Saturday, March 17, 2012

Windows 8 Consumer Preview UI

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I used Windows 8 for the first time around a month and a half ago and I was mildly impressed. At the time, the Developer Preview had been out for a while and I just wanted to give my two cents just before the Public Beta, or Consumer Preview, hit the internet.

Having spent some time with a much more complete product, specifically one that actually works, I have a lot more to say on the UI. I said it before, but I'll say it again: it manages to seamlessly merge mobile and desktop ideals while managing to further neither.

Some Of The Same
 The basic UI hasn't changed much. Sure, some menus changed here and there, mostly just the contents. Some ways to interact have been added since the Developer Preview, the start button was totally removed and replaced by a preview of the start menu. All of the slight menu changes were much needed.

You can see me editing this posting
The biggest change is the File Explorer's ribbon interface. It has my single largest complaint from the Developer Preview and what I thought it needed, it got. The ribbon interface is retracted into the tool bar until summoned. I thought the ribbon interface introduced transparency to the secretly great Windows Explorer, but the ribbon was just so intrusive. Now it's not!

Besides the obvious surface changes, the OS is now much more stable. The rest of my surface complains are about the 'preview' apps included with the Consumer Preview. They just feel incomplete and mostly useless, but they're transparent enough to tell you that. I'm sure once they're complete, they'll work better. Otherwise they'll be a huge disappointment. The rest of this posting is going to be either rant-y or diatribe-y.

Windows 8 is great, but it's no Windows 7. By that I mean it's not a huge step or as natural. After a week or so of using Windows 8, I feel like the emphasis on the Start Menu and the Metro Style is very much just hype. I know I've said that I like the start menu, and I still do, but it's not at all important to me. Whenever I use it I find myself picking through it or ignoring any of the shortcuts it presents me. Mostly I use it to get back to the desktop, and that's only when I don't use the taskbar-esque sidebar shortcut.

I thought I might find myself using the Metro Apps more often, now that I could open them, but they're still second pony to the third party apps I find myself using already. Unless the Metro Apps are majorly altered, by which I mean different from previous Windows Media Apps, I don't see myself ever using them. It's not to say that they're not fun to use or impressive, it's just not the best. Often they're difficult to navigate, as Windows Programs always have been, and nothing is organized how I want it to be.

I have never used Windows Phone 7 or the Zune devices, but I hope the apps and media are better organized on those devices and OSes, because the Windows 8 Apps are atrocious. I think Microsoft is making a mistake by marginalizing their Desktop audience. And that's how I feel: Marginalized. The desktop experience isn't made at all better with the metro apps.

To be honest, the Start Menu and Metro apps don't even compete with the iOS or Android. While the OS will be more flexible and the experience is more transferable on each device it's used on, it just fails to deliver a well thought out mobile experience. The Start Menu, while easier to use than it's ever been, it just feels set in stone. I don't feel like I have much control over it and it's Static. Everything that's added is ugly and thrown to the back and what I can do just feels limited, and each icon seems to have different rules.

Of course, this is all conjecture on this Public Beta, but I'm sure not much will be added or changed from here until it's actually released to retail. It's not to say that I don't like how many of the things work. I very much like the live widget nature of the start menu, it just doesn't present the information I want and feels oddly static. I never look at it and it fails to further my desktop experience beyond Windows 7, besides the File Explorer's Ribbon.

I'm open to the possibility of Metro Apps, but I'm afraid of just phone/tablet apps being made, just that we can play them on our Desktop PCs now. I've played Angry Birds, and Tower Defense games, I don't need to do it again. Still, I do look forward to what is possibility and I hope the system is taken heartily by the third party developing community that Steve Ballmer is always emphasizing.

Also, the Metro IE stopped working once I opened the desktop version. It didn't matter, because it was confusing anyway. And Stupid. And IE sucks anyway. 

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