Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.

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So here’s my Metro desktop.  Now, I’ve only been using Windows since v2.1 so maybe I’m missing a few things like…

1) How do I sort the tiles?

2) How do I organize them into groups?

3) How do I change the size of tiles?

4) How do I change the color?

These aren’t customization requests, these are basic organizational features people expect.

I like the Metro style. So I’d love to be able to color code tiles based on how I might use them.  Intuitively, I’d expect to be able to drag select (or shift select or ctrl select) a bunch of tiles, right click and choose various options. Except, there are no context menus. Instead, you get an option to unpin or uninstall at the bottom of the screen – great for tablet use but not real useful here.

Android and iPhone users are used to being able to put their stuff in folders/groups/whatever.  What about here?  This seems pretty basic stuff.

The tech is good

Here’s the maddening part, Windows 8 is the best version of Windows yet – technologically. WinRT is great. The memory optimization they’ve done is fantastic. It’s faster. It’s smoother. But it’s also unusable for trying to get a lot of work done. 

This isn’t a case of “just get used to it”. There’s not a lot to get used to. This would be akin to taking away the keyboard on a tablet/smart phone and telling people to just use a stylus to draw what they want and accuse them of not “giving it a chance” when they complain.

What’s the usage case?

In Product design, we typically create use cases. How we expect people to use what we’re making.  I honestly can’t see what their use cases for this is.  How is a user seriously supposed to do serious production work if all the “new” apps are full screen with no quick way to switch between them? 

And I’m not talking about power user stuff here, I’m talking what is the use case of someone who is trying to use Power Point, Word, and Excel together in a Metro environment?


That is an example of an app (the reader app).  The back button does not take you out of the app. It’s disabled. To get out of the app, you move your mouse to the top left or bottom left of the screen.

To switch between your running apps you move your mouse to the top left and then to the side:


And you get a list of tiles.

Now, again, I am not trying to beat up on Windows 8 here. I would like one of the Windows 8 fans to make the case on how that metaphor is faster or better or more intuitive than the case where I could have all 3 apps up on the screen at once.  Note that I used the word OR.  You don’t even have to make the case for all 3.  Just one of them would be fine.

Heck, even my Iphone is easier to switch apps than this (double tap and pick the app).


And the PC is not designed to run everything full screen. How many people choose to run everything full screen?

It’s not all doom

The problem with Windows 8 isn’t technical. It’s political. Someone, way at the top, almost certainly over the cries of developers and designers, is insisting on this.  Here’s why I say this:

  1. They could easily let the Windows desktop load Metro apps in a window, on the Windows desktop. How do I know that? Because we’ve already done it internally here. So it’s definitely doable. So why not? Why force desktop users into Metro when the current Metro experience is a big step back for 90%+ of PC desktop users?
  2. A lot of the problems with the Metro experience boil down to trying to treat the mouse as surrogate for a giant pointer finger. Hence, no context menus – no menus whatsoever. These could be overcome by treating the mouse as a different class of input device.
  3. There is technically no reason to force users into Metro to launch apps or to interact with Metro apps. Under the covers, they’re just full screen windows.

A warning to the fan community

You’re not doing Microsoft any favors by shouting down people’s complaints with Windows 8’s consumer preview. I have a vested interest in the success of Windows 8.  Professionally, I need Windows 8 to be a huge hit.   I can tell you straight out, unless these things are addressed, few enterprises will move to this and few consumers will voluntarily move to it.  And in an age where “Getting a new Dell” is no longer automatic, those Mac Airbooks start to look compelling to a lot of consumers – and it will be a lot more familiar to use than the current Windows 8 experience.

Comments (Page 4)
on Mar 04, 2012

Hi Everyone,

My understanding is that the Metro interface in Windows 8 is optional.  Sure hope so!  I like the tiles on my Windows 7 phone (Samsung Focus) but not on my PC desktop and I have no intention of cleaning fingerprints off my screen every day.  I recently purchased a Dell XPS 8300 (64 bit) which comes with the Dell Stage.  It has a distinctly Metro look to it and was immediatedly disabled. 

Everything on my computers is controlled via a programmable keyboard and the auto-hide quick launch bar which is available on Windows 7 if you know how to set it up.  How to Geek has a great article with the instructions if anyone is interested.  My desktop has no visible icons.  Everything works with the click of a button or the occasional click of a mouse.   Now we are going to have a "charm bar?" 

