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Windows 8 — Disappointing Usability for Both Novice and Power Users (useit.com)
340 points by thomaspark on Nov 19, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 248 comments

This is anecdotal, but I walked into a Windows store not too long ago to try Windows 8 on a tablet, and I was blown away at how terribly unintuitive it was. There were absolutely zero visual cues to indicate where features were, how to move around the interface. None. Now I don't know if that's changed since then, but the experience left me with such a bad taste that I told myself I would never give it another 5 minutes' chance. Throughout the entire demo, I was asking the rep to show me again how he accessed certain menus, switched views, etc.

My technologically-illiterate parents went from zero to road geeks with their iOS devices in a matter of days. Had they been given the Surface, I imagine my legs would be in constant spasm from all the frustrated and confused phone calls I'd be receiving.

> ... how terribly unintuitive it was.

I'm a little uncertain how future proof such a claim is. I used computers before mice became common. Back in those days mice actually came with tutorial programs showing you how to use a mouse! Nowadays we would consider it somewhat absurd and no mice are shipped with such programs. Even typing tutors used to be a very popular category of software.

When I got my first smartphone it was not intuitive that such a thing as a long press existed. If you do not know about it, it can be extremely frustrating doing some actions since you will never find them. Some other cues are almost invisible - for example scroll bars tend to be very narrow. Multi-touch, pinch zoom etc are also all unintuitive before you know about them just as double clicks and drags were earlier.

There are no real cues for mouse interaction (eg double clicking), nor touch interaction (eg long press). But we don't call apps unintuitive - those interactions just became the new normal. You only need to see them a few times to pick up on them.

Perhaps Microsoft needs to have TV ads etc (dare I say a tutorial program) so their interactions become the new normal?

But mice are STILL horribly unintuitive. One of the reasons iPads have taken off so well amongst people who haven't previously been able to use computers (I have anecdotal experience with an older relative, but there are plenty of other stories out there) is that the relationship between the mouse and the pointer on the screen is pretty bizarre. Touch interfaces are better because direct manipulation is much easier to understand.

Double clicking is even worse (I have a relative who has been using computers for 20 years and still double-clicks on links on web pages). Thank goodness that's slowly being flushed out of modern interfaces.

Back then: don't learn how to use a mouse -> can't use a computer.

Nowadays: don't learn how to use metro -> use something else.

I don't think anyone would be worried about windows 8 lack of ease if it was a monopoly on very important devices that you must learn to be productive. It's not.

> When I got my first smartphone it was not intuitive that such a thing as a long press existed

The average user should never need to long press on iOS. This is why you see so many videos of 90 year olds and babies using iPads, because almost nothing is hidden.

I fear that over time more and more will become that way in order to add functionality, but the level of basic stuff that is hidden on windows 8 is unforgivable.

Just agreeing with rogerbinns here - I think the fact that some of W8's new features and interaction models are not immediately obvious is probably the worst type of criticism. I consider it actually to be a confused sort of praise. Technology changes. New things become possible. Old UX models become outdated. Products are released which are different. People are confused, but then society adapts, and hey, it turns out that these new-fangled features make things a lot better.

Just because iOS is soothing and friendly and easy to use for the last generation not to be educated in problem-solving complex systems from their earliest walking moments[1] doesn't mean in any way shape or form that it is a superior interface. In fact in many ways iOS is very inefficient, and its popularity stifles real progress in computer interfaces. So we should be happy that a new interface model, that challenges people's expectations a little, is emerging.

[1] Videogames section in: http://www.amazon.com/Everything-Bad-Good-You-Actually/dp/15...

Personally, I think "Metro/Modern UI" is a complete train wreck. While it initially received a great deal of praise from the tech press for being "unique" and "fresh", my suspicion is that a lot of the praise was incredibly shallow and based purely on aesthetic appearance and not usability.

This suspicion has been confirmed repeatedly from my own experience using Windows 8 and watching others use it as well.

a lot of the praise was incredibly shallow and based purely on aesthetic appearance and not usability.

Not to mention that the press has an interest in having another horse in the race. If it weren't for Win 8, what else would these websites be writing about after their umpteenth "iPad Mini vs Nexus 7" article? Camera reviews?

Especially since several categories of devices are being subsumed by convergence devices (netbooks, music players, flip cams, etc.), I think they're eager for a story.

My experience has been quite pleasant and has been for others I've seen use it.

Usability studies of this sort almost always find tons of problems in anything that is new. For example, remember the iPad study by the same group?

For the last 15 years of Web usability research, the main problems have been that users don't know where to go or which option to choose — not that they don't even know which options exist. With iPad UIs, we're back to this square one.

But it's even worse, because look at the study participants: We tested 7 users — all with at least 3 months' iPhone experience — but only one was an "experienced" iPad user.

These were people who were well versed with the iOS UI already! And they still found the iPad hard to use! Did they really really find it hard to use? I doubt it. But that's how usability studies work. You have a short amount of time with new technology and are primed to find flaws in it. And your're primed to be unforgiving (just the nature of being in a study).

I recall being in school when cut & paste first started to go mainstream. The number of people who didn't find it or understand it would be considered bewildering now. Now its a common pattern. But it is pattern. No one complained they couldn't find it, but were happy when they did. And taught others.

All these things are patterns. Bring any non-trivial product into a lab: Chrome, iOS, AppleTV, Android, Windows 8, Boxee TV -- you'll find that people will struggle more than you think. But one thing you learn when you do usability work is that there's a distinction between discoverability and usability.

In my experience Win8 has some discoverability holes, but once you learn a few patterns its usability is quite good.

BTW, here's a review of the Surface for real people: http://betanews.com/2012/11/14/microsoft-surface-review-for-...

His summary? Surface is fantastic. Why the difference? If you are willing to spend an hour using it, rather than trying to note usability flaws, you'll find it a rather nice experience.

Jeff Atwood says, "I'm a little embarrassed to admit how much I like the Surface RT. I wasn't expecting a lot when I ordered it, but after a day of use, I realized this was more than Yet Another Gadget. It might represent a brave new world of laptop design." Jeff is someone not looking to score points by pointing out obscure design issues ala Marcos. He wants a device he can use. I think we'll see for this class of users (which is much larger than the Marcoses of the world) that they'll resonate with Atwood's take (http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2012/11/touch-laptops.html).

Indeed. I find that these studies really assess learnability more than usability. Of course, learnability is one aspect of usability, but I'm more interested in how users fare after spending some time with it. Personally, I've found Windows 8 to be pretty enjoyable to use, after a bit of a learning curve.

Wow. Scathing:

One of the worst aspects of Windows 8 for power users is that the product's very name has become a misnomer. "Windows" no longer supports multiple windows on the screen. Win8 does have an option to temporarily show a second area in a small part of the screen, but none of our test users were able to make this work. Also, the main UI restricts users to a single window, so the product ought to be renamed "Microsoft Window."

I wasn't aware of this "feature"...what a disaster.

Metro apps, or whatever they are calling them nowadays, do take over the entire screen, desktop apps are as they have always been and can be opened as many as you like, and arranged as you like given your screen real-estate. I routinely have 5-10 windows open at any given time on my desktop that is running Windows 8.

To me it was pretty clear that this article was primarily reviewing the "modern UI" part of Windows 8. I think your comment reiterates the point that the "modern UI" has no place on the traditional desktop. I too use Windows 8 everyday and have successfully avoided this new UI (except for the now, in my opinion, broken desktop search). Windows 8 is not a failure, but this new UI might be.

Yes, I just wanted to make it crystal clear for people that had never used it, and thus would be even less aware of the "split" (or perhaps misunderstanding it). If people dislike Windows 8 that is fine, I am kind of lukewarm on it myself, I just prefer people to come to those conclusions off actual use experience and not FUD or mis-quoting/mis-understanding an article. Not saying anyone in this conversation did, but I have seen enough posts on the internet from people that appear to have never used X, decrying X based on some FUD/misinformation, I try to nip the opportunity in the bud when I can.

Yeah, it's not quite as bad as it sounds.

That said, I find it somewhat annoying that the new-style apps are clearly targeted at tablets, and yet are the only way to get apps sold via the Windows app store.

"Windows" no longer supports multiple windows on the screen.

I don't understand how they can make such a bold claim and get away with it. That is NOT TRUE. A power user who needs multiple windows will quickly understand that using the Desktop is in order, so he can work exactly the way he was on Windows 7.

It's basically true for Windows RT, for which Microsoft has stated there will be no new Desktop apps approved for it. AFAICT, WinRT is the new officially-recommended API and support for Win32 desktop apps is legacy.

It's true for Windows RT indeed, but the article was explicitly referring to Windows 8.

And AFAICT myself WinRT has always been presented as a new API designed for new kind of Windows applications (i.e. Windows Store apps). It doesn't make the other APIs obsolete in any way for the other kinds of application, just like the CLR didn't force anyone to write managed code. See this chart from Build 2011 for example : http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-uUSc-JjjBDs/TnWkasRU74I/AAAAAAAAAV...

Looking at that chart one might be forgiven for thinking that Win32 desktop apps couldn't call WinRT APIs and vice-versa.

I don't recall where, but I've seen a good blog post explaining the errors and variations on that diagram. DrPizza maybe?

Most of the problems with Windows 8 are typical Microsoft errors. This may be the most radical example of them but basically it fits into the same patterns. The UI revamp on the desktop side was almost entirely unnecessary from a user's standpoint. It only exists to promote Microsoft's own self interests by promoting Windows phones/tablets and attracting developers to the new platform. It’s the type of move that would have worked quite well for Microsoft in the 1990s when users had very little choice. With more competition now any bit of friction you introduce can drive users away. Either by switching to a competitor’s product or not upgrading.

The other big typical Microsoft error was rushing out buggy/slow software and betting they would have plenty of time to fix it later. This worked fine for decades but user expectation’s have increased as often happens. If someone re-released a 1950s era automobile consumers would be horrified at how unreliable it was. Totally acceptable in the 1950s. Totally unacceptable in 2012. For its size and complexity I don’t think Winodws 8/RT is unexpectidly buggy/slow it’s more that the competition had the luxury of a 5-6 year head start slowly evolving their operating systems. Microsoft had to do it in 2 years. So you get all the pain of bugs upfront instead of spread out over a more tolerable time table.

Ironically the biggest mistake is very atypically the type of error Microsoft makes. They rushed people into this new platform quickly without doing much to soften the ground or ease users over. Retaining the classic desktop UI was a big hedge on the Metro bet but only offers an escape not a bridge. Generally Microsoft has to be dragged into the future kicking and screaming. This is a rare case where they actually moved too fast for user comfort. If they had made Windows 8 more of a bridge with the new UI features and other major changes taking a less in your face presence they could have moved forward quickly with Windows 9 as a bigger change.

All that being said I don’t think it’s a total diaster. They just need to quickly walk back a few bad choices especailly for desktop users. They need to make a few concessions to usability in the Modern UI style. Mostly they just need to accept that business practices that worked when you were a giant monopoly don’t work when you are the new comeptitor challenging the big established players.

This is how I see it. No one asked for Metro. Many people simply don't want it. It exists solely for Microsoft's benefit, because they want to move in that direction. I also would bet money that it's going to get harder and harder to live in a non-Metro world over the next couple years (if, that is, you are still using Windows).

I recall my Dad asking me if I was looking forward to getting Vista (back before it was revealed to be the train-wreck it was) and I replied that I wasn't. It simply had nothing I cared about. Windows 7 was the same way. Its improvements over XP are, IMO, few and of little impact. I do not find its performance to be consistently better than XP and its interface most definitely is inferior (but "Classic Shell" fixes that).

The only thing I've seen from Microsoft that was even remotely interesting in the last 10 years was Kinect, and I don't play the kind of games it's good for. Call me a hater, but MS simply doesn't have anything to offer me.

And like many people, if it weren't for games and a small handful of apps that I could live without if I really had to, I would run Linux on all my machines. However... Steam is coming to Linux and a good number of GOG games run in Wine, so soon there may literally be no reason for me to use Windows (at least when not at work).

Maybe it's the economic reality that Microsoft simply doesn't care about experts who have been using computers for 30 years because there are so few of us. We power users, experts, software developers and others may smugly abandon Microsoft because we think they aren't worth using any more, but Microsoft may simply think, "Good riddance, we don't need you any more."

I don't read what most people read, or listen to what most people listen to or watch what most people watch, so I'm used to it and that works for me.

But it's a little different with Microsoft, because they are still a very effective monopoly in some ways (e.g., Office) and even if you have no personal use for them, you can't completely escape Microsoft yet.

