Microsoft sent the Windows 8 Release Preview into the wild last week. I've been playing with it ever since. Here's some small(ish) things I want to see fixed.
I'm still running Windows 8 on a small-screened netbook, but it's now connected to an external monitor so I can soak up the Metro "goodness". Despite having fairly minimal specs, it runs Windows 8 well when it comes to existing desktop apps — generally better than Windows 7 on the same hardware. And I'm pleased with today's news that upgrades for people who buy machines in the next six months will cost just $14.99.
I'm not totally convinced by Metro as a desktop OS, but since this candidate doesn't actually apply Metro to the rest of the interface, I'm not going to talk about Metro except where it's already happening. Nor am I going to discuss the weird annoying install bugs or the fact you couldn't upgrade directly from the Consumer Preview to the Release Preview; that's life in beta software. But there are some bigger-picture issues that Microsoft should address before the final version hits.
The Store Needs A Search Button
When you hit the Store (which will sell you Metro apps directly and send you off to external sites for desktop apps), you'll immediately notice something: no search button. That's a deliberate design decision. To search, you need to use the Search charm (accessed by moving to the far right of the screen, or Windows-Q if you're in a hurry).
It's nice I suppose that the Store ties in with the overall "charms" architecture, but plenty of people are going to hit the store and not think of using it. Microsoft's justification?:
Research from our usability labs and from individual customer interviews indicated that people were more likely to just search for what they wanted in today’s app stores because most browsing experiences aren’t compelling enough. So we designed a landing page that integrates our featured content, data-driven lists, and category listings into one cohesive and engaging browsing experience.
I'm sorry, but this is bollocks. We search because it's a really easy way to get what we want. The big rivals in this department — Apple's App Store and Google Play — both have a search option in the top right corner. That's what people expect.
Even in a largely empty store (which is what Microsoft has right now), scrolling through everything is a pain. Highlight the top-selling apps and new releases by all means, but search needs to be front and centre. (Even with a search button, the store would, I suspect, look rubbish and hard to navigate on a regular PC screen. But that's another tale.)
Better Keyboard Support
I'm a keyboard shortcut junkie, and from that perspective Metro is a big fat waste of time. There are shortcuts for the core elements of the interface, such as charms, and you can generally use the arrow keys to move around elements in apps. But that's it. I can't see this working well in Office without some major tweaking.
The Photos App Is A Joke
You can browse through photos and make them rotate and . . . err . . . that's it. Most stupid of all: there's an option to look at photos from your Skydrive, but it can only see photos in the root directory, not the Pictures directory. Ridiculous. I'll stick with IrfanView, thanks.
This isn't the finished version of Windows 8, so there's a chance for some of this to be fixed. Am I hopeful? Not entirely. Microsoft is essentially betting the desktop farm on everyone loving Metro, and I think a lot of this might get filed under "you'll just have to get used to it". And maybe I will. But I'd rather it was done properly.
What have you enjoyed in Windows 8? What would you tweak? Tell us in the comments.