Windows 8.1: Back to Basics?

Microsoft has been in the news this week. While any publicity is better than none, the headlines and statements have been particularly scathing:

  • Windows 8 is Microsoft’s “New Coke” fiasco
  • Windows 8 sales slump is killing the PC industry
  • users are confused by Windows 8

Windows 8 was an ambitious project. The OS attempted to merge smart phone, tablet and desktop concepts into a cohesive experience. Microsoft should be applauded for trying something new but, in reality, Windows 8 is two OSs bundled as one.

Tami Reller, head of Windows Marketing and Finance, admitted:

the learning curve is definitely real

Few would disagree. I’ve been using the OS for seven months and, while it feels comfortable now, those initial weeks without a Start button were disorientating. Metro can be — and still is — quirky on a standard desktop PC, but I rarely use Metro apps other than the media player.

If you’re in the industry, you’re paid to use technology for its own sake; learning something new is part of the course. However, for most companies, technology is a tool which helps them achieve business objectives. Unless there are clear commercial benefits, the costs associated with changing that tool and retraining staff are prohibitive.

I suspect people new to PCs actually grasp Windows 8 concepts better than older versions of the OS (clicking Start to shut down was an obvious metaphoric breakdown). Unfortunately, most people have used Windows before; they can understand evolution but revolution is a different matter. Besides, if you absolutely must learn something new, why not try Mac OS or Linux?

Windows Blue

It’s impossible to determine figures but I’d be amazed if Windows 8 sales matched those of Windows 7. Fortunately, Microsoft has listened to user criticism.

Pre-release versions of the next version of the OS, codenamed Windows Blue, were leaked on to the web recently. Microsoft won’t make any public comments, but hinted a preview release could appear in June. Version 8.1 is the most likely name but many of us old hands will think of it as Service Pack 1.

The interface looks much the same, but the leaked OS offers a number of revised features…

An optional Start button
In my Windows 8 review I speculated:

I would not be surprised to see the Start button make a triumphant return

Windows 8 and Start button

I rarely miss the Start button now I’ve created appropriate taskbar shortcuts and use the keyboard Windows key to access the Start screen. The new logo-shaped Start button will probably do the same as the lower-left screen gesture, but having a button present will reassure many people.

Boot to desktop
Microsoft was criticized for showing the Start screen rather than the more familiar desktop after login. It’s a minor point since launching any standard application will instantly switch. That said, a new “boot to desktop” option will bring joy to many.

Configurable tile sizes
Start screen tiles are currently either “larger” or “smaller”. Even the small size doesn’t permit many icons on a desktop display so a new icon-sized tile will use a quarter of the space. Interestingly, a new super-sized option may also appear which could provide some interesting possibilities for live tiles.

New apps
Many of the existing Metro apps will be updated and a new video editing application could appear.

The OS should also include better SkyDrive integration. I’ve been impressed with Microsoft’s DropBox-like online file storage system and I suspect an increased number of applications will be SkyDrive-aware.

Internet Explorer 11
IE11 is a more exciting prospect although there’s no guarantee it’ll reach the final build. If expectations are correct, the new browser will fill the final missing gaps in IE10 — namely a few minor HTML5 features and WebGL (it’ll be interesting to hear how Microsoft engineers overcame the WebGL “security issues” they identified).

A long-overdue update to the F12 Developer Tools could also appear…

IE11 F12 Developer Tools

The current tools are adequate but clunky and ugly when compared with Firebug, the Webkit Inspector, Dragonfly or any other Microsoft development software. The company is enticing users back to IE but projects such as modern.IE a solid set of development tools will get developers on-side.

In summary, Windows 8 is changing but don’t expect it to revert back to Windows 7. Time will tell if the updates are enough to convince buyers.

Are you using Windows 8? Do you prefer it? Do you detest it? Do you want your Start button back? Will Windows 8.1 address your concerns?

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  • Huy Phan

    On the next Beta Windows bring back Start and Shutdown in Start

    • Arash Jafari

      If it does, I really hope it’s optional.

