Some Thoughts on Windows 8

I like it. I do. I think having the same base on which you publish phone, tablet and PC software is a smart move, business wise. Personally, I believe that big screen work (software development, photography etc.) means that predictions of the death of the desktop are daft, and if you can get your OS working on every form factor then that’s a good idea.

So what’s good?

  • Basic desktop operations (copying, searching etc.) are faster.
  • The UI is noticeably prettier.
  • It boots super fast and shuts down pretty much instantly.
  • Windows 7 software appears to just work.
  • Hot-corners and gestures.
  • Metro applications look really good (Maps full screen is great).
  • IE10 has clearly taken cues from iOS and scrolls smooth as butter.

What’s bad?

  • No start menu (easily fixed with 3rd party software, but still).
  • Four mouse clicks to shut down instead of two. Now this may not seem like a big thing, once you’ve figured out how to shut it down, but it’s indicative that Microsoft are allowing the UI to get in the way of the functionality, and that’s the worst possible course to take.
  • The integration between metro and desktop really does jar. Metro’s gaudy colours, tendency towards light on dark, and huge fonts mean that switching between the two modes (or maybe you’re brave enough to dock a metro app) really isn’t nice.
  • Everything is hidden. When trying to install an application, the Windows Smart Screen blocked it, even when I ran the installer as an administrator. The key was to click “more information”, which looks as if it’s a generic help prompt. This then revealed the “install anyway” button.
  • Lots more like the above…

Of course, I’m still easing myself into it. Once I settle down and get used to its little idiosyncrasies (every OS has them), I probably won’t notice much of the above. But I’ll remember, and so will many other users, who sat there wondering exactly how the hell they turn their computer off now. Still, at least it won’t be the ongoing nightmare of Windows Vista.

So, Microsoft, this is a decent opening gambit, but you’ve got a long way to go. Let’s just hope we get some incremental updates soon.