You've also got a good point, jsz0. Microsoft has completely forgotten how to compete. They are so used to forcing whatever they want on people and having them accept it because they have no choice. If they want to enter a new market, they used to just overwhelm the competition with their massive resources, and there wasn't much competitors could do. But it's not like that any more. They are behind the curve and falling further behind with every month. And as long as Mr. Too-Many-Y-Chromosomes is in charge, it seems unlikely to me that will change any time soon.

In my opinion, the biggest failure of windows 8 is that they called it windows. If metro mode was an installable add-on for windows 7 that you could jump into whenever you wanted a simplistic or touch-friendly experience, people would love it. The usability isn't terrible on its own, it's only terrible if you try to use it while expecting a windows operating system.

for example, the only being able to run one fullscreen app at a time thing. the proliferation of iPads has shown us that users love this, in the right context. The desktop PC just isn't the right context.

Should they have called it Bob, do you think?

Trains would've been a better name.

Windows Trains 8.0

Microsoft Trains for Windows Live Home Premium 8.0

Windows 8 must be the slowest train wreck in computing history, it's been being reviewed as crap for over a year now and they keep chugging along.

It's funny to read all the comments from over a year ago and how nothing has changed since then - http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2011/10/18/designing-sear...

It trainwrecked the day buisinesses decided not to use it, which was the day they got rid of booting to the traditional desktop with a start button.

It isn't a compelling purchase at all, nobody will go out and actively seek a Windows 8 device, and desktop / notebook computers have had decreased sales since everyone has one now and they are "good enough" for media consumption and text / spreadsheet editing. The only reason anyone needs more horsepower now is for graphical horsepower for animation or gaming or computational horsepower for compiling or running a server.

So nobody wants Windows 8. It is a product without a target market, and the Surface has fallen flat on its face as a one trick pony to try to corner a "market" on a tablet with a desktop.

And hopefully in a year we have a mature Ubuntu running on Android tablets just fine, and that IMO will be a much nicer desktop experience on mobile than Microsoft Window and the Windows 7 desktop at 7". Except for a tiny, tiny market of businesses that will buy surfaces for their employees to use the mobile versions of word and excel I don't see this train leaving the station.

Am I the only person who thinks the lack of a start button and a 'traditional desktop' are non issues? The lack of a start button/desktop is not a usability issue in and of itself - it's everything else that makes it such a nightmare.

>The lack of a start button/desktop is not a usability issue in and of itself

Tell that to non-technical users who have trouble remembering to use the start button when it's staring them in the face, they need that visual cue at the very least.

You're right that there should be some sort of affordance to access programs.

What I meant was that the problem isn't that there's no `start` menu - it's that there's no consistent, intuitive, and quick way to access any program (along with having to switch UI's between desktop and metro, and a lot of other things) which are problems that the start menu originally solved.

>Tell that to non-technical users who have trouble remembering to use the start button when it's staring them in the face, they need that visual cue at the very least.

Which is exactly why the damn thing was useless to begin with.

I live on the start menu. It's how I launch all apps. And by typing their name. What part of moving to Win8 required that it no longer fit? I've installed a third party app now, though it's sub-optimal and I'll probably go hunting for something better.

It's been a while since Microsoft have changed the interface for finding and running applications (I think the last major change would have been from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 and the introduction of the start menu), but I'd be surprised if the start menu was the absolute be all and end all solution for the problem. I'm not saying that Windows 8 has a superior way, in almost every way it's an inferior experience, but that the presence of the start menu should in no way make or break windows 8.

Last change was xp -> vista I think. When they added the search bar into the start menu.

Launching apps by typing their name still works on Windows 8. Just get to the start screen (winkey or bottom left corner, or via charms bar), then start typing.

And the driver was just pushed overboard, yikes.

For what it's worth I've been using Windows 8 since the RP and have been very happy with it. The key point that a lot of reviews fail to emphasize is that evrything that worked in Windows 7 is still there and works exactly how it always has. The removal of Aero and subtle improvements to explorer are nice updates for the desktop experience.

The start menu was always kind off useless so I didn't take long to get used to not having it there, I launch everything via search now (hit the Windows key and start typing).

If you have to search for it - you have to know what it is. This reminds me of DOS.

I've used Macs forever - but without animosity I use Windows a lot at work. I needed to paste some raw text from my program into a text file. Um. How? I don't remember the name of that windows app thing that can do that. I do remember it was a 'utility'. But where is that folder? Start menu? - nope. Metro menu? Nope. Search? What for? go through C:Program Files - nope. Crap, how do I paste this copied block of text into a new text file? Oh - I found it! Metro Apps - right click (on nothing) to bring up a menu. Click on the single item in the menu - 'Show all Applications'. And somewhere in that unordered list is that app (textpad) into which I can paste my text...


Is this particularly better on either a traditional start menu or OSX? Finding an application you don't know the name of will always be a difficult thing to do.

The start menu was always kind off useless

No, it was not. It was nerfed in Windows 7, presumably as a way to deprecate it before Windows 8 got rid of it entirely, but it was very useful for a great many people before that.

Installing ClassicShell to put the XP Start Menu back is the very first thing any power user should be doing on a new Windows 7/8 machine.

If I want to type the names of programs to run them, I'll launch a DOS box. I thought we had collectively agreed as an industry that this was not the best paradigm for the majority of users.

I consider myself a power user (and developer) on Windows 8 and and Windows Server 2012. I don't want (or need) the start menu back.

It became a mess very, very quickly, unless you reordered it every Saturday. Searching in that weird 'I put my application below a name that represents my company', 'I use a cute name for the folder that contains my app' and 'Ah, I just drop the shortcut right into the main start menu' mess was annoying.

Your 'DOS box' example is wrong and you know it - or should as a power user. The name is already chosen in a weird way (DOS? Really?) and you should know that the thing you're talking about doesn't

- search for partial matches in the name

- searches only the %PATH% and current directory

- isn't usable to search for documents, really

- quick: Tell me what you'd type to open the network & sharing window? The printer device list?

No idea what industry you're talking about, but your sample ruined most of your case for me. And as stated before I couldn't even understand the issue before that, since I'm quite happy with my shortcuts here. Win+x, Win+i, Win+., Win+cursorKey, Win+Pause is really all I need or care for.

Come now, the start menu is a joke and always has been. Navigating multi-layered menus, where a slight misalignment makes you lose your place? Or an unsorted jumble of applications links from years of installing? You call that usable? Any power user worth his salt ditched the start menu eons ago with launchy or something similar. Even windows 7 came with a meaningful app search.

Anyone clinging to the start menu as some sort of epitome of usability is having a "get off my lawn" moment.

It's quite usable for casual users who don't know the names of the applications and want to explore what's in the computer. KDE offers a gret solution for this; in the start menu applications are organized by category and there's a short description next to the icon explaining what it does.

If you enter a category it doesn't add a layer, it shows the applications in the same view as if you were opening a folder; and at the bottom you always have a Search bar which works great and power users can comfortably use.

So, say, you want an application to play video. You go to Applications, select the Multimedia category, and click on the icon that says "Video player".

Both Unity and Gnome3 also have solutions in which you don't have to compromise or use quirky macros to get the behaviour you want. You can have the best of both worlds. But then, as usual, many will continue bashing Linux GUIs as if they were a usability nightmare and totally inferior. C'est la vie.

There is a lot of truth to that. But I would wager that 99% of the time you know what app you want to open and its just a matter of finding it. Typing a few letters of some part of its name is definitely a win here. Another nice solution would be for apps to have categories that they can install themselves into, and the user could filter by typing generic categories like "internet", "play video", etc.

The Start Menu wasn't good because it was never utilized right. Many years before I ever saw KDE, I started organizing my apps in categories (Viewers, Networking, Storage, System, etc., I've refined the list over the years) and found that most apps can be reduced to a single icon, rather than a whole folder with a bunch of icons you'll never use, or only use once (websites, demos, documentation. And the whole "put your app in a folder named after your company" was one of the most user-hostile things ever invented.

Opening the Start Menu only to type something in seems like a useless hybrid of two disparate ways of interfacing with the computer. Once I get it set up, it takes very little effort to keep it organized in a way that's useful for me, as opposed to just being advertisements for the companies who made the software I use. I can find any app I need usually in 4 clicks (Start, Programs, Category, the app I want). That's incredibly fast, at least when Explorer doesn't have to swap in 3 gigabytes or whatever it's always doing that makes it pause for ridiculous amounts of time for the most trivial of operations.

The Start Menu was only ever "useless" because it was never implemented intelligently. Just like that useless shovelware pre-installed on new computers, it was just another place where every company that got access to your computer dumped a whole bunch of crap, most of which was only useful for _them_, not you, the user. Kind of like the \Windows directory back in the bad old days.

The Start Menu wasn't good because it was never utilized right. Many years before I ever saw KDE, I started organizing my apps in categories (Viewers, Networking, Storage, System, etc., I've refined the list over the years) and found that most apps can be reduced to a single icon, rather than a whole folder with a bunch of icons you'll never use, or only use once (websites, demos, documentation. And the whole "put your app in a folder named after your company" was one of the most user-hostile things ever invented.

Opening the Start Menu only to type something in seems like a useless hybrid of two disparate ways of interfacing with the computer. Once I get it set up, it takes very little effort to keep it organized in a way that's useful for me, as opposed to just being advertisements for the companies who made the software I use. I can find any app I need usually in 4 clicks (Start, Programs, Category, the app I want). That's incredibly fast, at least when Explorer doesn't have to swap in 3 gigabytes or whatever it's always doing that makes it pause for ridiculous amounts of time for the most trivial of operations.

The Start Menu was only ever "useless" because it was never implemented intelligently. Just like that useless shovelware pre-installed on new computers, it was just another place where every company that got access to your computer dumped a whole bunch of crap, most of which was only useful for _them_, not you, the user. Kind of like the \Windows directory back in the bad old days.

And I use a graphics tablet with a handful of programmable keys as my primary input device (the keyboard spends most of its time off to the side for very occasional text input and the odd rarely-used one-handed shortcut chord) and have several sets of applications (each of which is best-of-breed for a slightly different purpose) whose names start with the same set of characters (and, in at least one set of similarly-named apps, don't diverge until the tenth character). It is far quicker for me to use the start menu, since typing (or even multitouch gestures) involve putting down the stylus. Not a common use case, perhaps, but one that ought to be accommodated easily. And maybe I can bridge the gap temporarily with a third-party solution, but will that even be possible in the future?

You can still click at the lower left corner of your screen to switch to the start page (exactly as you would open the start menu in Win7); then if you organized your favorite apps icons on the left of this page you should still be able to open the app you want with a second click.

I do this too, but often I need to use my mouse to select a control panel item or file. That's very annoying. Why would they get rid of universal search from Windows 7?

tab + down then enter also does that.


Windows-W opens the settings search directly Windows- F opens the file search directly

So what about users who discovered things with a mouse? Are they just banished to Metro, never to return? Every time I read some defence of Windows 8' it's always "Oh everything is the same, just use all these keyboard shortcuts you never knew until now, and have never once seen causal users use".

If you have to touch the keyboard and simply know a comamand and there is no easier way to invoke it, it's bad, non-discoverable UI design.

You can filter using keyboard shortcuts or the mouse, so I think that's fine, I just want an unfiltered view. There used to be universal search and now there isn't.

Universal, I think, also implies single unified search. OSX has this, iOS has this, Android has this, Windows 7 has this. Heck even Windows Vista has this. Windows 8? Nope. This is the most frustrating part of using Windows 8.

SO .. where can I find the windows menu? That's how I launched apps. And normally by name by typing.

win key + type or mouse to bottom left corner + type

I have yet to take the leap in terms of using it day-to-day. I just don't have the time to play.

I had my kid install it in a small netbook we were not using just to see what it felt like. Neither one of us is interested in using it very far past boot. It's one of those "Right. Brilliant!" moments and then the notebook is closed shut and turned off.

Professionally my concern has to do with wasting time and not being able what we absolutely-positively need to do on a daily basis. As I type this I have about twenty programs up and running on this machine. It has three large monitors attached. It was specifically built to make programming, electronics design or mechanical design far more productive. If doing a web project it is not uncommon to have multiple browsers, virtual machines and IDE's going as well as PDF's and reference material. Similar scenarios exist when doing electro-mechanical design.

