Fixing Windows 8
December 12, 2013 11:07 PM   Subscribe

 
Clearly it requires a lot of fixing.
posted by Artw at 11:08 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sometimes when I'm driving through Redmond and I see a Porsche crawl out of the Microsoft complex I get a small urge to bump into it
posted by hellojed at 11:19 PM on December 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


Microsoft’s Windows "Threshold" version is expected to debut in spring 2015.

Perfect timing indeed.
posted by Apropos of Something at 11:24 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The last Microsoft product I enjoyed using was sharepoint until I started working at a place using confluence and jira. Sharewhat? Winwhat? I don't think I've personally managed or worked on a windows anything at home or at work in almost 2 years.

I don't miss Microsoft at all.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:26 PM on December 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


>SEPARATE VERSIONS OF WINDOWS FOR CONSUMER AND BUSINESS
>Microsoft is moving to a simplified version of Windows for consumers,

Because having a bunch of different versions of the damn thing will make everything simpler for everybody.

I'm probably going to have to stop running XP next year. I hear Windows 7 is nice.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 11:28 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not exactly the happiest Mac user, but I just don't understand how anyone uses Windows anymore. Seriously.
posted by phaedon at 11:31 PM on December 12, 2013 [19 favorites]


The 2nd link's proposal looks really good, and I'd pay for a windows theme built around that. I'm clinging to windows 7 for now, but an MS Pro Surface is probably in my future. It's an incredible piece of kit for the price.

I'd like a special developer version with all the safeties turned off.
posted by hellojed at 11:31 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lipstick on a pig on a sinking ship. Microsoft could have done with Windows what Apple did with OS X, and just start over from scratch. Too late to do much more than sell a crumbling mess of a desktop OS to enterprise.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:32 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


How is having to press a button called "Start" in order to shut a computer down a good idea?
posted by sour cream at 11:35 PM on December 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


As a tech support dude it's bad enough supporting four versions of Windows, four of OSX, several iOS devices and a host of Android implementations. Now there's going to be multiple versions of Win8? "What version of Windows are you on?" is a question that attracts enough confusion without "Windows 8" not being sufficient information.


I'm not exactly the happiest Mac user, but I just don't understand how anyone uses Windows anymore. Seriously.

We use the best desktop OS ever made, Windows 7.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:41 PM on December 12, 2013 [43 favorites]


"Here you'll why..." ?
posted by Sintram at 11:44 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here you’ll why it’s a good idea

Yes there will be a lot of spelling mistakes, unfortunately you will have to leave with it. The goal was to put out the information of my research, not to write a perfectly checked novel.

Are there some reason whhy talking about Windows not can be written good? Is trying to mirror quality of software in writing of review itself? Maybe it's a good idea to be a little skeptical of a "UX/UI & Branding Architect" if his writing is barely coherent?
posted by RogerB at 11:46 PM on December 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


Microsoft could have done with Windows what Apple did with OS X, and just start over from scratch. Too late to do much more than sell a crumbling mess of a desktop OS to enterprise.

Yeah, but the only reason people stick with Microsoft is the legacy apps we're forced to use at work. If they redid it from the ground up they'd piss everyone off and they still wouldn't get it right. Windows 8 is very close to what you are suggesting, and there aren't many fans. Apple can get away with that kind of high-handedness (barely), but I think they have a different customer base.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:48 PM on December 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


How is having to press a button called "Start" in order to shut a computer down a good idea?

Because we've been telling that joke for two decades now, so odds are most of us were pretty familiar with the whole setup?
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 11:48 PM on December 12, 2013 [47 favorites]


I don't even know what to say about the work Jay Machalani has done on imagining a different product called Windows 8.2.

From one perspective, I can understand his discussion of frustrations of using touch apps in desktop environment and vice versa. However, I have no idea what he's talking about when in the transition to Metro he mushes "Classic" apps to occupy 60% of available screen if it had been in the foreground in Desktop mode, and I don't have time to wade through what he proposes to do if the Metro/Hybrid app had been in the foreground.

The main part of his effort seems to lead to his revealing the "transition" from Desktop to Metro, replete with animated gradients, geometric transformations, and space-age acoustic cues. What?

In fact his entire presentation is uncanny, it makes sense on the surface but when one considers the complexity of his products (e.g. the configurable HUD he imagines could be a "Start Menu") and listen to the not-quite-coherent discussions of how these elements would reconfigure on the transition between elements…

It's like he's assembled a bunch of interface gobbledygook to hypnotize his audience into amazement.