      • Mike

        All should be optional, that’s what makes a great OS: I want to use it the way I want it.

  • Shaun

    Glad to see the start button is back… the start screen is missing a ton of functionality that the start menu contains.

    IE11 would be great since IE10 has a lot if issues and as a developer the dev tools are pathetic! So glad these are getting fixed! The DOM Tree that IE had was horrible, incorrectly nested, didn’t do live updates and was a monster to try and use. I will not miss the old dev tools one bit!

    • Anonymous

      Sorry to disappoint you, but there is an important distinction here. Windows 8.1 is bringing back the “Start Button”, NOT the “Start Menu.” Craig correctly notes above that this new button behaves the same as the lower-left screen gesture. In other words, clicking on this start button brings you to the start screen, just like pressing the Windows key.

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        To be fair, we won’t know until the final release. The Start menu shortcuts still lurk beneath Win8′s surface so it could be resurrected. Or it could present a smaller Start screen. Or it could show the full Start screen like it does in Blue. Doubt I’ll use it anyway!

    • Arash Jafari

      The only functionality that is missing in the modern start menu is the recent files and programs which probably will be remedied with 8.1. However, pinning programs to the taskbar already gives access to recent files in an organized fashion and the number of items shown in the jump lists can easily be modified.

      Recent programs is quite unnecessary because you can organize your Start to see most, if not all, your installed programs at a glance – on my 27” display I’m able to see all my 72 desktop programs with a single key press. Shutdown does not belong on a start menu but you can easily create shutdown shortcuts and pin them to the Start.

      Some people consider lack of hierarchy in the Start a weakness but exactly that makes the modern start menu superior to the classic one as the latter has a launch time that is 3 times slower on average. For instance, locating Microchip MPLABX which is in the middle of the programs list takes about 7.9s on 7 compared to 2.6s on 8. If you like to play with numbers than launching 50 programs a day through the start menu will save you a day every year on Windows 8.

  • Damon Johnson

    Hey, great article and at last one that is pretty balanced.

    Personally, I don’t miss the start button as much as other people have. I actually find it easier to press the start button on my keyboard and start typing the application I want to run. I would go so far as to say that this is a far more efficient process that going through the motions of using a mouse.

    I love the fluid look and feel of Windows 8, the only thing lacking is a store to rival apple as I find most apps basic and nothing new. Hopefully, as time goes on, developers will add to the store.

    My only critic is that I find it awkward to navigate folders. I have solved this by creating a shortcut on my desktop and can navigate to folders this way. I feel that’s the only thing which has ‘slowed down ‘ working on my PC.

    I’m not sure where the ‘hate for Windows eight’ has come from, but I definitely love it and think its a step in the right direction!

    • ac513

      I’ve been doing this with the start menu’s search bar ever since Vista. I was under the assumption everyone took the app/file searching to their advantage, so the confusion with Windows 8 surprised me. I guess people missed the memo *7 years ago* that the start menu was quickly becoming antiquated.

    • Arash Jafari

      I agree with everything except I don’t understand why you think navigating through folders is awkward since the experience in File Explorer is basically the same as Explorer in 7. If you mean the programs folder then remember that you can add a taskbar toolbar pointing to any location, e.g. %programdata%microsoftwindowsStart Menu , see an image here: http://securecdn.disqus.com/uploads/mediaembed/images/449/4984/original.jpg .

  • David Zhang

    hopefully microsoft will re-enable Aero…
    metro design+aero effect… nice

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      I don’t miss Aero. Yeah, it looked nice, but was a system hog and you didn’t notice it when you were working. I much prefer Win8′s fast booting!

      • David Zhang

        its depend..
        some forum said that if Aero glass effect enabled,
        it will reduce workload of CPU, since aero was rendered by GPU.

