Windows 8’s Metro UI Isn’t Very Good Without Touch, But It Doesn’t Really Matter

Windows 8’s Metro UI Isn’t Very Good Without Touch, But It Doesn’t Really Matter

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.


  • As Whitson has said, hopefully when the final version is released, there will be an easy way to switch it off! Personally I think I’d rather see a more Windows 7 like start button, the current one is not just ugly it’s kind of crippled too! #]

  • I really like the “press the Windows key, start typing” way of searching, and the way it finds programs, settings and files. I don’t see a compelling reason for re-learning this… And I’m a power-user. Dreading explaining this change to others.

    Also, the post is missing the shortcut for file search. It just says “Win+”, with no modifier.

  • I really like the3 idea of the Metro interface, however it doesn’t really work on my 1024×600 netbook screen (which it really would be perfect for).

    Microsoft needs to figure out a way people with more traditional computers can still use the interface without feeling second fiddle.

  • Does anybody actually browse through their Start menu any more? Seriously? I’m glad to see it replaced by something more functional (live tiles) while retaining its last useful purpose (type-to-search).

    • I use the start menu quite a lot actually,

      I have
      14 pinned items on taskbar
      42 shortcuts in all programs
      192 folders in all programs
      10 shortcuts pinned in start menu
      10 programs below the pinned items
      110 items (files, folders, shortcuts) on my desktop (but dont use it much as i usually have 30 windows open and its easier to go via start menu)

      There may be some duplication.

      The search is way to slow so i never use it, if its not pinned on taskbar i either use Win+R to run it if i know the name or navigate via one of the start menu options.

      Granted i’m in the very lazy power user group so im not the target of many features.

        • Id love to but im lazy, what windows needs for me is a try it out feature for apps that install, as sometimes i might install 10 apps while trying to find one that will do what i want but im too busy/lazy to clean up afterwards but if i could quickly and easily undo an install without having to wait for what seems forever for uninstalls to run, like a MRI (most recent installs) where i can tick off ones i want to keep, then uninstall can happen in bulk and silently, when machine is idle.

  • Haven’t used Windows 8 yet, so I don’t know how it’ll work with my computer habits.

    I still use my start menu very often, because 1) I have many many programs, and 2) I want to keep my desktop as clean as possible (never more than 3 columns of icons).

    So any icons that isn’t used commonly is kept in the start menu, where I go find when I need to. Also, very often I forget which program I installed, and I need to browse through the start menu to find the program I’m after.

    • Actually, there is quite a difference; whilst the Launchpad does show all your icons in a similar way, it’s like comparing Windows Phone to iOS, app-centric versus information-centric access.
      It really does depend on what you prefer, and I’d be happy to use both. In my experience however, I really do find Launchpad useless, whereas the Metro interface seems genuinely useful for information at-a-glance, like the Windows Sidebar, but with a practical purpose!
      Whilst I do understand that your point was towards the usability side of things, it’s still worth noting that Launchpad is just reinventing the wheel, if you could even call it that.

  • “””Sure, your Start menu’s gone, but chances are most of you are using something like…”””

    This is a bit of a cop-out. What you are saying is that to get back the functionality that was in Win7, people will need to install 3rd party software to bypass the new shitty metro interface (Shitty for a non-tablet environment).

    I am not too worried about MS adding features that can be shut off (e.g ribbon menu in Explorer), but killing the 16 year old start menu will seriously cripple my OS usage.

    Now how the hell do I get to Control Panel?

    • +1

      I agree. The Metro start screen was obviously designed to be used, not ignored. If Metro is worse for some things, you can’t say it doesn’t matter because you can use something else instead. Sure you can use something else, but an OS should only be improved and 3rd party software shouldn’t be needed for things like start menus.

  • Microsoft should provide users with three options to install Win 8 with the provision to change the option at any time:

    Option 1: Only Metro
    For touch enabled devices for consumers

    Option 2: Only Desktop
    For non-touch devices for traditional computing

    Option 3: Both Metro and Desktop
    For touch enabled devices enjoying the best of both worlds

    And everyone will go home happy.

  • its funny, ive been running win 8 on my touch screen monitor and while its not good for mouse, there are somethings that you (at the moment) only seem to be able to do with the mouse.
    right click for example can be performed by touch on the desktop but i cant seem to do it in metro. right click in metro with the mouse and it brings up another menu for some tiles.

    however i must say that it is really good for my multi touch monitor. and damn its nice and quick.

  • After running this on 2 PC’s to test the performance I have decided that the interface is the turnoff for me. I play EverQuest II like a PC dinosaur of the 90′s and watch movies.

    I don’t need to share my crap with people, I don’t need to touch my screen…and finally…I don’t think I should have to sign into 4 online services just to log into my PC. Look at this people…they are taking away the functional idea of a game-dedicated PC that is NOT used for any internet/social media. Essentially I see an OS made for a half-brained, cell phone addicted generation that likes to have no customization choices because that would too much to deal with…

    Us old timers know how to customize and overclock etc. to large extents, this OS if for people more interested in their crap being on the internet and shared than it is for efficient office work or clean gaming,

    Personally I’m going to invest in another retail copy of Windows 7 before they are pulled from the market in case I build another PC, and start exploring Linux for my games.

    Gamers that are stuck with this piss-poor OS after October have my pity.

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