The comments section indicate he seems to have succeeded.

Or I am just completely misreading this and is there really something here? Has Windows gone so far off the rails regarding usability that Windows users live in an alternate computing dimension from non-Windows users?
posted by mistersquid at 11:58 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


How is having to press a button called "Start" in order to shut a computer down a good idea?

Because shutting the computer down is a task, and this button is the starting point for all tasks?

I seriously don't understand people who were confused by this after the first 30 seconds. It's like all other interfaces come with a big red plunger-style OFF button. Do you think Windows would be significantly better if they had a second button named Stop at the opposite end of the taskbar?
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:04 AM on December 13, 2013 [40 favorites]


The phone kind is pretty nice actually. Doesn't make any sense on a desktop of course, but still. So far so good.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:04 AM on December 13, 2013


I seriously don't understand people who were confused by this after the first 30 seconds. It's like all other interfaces come with a big red plunger-style OFF button. Do you think Windows would be significantly better if they had a second button named Stop at the opposite end of the taskbar?

It's the Windows version of "You know mice can have more than one button, right?" and became no longer valid at about the same time as that chestnut.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:06 AM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's like he's assembled a bunch of interface gobbledygook to hypnotize his audience into amazement.

Worse than that, he makes a lot of the same mistakes made in early OS X Public Betas that were quickly scrapped. For one, borderless chrome is Bad Design because people don't know where to click to move a window. The user might be clicking on a UI element that has functionality in the app, but she might be grabbing the menu bar to move the app's window. Hard to impossible to tell, and worse, it will be inconsistent from app to app, depending on menu options, as his own mockups demonstrate. I would not hire someone to consult or design who is making decades-old mistakes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:09 AM on December 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


How is having to press a button called "Start" in order to shut a computer down a good idea?

just fyi, the start button hasn't been labeled 'start' for years.
posted by empath at 12:16 AM on December 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


I don't even know what to say about the work Jay Machalani has done on imagining a different product called Windows 8.2
....
It's like he's assembled a bunch of interface gobbledygook to hypnotize his audience into amazement.
....
Or I am just completely misreading this and is there really something here? Has Windows gone so far off the rails regarding usability that Windows users live in an alternate computing dimension from non-Windows users?
--mistersquid
-------------------

I don't think Jay Machalani works for Microsoft. And it is a good thing too. He's repeating all of Ballmer's mistakes of overreacting to missing out on the smartphone/tablet revolution. He starts with a bad premise:

My test computers were always high density convertible tablet/laptops; the perfect candidate for the Windows 8 vision.

It is no wonder the desktop doesn't have much emphasis in his vision:

Windows 8 Desktop app. Yes I said Desktop app. You see the Desktop now isn’t the main interface of Windows anymore, they decided that our good ol’ Desktop is more of a place where you will go inside of a new Windows where you want to use all your pesky old ugly Classic applications.

Certainly on his tablets, the desktop and its 'old ugly' applications need to be moved to the background, if not removed altogether.

But on a desktop, for engineers like me, financial executives with several large screens filled with data, researchers, software engineers crunching away on code, a desktop is not old nor ugly, but a requirement. Fancy UIs with lots of tiles just get in the way. I've heard that very few large companies are installing, nor have any plans to install Windows 8. It seems that with Ballmer gone, Microsoft is finally recognizing this.

Jay Machalani, with all his tablet computers, seems to be completely clueless when it comes to desktops.
posted by eye of newt at 12:18 AM on December 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


Regarding win 7: Double clicking the task bar to full size an app window was a genius feature of aero peek. So was "throw to top/right/left, etc. too bad Mavericks can't achieve the same.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:20 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or I am just completely misreading this and is there really something here?

No, you're on the money, he's just handwaving. My favorite bit is the "proposed app/UI behavior" diagram where he's connected literally everything to everything else.

"If you’re unsure about a feature, functionality, look or anything else about Windows, give the users a switch for it." is, as the saying goes, Not Even Wrong.
posted by ook at 12:22 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here you’ll why it’s a good idea
That makes about as much sense as most of the decisions I witnessed when I worked at Microsoft.
Mods - there's at least one word missing from this FPP, please fix.
posted by w0mbat at 12:48 AM on December 13, 2013


It's not a mistake-- that word's missing from the article as well.
posted by Pyry at 12:52 AM on December 13, 2013


It's a direct quote from the link, w0mbat.
posted by ook at 12:52 AM on December 13, 2013


Ha! Or it was a while ago; he's corrected it on his site.
posted by ook at 12:53 AM on December 13, 2013


Where I've seen that in practice ("if you're unsure... give the users a switch for it"), the settings area inevitably becomes, like, the world's worst version-control system. Many options, besides being objectively wrong, lead you down a code path which hasn't been touched in ten years. But they remain sitting there, because the developers are terrified of getting an angry call from someone whose entire workflow depends on automating PROGMAN.EXE using a set of macros developed in your app's proprietary macro language, which was developed back when the entire thing was written in QBASIC.