My current first-touch experience with W8 is just that: a first impression. And this impression has not been positive at all. I, frankly, don't have time to deal with bullshit. Metro (or whatever they care to call it) might be great for a tablet or for grandma on a single screen laptop. It absolutely suck ass for us. I wouldn't even want it present on any of my machines. What I need is an evolutionary improvement over where we are as opposed to a pole-shifting paradigm shift. I would suspect that if I decided to switch my development machines to W8 (not likely) the process might easily bring productivity down to zero or less for at least a month. This on the assumption that all applications play ball.

What's disappointing here is that, to me at least, it sure feels like MS has more than lost its way. They seem to simply not understand who uses their machines and what they need to do with them.

I get it. I get it. Grandma, uncle Fester or cousin Itt might need a dumbed-down single-finger point-and-something-happens interface so they can waste five hours a day on Facebook. However, the massive population of users who needs these machines for business, engineering, design, industrial and other applications don't need this at all. They need the ball to keep rolling in the same direction. Less bugs. More speed. Cheaper. That's it.

I was hoping that the day might come when MS might fully embrace Unix/Linux as the core underneath Windows and move us all into what could be a really neat platform in a manageable way. Of course, it is lunacy to even think that this could be possible. Then again, I present you with Windows 8.

The core OS underneath the glitzy pixels is a fine OS. Really, more than fine -- it's a /great/ OS, fantastic at asynchronicity and driver support. It has warts, but on the whole it was well thought out. (I've been working with OSes for 30+ years, starting with TOPS-10 and Unix in the late 70s. I have a little pedigree here).

The stuff they put on top, not so much. I will probably wait years until I install anything past Win7, and if MS hasn't cleaned up its act for power users by then, the only thing holding me back from switching to Linux are the apps I use, and games.

(I do wish MS had some up with a better text shell. PowerShell doesn't cut it).

Steam on Linux may take care of the games part of my needs. The apps? Visual Studio is hard to beat, and there are some others that I can't live without that don't have competent Linux equivalents. Time may erode my dependency on these.

[I left MS about a month ago. It's interesting to experience the perspective shift]

I know a lot of creative professionals who would abandon OSX and WIN in a heartbeat if Adobe would release their software for Linux.

Well, there are a host of tools used by "creatives" that would need to move. The driver scene would have to get a lot better. And sound on Linux is a disaster on rollerskates (it used to be very bad on Windows as well, until Microsoft started throwing its weight around).

I don't dispute what you are saying about the core OS at all. The trouble is that, as far as I can tell, nobody is doing anything with it. In sharp contrast to that you can do tons on unix/linux without a GUI and there are tons of tools out there that you can use from command line.

I guess we agree on the greater point which is that the MS Windows product looks like it has been savagely distorted into something that people like us want to stay as far away from as possible. The fact that these discussions are not about exalting the qualities of W8 is evidence enough.

There are improvements in taskbar on multimonitor systems, now there is distinction between main taskbar and secondary taskbars which can show buttons only for windows from same display.

The main problem of W8-haters with new Start Screen instead of old Start menu is that it distract from work by showing in app list in fullscreen, but in your case it only takes on display from 3.

>It was specifically built to make programming, electronics design or mechanical design far more productive. If doing a web project it is not uncommon to have multiple browsers, virtual machines and IDE's going as well as PDF's and reference material. Similar scenarios exist when doing electro-mechanical design.

You will not see changes in your workflow if you install W8 because you work with applications, not OS, and all desktop functionality is preserved except start menu and Flip3D.

So probably you have no reasons to install W8, but you don't need to worry that you could not to work on it if you will be forced to.

In desktop mode (if it is named so) can you put shortcuts on the desktop just like on all prior windows versions?

This is my problem with all discussions with Windows 8. You made one of the top comments even you didn't really gave a try to W8 (I base myself on the comment I'm replying to). IMHO, the OS works quite well out of box. There isn't a lot of compatibility issues, and I find it more efficient to work with because of small improvements like the speed of the start-up, the new interface to copy files, etc.

If you read my comment you'll find out that we did install it on one machine and tried to run it. I am a working professional. I really don't have time to waste trying to get around someone deciding to completely change the interface on one of the tools I use to make a living.

Imagine if tomorrow morning you had a choice to drive two cars:

The first, is a newer version of the car you already own. Everything is cleaner, better, faster, more convenient. They even fixed a few little issues here and there.

The second is this new version of the car you own except that they've moved things all over the place. The steering wheel is in the opposite side. The switches are not labeled. The ignition switch is hidden behind a door and you have to figure out --on your own-- that you need to jump up and down on your seat for that door to open.

Which car will you choose to go to work?

I really don't have time to waste trying to get around someone deciding to completely change the interface on one of the tools I use to make a living.

No offense but that is a really lame excuse. You wouldn't have time to learn to use a nail gun instead of a framing hammer if you were a carpenter? You risk being out of work soon with an attitude like that.

No offense taken. I think your comparison is exactly on point: nail gun vs. framing hammer.

Since I love woodworking and enjoy doing remodeling projects around the house I know exactly what you are talking about. My son and I just finished turning a loft into a bedroom and had the pleasure of dusting off our nail gun, which made quick work of framing-up a new wall.

Pay attention to what you said though. Nail gun vs. framing hammer. The transition delivers a huge improvement in productivity and probably quality as well. Every nail goes in faster, easier and maybe even more accurately.

So, yes, if I had a crew of framers instead of programmers I would go out and buy a bunch of framing hammers. I would then stop all work and make sure everyone learned how to use them. Then we'd be able to fabricate structures much faster and with better quality.

That is not the case with a transition from Windows-anything to Windows 8. In fact, it seems that the experience might just be exactly opposite. Almost every report I read (and my own experience) seems to show that the first-touch experience is one of baffled confusion.

What would happen if you had an office with 100 workers and surprised them with a transition from, say, Windows 7 to Windows 8 on Monday? Right, your office would grind to an absolute halt. It might take hours for different people to figure out how to do what they were doing just fine the prior Friday. Compare that to the transition from Win XP to Vista or Vista to W7. No real issues whatsoever. People would show-up on Monday and, for the most part, go straight to work. That is the difference.

W8 isn't the equivalent of a transition from hammer to nail gun.

"out of box" once you've changed the default file associations to desktop apps, that is. (it does at least prompt you to do so the first time you open a file of a given type)


It is not mode or app; if you use multiple monitors then desktop is always shown, because Start Screen or WinRT app can use only one.

The desktop view in Win8 is hands down better than Win7. Even if you never use the metro apps, I would recommend upgrading to Win8.

Offtopic: Can you please poke me via email or otherwise? I'd love to chat. Your profile on HN has no contact info. Thanks!

Done. Via Linkedin.

Eh. I've been using Win8 on my desktop for a couple weeks now; I'm pretty happy with it. As far as I'm concerned, it works out to $40 for some nice new features and continued security/feature updates.

I don't use "Metro" mode. But I do appreciate many of the tweaks, and I'm still grinning over my cold boot times with Win8, UEFI, and SSD. I swear it boots faster than it resumes from sleep. (Resume from sleep is fast, but it seems the NIC takes a few extra seconds to re-establish a link)

I've been using Windows 8 since roughly two weeks before its launch, and I agree with most of the article.

In fact, I just realized that I never use a single "Modern UI" app for the simple reason that they force my entire screen (2560x1440, 27") to be filled by one app. Such a waste of space. In desktop mode I often have four 1280x720 windows on my screen.

Windows 8 might just be the push I needed to switch to Linux.

What I don't understand is why you feel like you are supposed to use "Modern UI" apps on your big screen. You are not. Everything you enjoyed to do with Windows 7 is still possible with Windows 8. Just because there is an alternate way to do them does not mean you have to adopt it...

It was for me, I regret nothing.

Wow... I feel like I am in a minority who enjoyed windows 8. As for the article I disagree with it on many points. I am using this beast for several months (adding the beta releases to the queue) and although I was very sceptic and using the same words with Mr. Nielsen as in the UI is schizophrenic and tries to be two things in one shell BUT you know what? If you are not interested, you don't even see Metro (or whatever its post copyright lawsuit codename is). It doesn't get between your legs, it wasn't always so; my memory did record some awful experiences with CP and RC releases of Windows 8. But the release version is... good, surprisingly. I expect windows 9 will streamline it even more.

I agree that opening two browsers in desktop mode and in tablet mode can be a hassle towards users' memories but hey my workflow makes me using two different browsers in two virtual desktops so I was happy to have this feature without loading a virtual desktop app for windows.

"Lack of multiple windows" um... what? I am running a netbeans, firefox and several consoles running tweaker script programs in ruby at the moment. Of course if he meant the Metro interface, I can't see why do you expect multiple windows on a tablet interface.

And from there I felt like the article goes irrelevant and subjective. I had no problems with flat icons, and to be frank I found the news app the best of the bunch. It does not oversaturate you with the content and is blazing fast. As for live tiles, how can third party developers' choice can be accounted as a failure on Windows 8's usability? I mean if his criticisms were about the Microsoft Apps I would have accepted it but it's saying like "oh iPhone apps icons are too colorful. Shame on you Apple!"

All in all there is a weird tendency of bashing windows 8 in the press. And it doesn't deserve it. It's good, and is trying to change the desktop paradigm whether you like it or not - It is admirable, they are trying to create an original thing but this very originality is hindering them on reviews.

This is my cuppa anyway.

I expect windows 9 will streamline it even more.

I do not want to have to wait for Windows 9 for Microsoft to get their act together.

Then buy Windows 8....or Windows 7.

Wow, looks like I'm the only person who actually likes this and disagree with several of the points from the article.

First of all, you have problems finding your apps since they tool away your start menu? Get a simple, free app launcher like launchy or executor. Problem solved.

I'm running an older Intel 1.8 processor with 4GB RAM on a 32 bit system. I've had several Adobe apps open at the same time without any issues I experienced with XP, Vista or 7 such as hanging or crashing under the system usage. We all know most Adobe apps are Vamperic on system resources so I was surprised at how well 8 handled the load.

This is probably the first time I've seen an article cry about the lack of information on a news app. When I look at most news sites, it's information overload on the homepage. Try finding a specific article on that LA Times homepage? Good luck.

"First of all, you have problems finding your apps since they tool away your start menu? Get a simple, free app launcher like launchy or executor. Problem solved."

Again, that's not how usability works. You shouldn't expect regular human beings to hunt out and install third party software to help them launch applications!

I don't even have windows 8 and I know that you can search for apps right from metro! Why is it that no one gets this?

Random usability rant: I find it slightly odd that, even now on Windows 8, keyboard customization requires so much effort in Windows. For example, I always make my capslock key an extra control key (if you haven't tried this before - try it!) and on OS X and most flavors of Linux, this is an easy 5 second process.

On Windows 8, there are a ton of Keyboard settings - including promising-sounding ones like "Change how the keyboard works" and "Keyboard properties" - yet you still have to use a stupid registry hack to actually change the behavior of keys (ie, to make your capslock key an additional control key).

While I agree that it should be easy to change, in reality it works out to be 5 minutes of Google and 1 reboot over the lifetime I have the OS installed. Since Window 7 I don't re-install the OS very much these days so its not that big an issue.

I make my capslock a backspace. Seriously, when do you really need to type so many capitals that can't just be rationalised by using Shift instead? Using it as Control as well is a great idea! You should first try out Autohotkey, instead of resorting to registry hacks. Cheers

Ah, remapping it to backspace is kind of interesting. The reason remapping it to control works well for me is that most of the keyboard shortcuts I use for things (and I use a lot) use it, so remapping the capslock key to it helps you keep your hand on the home row more.

I'll check out Autohotkey, thanks for the tip.

Autohotkey is great, but I think it's overkill for remapping a CapsLock.

SharpKeys (if you're lazy) or registry hack (if you "smart"): https://sites.google.com/site/steveyegge2/effective-emacs are enough.

I have been using Windows 8 for awhile now. I never really stopped to think about the overall usability of the OS, simply because I thought it was easy to use. Nielson makes some good points, but I think at the same time, his point-of-view is overly academic. It is an OS. If you choose Windows 8, you will use it all the time. Nuances, such as how the charms work, how gestures work, and what tile does what, fades into the background. You learn it and you move on.

This is all yawn inducing.

I don't remember the last time we had this many articles on HN discussing an OS.

All this "discussion" and criticism of Microsoft and Windows is 90% conjecture or very personal (read biased) opinions.

I too have been using a Surface since launch and have been running Win8 Pro on my laptop since RTM, and guess what? I disagree with the OP.

I highly recommend you go to a store and give it a try yourself, if you can will yourself to cut through the hater-noise.

