At Microsoft's BUILD conference in September, the software giant finally unveiled its latest OS to the public. The Windows Developer Preview, geared towards (you guessed it), developers and IT pros, has now made its way into the hands of thousands of early adopters who are busy evaluating the new OS for their IT, writing apps based on the new WinRT platform or just playing around with it.
I've jumped into Windows 8 with both feet. I installed it on all my machines, put all my important files on it and made it my day-to-day work operating system. Of course, being both a major step forward and a very early (pre-beta) release, I ran into some issues. Over the course of the past two months, I compiled a list of some of the major pains I had with the new operating system and monitored the Microsoft forums to see what quirks and annoyances other users were reporting.
The following list shows the top 10 annoyances that other early adopters and I have experienced with Windows 8, as well as some explanations, solutions, and workarounds.
1. The new Metro-style Start screen
Arguably the most controversial pain point of Windows 8 is the new Start screen, which is Microsoft's new way of starting and managing apps.
This mobile oriented approach to the future of the desktop hasn't been greeted with much love by the community or the press. Focusing on one (maybe two) tasks at a time dumbs down the entire user experience. Also, users find themselves constantly switching between the new Start screen and the classic Windows 7-ish desktop (which includes the taskbar, desktop, explorer and so forth). Here's an example of how annoying this is: Say, for example, you're checking on e-mail using Outlook 2010, which is a traditional desktop application and one of your contacts is asking for a specific document. The next obvious step is to launch a file search. The problem is: once you click on the Start orb or hit the WIN key to launch the search feature, the classic desktop disappears with a big swoosh and you're back on the new Start screen pictured above, since the Start menu search is now only available in the new Metro-style environment. You find the file, open it and with another swoosh it throws you back to the desktop.
The same happens when you switch between the built-in Metro apps (such as Twitter@ama or Socialite) and your classic desktop applications. In terms of raw productivity, it's a major pain point and a very noticeable UI break.
Many complaints also focused around the fact that the new UI is aimed at tablets and phones, which makes it utterly useless on desktops and laptops.
Solution: Unfortunately there is no solution other than to turn the new Start screen off. After a few days of pure agony and hatred for the new UI, I took a step back and realized that I'm basically spending 95% of my work time on the classic UI and simply can't review this new approach. And why is that? Simple: Because I'm not using real Metro-style apps day in and day out! The default apps we get are mere sample applications written by summer interns (no kidding, Steven Sinofsky actually made a big deal out of the fact that Metro-style apps are so easy to write that even summer interns can do it in just a few weeks). So how could I even start judging a new environment when I just use my regular applications that throw me back to the traditional desktop? Do I spend enough time in those sample apps to judge the Start screen's usability? No! Can I even begin to imagine what working in a new third-party app (think Nero or Adobe) is like? Hardly! My solution to the problem is to wait at least until the beta hits sometime in early 2012 with a working Windows Store and working apps. I need to download apps, use them and then judge. I suspect that we'll still struggle with the mixture of legacy apps and new apps, but I'll reserve my opinion until then.
By the way, to turn the Start screen off and go back to the Windows 7 way of things, just download "Windows 8 Start Menu Toggle". Right now it's the only solution for Windows 8 testers who hate the Metro UI.
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