If you want to take that and actually adopt it as a design philosophy then god help you.
posted by aw_yiss at 12:55 AM on December 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


"This research project or I are not affiliated with Microsoft in any way."
posted by ook at 12:56 AM on December 13, 2013


Hi, my name is Jay, I am the designer of this project.

I think that there might have been some misconception or misunderstanding with the project...

First, I am not discrediting the Desktop in anyways, in fact two rules states that Mouse/keyboard users should not have a tablet interface (Metro, Charms bar, Gestures) thus improving the Desktop experience for people who are actually using Windows as a workstation. And by the way Eye of Newt, that was sarcastic, this is why one of the main objective to this project is to put the Desktop back as an environment and not an "app" inside of Metro.

Really? Still going over the fact that it's called Start? My objective was not to change everything Microsoft is doing, but to put it to a level that would satisfy and respect most users needs. Tablet's without Desktops and Desktops without weird touch behaviors.

Yes there are spelling mistakes, I'm French Canadian and on top of that I was running out of time. If you are limiting the whole analysis to some spelling mistakes from a kid who's trying to tackle some important usability problems, then go ahead. I don't think that judging the whole project for a single missing word is very mature.

Apple did not do OS X from scratch, they where using the older apps and the same top bar and bottom dock with ridiculous eye candy and for a while a virtual environment was needed to run apps.

When you are on the Desktop, all apps runs in a window, but when you transition to the Metro environment, they switch to full screen apps with the separator between them. There is not app running in the background since you are switching the way you are interacting with your computer and apps entirely, thus making sure tablet users can use gestures and desktop users can use windows.

You may love OS X and even if you bring me all the facts in the world that it is better, at the end of the day it isn't a fact since I would still prefer another OS. I tried OS X, many other users did, it is an amazing OS, but I doesn't work for some. Therefore, we want to improve the current version.

If you hate the new version of a car and you prefer everything about the old one.... use the old one, same with your OS. If you think Windows 7 is perfect for your needs, why bother with people using a newer version if you are happy. It's not because you don't like smartphones, that we should all be using and making regular phone.

For moving around Modern apps, I indicated that extra space on the top would be needed for that and the buttons even though visually it will blend with it. Steam, Zune and Office are all designed like that.

I don;t see any gradients in this design and there is no gobbledygook to hypnotise the audience. There is a full analysis of the problem and the ways to improving including the how and why of it.

When I say put a switch for it, I don't mean for every single parts of the OS, the parts where there is the most feedback with different opinion like transition speed between environments.

It is difficult to judge a research project just from a quick skim of the page and pictures.

Thanks for your feedback guys!

Jay
posted by technofou at 1:00 AM on December 13, 2013 [28 favorites]


Feedback?
posted by tigrrrlily at 1:12 AM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


People have been criticizing his work, and feedback is feedback.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:13 AM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's true, I whyed.

Then I realised I didn't care.
posted by Segundus at 1:14 AM on December 13, 2013


Well I think the real problem is that a tablet OS and a desktop OS have fundamentally incompatible goals, and no amount of clever window-shuffling is going to overcome that. And, other than Microsoft's monopolistic tendencies, there really isn't any compelling reason for tablets and desktops to share the same OS.
posted by Pyry at 1:14 AM on December 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


Just as a data point and as someone who is only a casual technology user, I've been finding Windows 8 pretty fantastic once you get rid of the stupid startup screen and add the start menu back in with classic shell. Really no issues, but then I'm aware that may just be because I'm not a 'power user', but does internet/games/documents fine for me.
posted by litleozy at 1:16 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well I think the real problem is that a tablet OS and a desktop OS have fundamentally incompatible goals,

I believe Debian, and the Linux community in general would like a word with you. There's an obvious and very good reason for tablets and desktops to share the same OS: out-of-the-box interoperability, and simplification of support and development.

