I’ve been running Windows 8 (ironically on my Macbook Pro) for a few months now. Fundamentally, I don’t think that there is that big a change in the overall functionality, but there are a few key issues with it as a desktop OS that I wanted to highlight for those thinking of making the switch. Notice the emphasis. I think that as a tablet OS, Windows 8 will be incredible, but on the desktop it falls a little short. Here’s why:
- The desktop is messy
- True multitasking is impossible with metro (full screen) appsI’m sure you think that first one is just being petty, but let me explain. I’m the kind of person that has my Start menu organized hierarchically. My folders are well branched. The root of anything on my machines has the minimum number of items possible. And my desktop, well, its almost completely empty. I’ve spent years harassing people who use their desktop as a dumping ground of documents and shortcuts as disorganized neophytes. So when I migrated to windows 8 I discovered that that visual whytespace that I crave is … difficult at best.If we step back, the reason for this is clear: it is a tablet OS. Apple has done an excellent job of training us all to expect horizontal scrolling “pages” of little tiles that represent applications. The introduction of the folder on iOS was a revelation and people started quickly organizing their tiles into folders of tiles…so we end up with “pages” of even littler tiles stuffed in little folders. Windows 8 followed along in this paradigm, allowing you to have as many or as few tiles as you’d like, and even letting you group them. I’ll admit, my iPhone is a jumble of tiles, very few folders, and I organize them by frequency of use, those that I use most often are in the first page, and use tails off after that. Windows 8 would let me do exactly the same thing, but while that works for me on a mobile device, it is an anathema on my desktop (strictly speaking, laptop, but I digress). Further complicating this mess is the full screen mode of most metro apps. Just like an iOS device, these apps fill the available screen real-estate to provide the best experience. On a tablet, I expect that behaviour. On my desktop, there are very few reasons I want to lose the context in which an app is running. The 1/3 & 2/3 multitasking mode is fantastic…on a tablet, can’t do that on an iPad. But on my desktop, I often have 5 tabs, 3+ apps, multiple windows of each all running simultaneously. In particular when I’m creating documents, I like to have 3 or more documents open at the same time so that I can reference and update them all as I meander through the change at hand. Not a task that I’d be likely to try to perform on a tablet, but one that happens almost daily on my desktop. So where am I left? Well, my Win8 start screen is almost empty. I use the “start typing to search All Apps’ technique to run almost everything. 9 times out of 10 I’m running in “classic mode” as I have multiple windows open that I need to see in full scale. And the app store, fugedaboutit, I don’t even bother hunting for “Windows 8” version of applications because unless they operate in standard windows mode, they actually harm my productivity.I’m sure as the paradigm shift that windows 8 is takes hold, this whole post will seem antiquated and just another flavour of “who moved my cheese” but for the moment, I still believe there are some cracks showing in the implementation of the new user experience.