    • Arash Jafari

      Most of the Aero-features are still there and the few gone have never been missed even though I really liked Aero Flip. My favorite feature is Aero Peek which besides being cool is a significant time saver. A new feature that I love in Windows 8 is the ability to snap the desktop which shows live miniature windows of all open programs which for instance allows me to casually follow a TV-show in WMC while browsing through Bing News.

    • tariq

      i actually dont miss aero i thought i would but tbh you never notice aero when your working or something i prefer it without aero

  • http://bob.archer.net PilotBob

    > Are you using Windows 8?

    Yes.

    > Do you prefer it?

    Yes.

    > Do you detest it?

    No.

    > Do you want your Start button back?

    No.

    > Will Windows 8.1 address your concerns?

    not from what I have heard. My problems with windows 8 have nothing to do with the start button or the live tiles, it has to do with support for Windows 8 Store apps on a desktop machine. There is no windowed mode. There is no multi-monitor support. On a multi-monitor machine you can have the windows 8 “stuff” on one monitor or the other.

    It might be fine on a 10inch table to only have 1 app visible (or two with snap view) at a time… but on a desktop with two 24+” monitors it is just too restrictive so I basically don’t run Windows Store apps on my desktop, although there are some I would like to use.

    BOb

    • Lee

      These would have been my answers for the same reasons. Multi-monitor support is terrible. It never seems to remember which monitor I last opened a particular metro app in. Not being able to have two metro apps open in different browsers is also an issue. For example say you are composing an email (with the Mail app) then you can’t have another metro app open in the other window to copy from. I suppose you could use the split screen functionality but not a lot of apps implement the smaller size and it’s to small anyway. You really want to have the full app open in another window.

      I know they’re trying to flatten everything but it really doesn’t work. The new pdf and image viewers are terrible. You get the same problems above. If they do the same to the calculator app aswell then that will be useless aswell. You also get the same problems when using a laptop/single monitor.

      Personally I think they should merge the start screen/metro stuff with the desktop. I would make two drastic changes to achieve this.

      1. The taskbar on the desktop seems to be duplicating the metro app launcher on the left. If they could improve the metro one to incorporate some of the features in the taskbar then I think they could abandon the traditional taskbar altogether. This would allow you to have the full screen app experience for both desktop and metro apps. It should also show the entire bar when you navigate to either the bottom or top left corners and should open when double clicking the windows icon on tablet devices similar to how iPhone/iPad have been doing things. I like it position on the left as this means the right and left edges belong to the operating system and the top and bottom belong to the application. However it should be made smaller by using icons or the new smaller tile. As for pinning apps to the taskbar well isn’t that what the start screen should be for?

      2. Allow all apps (including metro ones) to be windowed. I understand the metro apps are restricted to the sizes the developer has programmed them for, so they could simply restrict the horizontal size to the available sizes. But you can then still position the window and resize it vertically however you wish. This fixes most of the issues I have addressed above.

      With these changes the best parts of the desktop (resizing apps and the taskbar) are now shared across the whole operating system for any type of app. I like this approach as regular users don’t need to know the different between a traditional desktop app and a new metro app. They should also allow desktop apps within the windows store but filter them out for ARM devices.

  • http://www.highaltitudecreative.com Ryan

    I hate it.

    At first, I thought it was alright. Then I started using it more often on my wife’s computer. It’s obnoxious. When I used Photoshop, there were moments where I was trying to select tools from the top-left/right of the screen and the stupid sidebars would pop out from W8 at random times and I would accidentally select a previous program or file. That would kick me out of Photoshop and load up whatever it was I clicked. Very, very obnoxious. I’ve also found viewing PDF files to be a pain, unless I change the default program. The way the OS switches between a program and an “application” is completely unintuitive.

    • http://www.dyniform.net Gavin

      Photoshop + ATi Graphics + Windows 8 = Issues.

      Trying to do anything in Photoshop, the darkness in the window glitches and made Photoshop impossible to use. Windows 8 had nice things, but these issues were stopping me. Even with the newest updates for drivers and Windows itself don’t work.

      And back to 7 I go!

