Three Things Microsoft Should Fix In Windows 8

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.


Comments

    Why don't they make it WinKey+S ?
    S for Search makes more sense than Q for Query (but we'll call it search)

      Or maybe WIN+F, which is what search has been for all of time.

    What about the "Reader" for me, it just is a waste of space that just doesn't work.

      Really? I love it - it is EXACTLY what I want from a reader app and one of the first things I did after installing Win8 was get rid of Foxit.

    Who ever cared about the default picture viewer on PC anyway? As long as it shows you the image that's all you should want from it.

    im using win server 8, might or might not be different from win 8

    start menu throws your thought process out the window when it goes all fullscreen on you

    when uploading a file somewhere, before, you could insert a URL where filename should be and press enter. It would download the file in your temporary internet cache then upload it to the site. This feature went.

    you had to click extra when you used the search bar, if what you were searching for was in settings or files. it would only search apps.

    I can't configure WAMPserver or XAMPP to work properly on it. maybe because it was a server and not usual windows 8, but still.

    Is there a start menu button yet so Metro can be completely bypassed? If not my test of the last preview was its way too many steps to do anything.

      No start menu at all, Microsoft have removed the code that would have allowed for that, so we are stuck to Metro, better learn to love it!

      All the Start Button ever did in Win8 was launch the Start Screen anyway. The Start Screen is an order of magnitude better than the Vista/Win7 Start Menu, so get over it.

    I agree that there should be a search button in the store. Going to the charms bar isn't as intuitive to do.
    Office 15 will only run in the Desktop mode in Windows 8 so keyboard shortcuts will still apply there. It has been made touch friendly apparently.
    The photo app is lacking in features though but I don't understand this point: "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.". The photos app sees all the photo files in my SkyDrive.

    Angus, you are misreading what they said about search. What they are saying is that they don't think anyone will use the Store app, they will just search from the desktop or Start Screen. i.e. They agree with you that search is the main way sheeple find things.

    I think there is only one thing they need to fix - they really do need to put the Start button back in. There is simply no reason for them to wear the shitstorm of hate removing it has caused. It is just bloody-minded stupidity.

      Exactly. What were they thinking? And why is everything so flat?! http://jeff-with-a-g.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/8-is-not-microsofts-lucky-number.html

      I used Classic Shell to restore Classic Start Menu. It works a treat.

        Really? Because it never worked very well in Vista or Win7. Win8's Start Screen is a massive improvement.

      I really don't understand what is so important about the Start button. You move your mouse to the same area, click and the start screen comes up. Use the Windows key and the start screen comes up, the same as windows 7. There will be a slight learning curve to Windows 8 but once people get it, they get it.
      Using the start menu and looking for the control panel/settings seems like something you do 1% of your whole time on a computer. Yet people are up in arms about it being changed. It boggles my mind.

    if you are looking for something that may require a search; it is likely that you know what your looking for before you enter the store, in which case the search charm will significantly speed up the process

    also
    "I’m sorry, but this is bollocks. We search because it’s a really easy way to get what we want."
    that's exactly what they are saying!
    most people search so let make it so you can search from anywhere and let’s make it only featured content on the launch page, stuff that's interesting that people might not have otherwise known about
    regarding your complaint with the photo app.
    yes it was an over sight, but i'm sure that a large number of people have sent feedback to Microsoft(have you?) and they will rectify the situation. the improvement in the app from the consumer preview to the release preview would be evidence that they are listening to feedback

    I would like to hear Microsoft's comments on how they see Windows 8 working in a corporate environment. Metro full-screen apps definitely won't work in a corporate environment where multitasking and windowing is the order of the day. Yet Microsoft seem hell bent on disabling the Start button on the non-Metro desktop. How do they see a corporation deploying this when they don't want to use Metro?

    There's a simple answer to all these problems. Don't upgrade. Windows 7 is fine and will be for several more years yet. If you don't like Metro, miss the Start button, dislike search etc. Keep Windows 7. I know I'll buy 8 when it comes out but if I don't take to it I'll just go back to 7. Problem solved.

    I am never getting Windows 8 unless someone gifts me a Windows 8 Tablet.
    Not likely.
    I have tried the Developer Preview and the Consumer Preview. I find, for a traditional PC user (which I'd imagine is what most of us are) that, as the author said, Metro is a big fat waste of time.
    My next computer is going to be a Mac. If I want Windows, I can just put it on there, but I need a Mac anyway for computer animation, and from what I've seen, that seems to be the industry standard.
    Plus, Mac is getting a lot better for games now than it used to. Example, The Elder Scrolls Online.

    Sorry guys, but I'm sick of reading people's comments with regard the Metro interface and how it cant replace the Start Menu. Are you people stupid or just too lazy to try it? The Start Menu has bene replaced by the Start Screen. Woopy-doo. You click in the same spot of the screen as you did for the Start Button and you get a full screen of shorcuts instead of a nested menu. You can still organise it into groups and add/remove items. Plus, it can give you live infromation. If you dont like it, just pin your apps to the Task Bar and dont click there any more. And have any of you bothrred to right-click the bottom-left of screen to see what happens? As for it not being useable in a corporate environment..... what al oads of bollocks! I work in corporate IT, with a full MS infrastructure and it works beautifully.

    Metro Apps are designed for the tablet or touch experience. You dont have to use them. Microsoft is not telling you that you have to. Just change your file associations and keep using your desktop apps. They work the same way as they used to, they look the same, and they work faster than before because of the streamilined OS.

    I think that going to the charms menu will just get into people's muscle memory, and Microsoft is counting on that. A year after windows 8 has been released, people will be astounded that anyone ever though the search thing was an issue, because going to the charms bar or hitting Windows-Q will have become second nature.

    After playing with it since its release, I have a few gripes:

    1) IE doesn't work from the desktop & crashes the system. Typical. Of course this only affects website designers who know to design for the lowest common denominator (IE). Congratulations! You have no way to test your work.

    2) No start button. You don't realize how much you actually use the thing until your desktop is nothing but shortcuts. After running out of room for shortcuts, my desktop is now filling with folders of shortcuts. That program you wanted to use? For some reason search skips right over it. Find it manually every time, or create a shortcut. If only there was some way to have a customizable menu where you could access the stuff you use.... Maybe call it a "Start Menu". Oh, wait...

    3) The Start Page: My start page has one tile. Yep, that tile is "Desktop". The rest of Metro is pretty worthless on a desktop or laptop pc, so why do I have to start there. Microsoft needs a pc version that bypasses the stuff designed for mobile.

    Searching the store is MUCH easier with keyboard than a touch screen, you simply start typing (don't need to hit ctrl+Q or go to the right hand side of the screen, just type, that's it!). This seems to be the way many of the "metro" apps work now, which is a great improvement. It's there at a moments notice

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