networking and weather
- Extremely quick and responsive
- I actually never see Metro while I’m working (perhaps this is also a Pro?). I’m usually running multiple Office apps, a couple of browsers, the command line, and our LoB app: none of which work with Metro and drop me to the real desktop.
- There are vague areas of the screen that seem to bring up strangely symboled menus, but there is no indication that the menus are there before blindly blundering into them. They can be very difficult to find and tend to flash on the screen as you move past. Apparently going off the bottom left corner of a screen brings up an icon to access the Metro screen and going off the top right brings up icons for configurations. Useful, but the Windows key in infinitely faster and easier to remember.
- Once a Metro app is opened, there is no way to get back to the previous app or the Metro screen or even to close the app without hitting the Windows key. This is one of the things I despise about Apple’s IOS on my iPad. Hitting the Windows key brings you back to the base Metro, not the area you were previously in. As my office mates will attest, I keep instinctively pounding on the ESC key attempting to go back or get out of the app. Back and close buttons would be sooo welcomed in all apps.
- Metro apps don’t appear on the desktop task bar, making switching to them very cumbersome. ALT+Tab appears to work.
- Although Metro is designed to be touched, you can’t use the mouse as a substitute for a finger. There’s a tiny scrollbar at the bottom instead of being able to click and drag the screen with the mouse.
- Apps can be pinned to the Metro screen and the task bar
- Fully integrated with your Hotmail/Xbox/Windows Live ID
- Fully integrated with your Hotmail/Xbox/Windows Live ID. I haven’t used that account for more than a Microsoft website login since the late 1990s.
- While the Metro apps are well designed and very easy to use, I have yet to find a way to integrate them with non-Microsoft services; Facebook being the notable exception. No Gmail or Link-In on your tiles.
- Although the email app will pull from a Microsoft Outlook configuration, little things like the email signature and email address auto fill don’t seem to port from Outlook.
- I tried keeping Metro up on one screen to monitor the tiles while working; unfortunately as soon as I click on the application on the desktop screen, Metro minimizes.
- For the first time since Windows 3.1, I find myself looking up and using keyboard shortcuts instead of the GUI for ways to do normal tasks. It’s just sooo much quicker to hit Windows+Q to bring up the search field and type in the name of the app than to…
- Hit the Windows key or find the hidden corners to bring up Metro
- Right click to reveal the “All apps” button
- Click the “All apps” button
- Scroll to find the app (organized by some random categorization)
- Open the app
- Metro suddenly decides to now pop up on a different display… it took a few minutes to figure that one out.
- For all the talk of integrating cloud services you still can’t save directly to them, even Microsoft’s own Skydrive.