  • Truffy

    >Are you using Windows 8?
    Yes
    >Do you prefer it?
    No
    >Do you detest it?
    No, (but I prefer Mac OSX!)
    >Do you want your Start button back?
    Yes. While pinning apps to the taskbar works, it’s a workaround and inelegant. But more importantly I want to boot to desktop, and a less convoluted way of shutting down. And not have that damned metro start screen pop up every time I mouse down to launch IE (which is the leftmost app on the taskbar).
    >Will Windows 8.1 address your concerns?
    Who knows? There’s been a lot of speculation, until SP1 finally becomes available I’m in the dark.

    • Arash Jafari

      Pinning programs to the taskbar is not a workaround, it simply serves as a quick launch that has been around since Win98. It also gives access to recently used documents per program when right-clicked. The Start adequately serves as program launcher and best of all it’s customizable contrary to the classic start menu. I agree that accessing the shutdown menu is awkward but in all fairness the quickest way to shutdown is the same way you turn on the PC and you also have the choice of keyboard shortcuts, pinning shutdown shortcuts to the Start or taskbar not to mention all the free 3rd party apps.

      I still don’t understand the point of booting directly to the desktop – it’s automatically loaded in the background even if you don’t click the tile, you’ll see if there’s something new happening, you launch the desired program or simply just press enter/return to get there – unless people by it mean that they want to skip/disable Modern altogether in which case it’s very unlikely that Blue will come to their rescue.

      • Mike

        “I still don’t understand the point of booting directly to the desktop”..

        You don’t have to understand it.. it’s what people want. And as a company you try to serve your clients.

        I have no need for the Start screen, I don’t want it, so I want to be able to switch it off and never see it.

  • Arash Jafari

    Are you using Windows 8? Since October.
    Do you prefer it? Yes, can’t imagine going back to 7.
    Do you detest it? Of course not.
    Do you want your Start button back? I never lost it in the first place, it’s just hidden until I go there.
    Will Windows 8.1 address your concerns? Don’t have any but all the known improvements are welcome.

  • tariq

    at first i hated windows 8 but after learning how to use it i soon liked it and honestly i dont miss windows 7 one bit and i find the start screen easy to use but i think there should be a better tutorial when you first use windows 8 then maybe people wouldnt hate it

  • shadeTree

    I’m afraid that I don’t see the problem. Yes it is different, but nothing a few quick reads or searches and a little effort didn’t cure. True, I work more in the desktop than the new UI,. My pc doesnt have a touchscreen and the desktop seems easier with a mouse.

    Most of the apps that use are desktop apps as well.

  • Zach

    I’m using Windows 8 after upgrading from Windows 7, and I wish I upgraded sooner. I have installed a specific program that puts a start button on my taskbar, and when I click it, it opens up the Start screen.

    The search is amazing as well. Even though I don’t use any metro apps other than the To Do, I still prefer this start screen to the overly-cluttered context menu that felt like you had no control over what programs show up where. I have my commonly used programs/apps/games/shortcuts on the start screen, and then if I want to open up Excel even though I don’t use it often, I just hit windows key and type “Excel” and push enter.

    • Jim

      if I want to open up Excel even though I don’t use it often, I just hit windows key and type “Excel” and push enter.

      As it does with Windows 7…

  • Frank S

    Are you using Windows 8? Yes, since November.
    Do you prefer it? Yes, would not revert to Win7 (and definitely not to any earlier MS OS).
    Do you detest it? Obviously not. I like it, plain and simple – no extraordinary love, and no strong hate.
    Do you want your Start button back? Yes, I have installed Start 8 from Stardock (http://www.stardock.com/), it’s cheap and gives me the start button AND the complete start menu back. Even with improvements over the original. The UI formely known as Metro is there, but never used.
    Will Windows 8.1 address your concerns? Maybe, allthough I might continue using Start8 if the start menu isn’t also optionally there in 8.1. And there is no real concerns for me as long as my main navigation is back in place. W8 is slightly better than Win7 in almost any way; It starts faster, feels smoother, looks slightly better (in classic mode) and meets my needs. Only thing I could do without on my PC is the UI F C Metro. It is completely unused in my setting, and when it occasionally pops up, it always feels in the way, out of place and just foreign and strange on a high-end desktop with keyboard, mouse and a non-touch, high-res screen. Oh by the way, did I mention that Stardock also has an application that makes Metro-apps appear in normal windows? brilliant! – an option MS in my opinion quite frankly easily could have given us out of the box. But as I don’t really use any metro-apps I haven’t bothered to buy it yet…