The stupidity lies in insisting desktops and tablets share the same UI, but this is the price you pay if you want to bundle everything in one monolithic heap to promote your market strategy.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:21 AM on December 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Just as a data point and as someone who is only a casual technology user, I've been finding Windows 8 pretty fantastic once you get rid of the stupid startup screen and add the start menu back in with classic shell. Really no issues, but then I'm aware that may just be because I'm not a 'power user', but does internet/games/documents fine for me.

Not really; it's because you've just added enough third party tweaks to build something for yourself that's pretty much Windows 7.
posted by flabdablet at 1:30 AM on December 13, 2013 [15 favorites]


Exactly, thus the idea of living in one environment. Technically there is no need of environment switching unless you are using a convertible device. If you have a tablet and you use it for simple tasks, you will never switch nor see the Desktop environment. On the same idea, if you work on your computer a lot, then you will always be on the Desktop environment and never go on Metro, still with your Start Menu, windows, etc.

And no, your feedback is useful when described. Saying that OS X is better and my design sucks doesn't mean anything. But pointing out what OS X does better for you and which part of my design is flawed gives me the chance to either try to explain the solution better or find a major gap in my analysis and improve the design.

I will never please people who loves Windows and OS X will need a lot of work before it pleases me, but criticism -real one- and feedback is the key to progress!
posted by technofou at 1:31 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just as a data point and as someone who is only a casual technology user, I've been finding Windows 8 pretty fantastic
posted by Quilford at 1:33 AM on December 13, 2013


but it's no better than Windows 7.
posted by Quilford at 1:33 AM on December 13, 2013


"...there really isn't any compelling reason for tablets and desktops to share the same OS."

You mean the UI. As has been the case since well, forever, with the Mac fans, it's impossible to talk about operating system design with people who can't differentiate the OS from the UI.

There's a great many compelling reasons for tablets and desktops to share the same OS. This is true for Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Those don't share the same UI, and iOS has been extensively tweaked. But it's the same OS, really.

There's no reason to "start from the ground up". Apple had to do that with OS X because they had a shitty OS with a great UI and Microsoft had already long before switched to a modern OS (with a shitty UI). The OS under Windows is perfectly fine. It's mature, it works well. There's still occasional problems with blue screens and such, but that's the result of legacy compatibility and the driver model and the open nature of the PC platform. Microsoft could make Windows as stable and reliable as a Unix, but customers wouldn't accept what that would mean. So they don't. And, anyway, those problems are very rare these days.

And, really, Microsoft doesn't need to "start over" with the desktop UI, it's been converging toward the Mac UI for decades. Theoretically, they could design a UI as elegant and functional as Apple's UIs, but then they'd be Apple. No one is as good at that kind of thing as Apple is. And, again, without the kind of control of the market that Apple has with its market, Microsoft's customers wouldn't let them do what needed to be done to design as good a UI, anyway.

I don't really understand what Microsoft was thinking in trying to make their desktop OS be a tablet, touchscreen OS. I do understand that they believe this is the way the winds are blowing, and they're right. The entire consumer market and a big chunk of the business market is going to switch to tablets and similar small devices and if Microsoft doesn't have a big footprint there, they will die. But their current and future desktop and server clients certainly don't need a UI designed as a touchscreen tablet UI. That's stupid.

They should have made a huge push — like, bet the company sized push — to get into the tablet space and designed a version of Windows around the tablet and focused their marketing on that. Meanwhile, they could have kept the under-the-hood code largely the same for both tablet and desktop versions and fiddled around a bit with the desktop UI and quietly released a new desktop version of Windows alongside their new, highly hyped, tablet version.

They didn't do this because they are confused and don't know how to respond to the changing hardware and user landscape. They're an ossified company. They've become a version of the IBM they previously mocked.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:39 AM on December 13, 2013 [25 favorites]


The stupidity lies in insisting desktops and tablets share the same UI, but this is the price you pay if you want to bundle everything in one monolithic heap to promote your market strategy.

Or rather, the price we all pay for the collective will of experienced engineers to resist the relentless grinding idiocy of know-nothing "visionary" marketroids having been worn down to a nub.

There is one, and only one, explanation for the everything-is-a-phone brain worms: cocaine.
posted by flabdablet at 1:42 AM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Maybe I'm just clueless of the technical problems of implementation, but here's my thoughts:

If they could make the desktop mode just more like Windows 7, with a start menu and the like, it would be perfect.

And why not make it possible to open the Windows 8 apps in desktop windows, perhaps with some windows key shortcut to skip between the two?

If they could do that, I think it would be ideal.

All the pretty tweaks people are referring to is fine, but with the above two I'd be pretty happy about the whole thing.