    All this "discussion" and criticism of Microsoft and Windows is
    90% conjecture or very personal (read biased) opinions.
These guys put 12 people in a room and recorded them interacting with Windows 8 machines, and noted the usability flaws encountered by the users. I don't know about you, but to me, that's as far from conjecture or personal opinion as you can get.

They were doing real usability testing with real people, not just spewing another uneducated opinion. And there's no particular anti-Microsoft agenda at work here either, if you look further on the site you'll find similar usability studies conducted on iPad apps with similar criticisms.

> I don't remember the last time we had this many articles on HN discussing an OS.

Perhaps it's because this is a change that people find worthy of discussion. The changes are significant and the desktop product Windows 8 replaces is well-entrenched. It's also a mobile operating system, so the total amount of devices potentially impacted by the change are huge. It's an interesting topic-- you may claim it's yawn inducing, but you were interested enough to click.

I do wonder if you actually read the article in between yawns, however, as the article made very specific arguments based on observation of third parties using the software. Yes, there's still plenty of room for bias, but I see no justification for labeling it "hater-noise."

You disagree with the article; that's great, but why? Can you refute what's been said or provide a counterargument?

I try not to be too confrontational here, but in this case I'm probably going to have to. I would dearly love for Microsoft to release a killer OS, but so far as of yet I can't see any real compelling feature that I would be particularly interested in.

Let's be honest here... if I have to do development work, then I'm not going to use Windows 8. I'll be using Windows 7.

Why not use windows 8? It has lots of small improvements to windows 7 (better task manager, better multi monitor support, new keyboard shortcuts, integrated cloud storage...etc) that's enough for me.

Plus the new Windows runtime APIs looks very nice, and most are usable in desktop or metro apps.

From an end user POV: task manager is fine in windows 7, for any deep system performance troubleshooting I use perfmon; multi monitor support is work brilliantly for me in Windows 7; I use Dropbox, works very well for me and is quite integrated enough!

As for Windows runtime APIs, it depends on whether I want to make he bet that Windows 8 is going to be successful enough to learn them. Jury is still our on that. Besides, I'm more of a Spring man...

I spent some time using Windows 8 at the local Costco, and agree with most of Nielsen's points.

In case you need alternative ways to exit an app, try:

Alt + F4. This old-school method still works!

Hit the Windows Key on your keyboard. Treat it like the Home key on an iDevice or Android tablet. This backgrounds the app, but does not terminate it. Then, you can type the name of another app and your menu will filter down rapidly. Hit enter to launch the new app.

All the new gestures make sense on a tablet (except the swipe in from the left, but back out again to show your active apps). But the gestures are terrible when you're on mouse + keyboard. I wish Windows 8 laptops had nice big multitouch trackpads, so that you can do things like 3 & 4-finger swipes, and pinches, like with OS X.

Windows 8 supports multitouch trackpads on new computers. Many older laptops can also get gesture support with the correct drivers. My 18 month old laptop has pinch support + all the edge swipe gestures.

Have been using a Surface as well as a Win8 desktop for a couple of weeks now, and I have to say this is pretty accurate.

When WinPhone first came out with the Metro UI I was a fan - there's a visual simplicity to it that's very appealing. After you use it for a while though the weaknesses become pretty glaring and hard to accept. It is often very hard to tell what UI elements are interactive and what are purely informational because they are so plain. There's no way to visually discern a non-interactive icon vs. an icon that is also a button.

The lack of shading and UI chrome also means that UIs frequently become jumbled. Sections of UI blur together where on any other platform they would've been separated by a visual line, shading, or something else.

The simplicity in this case has gone too far.

It's also very true that many of the first-party apps have ludicrously low information density, almost as if they expect these devices to be toys. This is in stark contrast to MS's stated goal of shipping something that is more serious, more productive than iPads and Android tablets, which up until now have been seen as leisure devices.

People often accuse Apple of taking style over substance, but Win8 IMO is a far, far more egregious violator.

There's another big issue: the first party apps suffer from some pretty serious performance problems. It doesn't bode well for your platform when your own internal teams can't ship best of breed apps. The People app, for example, takes literally 6 seconds to load your recent notifications on a Surface RT - all the while without displaying any loading indicator. You literally tap the button, wait, figure it's broken, and just as you're about to move on it pops into existence - and of course the performance is so poor that it just magically appears on screen without transition.

The entire OS is littered with sloppiness of this variety - as well as apps where touchability has clearly never been comprehensively addressed. You will move from places with gloriously comfortable touch targets (like the home screen) to apps that have 9pt text links you're expected to hit.

The "search" charm is also poorly thought out. Just take a look at Amazon, eBay, iTunes, and what have yous that have substantial search functionality - Windows expects everyone to cram their search needs into a single freeform text input. In fact, the eBay app on Win8 builds its own search page. Surprise, search is complex, context dependent, and not all apps can pigeon-hole it into your paradigm. Oops.

[edit] Extra rant: I was able to get the Windows Store app completely stuck today on the Surface. I visited an app's detail page, and tapped the Back button to get back to the search results. Nope. Back button would visually indicate interaction but do nothing. Waited, nope. Sloppy bug.

So here's where it gets good. On any other platform (and in old Windows land) I could just go kill it. Except I have no idea how to go about quitting an app on Windows 8. Apple at least has the courtesy of allowing you to kill an app very quickly - if someone knows how to do it in Win8 I'd love to know, because clearly their own first-party apps are not good enough to be trusted to take care of themselves.

BTW Android tried the whole unified search thing. Back in the days of hardware buttons there was even one of the four dedicated to just search. A running app could detect the button press and bring up a standardized search interface. If the search started outside an app (eg home screen) then you get the same standard search interface.

Each app could register as a search provider - responding with content relevant to the app itself. The search system would aggregate the content from search providers. If there were multiples then it would even track the historic popularity of each provider in order to prioritise the results. (For example there are providers for your music, contacts, text messages, google search, mint etc)

There is a settings page where you can turn individual providers on and off. I added this functionality to the apps I developed. Here is the API/usage documentation: http://developer.android.com/guide/topics/search/index.html

Note how it starts out saying it is a core feature. So core that the search button no longer exists with software buttons, although to be fair search can be shown in the action bar. And I never met a single Android user who actually used the search functionality! Many people did have a dedicated search widget on their device, but that was a Google search, rather than the phone search. The current Android 4.2 homescreen search puts google search results at the top of the screen and device search below which is mostly covered by the keyboard and requires additional clicks to see it all anyway.

This is a long winded way of saying that it seems to me that search turned out to be a dud on the platform by the king of search. I just tried search on my iOS device and it turned out to be very laggy, poorly performing and useless (eg clicking on an email search result opened the email app but not the relevant message!) This leads me to believe search isn't used much on iOS either!

As you say, in-app search does seem to work well across all platforms and apps. It looks like a system based generic search just fails to work on current generations of hardware, operating systems and user interfaces.

Which iOS device do you have? Search works great for me on the iPhone 5, and click on an email search result definitely takes me to the email.

iPod Touch 4G running iOS 6.

Unified search was removed from Android because Apple has a patent on it and successfully sued.

This is a common misconception. Google removed it for about a week, until they found and implemented a workaround. For all practical purposes, the universal search works exactly the same. I just tried it out on my Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.2.

Posting this from my Android tablet, it has no unified search for many months since it was updated after the lawsuit. Original Samsung galaxy tab 10.1 running the latest official Samsung 4.0 update.

So no, not a misconception. Many Android devices don't have it because of apple.

No, still a misconception. You're not running Android, you're running a version of Android adulterated by Samsung. The latest release of stock Android has unified search built in.

Good luck explaining this to the (vast majority) of Android users that have an "adulterated" version.

I think he intended to explain it to the parent poster, not to everyone in the world that uses Android.

For those who care, and that's most power users, they'll replace the brain dead Samsung version with their own customised versions of Android.

It's part of Google Now and I don't think it's bad at all. You just do the search, and then at the bottom of the screen you change from "Web" to "Tablet" and voila, results from tablet.

What is bad is the fact that Gmail doesn't support it. But it pulls up tweets, apps, chrome history, music, etc. Rather neat, in my opinion.

It works great with Google Now. I use it often like a launcher and just type a few letters and then click on the app I want to run.

The old PalmOS also had a global find option. The OS would call every app that registered for this function and pass it the query. Problem was, this meant that having a single buggy app on your device would cause Find to crash for everyone. http://mobile.eric-poncet.com/palm/tutorial/find.html

I actually love that feature, allows me to find contacts and lesser used apps very quickly.

Btw.: On phones that have hardware buttons (but no dedicated search button, like the European version of SGS2) you can open search by long pressing the menu button on the home screen.

this (and the back button) is still one of my favorite features about Android. i love that from home it will search google, while from play it will search apps, in gmail it will search mail and so on..

I am using Galaxy sII which still has a dedicated search button. just checked sIII and it is indeed gone! to me this is a major feature loss

What bothers me about the OP though is that if you really dislike Metro so much on a desktop, you don't have to use it!

I'll repeat that even though I think we all know this already: if you don't want to use Metro apps, you don't have to use Metro apps. It is really that simple.

So, if you're a power user and want to stay away from all of that nonsense, then click on the "Desktop" tile and you're done. Sure, you have to return to metro when you search or for a few other minor scenarios but overall it should not be a big deal.

And then for a lot of the other complaints (e.g. hidden interface, icons that you don't think you can click) it is just a matter of time before people learn it. Then it will become a non-issue.

If OP claims he is a fan of Win7, then he should also like Win8 as the desktop and core OS is very much improved.

"And then for a lot of the other complaints (e.g. hidden interface, icons that you don't think you can click) it is just a matter of time before people learn it. Then it will become a non-issue."

That's not how usability works.

Is pinch to zoom obvious? Is left clicking obvious? Is ctrl alt delete obvious? Is spacebar to pause/resume video/music obvious?

I'm no UEX expert but all of the above seem to be things that many people know how to do, yet would not seem immediately obvious at first.

I am quite confident that "swiping in from the right to reveal charms/commands/options" will join the ranks of the above. It'll just take a few months of mass use. It's a pretty convenient gesture IMO.

I'm no UEX expert..

Then let me enlighten you. Your ctrl-alt-delete example is poor due to the fact and this is backed up by a Bill Gates interview that that command was meant for debugging and was not supposed to ship in the final product. People started using it and they had to leave it in.

Some music players do not use space for pause/resume.

As for clicking and zooming, these things are so intuitive that children can learn on their own how to do these simple tasks. OLPC and other organizations air drop laptops into Africa and people who have never a seen a computer get them and teach themselves how to use it and how to read.

And yet OS X, the OS that is lauded by many around here to have an excellent UX, has so many hidden controls that nobody could possibly remember them all.


I'm sorry, I don't follow.

I think I did.

The argument here was "well, if Apple can assume that users are going to learn a list of shortcuts, why can't Microsoft."

The answer is because the keyboard shortcuts on OS X are actually shortcuts, not required for using the operating system. The gestures Microsoft has incorporated in to Win8 are the only way of doing things, whereas I can do things a few different ways on OS X.

Let's stick with closing an app. Apparently the gesture is swiping from top to bottom on Win8. On OS X, I can do that by clicking the red button (arguably the most intuitive method), by going to the File menu, or the keyboard shortcut, Command-W.

OS X shortcuts are actually shortcuts, except when they're not...

How about Command-Tab? There's only one way to access that functionality. How do you capture a screen in OS X without the secret "shortcut" keys or the command-line? How about ejecting a secondary optical drive? Zooming in and out?

The Dock generally displays all running apps, you can just click on one. I agree about the screenshot one - but this is often a power-user use case.

There are a bunch of ways to eject a drive: 1. little eject button in Finder, 2. Right click on drive on desktop -> Eject, 3. Drag drive from desktop to Recycle Bin (this one is weird, but intuitive for long-time Mac users I guess). I admit I may be misinterpreting what you mean by "secondary" optical drive.

System-wide zoom is mega-situational. I'm sure it's useful for those with visual impairment, but I've never seen anyone use it nor have I had use for it myself. This is like complaining that high-contrast mode in Windows does not have an easy-to-access menu.

On my mac my keyboard has an eject button right next to f12(volume up). If I press that then the primary disk drive ejects its disk.

If I had two disk drives, I'm not sure which it would eject. I suspect that this is what WayneDB was referring to.

To chime in on the screenshot issue - the only real way around a shortcut is to have some sort of Window... And you'd have to have some sort of setting that hides the window. I think Gnome has something like that.