  • Glenn

    My girlfriend just bought a laptop that runs on Windows 8, and I feel that this particular OS is much more oriented toward a touchscreen interface than traditional computing.

    When using Windows 8 with a mouse, I found that some tasks required additional steps to complete. This would seem to defeat the purpose of a new version of the OS.

    To be fair to Microsoft, I did find Windows 8 to be good when used in conjunction with a tablet computer. But, in the business world, we’re still using desktop and laptop computers.

    • Arash Jafari

      Which tasks take additional steps to complete? The Modern is touch-oriented but the Desktop is still the same and both work perfectly fine with a mouse and a keyboard. Businesses don’t need touch but that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from Windows 8’s performance and security enhancements.

      • Mike

        Performance enhancements? On ALL my computers File Explorer crashes regularly, up to 10x a day. Windows 7 never crashed. It also has the habit of consuming 100% memory all of a sudden, blocking the machine completely. There’s forums full of these complaints.

  • http://masudsaad.wordpress.com masudsaad

    I am using windows 8 from 3 month. So, I love windows 8

  • Crisan Andrei Dan

    I`ve been using Windows8 since its first developers preview, so i`m kinda old guy on it. Honestly, it was love at first site. I was getting bored of every OS looking kind of the same, so brave action form Microsoft for trying to change something. But yes, as you pointed out yourself, the learning curve is quite steep, and if you are not a tech guy, it might be more difficult to learn. On the other hand, as so many users are using smartphones, I don`t see the problem, as it kind of works like a smartphone interface on a PC. The weak points are the lack of real use of Metro in apps, and the difficulty to switch between apps and get to settings (the 2 side bars that appear on hover, mostly the rightside one is difficult to get to it if you have another monitor connected, like I do). On the other hand, things are more easily reacheable, like wireless settings, connecting to another monitor, etc, the metro apps look great, (yahoo mail, gmail, wiki), and running browsers in metro mode is awesome, as you concentrate on the content and don`t get distracted by blinking icons and stuff(you get small notifications in the upper corner, discreet and fancy at the same time). All in all, I love it, and I they will keep (at least the option) to run windows 8.1 as windows 8 runs

  • Nick

    I’ve been using Windows 8 since release, and upgraded all my systems in my small IT company within a month.

    7 months down the line, and all bar one my machines are back on Windows 7.

    Dreadful to use on a PC or laptop in a work environment without touch screen.

    The remaining machine shall stay on 8 and I will await 8.1 with baited breath…

    • Arash Jafari

      This doesn’t make any sense at all: “Dreadful to use on a PC or laptop in a work environment without touch screen.”

      I’ve been using Windows 8 since October and the preview versions long before that in a corporate environment developing electronics with no problems whatsoever. 99% of the time the Desktop is in focus which basically is an improved Windows 7 and the lack of touch-capability there is irrelevant – fact is that the desktop is harder to use with touch despite the ribbons and touch modes even on a 27” display. The 1% in Modern, which works effortlessly with a mouse once you’re used to the UI, is mostly for program launches, searches and see if there’s new mail or an approaching meeting.

      So where is the dreadfulness? Maybe the source of it is the absence of the start button, the hidden shutdown button or simply lack of knowledge on your part. Instead of going through the trouble of downgrading spending 5 min of tweaking and/or enabling the built-in or a free 3rd-party classic menu would solve the alleged dreadfulness. What further deprives your post of credibility is the wait for 8.1 because it doesn’t bring you touch screens.

