Is Adapting To Windows 8 And Its Metro UI As Hard As It Seems?


The Windows 8 Consumer Preview release is just around the corner, and while you get ready to see what features Microsoft decided to scrap, which ones it decided to keep, and what’s new, you will either be reading a recap of its new features or what the general expectations are. This is neither of those two. This article looks to address what the initial expectations and reservations were that circulated the web and how much truth there is to them. Be warned that the post does not address anything on the developer end, and is based on my perception solely (which includes my giddy excitement for new things). It does offer you some insight on what it’s really like to use Windows 8, and will hopefully put you at ease about using the new system, and perhaps at arms, if you hadn’t taken them up at first.

Metro UI is for tablets, not PCs

Once everyone had stopped ogling the newness of Windows 8 Metro UI, people began wondering if the interface would even work on a PC, sans a touch screen. For many, there was the reassurance of having the traditional desktop to use and never be bothered with Metro tiles, but it also meant no shiny new UI. The truth is, Metro UI works perfectly fine on a PC. Sure, you’re not swiping to the right or left but you can still move across the interface using nothing more than the mouse wheel. If you think about it, using a mouse wheel seems pretty intuitive and convenient. There is nothing that you need to get the feel of, and it isn’t a hard to learn gesture either. The tiles are easily clickable and there is nothing to stop you from using the interface to its full potential. If anything, the tiles make it easier to spot an app and launch it.

Windows 8 Is A Choice Between Metro UI And The Desktop View

The presence of a desktop must, no doubt, have put a lot of people at ease. Knowing that if they didn’t hit it off with the Metro UI, they had the reliable Desktop to turn to. The truth, however, is that you will be switching between Metro and Desktop. The Desktop you knew isn’t there in its entirety; what you get is a hollow shell of its former self. Enough drama, but the truth is that the Desktop is just that, a space where you can view and launch non-Metro apps, or applications/programs, as they were once called. You no longer get the same list of programs that you used to get when you clicked on the Start button (you actually switch to the Metro UI instead). The reality is, if the app you’re using has a Metro Interface (these will be apps you install from the Windows App Store) they will be accessible through it. Apps that do not have the Metro UI, will install like they do in Windows 7; you will see a desktop shortcut and launch the app as a simple window. Simple, right? While all this is true, there is the fact that some apps support both Metro and the Desktop mode. Example: Internet Explorer! You can run it on the Metro and on Desktop, both run as different apps/programs.

Internet Explorer 10

The same quirk exists with the Control Panel, and while you will be able to customize your account, manage app settings and more in Metro, you will still be visiting the Desktop mode for some other settings. Perhaps you will do less switching between the two views once the every single Windows app gets a Metro UI, good luck with that!

Closing An App, Suspending An App & Switching Between Apps

Windows 8 Metro UI doesn’t ‘close’ apps, it ‘suspends’ them. It’s similar to not being expelled from school, but being suspended, you have to go back. Metro apps are not meant to be closed, when you switch to another app any time and the one you were previously using is suspended, and this isn’t as smooth a process as you would hope (at least not on the Developer’s build), since soundtrack from a game app continued to play for a pretty annoying while before it was ‘suspended’. You can always quit the app using the good old Task Manager (you will switch to the Desktop mode when you launch it) but don’t go looking for a close button. So far as switching between apps is concerned, click the left side of the screen and you will switch to the previous app. In the event that you’ve got over 5 apps running, have fun remembering which order you opened them in. Apps that support only the Desktop mode will work normally (with a close button) like they did in Windows 7.

Internet Connections and Live IDs Are Not Mandated To Setup Windows 8

Windows 8, thankfully, did not do what Google initially did in Chromium. An internet connection and a Live ID is not mandated for using or setting up the device. The OS can run in airplane mode, free of any Wi-Fi connections, and you can set up a local account (create a user like you did in Windows 7) faster than you can ‘meh’ – well, not that fast – but it’s fairly quick. The only thing you will miss out without a Live ID is Microsoft’s integration of its cloud services throughout the system, If you’ve enjoyed those services, then you must already have a Live account, hence nothing to complain about. If you use other services , then you’ll never miss Microsoft’s cloud solutions; hence, nothing to complain about.

Lock Screen, Picture Passwords, Internet Explorer 10 and Charms

This represents just about everything that is great in Windows and initially got me as excited as the ice cream truck when I was little. The lock screen is amazing; it is the same one you see on a Windows phone, but is looks like it was meant to be on a PC. You can enable any six apps to show notifications on the screen, which is in addition to the battery/power and connectivity status that is shown. Sliding it up is perhaps not so fun with a mouse, but for the visual benefit, it is well worth it. Since we’re talking sliding open a screen with your mouse, there is also the picture password, which many think might not work with a mouse. It actually works great; you can create a picture password and unlock your screen with it easily.

Internet Explorer 10, I very grudgingly admit is very good. It is faster, loads quickly, has gone towards a more minimalistic interface in Desktop mode, and is good. Just plain good. Will I switch from Chrome, no, not until I get all my extensions and a pet giraffe.

Charms is another one of those things that are just amazing. The reason being, they give uniformity to app settings. When you first start getting used to Metro apps, finding their settings might have been confusing had it not been for the omnipresent Charms that you can access by simple bringing your mouse to the lower left corner. It isn’t just the app settings, though; it’s also easy access to the Search feature and to connected devices.


Will It work?

The OS seems good, albeit the annoyance of the Desktop and Metro modes (a big one at that), and the interface is impressive. You will be hanging between the two until more apps start supporting Metro, but don’t think you wont be able to use all your old programs. While life will be a compromise between Desktop and Metro, you will still have most, if not more, of the apps you always worked with. Rest assured, this isn’t just for tablet PC users – it is for suitable for any PC!

