Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Windows 8: Day two

OK, so I have slept on it... did Windows 8 really have all those niggles or was I just being apprehensive because of how I'm used to using things? In fact, was it as happy a move in strategy as I said it was yesterday?

Today's interaction with Windows 8 was basically getting it moulded to how I'm going to like to use it, as I did with Windows 7 only less than a month ago. I thought that I had been sensible in my planning. Oh not quite...

Files were installed on to a seperate partition thinking that if the two systems are so compatible, I should be able to run files installed under windows 7 on the windows 8 environment. For the most part, I was correct. Open Office, Filezilla, Winamp, Steam... all they needed was to have a profile set up on the Windows 8 drive.

Adobe on the other hand... ugh. Some programs (Muse, oh my) work fine, but others need a fresh install. The frustrating thing here is that it results in two versions of the same program duplicated on my system. But this is a minor niggle, and only something those with dual booting and a particular desire to save space will come across.

Meanwhile I've been playing more with the start screen. Having set up my messenger app to allow me to connect to facebook (an all around much more immerser and readily available way of keeping in touch with people through the day), I have now snapped it to the side of my second monitor. This has had a very welcome benefit.

(The right hand side is cut off, Photoshop is full screen in my primary right hand monitor)

While a fifth/sixth of the second monitor has this space reserved for messenger now, the rest doesn't revert to the most recent Modern UI app that I had open every time I click on a desktop app. Indeed, this means I can now have the desktop show in the larger portion of the second monitor!

This is almost perfect. If I want to get involved with any start screen apps it's a simple swipe/drag across the screen to make the small panel in to a large one, then by hovering in the top left of my screen I can cycle through all open apps by clicking.

Now. This isn't ideal; It'd be great if I could go back to the start screen but only within the portion of the screen reserved for the Modern UI, and there MUST be a better way to choose what app I want to switch to. For a start I don't see why hovering in the top left shouldn't make the small rectangle previews spread out along the left or top of the screen. Currently you can get the same effect, but it's a fiddly action of going to the top left and dragging your mouse downwards. Why make it two movements, Microsoft? Why the needless complexity?

But all this aside, suddenly the issue yesterday of having an almost redundant second deskop screen is solved! With there almost certainly being an app that people will happily have residing in the small column space, most "power users" must have very little to complain about now. At least that is my opinion as someone that has been using windows environments since Windows 3.1.

Sure, the start menu isn't there, but I still contest that such a change is very much pointless. If I hit the start button on my keyboard the startscreen pops up, I immediately start typing to find the application I want and... voila. If this is too much (tapping, and typing) then why not do what you would have done on Windows 7/Vista/XP anyway and put the application you want on your task bar, or as a shorcut on your desktop. You can do this here too, obviously, and so nothing is ever more than 3 clicks away, if you don't want it to be.

Of course, this is my view as a dual screen user. It's clearly a better experience with two monitors...but I'm not sure the "burden" of switching between contexts really exists when you get used to the concept even on one screen.

So if anything my opinion has improved over the last 24 hours...but it doesn't forgive the niggles that still exist. Being in the windows store and not having an easy and obvious option to go back to the home page of the store is frustrating. Even more frustrating is being able to search for apps by starting to type if you're on this home page, but not if you're in a search results page. Why the change in functionality, Microsoft?

As ever, it's going to be the small and needless poor choices that Microsoft have made that stop Windows 8 being even remotely accepted as a "Mac beater", if it ever had that chance in the first place. Here's hoping that some revisions and updates will be made soon!