Posted by: buzina | March 13, 2012

Windows 8: Some suggestions

The new Windows 8 Start Screen, making use of ...

Image via Wikipedia

I must admit one thing: I really enjoy tinkering with new software. So I know I am a bit of a geek in that area. So what did I do when the Windows 8 Developer Preview came out? I installed it in a virtual machine (Oracle Virtual Box). I did not play around with it much as it could not fully utilize my system. So what did I do when the Consumer Preview came out? I did not want to have the trouble of virtualizing it again, so I tried to upgrade my work notebook.

Here are some of my ramblings about that experience.

1. Upgrade

I know, use a clean install. But I wanted to avoid the reinstall hassle. Well, that did not work. The system rebooted & rebooted & rebooted. But it never came to a usable situation. I wanted to go to safe mode, but no safe mode anymore. So I could not repair the system myself.

Message to MS: Please make sure that upgrades work out of the box, especially if you advertise the upgrade quality (see building 8 blog). Also bring back safe mode from the beginning. If my system boots I can add safe mode to the boot options, but if my system is running I do not need safe mode.

2. Clean Install

Installation worked fine. It left my second partition (containing all my data) alone and came up with a running copy of Windows 8. But then I checked the drivers and found out that it only used the Intel Gfx card of my notebook, not the NVIDIA card. So I downloaded the driver (special window 8 version), installed it and wooops, after a reboot I had a flickering screen that every once in a while showed “Please Wait” (in German). I did, but it did not go away. Safe mode was out of the question (see above). So I had to do a second clean install. Btw. it is not so quick, it still takes quite some time.

Message to MS: See safe mode above. Check video driver issue and make sure they work or at least switch to the basic driver when a specific one fails.

3. Log In & Setup

I really like the new login screen with the picture password option and the sliding panel. Really slick and works well. What I don’t like is that everything I do is connected to my Microsoft Live account. I do not want MS to combine all my info together. If MS persists on doing this, it should give away the OS as I am not the customer but the product. I am not even sure if the Windows 8 Metro Email app isn’t secretly copying my mail to my Windows Live environment. I entered my linked in account into the people app and now my linked in connections show up on Microsoft Live. This is not the way I expect this to behave – this is my computer and I control the data.

Message to MS: Refrain from illegally copying my data. Stop asking me for Microsoft Live account at every step (e.g. Music Hub).

4. Metro

In contrast to so many people, I really like the new design language. I also enjoy using metro even if I am not using a touch enabled device. So Metro is the way to go forward. With one but: This is the one single situation where MS can re-invent there OS paradigm. Up to now the basic idea was backwards compatibility, now MS adds a layer which is completely new. MS has to be careful with this new way. I fear that the usage models are not complete as many apps and windows parts behave differently. Samples:

1. Getting Back
Alt+F4, Escape, Alt + Left, Backspace, Windows key. These are a few of the ways of going back where you came from. MS should use the following:

  • ESC –> Go to previous app or start, leave app suspended
  • Alt+F4 –> As it is now, terminate the app
  • Alt + Left –> Go back to previous display or app or start, depending on the state of the app (if it is on secondary page, go back within the app, else go back to previous app/start). Leave the app suspended

2. Mouse scrolling
As most people will use mouse & keyboard with Windows 8 initially at least, it needs great support for mouse. Right now it is a bit of a mess. Mouse to the edge & continue works on the start screen, but nowhere else. Vertical scroll wheel works on the start screen and some of the apps, horizontal scroll wheel (if you have one) works in most places but not everywhere.

This shows that the scrolling part is left to the app programmer. That will not result in happy users – every app will work differently.

Message to MS: Take control on the scrolling! Before it is to late.

3. Semantic Zoom

Great feature, I really (really) like it. Make sure more apps support it. Since it should be semantic it has to be in app control, but MS should make this really easy for developers to implement.

4. Share Charm should disappear not available

No brainer as MS itself promotes less dialogs. If an app (or the desktop) does not provide the Share contract, it should not be shown at all. Additionally share should work on the desktop using the clipboard

5. Search by keyboard

I like searching in start very much. But I need a shortcut to always go down to a different search provider. It should be alt + (or ctrl + or shift +) down. That would be logical.

6. “Old school” icons

You will need a solution here. They look bad on the metro menu. Also why is the text on Metro apps below the graphics and on classic apps above? On solution would be to use the existing icon color extraction (used on the task bar for highlighting) to select a proper background color for the tile.