But I do have other gripes:

When Windows 8 was coming out, one of the exciting things (to me) that they were promising was something more advanced with respect to queuing up file copying and moving. Unfortunately all they actually added was a pause button which only partially does the job. How about a much smarter queuing system where it finishes one copy or move before starting on the second, rather than by default running them all concurrently and slowing everything down so no one folder will actually complete copying for the next week...

For moves where you want to move things from drive E to drive D, and some other stuff from drive D to drive E, why can't it be a little smarter about figuring out how to make space for these, juggling transfers to make use of space on those drives and maybe doing temporary file storage automatically on other drives. In other words, I'd like them to automate the juggling I have to do when I decide to swap big folders between drives that are nearly full.

Also I'd like customisable recent file history keeping. I'd like it to be able to keep in the recent file my various Word and Excel files I've been playing with, but not necessarily keep a history of non-work related files, like music or photos. It's common that I want to sit down and resume work on a document only to find it's been pushed right off the recent files menu by photos I saved off Facebook or something.

These aren't big features, they're just the every day details that piss me off.
posted by Mokusatsu at 1:57 AM on December 13, 2013


The problem is that all of those would be useful features, but none of them would be useful as the backbone of a major branding/advertising campaign.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:59 AM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Regarding win 7: Double clicking the task bar to full size an app window was a genius feature of aero peek.

Er, hasn't Windows done this since 3.0?
posted by JHarris at 2:26 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd consider trying Metro if Microsoft didn't force all Metro applications to go through their app store. As it stands, I can't support a future where every application running on my desktop has to be certified by a central company. Even Apple gives users this freedom with Gatekeeper.
posted by archagon at 2:28 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Windows 8 is better than Windows 7 because:
* Antivirus built in, finally (Updates are better too). No more Norton or AVG clunking around confusing your relations.
* PDF viewer built in. No more Adobe Reader demanding updates every three seconds.
* SkyDrive integration built in (can you get the same from the SkyDrive desktop app in Windows 7? I don't know). SkyDrive is awesome. I've suddenly moved to the Cloud and I didn't even plan it.
* The accessibility tools (e.g. Narrator) are much better (probably not relevant to most of you). For example, the built-in Narrator now works with Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer.
* Works great with touch, if you have a Windows tablet (you probably don't). Seriously, Metro IE is great. The Share charm is good. They broke Search in 8.1, but never mind.
* Some good, free and cheap apps. The FaceBook App, the PDF App, OneNote, kids' games, lots of photo editing. Improvements to Desktop programs, like Windows Explorer.
* The non-English support is great. You can start with any Windows 8.1 and get any supported Microsoft language downloaded, installed, and make it the native language for the system. You even get a free synthesized voice for loads of languages.

Windows 8 is less good than Windows 7 because:
* The Start Menu. The Start Menu in Windows 8 is better for touch. It's fine for Windows 7, but the switch is quite abrupt, and everyone has gotten used to the Windows 7 Start Menu, and the Windows 7 Start Menu went through fifteen years of incremental improvement, and scrolling down a long list to find something is easier than scrolling left and right and peering at differently-size buttons with different text on each button. The old Start menu is ugly, it's crufty, it's cognitively confusing, but it's pretty good, and it's better with a mouse, and it's familiar.

I'd strongly recommend Windows 8 over 7, with one of those "old start menu" programs if you want to use the old start menu.

What I'd Like:
* Why can't I use the Share charm in the Desktop?
* Search to work like it did in 8.0 and on the Desktop. If I'm in Firefox and I do the Search charm then it should fire up Firefox's search mechanism for what I type.
* Minecraft Portable Edition. Yeah, I know, not going to happen.
* Windows Metro to run Android apps. No? OK, how about goddam Windows Phone Apps?
posted by alasdair at 2:30 AM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


"How about a much smarter queuing system where it finishes one copy or move before starting on the second, rather than by default running them all concurrently and slowing everything down so no one folder will actually complete copying for the next week..."

TeraCopy. (It moves, not just copies. Several options, and installs to right-mouse menu.)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:32 AM on December 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


There's a great many compelling reasons for tablets and desktops to share the same OS. This is true for Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Those don't share the same UI, and iOS has been extensively tweaked. But it's the same OS, really.