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    Hot news: Windows 8.1 preview will be launched on June 26 and will be a free upgrade for all existing Windows 8 users.

  • Ivan

    1st rule of desktop computers – don’t touch the f…. screen. My 4 year old knows this rule. Who wants to spend their day looking through fingerprints or polishing. New has absolutely nothing to do with it, why do I need patches and fixes to get the OS to a usable level. I’ve now set up dual boot to make the transition to Mint or Ultimate before buying the next computer later this year. I’m having trouble deciding between cinnamon and kde interfaces, love both. Going to have to put it together instead of buying off the shelf. Was going to buy one earlier but 8 came out and stopped the purchase. Windows 8 is horrible, like trying to do actual work on a xbox. Same concept was used by Ubuntu with Unity, now Ubuntu is officially supporting a Gnome distro again.

    Driving a car from the trunk using a camera would be new, but why do it? New does not automatically mean improved.

    One less windows user, no amount of propaganda is going to convince me to put a smart phone interface on my main computer.

  • http://dramasonlinetv.com/ Touqir Abbas

    Maybe the source of it is the absence of the start button, the hidden shutdown button or simply lack of knowledge on your part.

  • Jim

    I love windows 8 now, but at first I was not so crazy. After a couple of weeks of using it I got use to it and think the experience is better then before. I am pumped Microsoft is rolling out IE updates faster now. Although I wish they would change to an Google release schedule, every couple of months. The more newer versions the quicker people will upgrade. Time for IE6-9 to go away!

    Time to get over the start button design paradigm, it is 2013!! Change your mindset metro haters.

  • Mike

    What Microsoft needs to do is to provide the MILLIONS of people who use Windows to be productive with a productive environment, i.e. Windows 7, with the added benefit of being able to switch to a “mobile interface” for those who only consume media on a Windows Tablet.

    One could then connect a big screen to a tablet and switch to Desktop View (Windows 7), for instance.

    So, one OS for all is possible, but NEVER mix the two.

    Even switching your PC off is more rediculous than to click Start to stop… now you have to click Settings!! How insane that!

  • http://kitsmedia.ca John Owen

    Maybe I missed it, but no one has mentioned the obvious aim of MS to stream users to all the MS apps and libraries. This has been the big success of Apple..ITunes etc. Proprietory applications that lock in users. Have you ever tried to update your IPod from another computer? This is what MS is trying to accomplish with this metro desktop.

    As the writer said quite accurately..this is a great step forward in standardizing operating system interfaces but I REALLY dislike being funnelled to MS products. Its one of the main reasons I don’t use Apple.

  • Grisha

    Windows 8 is pure piece of crap.
    It is made for entertainment only – all what students need.
    Makes me sick to the stomach when all of the sudden screen gets gray and says – “It gets lonely… Would you like to see some videos?” Did I pay for the expensive OS to see their advertisements?

    How about this fluid screen – I tried to move away not needed programs and put in the first place my own — No! Microsoft knows better!
    Design? Grey on white and white on grey and … No certain colors! Wow! We live in interesting times – my wife bought me pink shirt… She thought that it would be nice… Insult! Microsoft’s designers dictate fashion. She probably took wrong lesson from them. No certain colors used by the designers who is uncertain to what gender they belong! They compensate by pretending to be exceptional artists.
    Microsoft! Give me man’s OS! With good, clear, bright and dark, well defined man’s colors and well-defined understandable computer behavior. I know women will like it too.

  • Stefan Werner

    I run Windows 8 on both my tablet and laptop with Start8 installed and am really quite happy with it. Boot times wear a big selling point for me.

  • No More Nonsense

    To have any hope at all of turning things around, if even possible any longer, Microsoft needs to come clean with the public, the enterprise and the hordes of developers they treated with utter contempt over the past few years, while at the same time, declaring an irrevocable dedication to making things right:

    1) Fully admit that WinRT is dead, dead and dead. A commercial failure in the consumer space, of no practical use to the enterprise, and as been made resoundingly clear, of no actual interest to the developer community.

