Windows 8's new Metro UI is designed for tablets, but you'll get it on every Windows 8 PC. Five days into using Windows 8 non-stop, I've made up my mind: despite Microsoft's efforts, Metro really isn't that enjoyable to use with a mouse and a keyboard. Luckily, that's not going to stop Windows 8 from kicking butt on your computer, whether or not it's finger-friendly. Here's why.
It hasn't even been a week since Windows 8 was announced, and everyone's already up in arms about the new Metro interface. Sure, it looks like a pretty fantastic interface for a tablet, but if you don't have a touchscreen, it seems like it doesn't belong. And those people are right for the most part, but there's no reason to dig out the pitchforks and torches. The Metro UI isn't going to "ruin" your Windows 8 experience. It's just a new way of interacting with the OS, and if you'd rather never touch it with your mouse, you don't have to.
The Metro Interface Is Designed For Touch...
In Microsoft's keynote, they mentioned that the computing world is moving towards touch interfaces, and that may be true. They said that the Metro UI was designed to work with a mouse and a keyboard, but that it was so good that you'd wish you could touch your screen, even when on a regular desktop monitor. That should have been their first clue that it isn't a viable Start menu replacement.
Every time I boot into Windows 8, I want to reach over and touch my screen, simply because it's so awkward to use with a mouse. It's hard to even figure out how it works with a mouse. Should I click on the screen and drag it to swipe over? How the heck do I pinch to zoom? Even scrolling with the scroll wheel is awkward, as you're scrolling the mouse wheel up, up and down to move the screen side to side. Not to mention that to click on an app, you have to move your mouse across the entire screen and actually do more scrolling than you had to do with the Windows 7 Start menu. Really, it's just inefficient, awkward and frustrating, just like everyone's expecting it to be.
...But That Doesn't Really Matter...
However, once you bypass the Metro UI at startup and get into the traditional desktop (which you can do with a quick stroke of Win+M), none of that matters anymore. Sure, your Start menu's gone, but chances are most of you are using something like Executor, Launchy, or one of the many other great app launchers out there to start programs (and if you aren't, you should). Seriously ask yourself: Do you really use the Start menu all that much anymore, except maybe to shut down? Probably not.
And, if you're addicted to the old Start menu search, all you need to do is relearn the keyboard shortcut for search -- now Win+ to search through files on your machine. Once you open them up, they'll just open up in their default app on the desktop.
...And It's Still Good for a Few Things
The Metro UI may not be great as a Start menu, but I've found it still has a few neat applications on the desktop. Metro's informative tiles are pretty nice for keeping you up on emails, new tweets, the weather, upcoming calendar events and so on -- it actually makes a cool screensaver, of sorts. If you're getting up from your desk but staying nearby, you can just pop up the Metro UI and be able to see all that information from afar. Then, when you come back, just hit the Windows button and you're magically back on the desktop.
If you have dual monitors, you're also in a pretty cool position where Windows will automatically load Metro on one monitor and your desktop on the other monitor. You can always throw Metro up on one side, with all its informative tiles, when you aren't actively using both monitors (after all, why use a Metro-styled Rainmeter theme when you could just use Metro itself?).
Metro isn't without it's little annoyances, of course, and yes, I kind of wish Microsoft had more sanctioned options for turning it off. But it hardly destroys the Windows experience as so many people seem to be claiming (many of whom probably haven't even used it yet). You can easily keep it enabled without using it. And again, it's really easy to turn off entirely if you so desire. Once you get some of the new shortcuts in your muscle memory, you probably won't even notice that it's there. If you've been playing with the Metro UI, let us know your thoughts -- agree or disagree -- in the comments.