I work in a government setting where security is important but even if I have not logged off, no one can figure out how to do anything - even the IT guys.   They love it once I show them though.  If people I don't know ask me how I "do things" I just tell them it's magic.   My visible desktop serves primarily to display the beautiful artwork I find here and people stop in all the time to see what's on my screen that day.  Then they want to know where I find such cool stuff so I tell them about Stardock and Wincustomize all the time.  If only they would let me install Window Blinds at work!  A quick click on my keyboard displays the desktop icons when needed.

I've been "out there" since 1964 (not even DOS back then and no monitor either) and I have used every version of Windows including ME (Misery Everlasting).  I still use DOS commands on occasion too.  I am cautiously watching the development of Windows 8 and will install it on my old computer this coming week.  It will be hard to let go of Windows 7 which has been a rock solid OS right from the start.  It is the only Windows OS I have ever purchased before it was released.  I may have to think a bit about Windows 8 though. 

Thank you, Frogboy, for the Start button and menu!  Wasn't sure what I was going to do without them.  You guys totally rock! 

on Mar 04, 2012


We can leave them be....merrily getting it wrong....and wait for Stardock perhaps to provide the SANE GUI ....and save the world...

Well, maybe it is time to split windows OS in a OS and a GUI ( desktop )... somehow like with Linux, where linux is in fact the OS ( kernel ) and KDE, Gnome, Xfce, etc are various desktop...

Microsoft returning to what they are not so bad ( OS ) and people like Stardock making their own desktop... having multiple business making various desktop will allow people to choose what they like...

on Mar 04, 2012

So my father calls me yesterday and asks how close Stardock can make a Windows XP desktop on Windows 7 and Vista.  His wife learned how to use a computer on XP and has a hard time understanding what to do on anything else.

They wanted to know how to put "My Computer" on the desktop and search for something without using the startmenu search.

Change is hard.  I get that.  At some point though moving forward is a good thing . . as long as what you are moving towards makes sense to the user so they can still accomplish their goals.

on Mar 04, 2012

Quoting starkers, reply 43However, and more importantly, is is worth developing SD apps for WIN 8 when uptake on the OS is likely to be minimal to non-existent?

Dunno.....history is 'full' of crappy MS OS's being foisted on the unsuspecting public.... ME .... Vista ..... 8 ...

Yeah, but 8 will fail to a greater extent than ME or Vista... and I don't know that I want to spend money to develop apps for a doomed OS that's not going to sell too well.

on Mar 04, 2012

Well, maybe it is time to split windows OS in a OS and a GUI ( desktop )... somehow like with Linux, where linux is in fact the OS ( kernel ) and KDE, Gnome, Xfce, etc are various desktop...

Windows has always been like that.... explorer.exe is the GUI [shell].  Just kill it sometime and you'll have the naked Kernel.  Alternate shell users often would be running shell-less when they broke something....wasn't scary as it could [almost] always be restarted whenever...

on Mar 05, 2012

Has a screenshot of the right click option I mentioned...makes access to quite a few things people often need a lot quicker.

on Mar 05, 2012

Apparently there is a way to customize the Metro interface somewhat it's just not that noticeable:

on Mar 06, 2012

Interesting read.

on Mar 06, 2012

What's the use of features that customize the Metro interface if it sells so poorly that hardly anybody uses the OS?

on Mar 06, 2012

Quoting Thoumsin,
reply 47
Well, maybe it is time to split windows OS in a OS and a GUI ( desktop )... somehow like with Linux, where linux is in fact the OS ( kernel ) and KDE, Gnome, Xfce, etc are various desktop...

Windows has always been like that.... explorer.exe is the GUI [shell].  Just kill it sometime and you'll have the naked Kernel.  Alternate shell users often would be running shell-less when they broke something....wasn't scary as it could [almost] always be restarted whenever...

Well, on windows OS, thing are not really good separated... have already kill the explorer.exe in the past but you remain in graphic mode... Maybe it is my fault, i was not enough cllear in my original post...

On linux, you have the kernel layer ( command line thing ), the GUI ( by example the x11 graphical interface ) and the desktop ( KDE, gnome, etc )... best to keep kernel and GUI together but desktop can be a appart product... after all, in actual win8 preview, you have two desktop, the Win7 desktop and the Metro Desktop... crazy that you need to switch between both for have all the functionality...

A question for people who have these win8 version... it was wrote that with metro, you have no windows anymore, everything is full screen... have someone test application who with win7 use multiple windows ( by example GIMP )... curious to know how these application will work on win8...