    2) Fully admit that its catastrophic mishandling of Silverlight, its single most vital and mission-critical technology of all time (as the most powerful and relevant LOB technology available, not as a once-imagined Flash competitor) was an unforgivable failure of epic proportions, damaging countless developers finally passionate about a Microsoft development platform, eradicating millions and millions of dollars of corporate investment in it and all but destroying all of Redmond’s enterprise credibility. Follow this with the irrevocable plans for Silverlight 6, 7, 8 and beyond, all of which should include intensive investment in coupling 64-bit Silverlight with Azure as an ultimately powerful pairing uniquely suited to ‘big data’ analytics.

    3) Fully admit that abandonment of XNA was yet another tragic and unforgivable mistake perpetrated by the previous regime. Announce irrevocable plans for revitalizing XNA and continuing such investment years into the future.

    4) Announce having realized that their approach to the pricing of Visual Studio and MSDN subscriptions has long since entered into what can only be categorized as ‘absurd’. Discontinue the elitist pricing policies of the recent past, pricing policies that became increasingly tailored to large corporate entities, but vital capabilities and technologies fully beyond the reach of small companies, fledgling startups and individual developers. Visual Studio and MSDN subscriptions need not be – cannot be – revenue-producing vehicles, but readily available resources by which “developers, developers, developers” can once again prime the pump. Announce immediate changes to the pricing of Visual Studio and MSDN subscriptions, an immediate return to the days in which fully-functional versions of Visual Studio and full MSDN subscriptions were affordable by INDIVIDUAL developers.

  • http://www.robertlillywebdeveloper.com Robert Lilly

    Windows 7 is the end of the road for me as far as Microsoft products are concerned. I’m moving away from them for the same reason I refuse to own any Apple products, or allow Apple software on my machines – no more walled gardens; no more software that locks me in in any way. I’m running Ubuntu 120.4 LTS (without a GUI) on my home file server, and am dual-boot into Kubuntu 12.04 LTS (prefer KDE over Gnome or Unity) on my laptop. I’m weaning myself off of MS Office utilizing OpenOffice/LibreOffice instead. My smartphones all run Android.

    • Kevin Clarke

      Let me start by saying I originally come from a Unix background, and after a great number of years realised i needed to move on.

      As some others have said refusing to use either MS and Apple products seems a bit harsh in my opinion. I’m not suggesting I particularly like Windows 8 in its current form, but like other releases (including Vista…) MS will improve it and 8.1 is a start or halfway house depending on your preference.

      As for Apple, I personally really like there products, the new IMac with Fusion drive is great. I run parallels and also have a Windows 7 virtual machine, so the best of both worlds and the transition between Mountain Lion and windows is very impressive. Oh and yes I did not commit to Windows 8 as a Virtual machine as I was waiting for MS to do a halfway house first..:-)

    • Bill W

      Robert, We are moving all 17 of our 20 workstatiobns to KDE and the heavy graphics to apple. MS feels and act ever so omnipotent. Hell, they had 15k engineers and missed the Internet in the 90s.
      They had thei time and it’s over. Yes we also use OpenOffice/LibreOffice, have for 5 years in the case of OO. all phones and tablets are Android. There are a great many parallels betweeen MS and AOL as to how they treat and feel about people in general. Enough ranting!

