Windows 8

User avatar
madmusician
Posts: 150
Joined: Mon 11 Dec, 2006 19.11
Location: Worcester, UK

I haven't used Windows 8, nor do I plan to, as I migrated to the Mac last summer, but I am surprised at the Ribbon hate. I think the Ribbon is fantastic, it's a great way to navigate and 'open out' commands, so it's less easy to miss things. A big example for me is in the Sibelius music notation software package, which I have used extensively since version 3, and it shifted to a Ribbon UI in version 7 which was released last summer. Now, for seven years, I wished that there was a command to maintain the rhythmic values of notes whilst changing the pitches. And one of the first things I spotted on Sibelius 7 screenshots was a 'Re-Input Pitches' function. Hooray! Except, upon further investigation, that command had been present in every single version of Sibelius I had ever owned, and I just hadn't known what it was called/where to find it. Now you might say that I wasn't using the menus well enough, or didn't bother to look hard enough, but it was a software package that I knew very well, and I genuinely had no idea that it could handle this input method. The ribbon showed me that it could. One thing that Sibelius has done, which perhaps Microsoft should have done, and would have solved cwathen's problems, is to have a "Find in Ribbon" command up in the top right hand corner of the ribbon. Just type in the command and it shows you exactly where on the ribbon it is.

Image

Admittedly, on a Mac system, I think that Office for Mac 2011 has it about right with the menu commands still in use, enhanced with the ribbon for commands which suit it, but I do believe that the ribbon was a logical UI choice for Microsoft to use. I can understand why people might not like it, and there are inherent problems with it, but I find it a great aid to my productivity and a great UI evolution.
User avatar
dosxuk
Posts: 572
Joined: Thu 07 Feb, 2008 21.37
Location: Sheffield

cwathen wrote:Even 5 years after the dreaded Ribbon Interface made its appearance I still cannot fathom what some crank at Microsoft was smoking when he decided that this was the way forward.
Luckily, when the ribbon was introduced, said crank (or one of them) spent a long time discussing why it was introduced, along with lots of statistical data collected from their customer metrics system, and user testing, demonstrating why they believe in the ribbon, and wrote it all down in an 8 part blog series.

Find it here

It's actually an interesting read even if you don't love/hate the ribbon and are just interested in how a massive company can work out how to improve/alter how people use their products.
lukey wrote:Certainly, in terms of hitting a key, typing, and hitting enter it's not a bad way of launching stuff, and in Metro, from what I can tell this is still maintained too, apart from the context switch.
The thing is, that you are switching contexts. The start menu on all versions of windows from 95 onwards is a modal operation - you switch contexts when you open the menu - and you can't do anything else apart from interact with the menu until you close it.
User avatar
lukey
Posts: 587
Joined: Thu 25 May, 2006 01.11
Location: London
Contact:

dosxuk wrote:
lukey wrote:Certainly, in terms of hitting a key, typing, and hitting enter it's not a bad way of launching stuff, and in Metro, from what I can tell this is still maintained too, apart from the context switch.
The thing is, that you are switching contexts. The start menu on all versions of windows from 95 onwards is a modal operation - you switch contexts when you open the menu - and you can't do anything else apart from interact with the menu until you close it.
I disagree. It's a modal element yes, but it's in the same context in that you maintain visibility of your other windows and so on. I can hit Start and start bashing out the name of something I read in an IM conversation (crap example, but you get the point).
cwathen
Posts: 1119
Joined: Fri 15 Aug, 2003 17.28

The thing is, that you are switching contexts. The start menu on all versions of windows from 95 onwards is a modal operation - you switch contexts when you open the menu - and you can't do anything else apart from interact with the menu until you close it.
But surely everything you do on a computer is a modal operation - regardless of how much the computer can do at once you can only interact with one thing at a time.

The difference between Metro's start screen and the start menu though is not just about operation, at present I can call up the start menu whilst still observing other things on the screen - I can have a video in Media Player running and open another program without interruption.

This is surely what Windows is supposed to be all about - being able to fit multiple tasks on the screen at the same time without any single process needing full control of the screen unless you want it to and the various iterations of the start menu have all supported this.

Metro just seems like a development of the old Program Manager - and that was scrapped precisely because it took up all/most of the screen.
Dr Lobster*
Posts: 2013
Joined: Sat 30 Aug, 2003 20.14

soooooo....