Screenshot: you use grab.app, which is included in the utilities folder. OS X has shortcuts, yes, but at least they all give consistent, immediate feedback, something Windows, Android and the various Linux desktops still don't get right.

How about Command-Tab? Click on the icons in the dock.

Capture a screen? Grab.app

Eject secondary drive? Drag it to the trash can.

You got me on the zoom in/out. I don't know that one. But I could make an argument that this one is not a shortcut, but the only command, as it falls under accessibility.

I see what you're getting at, but some of your examples don't help your case.

Whenever someone refers to something being "obvious" it can always boil down to a philosophical question of what obvious actually means. Nothing is truly obvious, and we've obviously conditioned from our surroundings. While we've obviously adopted conventions to interact with computers, they've offered affordances (or forced us) that hint at a function.

Gestures in general offer a challenge from a human factors perspective. Gestures can be very convenient and compelling sources of interaction that can enhance UX. Unfortunately, users are working in flatland, with very little affordances. The biggest problem here and with gestural interfaces in general is the lack of hints they give to an interaction. A physical button has a clear affordance (you can argue this is conditioned/learned) baked into the interface. There are also many issues related to the lack of universal gestures within and across applications and operating systems.

In a lot of cases, Gestures are like keyboard shortcuts. Many people discover them because they are told about them (ie. CTRL+C in the copy interface), but physically trying many different keyboard combinations just isn't something people do.

Apple has recognized the problem with gestures while pushing hard to make them standard. They still keep the home button on the iPad, even with system wide gestures that can accomplish the same thing. Overall, I agree with your sentiment that particular interactions join the ranks of some ubiquitious interactions you noted, but it will take more than a few months of use from one particular operating system and there are many challenges, no matter how convenient it is.

> physically trying many different keyboard combinations just isn't something people do.

you are so right. I did this exactly once, when I discovered that <Win>+<some other key> did special things in Windows, so at some point I decided to just try them all. I learned the <Win>+<Tab>, doing the silly 3D task switcher, that way (I already knew the useful ones like <Win>+<E>, <D> and <R>).

There's considerable risk in this approach, you don't know what the commands are going to do. I just did it because I was 1) very curious and 2) didn't have important things open and 3) kind of assumed they would not put a "really mess up your computer" command behind a single shortcut key.

Now that I think of it, I learned the <Win>+<number> commands from a blog somewhere, so I didn't even discover that tremendously useful shortcut :)

There is a LOT of people that don't even understand ctrl-c ctrl-v and go to the menu each time to do it.

I still use Ctrl+Insert, Shift+Insert =)

But you do HAVE to use it! Start computer - Metro, Open app - Metro, Search for something - Metro, Shutdown/Restart - Metro, Windows Updates - Metro, Control Panel - Metro, switch apps - Metro, and more. It's a real PITA when you get the huge goddamn Start Menu when you want to do something simple...

And even if you do reduce that to a minimum (which is possible), it's still stupid - here you are working with 4 windows open on something, completely forgetting that you're on 8, you want to do some random simple operation and BAM - METRO IN YOUR FACE! :-)

Is it a problem that the start menu is huge? The traditional start menu has always felt like a huge usability nightmare to me and I'm nothing but glad that it's been replaced.

In my opinion, yes, it's pretty annoying. I never work in full screen, but even if I did the objects are too big and you have to move the mouse a lot more, which is a drawback on a desktop/laptop...

Yes. I could accept usability updates but taking you away from all the other windows is just damn annoying.

>What bothers me about the OP though is that if you really dislike Metro so much on a desktop, you don't have to use it!

This is said over and over again, and everyone has to keep reminding them that it's not about what is currently happening, but the fact that Microsoft is GOING IN THIS DIRECTION. The "Desktop" is slated for execution - just because they have it now doesn't mean it's going to exist forever. It's obvious that MS (and other companies) believe that this "power user" feature is unnecessary going forward.

I really don't agree with this and there is no arguing that it is simply conjecture at this point.

I don't think Microsoft thinks that Metro apps or the metro environment do or ever will offer the same level of extremely high productivity that desktop apps and the desktop environment provide.

I think we will have a much better idea of Microsoft's POV on Metro if/when they release Office apps on it. Quite simply put, if Metro Office does not have 1:1 feature parity with the desktop apps then that backs my point. If I were to bet, I would say that Metro Office will be more aligned with the web apps. I would be quite surprised if they aligned more to the full desktop clients.

Why? Because the desktop is an environment suited for mouse and keyboard where you can have super high levels of productivity. Metro will not replace that as it excels in other use cases. Can you be productive with Metro? I'd argue you can. Just as productive as in the desktop? With some apps, perhaps. With others, absolutely not.

Then how do you explain the fact that the Windows App Store is metro-only? That seems to imply that either Microsoft wants to push metro-style apps in the long run, or they don't care about the app store on the desktop - I'd put my money on the former.

Well actually you can get desktop apps off of the app store. Sort of. It just redirects you to the website where you can download the software. But it is a listing nevertheless.

Yeah, but I'd argue that the major benefit of app stores are:

- Discoverability

- Easy payment processing/distribution

- Automatic updates

- Being able to easily re-download it later

- Consistent purchase, install, update experience

- Some confidence on the part of the end user that what they are downloading works on their system and isn't going to harm their computer

The simple listings for non-metro apps really only benefit from the first item, and they don't really change my argument.

Yeah I agree. Though I don't think that them pushing the app store as being metro first is equal to them shunning the desktop. Perhaps that is simply something we'll agree to disagree on?

It's very important for them to have the metro environment flourish and for that they're going to need lots of metro apps and blah blah blah. Metro IS important. It just isn't replacing the desktop any time soon.

To be clear - I don't think Microsoft is shunning or trying to destroy (at least in the short term) the non-metro desktop. I just think they are going to be pushing metro (or whatever it is called now) pretty hard, and if you don't like metro-style apps, they are going to be harder and harder to avoid as time goes by.

I just think that app stores are going to be more and more important to the ecosystems they exist in. For the reasons I mentioned above, I think more and more software is going to be procured via app stores (although, in big businesses it will probably be fairly small), and that is going to influence what developers build.

I probably wouldn't have built and sold a Mac app if there weren't an app store, and as I look at porting it to Windows, trying to replicate the infrastructure that I get for free with an app store isn't very appealing for the amount of money I'd likely make, so my choices are: make a metro-style app so I can use the Windows app store or not make the app at all.

> Perhaps that is simply something we'll agree to disagree on?

Fair enough :)

Even if your prediction proves correct, it won't be the current version of the new environment that's meant to replace the desktop, but some future version, whose suitability you can't really evaluate not being in the future.

The problem is that you cannot escape completely. A major point is that some settings are available only from the Modern UI, some are only available from the desktop, some are there on both. But the transitions are well-hidden most of the time. Not that most users (me included) need to frequently access settings (I'm on the same stance with UAC since Vista: It's not an annoyance beyond the first day of setting up a machine), but the lack of communication where something can be found is pretty annoying at times.

I understand that time and budget constraints make it hard to offer both in either mode, but that's definitely an area to improve.

"So, if you're a power user and want to stay away from all of that nonsense..."

But the people in the usability study were no power users. They were the intended audience. Besides, I don't think the performance issues OP describes would be appreciated by non-power users either.

Perhaps I used "power user" incorrectly. Basically what I'm getting at is that it seemed to me, perhaps incorrectly, that the person running the show told the people in the usability study to focus more on the new stuff and avoid the old.

Of course this isn't strictly true as the article mentions how people got confused with "double desktops" but given the rest of the article, it just seemed like people were forced to use apps that they otherwise wouldn't have used and thus gave plenty of complaints.

For example, his section on multiple windows seemed bizarre to me. Yes it is true that Metro does not support multiple windows but to say that Windows no longer supports them is simply incorrect. If a user wants to "collect, compare and choose" among multiple web pages then they can easily do that as they always have through the desktop. I think the important question here is "were they unable to find the desktop" or "were they told to only use Metro browsers"?

I think we should have faith in users to choose the correct tools for the task. Forcing them to do something the arguably "incorrect" way simply to have them struggle seems to simply be a self fulfilling prophesy.

And hey - I think a study proving that Metro on the desktop is less than ideal is perfectly okay. In fact I'd say I probably agree most of the time. But to label this study as Windows 8 as a whole as opposed to simply metro on a desktop I think is a little unfair.

I agree with you 100%. The old desktop is not gone, it still serves the purpose that it always did.

Many of the arguments I find come from people forcing new users to only use the Metro style UI, which would obviously be confusing (much as my mother would have problems switch from a PC to a Mac).

I'm sure people will praise windows 9 for being so much better than windows 8, even though windows 8 took all the risk and windows 9 simply applied some polish.

I just got a new ultrabook with W8 for my wife. First thing I had to do was download some software that W8 boots into desktop mode. Then I got another application that brings the start menu back. Now it is OK and ready to use for her. MS should have released a work version and a home version that comes either with or without Metro.

That'd would work until 6 months from now when there's a Metro app that you desperately need. Don't forget that only Metro apps can be sold in the app store, which provides a lot of infrastructure that many devs will find compelling.

Whether you like it or not, you will likely be using Metro apps on a regular basis in a year or two.

The "you can stay away from X" argument never really works. If something exists, it will sneak up on you one way or another, especially if it's the cool new thing. How long do you think until an app or OS feature you need isn't available on the old desktop?

Sure, you can use Win8 without "Metro," but the live tile display still replaces the start menu. There are lots of unnecessarily buried system interactions that require using Metro.

>>I'll repeat that even though I think we all know this

>>already: if you don't want to use Metro apps, you don't

>>have to use Metro apps. It is really that simple.

>>...then click on the "Desktop" tile...

I'm sorry, clearly you don't see it this way but the irony of the above is just... Well... My ghast is flabbered.

Why would I want a desktop where half of the thing has poor usability and loads of bugs?

Not to mention that he's complaining about the boxed-in apps and the first apps available from the Windows Store. That's like complaining about the first-generation games on a console being boring. Which is absolutely retarded. First-generation games are always a disappoinment - then a year or two passes and holy shit so many cool games. So let's just see how things shape up now that Microsoft has laid the foundation and the devs start to experiment.

Except we are talking about Microsoft, who's core competency IS building platforms and communities of developers around those platforms. That's what they do, or at least that's what they've done until now.

Is it really that hard for a company like Microsoft to find 100 software companies / developers and entice them to port 100 quality apps on their App Store, such that those apps are available when Win8 launches? Answering no to this question ignores the reality. Microsoft can do this and the fact that they didn't shows that they are losing their core competency.

And let's be honest here - Microsoft is late from all perspectives. Microsoft is late in the mobile game, being a distant fourth, behind Android, iOS and even Symbian. Microsoft is also late in delivering an App Store for the desktop. Their only "innovation" is this hybrid Windows that can run on both tablets and the desktop, except for their sad reality that consumers expectations have already been set by iOS and Android to the point that consumers don't expect their mobile devices to run the same desktop apps they've been using ... and if those apps won't be optimized for Windows 8, then it's going to be a shitty experience anyway, hence why your apologetic argument is not acceptable for Microsoft.

Many first-generation games were fantastic. Take Super Mario 64 for N64 for example, or Super Mario Sunshine for GC.

In ironic contrast, iOS games have gotten worse in the last years...unless you like social insert-coin games.

On a tablet swipe down from the top edge to the bottom to close the app.

On a desktop drag from top to bottom or bring up the appbar on the left and right click on the app that you want to close.

How the hell do they expect the everyday user to learn that? That is such an essential and core feature to navigating any operating system's interface. Jesus.

If I'm not mistaken they don't expect every day users to learn that on account of metro apps automatically being suspended and then closed for you based on your usage.

EDIT: This describes a metro app's life cycle: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/hh46492...

The basic idea is that if you aren't using an app it receives a "suspend" event allowing it to save its state so that it can resume where it was. If the system is low on resources it will start terminating suspended apps that you have not used -- though as far as I gather they should still have the ability to re-launch and read in whatever they saved at the time they were suspended.

So the general idea is that closing apps isn't something you should be concerned about as a user.

And how do you expect the everyday user to learn that? Sometimes I keep programs open for days with work I'm hoping to get back to. I'm surprised that that's the everyday solution. Shockingly bad.

Sorry, I added a more complete explanation in an edit.