  • rachid

    The last windows I used was vista, I remember the disk beginning to fail, which warranted me to make a backup copy of the system, when looking for tools I didn’t find any easy solutions, and the ones I found were costly comercials solutions, for one time use it seemed like a bad investment to me, so after a bad (read really ugly and horrendous) experience using the latest microsoft os, I said since I’m switching hard drives and probably starting from scratch, why not give linux a try (it was my uni professor a few years earlier who urged us to use linux, since we’re developers, he said it made everything easy, but the CLI was a major turn off for me), and so I did, and behold, that stuff was so powerful, it made me shade tears of regret for all that time I wasted on windoz boxes before, the solution to cloning hard drives and partitions is dd!!, you don’t like the DE (desktop environment), download another one, you’re not sure about using bash, go ahead and change to zsh, for developers it’s technological heaven, and so in a way, I’m thankful that xp wasn’t followed by 7, it made giving linux a try so easy, and I never looked back.
    Right now I spend most of my time developing on emacs and use the CLI right inside of it, I can have my machine on for days and days on without it going all blue screen on me (here’s my uptime right now: up 13 days, 9:45), which I remember popping every few hours on my vista box, and truth be told, these days I wonder why and how big corporates such as mircrosoft came into existence, when they don’t offer anything new, I mean apple does build sturdy stuff, and so it makes sense having them around, with microsoft I remember the very first thing I worried about upon installing a brand new windows box is the FREAKING anti virus, and that stuff didn’t spare even us tech savvy users and developers.
    I hear good stuff about 7, but windows is for people who want (or don’t know any better than) to spend a lot of cash on what used to be server grade hardware just a few years ago, just to run a browser and check out email, it doesn’t make much sense to me, I’d suggest if you are using windows, to read a book about linux, and pick any of the many unix clones, or get a mac, you’d be much happier that way, and save a lot of hear from being pulled in fits of frustrations when losing data after a virus infection.
    cheers.

  • darkwords

    Are you using Windows 8? Yes, I’ve been fiddling with it since first consumer previews (on VMs). I’ve recently changed my main computer so I’m stuck with it.

    Do you prefer it? No, Windows7 is more customizable, performs better (if you know how to configure services and remove some ballast) and boots faster (Win8 keeps on crashing during fast booting so I had to disable it).

    Do you detest it? No, but I dislike it – start screen is simply ugly and confusing. Also, the reasoning behind blocking the possibility of changing windows’ font color is beyond me – dark gray on black blackground is barely readable. Oh, and don’t forget about software compatibility problems (which is especially annoying for retro gamers like me).

    Do you want your Start button back? The first thing I’ve done after buying my new machine with preinstalled Win8 was buying and installing Start8 from StarDock. It brings back the start menu, hides the hideous start screen and skips directly to desktop after logging in – definitely one of the best ways to spend 5$.

  • Bert Drommond Farry

    I just want to know how do U close a win 8 program other then using the task manager to shut them down. (there’s no x button no close and no menu bar to have it.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      I presume you’re talking about Metro apps? If so, move your mouse to the top of the screen, click, then drag downwards. Probably obvious on a touchsceen, but not elsewhere.

  • Joey

    Are you using Windows 8? I was, but so many things went wrong so I went back to Windows 7 after using it for a month.
    Do you prefer it? Heck no. I feel sorry for any of the few people who have it installed on their computers.
    Do you detest it? Well, YES!!!! There are so many things wrong with it that it just should have been redone. The final version should have been another preview. For one thing, I honestly think that they should have continued Aero Glass. The new flatter Metro interface makes everything look like nothing more than Windows 3.1 with Windows Vista/7 animations and a taskbar.
    Do you want your Start button back? At first, no. I was trying to get used to the Start Screen, and I tried using ways to use the Start button/Start menu in Windows 8, but it didn’t look right, so I just kept trying to grow accustomed to it. But then I just broke down and reinstalled Windows 7 since NOTHING WAS GOING RIGHT and I just wanted the genuine Start Menu experience back.

  • marni

    Replaced Start button and few new glitz de-jour features. Yawn.
    If my XP CD hadn’t broken i wouldn’t even have Windows 7.

  • Rob

    I recently moved from XP to Windows 8. The software cost me less than NZ$90. For a few dollars more for I purchased a third party app enabling me to boot to desktop and retain the look and usability of traditional Windows, whilst still benefiting from the increased performance of Windows 8. I call that a pretty good deal. I ignore Metro completely, and as long as I can continue to do so then I’ll be happy with Windows 8. I would prefer to be able to disable the parasitic Metro OS entirely, but that is never likely to be an option.