Since the arrival of the iPad my laptop has been slightly neglected, almost like a first-born child after the arrival of a new sibling. And so, to show it that I still loved it and that nothing had changed, I decided to use it to play with the consumer preview of Windows 8 that was released last month. If it felt neglected before I dread to think how it feels now.
Unfortunately there isn’t much to say on this front, only two points spring to mind. Firstly, the start up is quick. Very quick. From pressing the power button to being able to open Word is roughly 33 seconds, and this is on my old laptop where Windows 7 struggled to break the minute barrier . Secondly, file transfer is a lot nicer. You can pause and resume transfers easily and it give you a nice graph showing transfer speeds.
I miss the start menu. The new way of getting to programs through the Metro UI seems inefficient and slower. In terms of number of clicks alone, to get from the normal desktop to the list of all programs is now 3 mouse clicks instead of 2. This may not seem like much, but why the extra hoop to jump through? Why move the applications one step further away from the main screen? 
Having the Metro UI doesn’t seem to give any more functionality than having icons on the desktop or tool bar. It is designed to present bigger, more discernible, areas for program icons in order to make them easer to select on a small/medium sized touch screen. On a computer you have a mouse to navigate and so any features designed for unprecise finger navigation are not necessary. On the theme of touch screen features that don’t belong, in order to get from the lock screen to the log in screen you have to drag the screen up with the mouse. On a touch screen this would just be a simple swipe, which would work perfectly, but with a mouse it just seems stupid, it’s not something you would think to do.
I would have thought that in the final version you’ll be able to switch it back to a more windows 7-esque design complete with start menu as I expect a lot of people who use Windows in their businesses won’t appreciate being forced to use the Metro UI.
One feature that not only seems out of place on a desktop, but also wouldn’t seem to work on a touch screen is a settings sidebar that pops up on the right hand side of the screen.
I can’t for the life of me work out what triggers it It is triggered by moving the mouse to the top right of the screen, the same area that the minimise, restore and close buttons are, that won’t get in the way at all. Had it been a “swipe from the side” activation, like the unlock screen, it wouldn’t get in the way on a desktop, and would work fine on a touch screen.
My main gripe with Windows 8 is that it is not intuitive. Everything is hidden. I don’t like the idea of having to look up how to do things, for me an OS should be designed such that you can work things out just buy playing around. And even after about 7 years of playing with Windows operating systems this is the first one that make me feel like my dad; confused an having to ask for help to do the simplest of things. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of it performs identically to Windows 7, it’s all the new Metro stuff that I can’t wrap my head around.
None of it is ugly really, i just had to include this section for the sake of completeness. The the Metro UI looks fine, it’s a simple enough design that it’d be hard to screw it up. They’ve also changed the design of the folders/documents view to bring it in line with the office suit. Some people may like this consistency between various facets of Windows, but I much preferred the Windows 7 version.
The Worst OS I’ve Ever Used?
Yes and no. Deep down it’s still the Windows 7 OS that I know and love, it’s just buried under unnecessary layers of the Metro interface. Microsoft have tried to bring their desktop, mobile and tablet OS’s in line with each other, and I think this is a bad idea. People initially complained when they found out the iPad was going to run on iOS, but in hindsight it was a good thing. Mouse and keyboard input and touch screen input are two very different beasts, and what works on one may fail on the other.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m not as tech savy as I like to think and it’s actually a really intuitive OS. So far no one I know has really had a good play with it, hopefully when they do I’ll be able to answer that question . I could just be being too harsh on it, it is after all only a Consumer Preview. Maybe after a few more months working on it, and with feedback from people using it, it’ll change. I can only hope that in the final version I will be able to banish most of these features to a deep dark pit somewhere, otherwise it looks like I’m waiting to see what Windows 9 is like.
I realise this isn’t a 1:1 comparison. My laptop wasn’t running a fresh install of Windows 7 and this version of Windows 8 is not the final one.↩
Some people may argue that the Metro screen is now meant to be the main screen, but given that things like Chrome, Word and iTunes all run on the normal desktop, the Metro screen is now just an extra layer between you and the program you’re looking for.↩
There are probably plenty of reviews out there I could read, but I prefer the counsel of people I know. The more I know about someone, the more information I can extract from their opinions.↩