To reiterate though: the only thing the user would have to learn is to forget about having to close apps themselves because it will be done for them as needed. This would not prevent you from working on something over a period of multiple days, on and off, so long as the developer implemented their app correctly. The app simply gets a clear request to save it's data to disk so that when it gets resumed or re-launched it can load it back and pretend it was running the whole time. This whole thing is pretty much transparent to the user with the exception that you might see the "splash" screen when going back to an app you haven't used in a while. I have not used metro extensively, but I have not experienced any problems with this approach when playing around with win8. If anything I actually kind of liked not having the care about having too many apps open and doing "cleaning" sessions like I do with regular running applications I stopped using.

Anyway, said behavior only applies to metro apps, desktop apps still operate as you'd expect.

Android and IOS both use exactly the same solution for their multitasking.

Ah, quite similar but not the same.

The BIG difference is the lack of visual indication. You get a red X over the icons in iOS, and holding down app icons is a means of interaction throughout the OS (and you're given an introduction to this on first login).

The way to close apps in Win8 is not visually indicated and relies on an action that the average user most likely won't discover on their own, or will only by sheer accident.

And a good idea it is, except the quality of first-party apps isn't up to making that transition.

I cannot speak for Android, not being a regular user, but I have never, ever seen a first-party on iOS get its own UI stuck. It may crash rarely, but it will never get itself into a state where the user is powerless to do anything with it (short of killing it).

Most iOS users I've met aren't aware of the kill-app functionality, and they don't need to, because first-party apps don't have egregious enough bugs like "button to return to main menu reacts but does nothing".

Safari on my iPad has recently gotten into the charming habit of, say once every two days, suddenly vanishing all my bookmarks and history - fixable only by a cold app restart : )

I've had some other odd issues with Safari on my 3rd generation iPad:

- About every day (sometimes much more frequently) a tab will just die. You'll click a link or enter a url, and the indicator in the top left corner will start spinning, but nothing ever happens. The only way to fix it is to close the tab and open a new one.

- Less frequently - maybe every few weeks or less - large blocks of web pages will just not render, instead of text or graphics or whatever should be there, there are just giant square white chunks. The only way to fix this is completely reboot the iPad.

I've also had a number of weird problems with the iTunes app that have required finding a way to force the app to quit or reboot the device to fix.

I like my iPad, but Apple's stock apps have quite a bit of room for improvement.

This has been festering for about six months now. It is supremely aggravating.

> Most iOS users I've met aren't aware of the kill-app functionality

Have they ever used the Facebook client before the ObjC rewrite? My girlfriend had to learn both force-killing and pull-to-refresh because of all the bugs (on an iPad if that makes a difference).

The other day, the note app got stuck for me when I touched an email address and tried to create a contact. I had to kill the app.

As does OSX since Lion. I remember my windows friends trolling about it.

Users have learnt to open task manager, find the process and click "End Task". That's a whole lot more complicated. I think people forget that at some point everyone went through a learning curve to learn even the basics of how to operate a computer. Having a learning curve does not make something a failure.

I have yet to find one regular (i.e. not tech-savvy) Windows user who knows how to open and use task manager.

Therefore since that is the equivalent to the Windows 8 process of forcing a program to close the complexity of the action is really a non issue.

I disagree.

In windows XP, Vista and 7, if you click the magical red X on a misbehaving program, Windows will offer to kill if after something between 5-50 seconds. Non-tech-savvy users _do_ use that functionality.

And in Windows 8 you don't even need to worry about it. After switching to another program the previous program will be suspended and if it takes too long to suspend, terminated. Sounds a lot better than asking "Non-tech-savvy users" to make the decision.

But it isn't obvious at all this is happening. The original issue here was a stuck application, and the user didn't know how to get it unstuck. I don't think "do something else for a while, it'll sort itself out" is a good response.

To shut down an app in Windows 8 / RT: Left swipe in / out to get the task list; Select any other app, I use "Desktop" for instance; Left swipe in / out again - this will display the app you "were" in (that you are trying to close) in the left-side task list; Select-hold, drag right and down down to the bottom. The interface will either.. refocus to the app you are trying to close, or will actually close. In practice: Toggling first to desktop helps, and normally allows the app to close; Toggling to the Metro home screen pretty much always does not work, the app ends up not closing and taking focus. And more odd: The active-app you are in is never displayed on the left. My Microsoft friend says you don't need to close apps; that the memory management on the device / OS will "take care of itself". I find that not be the case in that closing helps free up resources, and is the only way to restart tanked apps. Lastly: When you are down to only one running app + the home screen (always running?), you cannot close any apps, you can only toggle between them.

Can't disagree here. So I just installed classic shell and it makes Win8 sort of ok for desktops. But really, if they just had improved upon win7 instead I'd have been a happy camper. And I'm a Linux user primarily.

Drag down from the top of the screen to the bottom of the screen to close a Metro app

Thank you.

This would've been very useful as part of the animated tutorial on your first boot that you can't skip (and that I've seen 3 times this week thanks to setting up new machines).

That animated tutorial would be much better if it were interactive. I guess all that users take away after seeing it is “move the mouse into a corner and see what happens” – if they remember anything at all amidst the dozens “we're setting things up” screens (it's not that bad, I know).

Mmm, the animated tutorial is going to be aimed at the common denominator of users. I think MS is trying to hide things like "whether an app is running" from the average user. For example, I'm told apps will eventually close themselves if they aren't used.

It's been a few months since I tried a Windows 8 preview, but from the start screen type "task manager" in the application search context, click the app tile, and it may or may not be necessary to click "more details" for a more complete view of the running processes.

The idea was supposed to be that you wouldn't have to do this yourself as the OS would terminate metro app processes itself if you did not use them for some period of time.

EDIT: Apparently this is the long/manual way of doing it.

I guess I don’t know on the Surface…

But if you have a keyboard, you can do ᴀʟᴛ + F4, or kill it in the task manager…



Oh, wow, that “Change PC settings” button (if you can call it that) is abhorrent. How can something like that happen? How are you even supposed to know that’s a button? Is it more often the case with Windows 8 that buttons have zero indication that they are buttons?

I've been using Windows 8 at work for compatibility testing for over a month, and I didn't know that was a button until this article pointed it out. I don't know if I should be embarrassed or agitated.

If the user misses it, it's the developers fault.

As someone that really wanted Win8 to succeed being primarily a Win dev, I can't help but agree with the article. MS needs leadership that truly understands usability. Win8 missed most of the boat for what consumers want and drove their core supporters of enterprise devs away with all the HTML hoopla. With Sinofsky out, Ballmer needs to go next and be replaced with someone that's a better speaker and better understands users/developers if MS wants to retain any market share.

Maybe Microsoft will get it right for Windows 9, like they did for Windows 7.

It might be too late, though. I never thought I'd use a Mac, if only because Windows was good enough, and I like Windows 7. But knowing the Upgrade Train is approaching, eventually to make it difficult not to upgrade to Windows 8+, and using Linux more often, and having got real tired of facing a significantly different OS UX every few years for mostly no benefit to me, I find myself reluctantly researching a switch to the Apple world. If I'm considering such a move, there must be tons of other people in the same boat since I don't make big moves easily, especially not at higher cost.

I'm a Mac user and i am worried that apple is gonna make osx to iOS like.

Thanks. I was wondering when Jakob Nielsen would review Windows 8's UX. I agree the mono-color icons are a mistake. Icons exist for a reason - to differentiate between each app, and have its own unique identify. It's much less the case with Windows 8 icons because they are all white and mostly undifferentiated. It just makes it harder for the brain to process which is which, and where is what you're looking for, or what an icon means.

From a purely desktop perspective I've found Windows 8 to be a positive step overall. As a 'power user' the main benefits I have found are better performance and stability. Those alone should be enough to mark it as a success for heavy users. The new task manager is just a bonus.

As far as the start menu is concerned I'd be surprised that any 'power user' would miss it all that much. I always used a launcher (executor) as keyboard trumps mouse for speed and the new UI makes the 3rd party launcher app obsolete. Pressing the windows key and typing the name of the app is something most users could learn and come to appreciate the boost in productivity.

"Windows no longer supports multiple windows on the screen." In Metro mode.

Window 8

I've been using Windows 8 on a laptop (no touch input) for few weeks and it took me 2-3 days to make it "work" like Windows 7. Since I upgrade from Windows 7, several things messed up and none of the Metro apps can be launched. Even the Store app crashes every time. Googled around, tried fixing it and giving up in the end. The only last solution is to 'Refresh' the PC which I'm hesitant to do.

So, none of the Metro apps work at all, and I don't think I'll be using them anyway on a non-touch device. The next thing I do is install some 'Start menu' alternatives like ClassicShell, IObit StartMenu8 or Start8 (Start8 works best for me, not free though). These apps will skip the Start screen (when booting up) and hook the 'Windows' shortcut to open its own menu.

There are few little annoyances like when you open images, it launches in the Metro Photos (or Images?) app which takes up the whole screen. That'll need to be changed by setting the default app for images to 'Windows Photo Viewer' (or any apps you like).

Thanks for the hint on Start8 .. looks really good!

This seems a little harsh, to say the least. Among other things, he seems to be criticising Microsoft for both the early efforts of third-party devs (live tiles) and because users take time to grasp some of the new UI fundamentals (charms bar). Both of those issues will disappear quickly as the OS picks up steam.

As an iPad owner myself, I am nothing but intrigued and excited by 8's tablet interface. It seems like it would be a massive, massive jump in usability from iOS (dependent, of course, on how the App Store fills out). Furthermore, while he may not be wrong re: 8's desktop usability, I think this review is unnecessarily harsh towards what must be seen as a significant and complicated transition product. Just as web design is changing to a responsive model where content dynamically adapts to different devices and display areas, so are OSes changing to be dynamic and adaptive. In the future the idea of a user experience where your files and program's were locked onto the hard drive of a single computer, accessed through a static, unchanging desktop will be absurd. Computer interfaces are going to become incredibly smart, fluid and responsive, and W8 is the first step in that direction. I think it is silly to just focus on what Microsoft didn't get perfect first time around - I think they should be congratulated on their audacity. What they've done is certainly leagues more impressive than Apple's plodding, torturous attempts to wedge iOS concepts into its 20-year old WIMP model (seriously, go use Mountain Lion - its a complete mess - but no one attacks Apple as harshly as they do Microsoft... funny that.) Anyway in the end I share his sentiment, can't wait to see how Microsoft builds on its great work with W9! One thing is for sure: the old one desktop to rule them all model is finished.

NB: just to clarify, I haven't used W8 myself. I am sure a lot of the complaints about it being too minimalist and apps being too limited are perfectly fair. But I think Microsoft was right to strip away the clutter of the WIMP legacy and start again from scratch. Adding progressively more complexity in carefully measured increments is the best way to build a mature, balanced product befitting a new generation of computing. Again, go take a look at the average Mountain Lion set-up if you want to see a ridiculously cluttered, complicated mash of UI concepts, windows, spaces, slide-away trays, menu-bars, etc etc (and try find a normal user instead of a HN-style power user for added effect.) The only argument is for me is not whether Microsoft is doing the right thing (I completely believe they are) but whether they are managing this transition well. As someone with no experience in developing major new OS versions I can only imagine the complexity, so I am inclined to go easy and try and praise what was done well and what is a good idea rather than what didn't quite pan out in the first attempt : )

It seems like it would be a massive, massive jump in usability from iOS

Really? Utility, maybe - but usability? I've used an Asus tablet with Windows 8 on it and usability is far worse than iOS, at least where discoverability is concerned. It's too easy to get trapped in the faux desktop mode, and none of the gestures are as intuitive as they are on iOS. The gestures aren't difficult to use or clumsy - it's just that they're counter-intuitive for a new user (in my own anecdotal experience).

What they've done is certainly leagues more impressive than Apple's plodding, torturous attempts to wedge iOS concepts into its 20-year old WIMP model (seriously, go use Mountain Lion - its a complete mess - but no one attacks Apple as harshly as they do Microsoft... funny that.)

My impression of 10.8 is that OSX is being maintained by a skeleton crew who decide what new iOS features can be ported over to the desktop to warrant a new version. But I wouldn't call it a mess - not at all. Notifications and inline progress indicators are both welcome improvements. Reverse-scrolling is just wrong, but that's easy to turn off. Apple plods because OS X works - both OS X and Windows 7 are good at what they do.

Windows 8 isn't just a bit experimental - it's a groping attempt to stitch wings onto a monkey or a beak onto a cow. As a technical decision, there's no good reason to replace the start menu with Metro or to bring metro to an OS that's typically run on computers with multiple high-resolution displays. And there's no good reason to bring a pseudo-desktop UI, complete with tiny little touch targets, to a tablet other than to accomodate a hacky non-metro build of Office. But this isn't a technical solution - it's marketing strategy. This is the bridge that carries Windows over to the tablet, whether it belongs there or not.

