Microsoft’s Windows 8 will make its debut Oct. 26th, but buzz surrounding the new operating system hasn’t been spectacular. Negative scuttlebutt has been heard from both low-level to prominent sources. Valve co-founder Gabe Nawell has been most vociferous in his criticism.
From my observation, most of the complaints stem from the Modern UI (previously referred as Metro UI), which is a user interface that’s foreign to even veteran Windows users. As the face of Windows 8, it’s become an object of ridicule. I even wrote a piece detailing Modern UI’s unsuitability for keyboard and mouse interaction.
But, one thing I noted in my piece is that this Modern UI keyboard and mouse unsuitability issue is avoidable. Unfortunately, users have been quick to judge it as a bad representation of the product and are being short-sighted. The underlying beauty of the OS is worth investigating.
Microsoft needs to clear the air before it’s too late. Modern UI is only a small part of Windows 8 and there is no reason for it to be a deal breaker. Opinion makers are trying to convince consumers that if they purchase Windows 8, they’ll be using a touch-based OS, creating a significant change in the way they use their computers. This claim is inaccurate.
No need for a new usage pattern
I’ve been using Windows 8 Consumer Preview since March and I have not changed my usage pattern since making the switch.
Upon booting up, both Windows 7 and Windows 8 ask for my password to login (Windows 8′s welcome screen has a much cooler look). After entering my password, Windows 7 would bring me right to the desktop, whereas Windows 8 brings me to the Modern UI start screen. This is where the naysayers weigh in and seem to be the most critical over this negligible change. They want to see the desktop right away, instead of the unfamiliar start screen.
In terms of functionality, the desktop and the start screen are similar. If you’re in the habit of first launching your web browser every time you boot up your PC, you can do the same from the start screen and it remains true for any other program. Even if you’re one of those lingerers who stares at your desktop wallpaper for 10 minutes before doing anything, you can still jump to the desktop environment from the start screen with just one click. It’s hardly a big deal.
After transitioning to the desktop environment, there’s almost no reason to go back to the start screen. You can pin all your favorite programs on the taskbar just like in Windows 7, or even create shortcuts on the desktop itself. Only programs that have no shortcuts have to be launched from the start screen, which would occur pretty infrequently.
There are some changes in Windows 8 that can’t be qualified as improvements. The start button is gone and the visual cue once at the bottom left the screen is gone. It’s a confusing change that won’t help improve user experience. Also, the shut-down button is now brought up in a less-than-obvious way; another small drawback that makes something simple a complicated thing.
The traditional start menu is also gone and, while it may be a personal preference, I think the start screen is less cluttered. It makes it a more efficient way to look for installed programs.
Do not judge a book by its cover
Modern UI is just the cover of Windows 8 and we all know that it’s unfair to judge an OS by its cover. If you’re looking for fair reviews of the new OS, look for those that focus on the desktop environment and decide whether the under-the-hood enhancements are worth your money.
You don’t have to use the wonky keyboard and mouse set-up if you don’t want to and chances are you will only see the Modern UI two or three times in your entire day. If that’s unbearable for you, there are third party tools that will remove the start screen permanently.
You may not want to dump $199 on an OS upgrade, especially if your machines are already running on Windows 7. But if you’re insisting on an OS downgrade when purchasing a new computer, just because of the unflattering spin surrounding Modern UI, you should reconsider.