No, that's a compelling reason to support open source projects and standardized toolchains. You certainly can't run the same binaries on iOS and OSX, they're only the 'same' OS in the sense that they're BSD derivatives where your code (when compiled to the appropriate architecture) can link against many of the same open-source libraries (compiled to the appropriate architecture). Microsoft is free to share common components between windows versions, like core libraries, filesystems, etc., but I don't see any compelling reason for the tablet windows and the desktop windows to be literally exactly the same OS to the extent of sharing a window manager and being binary compatible.
posted by Pyry at 2:33 AM on December 13, 2013


> they're only the 'same' OS in the sense that they're BSD derivatives where your code (when compiled to the appropriate architecture) can link against many of the same open-source libraries (compiled to the appropriate architecture)

Unless I'm mistaken, many lower-level Apple frameworks and libraries are shared between iOS and OSX. (See: CoreFoundation.)
posted by archagon at 2:35 AM on December 13, 2013


Also, Pyry's view is very much an application developer's view of what an OS is, similar to how the UI is an end-user's view of what an OS is. iOS and OSX are the same OS in the sense that they're small variations of the same OS for different hardware architectures. From an OS designer's perspective, they're the same OS. And when someone is talking about a "new OS" or "starting from the ground up", we're talking about the OS designer's view.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:38 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unless I'm mistaken, many lower-level Apple frameworks and libraries are shared between iOS and OSX. (See: CoreFoundation.)

But they're shared in source form: they have to be compiled for their specific platforms, not least because iOS runs on ARM and OSX on x86. I mean, I can compile the same C++ code linking against opencv for ubuntu on raspberry pi (arm) or for windows (x86); that does not make them the same OS.

Also, Pyry's view is very much an application developer's view of what an OS is, similar to how the UI is an end-user's view of what an OS is. iOS and OSX are the same OS in the sense that they're small variations of the same OS for different hardware architectures. From an OS designer's perspective, they're the same OS. And when someone is talking about a "new OS" or "starting from the ground up", we're talking about the OS designer's view.

Guilty as charged. But when we're talking about what Microsoft did wrong with Windows 8, we aren't examining Windows 8 from the perspective of its kernel, but rather from the perspective of its UI, APIs, and applications. Microsoft tried to make the same OS work for both tablets and desktops, a single OS shared between tablets and desktops that was not merely 'the same' in the broad sense that lumps iOS and OSX together, but rather exactly literally the same. And that wasn't going to work.
posted by Pyry at 2:47 AM on December 13, 2013


I suspect that thinking that starts with "tablet UI" vs. "laptop/desktop UI" is missing the point.

Better to think in terms of a "Consumer UI" (where the tablet form-factor is rising and the desktop form-factor is mostly dead) and a "Creator UI" (where tablets barely make an appearance). That's the fundamental split I see - whether you use these devices to consume, or to create.
posted by Leon at 2:51 AM on December 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


"...that was not merely 'the same' in the broad sense that lumps iOS and OSX together, but rather exactly literally the same. And that wasn't going to work."

Yeah, I agree.

"Better to think in terms of a 'Consumer UI' (where the tablet form-factor is rising and the desktop form-factor is mostly dead) and a 'Creator UI' (where tablets barely make an appearance). That's the fundamental split I see - whether you use these devices to consume, or to create."

People have been saying this for a while, and at first I was persuaded because that was what was actually happening, but lately I think it's moving in the other direction. Which is to say, tablets are increasingly creator devices, too. I think that tablets will slowly replace most desktops, except where desktops can't be replaced (like extra horsepower, large or specialized peripherals, etc.). A lot of creative work will be done on tablets.

I think that tablets and smart phones will likely coexist for a long while, but I could be wrong. There's a big overlap, there, and so it seems like they should converge to one device, and maybe most likely is that they'll converge to one device with two separate hardware interfaces. I don't know.

But I do think that consumer computing will increasingly be found in commoditized and standardized embedded computing in consumer electronics of all kinds. Maybe the tablet and smartphone will often be interfaces to these, too, as we're already beginning to see.

I think home desktop computing will almost completely disappear, except for possibly some old dinosaur holdouts like myself. Desktops will remain for those with specialized needs in business and elsewhere, as I mention above.

Apple already has the creative desktop market in their pocket. By market share of all creative work, probably not. But that's probably more a function of the ubiquity and inexpensive nature of Windows desktop computing than of any real competition in terms of being able to effectively target creative professionals, as Apple clearly excels at. I mention this because I think that with regard to this creative class of computing, we'll see that desktops for this will become specialized creative workstations, and that will account for a large portion of the remaining desktop use. Much of the business computing that uses a keyboard and a monitor will slowly move toward thin client networked computing, and as much of that as possible will be replaced by tablets.