7. Context Menu

The right click menu in Metro is (sorry) ugly. If it is right click for spell check, for Shutdown options or whatever, the context menu is no beauty. Please consider using a non-bold font and make it a bit more slender. I know it is for the fat fingered amongst us but the look can be improved.

8. Classic App installation

I installed Visual Studio 2010 and 2011 beta on the Windows 8 machine. Now my start screen is littered with icons from those installations. They are just added to the end of the start screen without any organization. I have to look for the main icons and manually drag them to a more comfortable place. That needs to be changed. The icons installed with classical apps need to be grouped in a separate group just like in the original start menu and Windows 8 needs to identify the MAIN Icon (I know that is hard) and place that in a more accessible area. As I can not drag an app from app search to a given position in start (that would be a nice addition too, just drag to the left, show the start in semantic zoom and let me drop it where I like) I need a way to find the main application.

5. Desktop

1. Explorer

Great changes here. As a ribbon fan (if you accept the concept you are much quicker with it) I like the explorer ribbon. I would not have chosen to keep it minimized by myself, but it is the right decision. That windows finally learned to respect the orientation EXIF flag does not need comment. Maybe MS has learned (finally) that it is of no use to MS to ignore world standards, it reflects only on MS. The new file transfer dialog is perfect! It not only gives you the tools you need to do the job to be done, it provides you with some beautifully crafted graphics. The same is true for the new task manager.

Message to MS: Re-use the file transfer UI. If any program (e.g. Internet Explorer) downloads/copies/moves/changes data or files, use this UI

2. Start Menu

It is the right decision to use metro as the start menu. Windows 7 removed a lot of clutter, Windows 8 should not add to it again. To all those calling for the return start menu: The metro start is better even with mouse (and touch pad). You have access to more programs directly, the menu is in the Fits Corner so access is quick, keyboard access is good (using all arrow keys gives you quicker access to more applications with less key strokes). You get the new right click administrative menu for free.

3. Multi-Monitor support

What I have not seen yet is comments on the multi-monitor task bar capabilities of Windows 8. If you use a multi-monitor setup you will love the new setting to have task bars on all monitors, have different settings for each task bar, etc.

Another good one is having Metro open on one monitor while working on the 2nd monitor. It is not yet perfect, as sometimes the metro interface will disappear, go to start or whatever. So MS, please improve upon this great idea.

4. Design

Well, you can argue about this. As the classic desktop is designed to be compatible MS probably can’t change too much of the design around. Still I think you can do something about the great divide between Metro and the Desktop. It looks a bit like a sown together experiment.

6. Quality

As always I am impressed by the Beta quality of MS products. Really great job, you can work for real on it. One exemption is the installation process. I have used the betas since Windows 2000. 2000 installation was a pain (it did the same reboot cycle when installing as Windows 8 did). XP beta was a breeze, even Vista beta was good and Windows 7 beta installation was a great “experience”. Windows 8 beta installation was back to Windows 2000 beta. Maybe just tough luck.

Speed of Windows 8 is great, so no regression here.


The hate machine against Windows 8 metro replacing start menu is nonsense. You can work great using mouse, touchpad and keyboard. Metro start requires a bit more customizing, and MS can still improve (see 4.8. above) but overall it is easy to use.

MS needs to adapt the data gathering strategy immediately. I will not tolerate apps that copy my data to MS cloud services as the only option. I already have the services I use in place and will not change to use MS offer by force. They may convince me, but not in this way.



  1. Thank you for your feedback and notes on your sessions. Regarding your comment about sharing data, nothing is shared with anyone by default and everything is private to you. Windows 8 doesn’t use the data provided in your Microsoft ID for anything other than roaming your settings and authentication. Using the mail or people apps is the same as using the service (with or without Windows/Windows 8) and those terms apply there. You don’t have to use those apps. You can even use a Microsoft ID with your current mail address and not use the Microsoft services for those. All up to you.

    In a sense this is no different than your comment form where I am signed in with twitter 🙂


    • Thank you for your reply.

      So am I right in the assumption that your delivering Windows 8 without an open Email and Contacts application? You replaced the open Windows 7 mail and contacts applications with a frontend to the MS Cloud services? So you leave your clients with the simple choice of:

      a) use our cloud and Windows 8 with the included core apps (mail & contact are core by now) or
      b) buy our Windows 8 OS and skip around core functionality?

      Even Apple is more open on this one, you don’t have to use their Cloud to connect to existing directories.

      So please post a list of what I can do with the existing apps without providing MS access to all my accounts.

      -> Connected via MS Cloud ONLY: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook (I guess)

      -> Unclear: google, Exchange, etc.

      or do I misunderstand?

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