Again, noting that I haven't tried W8 in depth yet.

Re: iOS vs W8 on tablets - here are the features I am interested in: 1) Multi-tasking: there are a lot of times on my iPad when I am say, watching a movie in Safari, and would like to chat to someone at the same time, but I can't, unless I change app, which would kill the running video. W8 promises to solve this.

2) App switching - on iOS you switch apps with a clunky four finger swipe, which means you have to stop holding the tablet with one hand and move your fingers and swipe across the screen. W8 uses a swipe in from the edge with your thumb, which is a very easy and natural gesture to use with the way you naturally hold a tablet.

3) Charms bar - iOS has two ways to access core functions or return to the home screen - the home button and a four finger swipe up. The four finger swipe up has the same problems as the app switching gesture. The home button is slow to press (one thing I love about my Lumia is how fast it is to tap the soft touch home button - the big clicky home button may be iconic but in my opinion it is slow and inefficient.) Anyway the idea of a quick

4) Microsoft's autocorrection and keyboard layouts: another thing I love about my Lumia is the word suggestion bar. Compared to iOS's autocorrection features it is incredibly superior. On iOS you get single pop-up suggestions above where your words are actually being typed, which you can only cancel by clicking on the target itself (so every time you need to cancel it you have to tap a different place = inefficient.) Furthermore, the suggestions are often wrong, no alternatives are offered, and there is no easy way to revert them. On WP7, if you tap on a word, it selects it instantly, and displays all the autocorrect options, and the original word if it changed it. On iOS, you have to tap a word, then wait... then tap again... then the stupid pop-over text control thing appears, then you have to tap "Suggest" (which sometimes doesn't appear!), then another little delay, then you have to find your original word... blech. Not sure how similar W8's tablet text input is to WP7, or whether the autocorrect bar and text selection features carry over, but if there's even half of these features, it'll be an incredible improvement from iOS. I can't overstate how much text entry sucks on an iPad. One more thing: W8 has multiple different thumb keyboard size options. iOS only has one. It's way too big for my thumbs on the wide iPad bezel. AND W8 has a skewed layout thumb keyboard, which maybe doesn't look as pristine as the iPad's version, but seems to me like it would work better with actual human thumbs.

5) People hub and sharing - one thing I do a lot of is sharing - especially links to friends. iOS sucks for this. There's a stupid share button in the Safari browser that lets you email a link or post it to your Facebook wall (with no option to post to friends' walls!) but in no way is sharing built in to the core of the system. On my Lumia, again, I love how it integrates with my entire Facebook friends list, and it makes sharing very easy. The Share charm integrated with the People hub on W8 sounds like, if it works as it should, an absolute killer feature to me, making it ridiculously easy to share anything from across the entire OS. I like how Microsoft seems to be really trying to integrate this sort of stuff into the core of the OS.

6) Livetiles - again another feature that is great on my phone. There's a lot more you can do with a homescreen than just rows of dead icons.

Windows 8 isn't just a bit experimental - it's a groping attempt to stitch wings onto a monkey or a beak onto a cow.

Well, that's your opinion.

this isn't a technical solution - it's marketing strategy.

First: yes, it is a technical solution. The scenario is like this: used to be that computers were big things that sat on desks. Used to be you kept all your files on one PC and moving them from PC to PC was difficult. Used to be that not everybody used computers. Used to be that the internet was a niche part of computer use. Used to be that no one had persistent online social networks integrated into their lives. Used to be that tablets weren't prevalent. Etc etc. Then all of these things changed - and now the world's most popular OS is changing in response to these changes. These are all technical problems (or whatever you want to call them) and W8 is an attempt to begin solving these problems.

Second: at the end of the day, the best marketing move Microsoft can make is to build great products that take advantage of all the possibilities of modern technology. I still argue that, after a period of relative stagnation, computer interfaces are starting to respond to the massive changes in computing technology and culture. Windows 8, whether it is particularly well-executed or not, whether it fits well with the legacy desktop or not, whether it breaks some parts of the desktop work environment PC model or not, is a step in that direction - the right direction.

1) Multi-tasking 2) App switching 3) Charms bar

I think a lot of this comes down to your preferences, and if Windows 8 on a tablet works well for you, then that's great. I think the article, which exposes 12 users to a Surface tablet in a controlled test carries a bit more weight, though.

Also, I don't know how much time you've spent with this generation of winrt devices, but if you think your iPad is 'clunky' and 'slow', you're going to be disappointed. The Asus tablet I work with here at work is slower, in response to user actions at least, than any iOS device I've ever used.

4) Microsoft's autocorrection and keyboard layouts

Yes, the winrt touch keyboard is very nice. The best typing score I've ever achieved was on an old LG phone running windows phone 7. The suggestions ribbon that winrt copied from Android is fantastic - Apple needs to license this from Google.

The scenario is like this: used to be that computers were big things that sat on desks. Used to be you kept all your files on one PC and moving them from PC to PC was difficult. Used to be that not everybody used computers. Used to be that the internet was a niche part of computer use. Used to be that no one had persistent online social networks integrated into their lives. Used to be that tablets weren't prevalent. Etc etc. Then all of these things changed - and now the world's most popular OS is changing in response to these changes. These are all technical problems (or whatever you want to call them) and W8 is an attempt to begin solving these problems.

No, it really isn't. W8 is an attempt to deal with what Microsoft believes is the existential threat of iOS and Android. I'm not going to argue the merits of Metro itself the way the article seems to because I like the Swiss design principles that seem to have guided the development of Metro and because I think Metro has generally been a technical success with windows phone 7 and would do at least as well on a tablet.

Metro on the desktop makes sense if you believe in the fairy-tale of tablet-PC convergence. I don't think that even Microsoft is foolish enough to believe this, which is why I think this is a cynical move to metastasize Windows and devour tablets the way Microsoft tried to devour PDAs with PocketPC. The Start Menu didn't belong in a PDA interface 15 years ago, and Metro doesn't belong on the desktop today. Tablet-PC device convergence would make sense if tablet-PC device use convergence made sense. Just the contradictory technical constraints on these two classes of devices - CPU/GPU power and precise UI control vs mobility and long battery life - tell us we shouldn't expect tablets and PCs to converge.

This isn't innovation - its the crude simulacrum of innovation. It doesn't make desktop PCs any better - if MS was interested in that, they'd bring proven fixes like pervasive desktop search (or at least a promoted UI element for the existing desktop search) or tiled window management to W8 - not Metro. Both of those features actually make desktop users on other platforms (and on Windows with 3rd party add-ons) more productive, right now.

Second: at the end of the day, the best marketing move Microsoft can make is to build great products that take advantage of all the possibilities of modern technology. I still argue that, after a period of relative stagnation, computer interfaces are starting to respond to the massive changes in computing technology and culture. Windows 8, whether it is particularly well-executed or not, whether it fits well with the legacy desktop or not, whether it breaks some parts of the desktop work environment PC model or not, is a step in that direction - the right direction.

It's not the right direction. At all. This is what kept tablets out of most users hands for so long - the notion that Tablet UIs should be similar to PC UIs. Remember Windows tablet PCs? Both of these classes of devices should be allowed to evolve in their own directions rather than being crudely stitched together to satisfy a wrong-headed convergence fetish. Apple probably knows this better than any other company at this point, given the backlash over tablet-esque features that were added to Lion. One would hope that Microsoft could learn from Apple's experience. Maybe like small children, this is something Microsoft has to learn for themselves through their own mistakes.

Indeed, I'd like to voice my support for the Windows 8 change. I do agree that there are some real issues inherent in the UI (simplicity to a fault), but I'm not bothered by them. What's awesome for me is that the Win8 change hardly actually affected me at all!

In my experience, the Win32 side of Windows 8 is still there with all the same power and functionality of Windows 7 (with plenty of improvements!). Right now, WinRT and Win32 are actually quite separated, and that lets me enjoy both without stepping on either sides toes.

Given that Microsoft wanted to introduce a radically new set of features/functionality, I feel like they did the best job that they possibly could have, and I'm having a great time!

Computer interfaces are going to become incredibly smart, fluid and responsive, and W8 is the first step in that direction.

That's not what I expected to listen from an iPad owner. Wasn't the iPad a huge step in that direction? From reviews, 'fluid and responsive' don't apply to W8 yet.

On OSX: the imported iOS features are out of sight, except for Mission Control, which didn't change that much. The default desktop has no clutter at all (menu-bars?). And since you asked, my mother (which was completely computer illiterate before) uses a MB without any trouble. It's naive to compare that to the radical changes that come with Windows 8, which even some long-time power users have difficulty adapting to.

Mmmm, not in my opinion. Look at my comment upthread for my feelings on the iPad UI. Basically I think the iPad has done very well not because Apple made an incredible interface, but because they kept it simple and didn't do anything stupid. The bar set by their competiton in terms of stupidity was very low after all. Yes, it's a great product, and well done Apple for focussing and making it. But it's not the be-all and end-all.

Having spent a lot of time with the iPad, I'm not convinced it's the future. Sure, some apps are great, but the sandboxed app model is too limited. Okay, web browsing is pretty good. Okay, maybe you can do some interesting stuff with one of those music suite apps. Beyond that, it's really just a toy. In my opinion.

The time is right for a better take on tablets - all it needs is a competitor to actually become competent (apparently this is challenging...) and the market to get over it's silly Apple infatuation. Look at safari on the iPad for instance. Really, it just looks like normal desktop safari? I have to tap on little tabs, and thin text-label bookmarks in a little row? And I have to manage my bookmarks in a janky drop-down menu of nested folders (hilariously not even bloody wide enough to read the bookmarks!) Seriously, I understand Apple doesn't want to challenge anyone with anything unexpected, but come on... Surely they can do better than that. It's just a shame none of the third party browsers can compete with safari's internals - or that Apple doesn't allow 3rd party apps to integrate with or replace core functionality. Yeesh.

My takeaway: Apple isn't really all that great. They've just been the least retarded of the major tech companies - so far. We can do better.

What parts of Mountain Lion do you consider "a complete mess"?

LaunchPad is a joke, but other than that I find Mountain Lion to be very intuitive and easy on the eyes.

Am I the only person around here who actually likes LaunchPad?

It integrates so well with Apple's lovely touchpad. Map it to your favourite hot corner, and suddenly all your apps are much easier to access.

But all my apps are immediately accessible with cmd+space and typing the apps name.

I gave up on hot corners once multitouch gestures were introduced. If you're using a mouse with OS X then you owe it to yourself to try a trackpad. It completely transforms the experience in a way that I wouldn't have thought possible.

1) If you use Mission Control, there's a linen background hidden behind the desktop. If you open the Notification Center, there's a linen background hidden behind the desktop. But if you change desktop spaces, there's only black - where's the linen (i.e. what happened to that permament physical textured backdrop Apple apparently decided was the bedrock of the UI?)

2) Not to mention that gross effect when you change desktop spaces, and the whole desktop slides over - including the menu bar (that apparently static, foundational part of the UI) - to be replace by a new menu bar! The dock doesn't change, so why does the menu bar?

3) And of course that other gross effect when you click full screen on an app (that little full-screen button nestled oddly in the top right corner of the window chrome above all the other little static buttons) - and the whole thing morphs and bulges and slides into a new space. Yeesh.

4) And yeah, Launchpad. So now apps are scattered between the dock, the application folder, and the Launchpad. Great.

5) Also, the Finder seems to get worse with every generation.

Really though, it's the sum of all the parts that offends me. When I see people with their sleek Macbook Airs on their laps, then I look at their screens, and I see stacks and stacks of scattered windows of all shapes and sizing clustered over the desktop, and everywhere, fiddly little tiny click targets (in the menu bar, in the windows themselves, in the window chrome - don't get me started on those ghastly mini traffic light buttons for mini windows...) And they're moving their fingers around in that little touchpad controlling that little mouse pointer on the screen, tapping on the little targets or slowly dragging things around...