That's my view. Microsoft is pretty badly positioned for almost all, or all, of these changes. Apple's in pretty good shape. Which is interesting because in this new market, there's as much a need for a Microsoft to compete with Apple as there used to be in the old market.

Which is where Google comes in. Microsoft is probably going to decline rapidly over the next decade.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:10 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Much of the business computing that uses a keyboard and a monitor will slowly move
> toward thin client networked computing, and as much of that as possible will be replaced by > tablets.

Thin client - that wasn't true the last time it was being bandied about in the late 90s and it isn't true now. There is no demand for it.

Tablets - some of it will, sure.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 3:30 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been on a Mac since the Mac SE30 days, and Windows 8 is the first Windows I've been tempted by. It's gorgeous; I love the look of the tiles.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 3:35 AM on December 13, 2013


Ivan Fyodorovich: I don't really understand what Microsoft was thinking in trying to make their desktop OS be a tablet, touchscreen OS. I do understand that they believe this is the way the winds are blowing, and they're right. The entire consumer market and a big chunk of the business market is going to switch to tablets and similar small devices and if Microsoft doesn't have a big footprint there, they will die. But their current and future desktop and server clients certainly don't need a UI designed as a touchscreen tablet UI. That's stupid.

And I think that point leads up to exactly what the issue is: Microsoft is looking at the future convergence between desktops and mobile devices, and essentially saying "Let's just get this over with." But the public's not ready-- the two types of devices still have distinct places in peoples' lives, so Windows 8 isn't giving them what they expect/want from a desktop interface.

I don't know if this is calculated ("We'll get plenty of resistance at first, but in a few years we're going to be well ahead of everyone") or a mis-step. It could be both, I suppose, if they mis-calculated the depth of the reaction but attitudes come around on their schedule anyway.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:41 AM on December 13, 2013


I'd be all about a tablet that switched to a desktop UI if you plugged a screen into it.
posted by empath at 3:59 AM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


The weird thing is that I don't use the app/tablet-ish part of Windows 8 all that much (despite having a touchscreen laptop), but it doesn't hurt me any, because working in the desktop is ... fine. And I like having the option of doing certain things in a tablet-y environment. I am in no way a tech expert and come strictly from a viewpoint of "I like what I like," but once I learned a few basic things about pulling in from the sides and stuff, I don't really mind it.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 4:08 AM on December 13, 2013


As an aside...I've noticed over the past few months, Microsoft's advertising (on tv, at least) has been pretty obviously avoiding using the "Windows 8" name. The term MS seems to be pushing is "the new Windows." As in "Surface runs the new Windows".

I haven't decided if this is part of a long-term re-branding of Windows, or if MS has determined that "Windows 8" is a negative in the consumer's mind, ala Vista.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:17 AM on December 13, 2013


People complaining about how poorly-designed Windows is have clearly never had to use Google's suite for professional purposes. My entire work team collaborates using Google Docs, and holy HELL do I now hate that program with a fiery fury. Google's policy of only hiring 5-year-olds to do their UX design apparently hasn't changed since 2003.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:28 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let’s be honest here, when Apple showed the world how awesome a central managed application store is, everyone had to do it.
This is where I stopped reading for information and started trying to figure out if I was being trolled.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 4:29 AM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I haven't decided if this is part of a long-term re-branding of Windows, or if MS has determined that "Windows 8" is a negative in the consumer's mind, ala Vista.

I still can't get over how impatient Microsoft was to dump Win7. "Well, we've finally washed the taste of Vista out of everybody's mouth and established a lot of goodwill on the back of our new version. Let's get that off the market ASAP, there's another boondoggle to be had!"
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:35 AM on December 13, 2013 [25 favorites]


I haven't decided if this is part of a long-term re-branding of Windows, or if MS has determined that "Windows 8" is a negative in the consumer's mind, ala Vista.

I bet it's their marketing department trying to normalize the ridiculously fast upgrade cycle, and make "The New Windows" not sound like the rip-off that it is - same stuff you bought last year, just in fancier packaging.
posted by Dr Dracator at 4:38 AM on December 13, 2013


It's like all other interfaces come with a big red plunger-style OFF button. Do you think Windows would be significantly better if they had a second button named Stop at the opposite end of the taskbar?

Of course not. But using a button/menu/icon on-screen to turn the machine off is an inherently vestigial function. How long has it been since the phrase "Is is now safe to turn off your computer" last graced our screens*? Computers should be turned off the same way they're turned on--by pressing the physical power button.