  • Aasdf

    Why is he trying to convince us that it is not just for tablets? I don’t see the Metro UI being very productive. I see it useful for touch screens but other than that maybe for surfing and wasting time.

    • Griffin

      If you only “see it” as usable for one thing, you need to try it out first.

      • Simon

        Personally I really tried hard. I just can’t picture serious people using it. I know that businesses I work with will not have it installed. Even if it came as a free update to Windows 7 they would absolutely not apply it because it lowers productivity, is less intuitive and working with it costs that much more time. When I first saw Metro UI on Windows 8 I was sceptical. Now after using it on my virtual machine I hate this. I hate the direction Microsoft is going with it – dumbing down their OS beyond recognition and making it more complicated at the same time.

    • Hassan

      It’s a She not a He.

  • Rafael

    Windows 8 as an hybrid desktop/metro was a mistake imo. Why not keep Windows 7 , full support , on desktop, and go all out for tablets/phones with Windows 8 ? . This way metro interface doesn’t shine fully because of desktop mode and desktop mode get’s restringed / limited by the presence of Metro.

    • Nope. That’s very old school thinking. The goal is to be cross platform. Windows 8 is beautiful and works great. Stop being so old school.

      • Asocialcow

         You can’t have cross platform when in essence the platforms are completely different from a usability point of view. That’s why you have no iOS integration in OS X, as of yet, even though the new version leans towards that, it is in no way directed as a cross platform OS.

  • Frank

    Yeah, if Microsoft will continue to grow lazy its a, then we will see a fat man inthe movie Wall-e 🙂 
    Even stop to think ! 

  • Frank

    In addition, they decided about the button “Start” – to be her, or will be removed?

  • I dont think its tough with Metro. Of course if I had touch input monitor I would like metro interface.

    Since its meant for touch, mouse does not servers the purpose very well

  • Fantasm

     I hate the whole Metro UI thing….
    I can see skipping this version… Windows traditionally sucks everyother version… Last one was good….

  • Hassan

    Thanks for an amazingly written article. Very insightful. I’m a big fan of Metro, and I can’t wait till I get my hands on the final Windows 8. Really wish people stop making judgments until they test it in action; just reading about it and seeing some screenshots won’t give you a taste of the real thing.

    •  Why dont you try Metro Skin Pack for windows 7.

  • if, and only if there is an option to change the start screen orientation from horizontal to vertical, then it will be a viable option to Desktop. Horizontal scrolling just sucks..

  • Xantes

    Win 8 was made more complicated just for being fancier not simpler! And, not necessarily much more quicker! Not impressed and certainly I’ll skip this Windows 7 version!

  • Marcelo

    If it is from Microsoft and it is new then it must be good, er, not really.  This is the presumption I see underlying a lot of what is written about Windows 8.  I am not under this false impression.

  • Anonymous

    Have been using the Developer Preview for months and the Customer Preview for days, my productivity plummets when using this OS. Even after all this time, I still spend most of each session hunting for ways to do things that would take 1 second to do on Windows 7.
    Essentually, it takes far far longer to get anything done and apps are hard to find when you multitask, which I do 100% of the time. Missing menu bars for many apps make them impossible to use or configure. (Win + C combination often does not give you any config options other than ‘Review this app’).

    This UI is utterly hopeless on the desktop, there is no way I can migrate to it permanently.

  • Private

     My god What are they thinking, my first thought was what a train wreck!
    after an hour I realised it was Far worse than that. Unintuitive,
    inconsistent,fug ugly,and will be a complete disaster for business
    without massive amendments in group policy if that is even allowed. Can
    you imagine trying to support it! Just move your mouse to the bottem
    left corner and the start will appear,no? left a bit , up a bit, down,
    Still no, press the windows button then,can’t find it?, next to the
    control,can’t find it?,marked ctrl,can’t find it? brrrr…….. user
    shoots themself…
    this is going to make Vista appear like the
    pinnacle of operating system design in comparison.From a home user point
    of view passed it to my wife, who has used computers as a normal user,
    only interested in doing the things she wants to and no interest in how
    it looks etc.I cannot possibly put her comments in writing but I am sure
    100 designers and marketers within microsoft had their ears burn!
    For Gods sake smother this piece of junk before you release it!
    Not so much a developer preview as a suicide note!

    • walnutjk

      Totally agree, I’ve been using Windows since version 2.0 (back in the 80s) and this is the first time I’m considering switching to Linux or Mac OS and only run Windows apps in a virtual machine;. Unless Microsoft gives us the option to disable this Metro monstrosity, I can see the Vista story repeating…

  • Asocialcow

     The sad thing about this new OS, is the 20 year old Windows 3 was far more practical from a desktop point of view, than Windows 8/7/Vista/ME

  • The Original Party Animal

    It’s not difficult, it just sucks.  I guess it’ll be good for little old blue haired ladies or others that do little with their machines but I’ll just switch back to Xubuntu – easy.

  • Windows 8 sucks, Microsoft sucks, Bill Gates go eat your hamburger, in a word “Ubuntu” people.

  • OIH

    Power Users Forever

  • Erik

    Yesterday I started an App (the weather-app), it went fullscreen and there is no way to minimize it or to close it !
    How can a beginner close it without turning off the whole PC?
    Sorry, but this sucks – do they expect me to first read a handbook – in 2012?

    Magic key combos are for beat’em ups and context menues are for experts, but
    a decent UI has visible buttons and wheels and stuff like your cars dashboard.

  • “Rest assured, this isn’t just for tablet PC users – it is for suitable for any PC, for as long as you don’t expect Windows 7-like efficiency and productivity.”

    – Fixed.

  • Scott

    Windows 8 is rubbish, it should not be used by anyone who values there sanity. Metro is the worst thing to put on PC. Its Bob 2.0