New rumors on an upcoming release of Windows could be sweet tidings for users who either aren't satisfied with the OS's current state or who have refused to upgrade to the present version. Microsoft is reportedly planning a new release of the operating system, codenamed Threshold
-- and it contains two huge changes. According to long-time Windows guru Paul Thurrott, Windows Threshold will offer the following:
- Metro applications running in windowed mode on the desktop.
- A genuine Start Menu
If true, these are features I'd upgrade for.
Hurrah! It's 1987!
Let's start with windowed more for Metro applications. One of the improvements to Windows 8.1 was that tiles could be two sizes (up from just one) and you could fit more than one tile on your screen. 1920x1080 screens could pin three tiles. 2560x1440 displays could pin four. While I acknowledge that pinned apps are far more useful in Windows 8.1
and that the added flexibility is welcome, the idea of that a tiled application consumes a certain amount of screen space, with absolutely no overlay capability dates back to Windows 1.0
killed this concept in favor of program windows that could sit on top of each other in 1987, with Windows 2.0. The problem with pinned applications, even in Windows 8.1, is that while some of them make good use of space, others look like this:
Whereas under Windows 7
(or via the standard W8 desktop) you can do this:
There's no question as to which of these environments makes better use of desktop space or is ultimately more flexible. While the Hot Hardware layout leaves space to either side, I can drag multiple windows into the area and size them to fit. I can do the same for an IM box or a text window. The problem here isn't that all Metro applications make bad use of space, but the ones that do are egregiously bad.
Do We Need A New Start Menu?
I'm going to say it up front -- of all the problems I Have with Windows 8
, the Start Screen really isn't high on my personal list. It does, however, suffer from three problems:
1). It's not very good at hiding clutter (Windows 8.1 just pushes the clutter to a second screen).
2). There's no option to change application category fonts or colors without installing a new theme.
3). There's no way to launch new applications from a small, windowed interface.
I would welcome a Start Menu that duplicated just the Search functionality of the W7 Start Menu without flipping the entire monitor over to the Start Screen, but I don't think the Start Screen needs wholesale replacement. What it does need are better organizational options. Start by collapsing lists by default on the Apps page, and opening them with a click or touch instead of displaying everything, all at once.
One Feature I'm Hoping Threshold Adds
There's one feature Threshold really needs to add, if it wants Metro apps to exist side-by-side with desktop applications -- the ability to save a window configuration. Right now, Windows 8.1 will allow you to place three apps side-by-side, but if you Alt-Tab into a different full-screen Metro
application, you must
hit the Windows key to return to your previous configuration. If you instinctively Alt-Tab again, you'll find yourself back in a fullscreen version of one of the applications you just had pinned.
This needs fixing. Windows needs a way of pinning entire window configurations and then allowing Alt-Tab to switch between *those*, so we don't end up constantly repinning Metro applications.
I've stayed off Windows 8 because I haven't been willing to tolerate the changes I dislike to gain access to all the Desktop-side improvements I genuinely want. This new series of changes could sell me on the OS if they're genuine. Any other takers?