Windows 8 has gone gold and i've been playing around with the rtm at work to see how it works in an enterprise environment.

it's not that different from the release preview to be honest, a few tweaks here and there, the desktop theme is a bit different, just a "flat" version of the windows 7 theme really.

well... i hate it. i can't get on with it. nothing in it's operation seems intuitive or natural. the so-called hot corners sometimes don't activate leaving you fumbling around for the sweet spot to make it do something.

the charm bar on the right of the screen suffers from the same problem, sometimes it decides to pop out sometimes not. sometimes it decides to pop out when you're in an application doing something and your mouse happens to be on the side of the screen.

other things which suck are the fact that things which seemed to be quite quick and easy to do, like adding your computer to a windows domain are now buried under a shed load of mouse clicks. i know it's something most people only do once, but still, when you've got a lot of computers to image and join to a domain i can see it being a real hassle.

i can't really see the point of those huge great big tiles on the start screen. all the live tiles seem a bit pointless really, they just take up loads of space, even pinning an application to the start screen is cumbersome, there seems no logical reason why you can't tick 3 or 4 and add them all at once, but you can't. you have to pin them one at a time.

but in conclusion windows 8 seems to be stuck in a schizophrenic nomanslands that's neither the new way or the old way. it's a mess.
Critique
Posts: 950
Joined: Mon 17 Aug, 2009 10.37
Location: Suffolk

It certainly doesn't seem to be getting many positive reviews. The biggest complaint seems to be that they've changed things that used to be simple, and made them difficult to do. That and the fact that it isn't exactly intuitive.
Philip
Posts: 932
Joined: Fri 22 Feb, 2008 21.23
Location: Merseyside
Contact:

Critique wrote:It certainly doesn't seem to be getting many positive reviews. The biggest complaint seems to be that they've changed things that used to be simple, and made them difficult to do. That and the fact that it isn't exactly intuitive.
It is really hard to find out how to do simple things in some of the apps, like searching in the 'Windows Store' or that you have to right click to bring up a menu just for simple items like 'New'.
Image
User avatar
BBC LDN
Posts: 115
Joined: Thu 01 Apr, 2004 20.58
Location: Richmond-upon-Thames

Philip wrote:
Critique wrote:It certainly doesn't seem to be getting many positive reviews. The biggest complaint seems to be that they've changed things that used to be simple, and made them difficult to do. That and the fact that it isn't exactly intuitive.
It is really hard to find out how to do simple things in some of the apps, like searching in the 'Windows Store' or that you have to right click to bring up a menu just for simple items like 'New'.
To search in the Store, just start typing. Otherwise, it's the same as every other app - 'Search' on the right-edge Charms bar.

'New' what?

I do find this idea of dismissing Windows 8 for not being 'intuitive' very quaint indeed, and I don't really understand people think they're saying when they make that judgement. There's nothing at all 'intuitive' about Mac OS X, for example; someone with no knowledge of computers couldn't simply take one look at OS X and know exactly how to get started.

The issue is that people don't like change, and there are many changes indeed in Windows 8 over previous versions. But there's an enormous amount that, conceptually, is more or less identical to Windows 7, so it's not a completely alien environment. The issue is that new things need to be learned, and some old ways of doing things need to be 'unlearned'. That doesn't make it 'unintuitive'; it just means that there is a learning curve for those used to doing things a certain way.

Having seen young kids, elderly persons with little or no computing experience, and even those with learning difficulties, using Windows 8, on tablets and notebooks, the ease with which they take to the big grid of dynamic tiles on the Start Screen, the idea of 'Charms' being a universal UI feature, the simplicity of the Windows Store, and so on, it appears to me that Windows 8 is actually much, much more intuitive than Windows 7. The frustrations that many people - including myself on various occasions - towards the Windows 8 way of doing things is largely because it's different to what's gone before. Those approaching the platform with a completely fresh eye seem to take to it much more easily than those of us who have been using Windows in some form for the last twenty years.

There's some research floating around regarding the 'cognitive load' of having to switch between two different user experiences in the same session, and how this is counterproductive; literally, it is claimed, this reduces productivity. As I'm not a doctor, I can only offer anecdotal information here. I currently use two Windows 8 devices regularly - a tablet and my touch-enabled desktop PC. I use the tablet as my main mobile device, so I'm frequently switching back and forth between the Desktop (to use my legacy Windows programs such as Expression or Office) and the Modern UI (which is perfect for touchscreen devices and for content discovery and consumption).