All of this stuff was fine when computers were big slow things that sat on desks, running a handful of low-res apps at a time, driven by a mouse and keyboard. Back then, it wasn't possible to implement the fast, fluid, colourful graphical design and interface features of Metro. Windows had to be static heavy things that you carefully dragged around, resizing individual edges one mouse drag at a time. Nothing had any momentum, the whole window stack just sort of sat there like a pile of lead sheets. But now that computers are in our laps, or in our hands, and our computer use is spread between multiple device, and more often than not the average person is using a touchpad or a touchscreen to browse the internet (which has expanded into something so huge it no longer makes any sense to bottle it up in a single browser window) - and especially now that touchscreens are about to become ubiquitous on every single laptop sold in the world - the old static clunky WIMP model needs to be shuffled off to the side in place of something that makes more sense.

I will note that Mountain Lion isn't qualitatively worse for this new stage of computing than, say, Windows 7. But I have no respect for the small attempts to modernise the OS with ported iOS features. It's putting lipstick on a pig (admittedly a pig that was very good and useful for a long time and still has a lot of value in many different contexts.) Microsoft's hard reset will ultimately produce the right OS for the times, Apple's slow tweaks won't. In my opinion at least.

I agree with much of your posting, but...

> When I see people with their sleek Macbook Airs on their laps, then I look at their screens, and I see stacks and stacks of scattered windows of all shapes and sizing clustered over the desktop

> All of this stuff was fine when computers were big slow things that sat on desks, running a handful of low-res apps at a time, driven by a mouse and keyboard

I think this is exactly the wrong way around. This behaviour was never fine on a desktop with a mouse — but it is the best we have to cut through multi-app tasks on an 11"/13" laptop. With Exposé and an Apple trackpad, I have never felt overwhelmed even on my 1024x768 iBook, no matter how many windows I had open (and boy was Exposé fluid in 2005!).

Every attempt at using a "cleaner" screen layout on a laptop screen has failed spectacularly for me. How is Windows 8 any different from any other tiled window manager here? I see all my windows at once, but in exchange they are smaller (too small).

> I have no respect for the small attempts to modernise the OS

Maybe I'm getting old, but I like the slower pace that Apple has taken. Unity Shell and Windows 8 both strike me as highly ambitious but poorly executed attempts to dramatically re-imagine the desktop. Apple's approach has been more measured, and I hope it stays that way.

Maybe I'm just pessimistic about the future of touch-enabled desktop computers. I owned a tablet PC back in the day, and it was truly terrible. I have a 22 inch Cintiq which is great for art, but makes me feel like my arm is going to fall off after 20 minutes of web browsing. Touch makes perfect sense on tablets and phones, but I think that's where it ends. Only time will tell who's right.

As for clunkiness, I recommend a combination of Alfred and Moom for OS X. With a few keystrokes I can launch a half dozen applications and have them perfectly tiled across multiple desktops. Far from being slow and clunky, I've never felt more efficient!

I think Snow Leopard was OS X's last good upgrade. Lion and Mountain Lion mostly add new apps and UI doodads I don't use and introduce app compatibility problems. And I still don't forgive Apple for killing "Save As" in favor of "Duplicate" and "Export".

Launchpad is entirely optional, i personally hardly ever use it

Don't mistake this article for a review of Windows 8. It's not supposed to be.

It's a usability study, nothing more.

"Windows no longer supports multiple windows"

Only in Metro-Mode, right?

Its hard to imagine to have a Desktop OS that does not support multiple windows.

Did Microsoft say anything about the future of the Metro/Desktop duality?

And Metro Apps do not work on the Desktop and visa versa? So you would have to decide if you buy a "windowed" version of Photoshop or a fullscreen version?

There's not really a Metro Mode and a desktop mode, there's only one mode. You get one main app taking up most/all of the screen + optionally one companion app on the side. The desktop acts like an app and can be in either of these positions (hence why it's not really a separate mode) and within the desktop, you can run as many (desktop) apps and windows as you like and have the taskbar etc etc just as before, with the exception that the start menu has been replaced with the start screen, where you can pin, launch and switch to both the new kind of apps, the desktop as a whole, and individual desktop apps (which switch to the desktop and launch/switch to the app).

You're correct that desktop apps and the new kind of apps are separate (with the exception of web browsers which have a bizarre way they can run in both environments).

I think the worst thing about the Windows 8-feedback so far is that everyone is very dismissive about Metro as a whole.

Lots of people (me included) will tell you that Windows 8 is great and a solid upgrade from Windows 7. That there are improvements across the line, and that if you don't care about or don't like Metro, just don't use it.

People are assumed not to like Metro. People are told how to avoid it. If Windows 8 in any form succeeds based on that feedback, it would still be a failure for Microsoft, because the whole point of Windows 8 and the one thing they are actually trying to sell is Metro.

I'm not driven crazy by it, but I don't use it much. I don't use Metro-apps. When I was given a chance to sample a Microsoft Surface tablet, Metro made a whole lot more sense. But I'm not going to be using it on my laptop.

Honest question: For a multi-billion product like Windows, doesn't Microsoft conduct usability testing?

Neilsen had 12 participants in his study and discovered quite major usability issues. I wonder if their internal testing came up with similar issues and now they are having an Emperor's clothes moment.

I've actually wondered this as well. I actually like the DESKTOP portion of Windows 8 and think it is a really nice improvement over windows 7. In fact, if Win8 shipped without metro, I'd buy it right now...happily.

But it doesn't. It comes with Metro, and although I "figured it out", I shouldn't have to. Specifically as I'm comfortable with every OS available, using iOS, android, windows (since 2.0) and OSX. Each one of them requires a bit of learning and tweaking, but I remember opening win8 RC and wondering "how do I shut this off?" Initially I got pissed off because I felt like a child, I had no idea how to find the control panel etc (without using "advanced methods, winkey-r, "control" enter). While every OS has it's weakness, if you can't do basic shit then there is a serious problem.

So, did they conduct usability testing? I also wonder. I'm gonna vote "no" on this one.

With that said, I'm still gonna get it, purely out of curiosity.

They did. They gave to some users, turned back to Ballmer said, "See? They're using it."

1) Whoever was responsible for this Hindenburg of an OS needs to be removed from Microsoft immediately.

2) Whoever claims that Metro, the star feature of Windows 8, should simply be disabled as a response to near unanimous criticism is in no way qualified to discuss UI/UX.

With regards to your first point, you'll be happy to know that Steve Sinofsky was recently fired from his position as head of the Windows division.

I was disappointed that the article didn't do a better job of separating opinion from evidence. The introduction seemed to imply that a usability test had taken place, but the results were never used to back up any of the article's criticisms.

That being the case, I have to assume that this is opinion. So, the author and the people he spoke to didn't like Windows 8 for what seem to be logical reasons. Okay, but not as illuminating as actual evidence that there are usability problems.

Question: Why couldn't Microsoft user some sort of device input flag to default the Windows 8 UI to the best UI for the current input?

Tablet-mode: default to Windows 8 metro style (I'm using my fingers)

Any kind of trackpad or plugged-in mouse: Shift UI to traditional Windows GUI (Obviously I want more fine-point control)

If Windows is truly trying to cover both types of usage, they should recognize that both of these paradigms are useful in specific settings.

> If Windows is truly trying to cover both types of usage, [...]

Who says they're trying to cover both types of usage? It seems pretty clear to me that they want devs to forget about the desktop and start building metro-only apps.

IMHO they only push developers to start building Windows Store apps because, well, they need apps in their store. It doesn't mean you should stop building apps for the desktop.

We'll see whether or not (and how much) desktop apps and their developers become second-class citizens in the coming months and years. I'm betting it will happen. The lure of taking such a significant cut from every app sold has to be weighing heavily on a company that is rapidly running out of ways to make more money besides planned obsolescence.

What do you mean by "running out of ways to make more money"? Didn't MSFT post their highest revenue ever this year?

Also, even for Apple the app store doesn't seem to be a big profit center. I really think that consumer preference is driving the move to app stores, not greedy platform owners.

I didn't say they were running out of making money, but the days of just churning out a new version of Windows and Office every 2-3 years and counting on millions of reflexive upgrades are limited. And since more and more money spent on computing devices is _not_ being spent on devices where Microsoft has a dominant position (i.e., laptops and desktops and servers to a lesser extent), MS is rapidly losing market share even if their share of PCs is not substantially decreasing.

Microsoft's greatest competitor to Windows version X has been version x - 1 ever since XP came out (except for Windows 7 whose greatest competitor was version x - 2). With Windows 8, there is very, very little incentive to upgrade unless you want to use a touch-screen device. I would bet very few people even upgrade Window any more. 99% of the time they only get a new version of Windows when they get a new computer. I know that's been true for me for 10+ years, and I'm cool with that.

Consumer preference may be driving the move to app stores, but only because no other delivery mechanism provides that kind of end-user experience of being able to pick out an app, install it by pushing a button and knowing you're almost certainly not getting malware.

Oh, except for most Linux distros for the better part of 10 years.

Because they want people to be able to use both input methods simultaneously.

"When running web browsers in both device areas, users will only see (and be reminded of) a subset of their open web pages at any given time."

Setting firefox as my default browser helped here. (Not going to work on RT of course). Clicking a link in the Metro mail app takes you to the desktop instance of the browser, unlike chrome and ie, which also seem to ignore any sessions you have open in the desktop version.

That reminds me of another gripe. You can only launch IE in "Metro" mode when it is your default browser. It took me about 40 minutes to figure that out on Friday.

Some parts really need to be worded better.

I can't go back from Windows 8, as a power user with 3 monitors too, and am also eagerly awaiting the Surface Pro.

I just don't see nor feel many of the "hacker news" sort of geek hate with how certain things have been done in 8. I just went at it openly and while some parts need some work for Desktop, I actually quite like it.

I think everyone also should be aware that this is basically their first iteration, of which they've said they're going for a shorter cycle akin to Mac OS, and that the Metro apps are going to be low density at least for now because of the pitiful resolution the regular Surface is at. Many of these apps are also first generation or quick ports of apps on other ecosystems. Of course they're going to target the Surface tablet first then think about how they'd do it, if they wanted to, for the desktop or laptop.

So, it's KDE 4.0, except you pay for it.

You know what... get over it. You're just showing your age by not being able to figure out how the new Windows works. It may have been hip and cool to yell about how hard to use the new Win8 was a month ago but now you just sound like my grandmother.

No multiple windows on your screen? You're kidding, right? There is a new "style" of program. It's called the app. It does not belong on your desktop. If you're using an "app", you're doing it wrong. Use desktop programs, ignore the start menu except for program look-ups and carry on as normal. There is no UI difference in Win8 for a desktop user other than the start menu which can be primarily ignored.

Underlying performance improvements make up for the tiny bit of hassle anyway.

I agree 100%. Windows 8 is a major step backwards. I tried to get used to it for about 2 weeks, and as a developer, I can say that it is slowing me down big time. Not intuitive, buggy, ugly, distracting UI.

As a different developer who's been using Windows 8 for about 2 weeks as well and I really like it. I will agree that some thing not being particularly intuitive and you really have to memorize a few keyboard shortcuts to get going. Once that's done it's great. The UI is almost exactly like Windows 7, with a bunch of small improvements, and while I have no benchmarks, my initial reaction is that it feels more responsive than Win 7. I have yet to really find a use the Metro part of the UI, but I simply pretend it's not there.

What in particular did you find was slowing you down?

They keyboard utilization is much better in Windows 8 than it was in Windows 7. The metro is just great with keyboard. Can't say the same about mouse.

For anyone who has to suffer with Windows 8, Classic Shell from sourceforge will save your life.


Sadly none of the linux desktop environments are particularly great either - unity, gnomeshell, and kde all have different problems and none of them are nearly as refined as the OS X UI. That being said, if you are comfortable with a minimal tiling wm like awesome or xmonad, you can have a very productive environment.

I second the suggestion of Awesome. It's really easy to set up your own highly customized window manager. The tagging concept is also really interesting, and I haven't seen anything quite like it in any other WM.

Well, guh. The point of those DEs is too be highly customisable. Although, I agree that they should be more appealing out of the box.

Gnome-anything is far from customizable. If you don't count hacking it by editing XMLs and javascripts (for gnome-shell).

Did I say Gnome? Most Linux users know this. KDE, XFCE, LXCE are what you want if you need customisable UI.

It even supports Netflix now: http://www.iheartubuntu.com/2012/11/ppa-for-netflix-desktop-...

Tested it myself.

Through a hack, not official means.

UX experts gave us GNOME 3 or so I'm told.

Great work guys!

The thing about Windows 8 is that it makes me uncomfortable because I'm technologically competent and feel lost all the time. It makes me feel like I don't know anything about computers when it's been my career for 15 years. It's similar to using vim for the first time, where you hit something accidentally and don't know what mode you're in, or how to get back out.

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