Windows 8 Power Struggle: Metro vs Desktop

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The reason Metro and the Desktop interface don't work well together -- maybe the reason they can't work well together -- is that they take two fundamentally different approaches to displaying content. From the dawn of Windows up through Windows 7, Microsoft treated the operating system as a neutral framework designed to facilitate the navigation and display of whatever software the user saw fit to install. Take a look at the Start Screen again, this time from a "most common tasks" perspective.


Most common tasks, looking pretty and ready to fire up.

The programs listed above cover the vast majority of what computers are used for on a day-to-day basis, and the only programmed called out by name is Internet Explorer. Everything else is listed by task, not application name. This is Microsoft's new approach to computing and their formula for reinventing Windows. When it comes to consuming content, Metro is beautiful.


Music and Videos app, also nicely presented...

The Music and Video apps presents a seamless method of viewing TV shows, movies, and albums, with gorgeous screenshots and easily accessed controls.

Unfortunately, things rapidly fall apart when you install multiple programs or need to produce content of your own. Here's the Start Menu after we've installed a few test programs.


Metro's complete mess of an eye chart with a few program's installed.

The layout that works extremely well when working with a small number of tasks but falls apart completely when dealing with large numbers of programs and icons. There's only a handful of test software installed on the system shown above. What you're seeing is the translation of options normally embedded within sub-folders in the Start Menu when they're instead flattened and displayed in a single tree. It's a wretched excuse for icon layout, and zooming out doesn't exactly help.


Let's zoom out to get more screen real estate... oh, that's not good.

In these screenshots, we've purposely preserved the wasted space on a 1900x1200 monitor to demonstrate just how much of the screen goes unused. Holding down Control and scrolling backwards once, while in the Start Menu, creates the above.


Find the app needle in this haystack.

The more you need to edit content, the less time it takes for Metro to become useless. That's fine -- Microsoft left Desktop mode in for precisely this reason -- but forcing users to adopt the Smart Screen fractures the idea of shared OS functionality. In Desktop mode, the mouse is a sophisticated tool used for selecting options and moving content. In Metro, the mouse is your finger. There's no more double-clicking, while sub-menu functionality varies considerably from program to program.

This thing still needs work...

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I hate change, so I probably will hate Metro.

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Metro is basically a phone OS. Microsoft has cut out lots of .net to get Metro small enough for a phone.

You cant use menu or menuitem commands any more. You cant do graphics without getting into directx.

Access to the hard disc is limited for apps.

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If Metro is forced on me I will move to Linux. I refuse to be put into an environment I can't benefit from.

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Metro UI is absolute crap. For those who, like me, feel that this "change for change's sake" nonsesne has to stop, I recommend Zorin Linux, designed to "look and feel" like Windows XP; or Linux XP, which should be obvious.

I'll have to build my own PCs again, once the OEMs start forcing Windows 8 on us. A pre-installed Windows 8 is a deal-breaker for me; I won't buy it.

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I'm glad that I don't really ~HAVE~ to adopt Windows-8 and can keep the Windows-7 that I own now. (You know,....the one that's already bought and paid for) I could probably make this OS work for me for many years to come if I have to. And I will too.

I have Linux Mint 11 on one of my PC's already, and I'll give the Zorin Linux a try too.

If Micro(don't listen to us)soft leaves Metro in the force feeding tube, I'd rather go hungry..

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I used Windows 8 on my main of for about 4 days before canning it. I do still have it on my htpc though. I like the changes made to the task manager, file transfer, and much more. Being a desktop user I can't quite get on board with metro. Like stated in the article, wading through the metro interface is not quite productive, especially when on a 5760x1080 resolution! It's common for me to put tv episodes on one screen while gaming in the middle, and an internet browser on the other side. With metro, every time I bring up the start menu, the screen is blocked for whoever else might be watching. And I have to disagree about browsing media through metro. Searching while in the music task doesn't even bother looking in your library, but jumps straight to the music store, to purchase music you allready own. Once you are able to actually find your music, forget about finding what you want. As far as I can tell if you are browsing by artist, there is no way to quickly enter "artist album" to browse a certain artist's albums. The thing just seems dumbed down to me. Since when does everything need an app store? Sorry for the rant guys, but this needs a lot of work. I hope you can turn metro off for the final build

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lifeskills:

I used Windows 8 on my main of for about 4 days before canning it. I do still have it on my htpc though. I like the changes made to the task manager, file transfer, and much more. Being a desktop user I can't quite get on board with metro. Like stated in the article, wading through the metro interface is not quite productive, especially when on a 5760x1080 resolution! It's common for me to put tv episodes on one screen while gaming in the middle, and an internet browser on the other side. With metro, every time I bring up the start menu, the screen is blocked for whoever else might be watching. And I have to disagree about browsing media through metro. Searching while in the music task doesn't even bother looking in your library, but jumps straight to the music store, to purchase music you allready own. Once you are able to actually find your music, forget about finding what you want. As far as I can tell if you are browsing by artist, there is no way to quickly enter "artist album" to browse a certain artist's albums. The thing just seems dumbed down to me. Since when does everything need an app store? Sorry for the rant guys, but this needs a lot of work. I hope you can turn metro off for the final build

 

I had some of the same frustrations initially, then I realized that you can simply re-associate your media files with Media Center or Windows Media Player instead of the Metro based Video and Music apps. What I really don't like is that most of the Metro apps seem to be for touchscreens mainly and do not work very well via keyboard/mouse. Also the metro style stuff doesn't offer any customization everything is either full screen which no re-sizing of the toolbars/etc of the application or 2/3 vs 1/3 and thus getting two apps on screen with primary focus on one. Also adding a Programs Toolbar on the desktop mimics the Start menu without using the third party tool which adds a Start menu.

 

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I myself am more concerned with various issues with the new metro version of IE than anything with the Start Menu, I mean you can add a programs Toolbar to the task bar to mimic a Start Menu for Non Metro apps. I mean right now the metro version of IE has no configurable options like disabling 3rd party cookies, setting security zones, tab management, etc. Also I'm finding that often my  Metro version of IE loses any tabs that were open just of its own free will and there's no way to access recently closed tabs/windows/groups, you can at least find the tabs in the history but that is not very efficient.

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I'm really confused on your conclusion. Are you, really, saying clicking *1* tile is harder then the OSX transition was? I mean seriously, if so, then you have such a skewed view of the past it throws everything else you said into doubt.

"Forcing people to change to something different when the superior interface for a particular task is still included in the OS will only breed resentment."

It's a tile right there on the front of the screen! And I call BS; ANY change will "...only breed resentment". Oh and so will doing nothing.

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Metro re-minds me of the latest 'update' for Xbox live. Next I suppose I'll need Kinect to get around my desktop machine. If that fails, I'll just stay with Mint Linux 11. Smooth and it works.

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