On my desktop PC, however, 99% of my time is spent on the desktop. When I need to open an app, I press the Start button on my keyboard, type the first few letters and hit enter. I don't need to regularly interact any further with the Modern UI besides that. It is completely possible to avoid the Modern UI almost entirely on a regular basis, and even interactions with the Start Screen don't have to be drawn out or exhausting. For all intents and purposes, my desktop PC looks, acts and feels like a Windows 7 PC, but with the massive under-the-hood performance improvements, fantastic integration with the cloud and - if I need it - the facility to download apps and games from an incredibly easy-to-use app store.

So I think a lot of the frustrations that people experience are understandable for those that are having to learn new ways of doing things, but once you get into the swing of things, these processes become every bit as natural and - if you want to use the word 'intuitive' once you've got into the habit. Unlike Dr Lobster for example, I no longer experience issues with the hot-corners as my hand effortlessly glides the cursor to them, just as easily as it would glide to the Start button in Windows 7, for example.

Of course, there's PLENTY of room for improvement. As the Lobster noted, it's a stupid hassle to have to pin apps to the Start Screen one at a time from the all-apps list. Some of the integrated apps like Xbox Music are terrible. Customisation options are limited. I'm completely open about that. I regularly tweet about what irks me, what isn't working as it should, what little bugs or niggles I've spotted here and there, or what I simply don't like. Windows 8 isn't perfect. Far from it.

But having been using Windows 8 since the Developer Preview, I'm completely confident that the benefits far outweigh the positives, and that it's worth sticking with it, rather than just getting frustrated because it's all so different.
Dr Lobster*
Posts: 2013
Joined: Sat 30 Aug, 2003 20.14

it's not that i'm against change when those changes have inherent productivity benefits, but i'm not convinced that the changes here have many advantages for the desktop user - if i'm reading your post correctly, you say that you can get away without using the start screen - granted - that's possible by filling the desktop with shortcuts but if you have to avoid it, then surely it's failed it's design goal.

we never had this debate about the start menu - it's a quick and unobtrusive way to get at your applications, made better in vista and 7 where you could find your files and run commands from one place, but we seem to have gone backwards now.

for the sake of balance, i will say Windows 8 installs significantly quicker than Windows XP and quite a bit faster than Windows 7. It also starts up a bit quicker too.... but these are what i'd describe as one time events:

most people re-install windows rarely, even in the corporate world most installations are captured as an image and although with tablets and phones we demand that they come to life instantly, windows 95 taught us that those big beige boxes take a while to warm up.

so whilst any optimisations within the kernel and so on are welcome, bootup and install times are hardly the top of my list of concerns. i didn't notice any perceivable difference in launching and using applications within windows 8 vs windows 7. there maybe differences, but i didn't notice them but i was using a modern i7 processor so the law of diminishing returns may apply here.

but even for the tablet/touch user, i wonder about the strategy and whether the desktop and tablet worlds can ever be unified or whether they should.

i agree the start screen, metro and tiles are likely great for touch screen. i haven't had the opportunity to test W8 on a touch screen pc as we only have a few but the problem is whilst touch screen is great for bashing out the odd email or browsing, i can't see many people preferring the ergonomics of touch when they come to do things in productivity apps or photoshop. the interfaces of these applications are too fiddly for chubby fingers and even Office 2013 whilst has better support for touch, still has hundreds of tiny user interface elements, you'd have to mental to want to do anything other than write your christmas list on a touch screen with office.

i don't think one size fits all and i think microsoft are causing unnecessary pain for commercial rather than usability reasons.
User avatar
BBC LDN
Posts: 115
Joined: Thu 01 Apr, 2004 20.58
Location: Richmond-upon-Thames

Dr Lobster* wrote:it's not that i'm against change when those changes have inherent productivity benefits, but i'm not convinced that the changes here have many advantages for the desktop user - if i'm reading your post correctly, you say that you can get away without using the start screen - granted - that's possible by filling the desktop with shortcuts but if you have to avoid it, then surely it's failed it's design goal.
Not quite. I'm saying that you can get away with using the Start Screen so briefly that it's not an intrusion. Press Start > Type 'skype' > Enter. Back on the Desktop in literally one second. (You could do pretty much the same operation in the Windows 7 Start menu, although I still find that my Start menu 'hangs' while searching for stuff that I type, so that one-second operation on the Windows 8 Start Screen takes more like 2-3 seconds on the Windows 7 Start Menu). If you want no part of the Modern UI, you can just consider the Start Screen a giant, full-screen Start menu, and treat it as such. Personally, I have only one icon on my Desktop - the Recycle Bin.
Dr Lobster* wrote:we never had this debate about the start menu - it's a quick and unobtrusive way to get at your applications, made better in vista and 7 where you could find your files and run commands from one place, but we seem to have gone backwards now.
The Start Screen is still a quick and unobtrusive way to get at all your applications. The same functionality is preserved on the Windows 8 Start Screen as on the Windows 7 Start menu, but with additional features. It looks different. Things have been moved around. But really, it's not that different at all.
Dr Lobster* wrote:for the sake of balance, i will say Windows 8 installs significantly quicker than Windows XP and quite a bit faster than Windows 7. It also starts up a bit quicker too.... but these are what i'd describe as one time events:

most people re-install windows rarely, even in the corporate world most installations are captured as an image and although with tablets and phones we demand that they come to life instantly, windows 95 taught us that those big beige boxes take a while to warm up.

so whilst any optimisations within the kernel and so on are welcome, bootup and install times are hardly the top of my list of concerns. i didn't notice any perceivable difference in launching and using applications within windows 8 vs windows 7. there maybe differences, but i didn't notice them but i was using a modern i7 processor so the law of diminishing returns may apply here.
Fair enough. A lot of user experiences will be anecdotal and non-replicable on one's own systems. In my experience (and I'm happy to put video together if anyone needs to see to believe), it's quicker to open a Desktop program (from hitting Start to the program being available to use) via the Start Screen on my Windows 8 system - a three year old Core 2 Duo HP TouchSmart - than it is via the Start menu on my six month old Core i7 HP Pavilion Elite running Windows 7.

Other users' experiences may well differ.
Dr Lobster* wrote:but even for the tablet/touch user, i wonder about the strategy and whether the desktop and tablet worlds can ever be unified or whether they should.

i agree the start screen, metro and tiles are likely great for touch screen. i haven't had the opportunity to test W8 on a touch screen pc as we only have a few but the problem is whilst touch screen is great for bashing out the odd email or browsing, i can't see many people preferring the ergonomics of touch when they come to do things in productivity apps or photoshop. the interfaces of these applications are too fiddly for chubby fingers and even Office 2013 whilst has better support for touch, still has hundreds of tiny user interface elements, you'd have to mental to want to do anything other than write your christmas list on a touch screen with office.
I know what you mean - despite having a lovely huge 25.5 inch touchscreen in front of me, I only use it very rarely. Conversely, Windows 8 on a tablet is an absolutely wonderful and very natural experience.

Not all of my Windows 8 experiences have been positive. I honestly found it to be a fairly torturous experience on a four year old notebook with no multitouch trackpad. That was before Microsoft sent me the tablet, so I hadn't experienced the joys of touch interaction with WIndows 8, yet I still found myself almost desperately pawing at the screen of the non-touch laptop, wishing i could interact with it that way. Touchscreens make a lot of sense on laptops, even for productivity scenarios, where the arm travel between mouse, keyboard and screen is much, much more limited than on a desktop; it feels more natural to tap the screen on a laptop in front of you, than to lift your arm right up and forward to touch an upright monitor on a desk.
Dr Lobster* wrote:i don't think one size fits all and i think microsoft are causing unnecessary pain for commercial rather than usability reasons.
We'll have to agree to disagree on that one, but I certainly understand where you're coming from.
User avatar
dosxuk
Posts: 572
Joined: Thu 07 Feb, 2008 21.37
Location: Sheffield

Dr Lobster* wrote:we never had this debate about the start menu - it's a quick and unobtrusive way to get at your applications
Really?

Do you not remember the complaints that Microsoft had got rid of Program Manager when Windows 95 came out, along with lots of tips being available on how to configure Windows so that that stupid explorer rubbish doesn't come up and it displays progman.exe instead?

Or how about the "Fisher Price" UI added with XP. "Nobody want's their desktop to looks like some kids toy" said all the commentators then. "First thing to do when you install XP is goto the theme page and put it back to 'Windows Classic'. This should be the default". The changes to the start menu were not excluded from that "Why do I need links to my documents on there? The Start Menu is for programs".

Then there were the complaints about jump lists being added to the start menu. And more complaints when vista got rid of the pop out "All Programs" menu.

Every edition of Windows has had a significant number of people complaining that Microsoft has got it all wrong, and they should leave stuff as it is, and allow people to opt-in to the changes if they like them. If we had done that, we would still have the Windows 3 interface. And I challenge anyone to say the W7 desktop isn't better.
Post Reply