* It's been even longer on Macs. I've always wondered why the Apple Menu->Shutdown thing has persisted so long. It seems like the kind of thing Steve Jobs would have axed a long time ago.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:55 AM on December 13, 2013


Threads like these always remind me of the deep knowledge divide between people whose work requires a suite of productivity tools and rapid updates and people like myself, whose work requires little more than a word processor, a pdf reader/editor, and a web browser. I can honestly say I've noticed almost nothing except the ability to call up a weather forecast on the desktop.

How much do these shifts in the OS design matter if your "workflow" is ad hoc and "enterprise" is the name of a fictional spaceship? And how much more would I be making or getting done if I'd gotten on board?
posted by kewb at 5:00 AM on December 13, 2013


Also, sometimes you need a desktop/laptop for reasons other than peripherals or horsepower. At least for me, writing an academic paper on a tablet is a miserable experience, both because it's nice to have a larger display when you have four articles open at once along with the manuscript itself and because the text-formatting interface seems awkward on tablet WP apps.
posted by kewb at 5:17 AM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Addressing the 5 rules in the FPP:
1. App Store: it's a good idea to have a single place people can go to find pre-vetted apps. Problems come in when (as with Apple) the system starts throwing roadblocks in the way to prevent non-Store apps from running easily. For my own system I can work around this, for some users (my in-laws for example) I'd much rather they WERE locked in. Either way, it does no one any good unless there are actually any apps there. I understood MS has made it difficult because the tablet editions are either really tablet only or windows with a tablet UI so multiple architectures need to be coded for. And as usual they gave all of them the same or nearly the same name so consumers can't easily figure it out.

2. Unified design: good idea, to a degree: if every version of the OS looks similar it creates brand identity. However last I knew the Live Tiles for apps have been criticized because some apps don't make effective use of the space. Not necessarily an MS problem if a 3rd party app, but they could set and enforce some rules there for UI design to have an app be accepted in the Store.

3. UI needs to work on tablets AND desktops. No, it actually doesn't, and shouldn't, and it's funny, but when you drop this requirement points 4 and 5 just magically become non-issues. This is the one place MS really SHOULD be aping its competitors (OSX/iOS and Linux/Android). Desktop is not mobile. Mobile is not desktop. So many design and interface problems just go away as soon as you admit this.

I keep waiting for Apple to release some version of the Air with detachable keyboard, which flips to the iOS interface as soon as you unplug everything, and back to OSX desktop as soon as a mouse and keyboard (or keyboard + trackpad) are re-attached. Maybe using two SSDs or partitions, one smaller one for the iOS side and one for the desktop. Save iOS-created user files (iCloud etc.) into appropriate folders on the desktop partition, have some kind of intelligent screening available (Spotlight or the "All My Files" function already baked into the OS) that indexes and makes available user files that iOS can access when running in tablet mode. Otherwise the iOS partition is locked down and inaccessible to the user, to maintain the tablet stability. I'd buy one of those, for sure. But the halfway in between, can't decide what it is mess that Microsoft has built? Hell no. They need to cut their losses and split the OS.

This insistence is going to maybe win some home user converts at the expense of the professional crowd. You think IT wants to deal with the headache of hundreds of users complaining they can't find the Start menu, or the cost of retraining everyone to do the same tasks they are already able to do in 7? We won't install 8 on anything in our lab. We don't need Live Tiles to run microscopy software or need the UI to randomly flip us out of Desktop into some pseudo-touch full screen BS without warning when working. It's hard enough to be productive in science without your computer fighting you at every step. What we DO want are solid, stable systems that can run the latest security updates. Which is why XP is still alive despite Microsofts desire to kill it - it works for the most part, and it took Win 7 to get us to switch away from it simply due to compatibility and security issues.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:20 AM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


The last Microsoft product I enjoyed using was sharepoint

Don't take this the wrong way, but you are banned from further discussions of usability & software and you should sit in a corner and think about what you did wrong because you are a bad person.
posted by yerfatma at 5:28 AM on December 13, 2013 [29 favorites]


I am so tired of innovation. The damn kids won't stay of my lawn and the lawn won't stop bloody growing.
posted by srboisvert at 5:36 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Long story short: I'll pay $500 to use Apple's magic slate. $799 for Windows?! Haha! Nnnnnnnno. Everything since 95 has been a shit sandwich that may - MAY - have eventually become useful over time, and usually without the help of Microsoft. From the people who created an illegal monopoly on the backs of outrageous licensing agreements: an Office Suite that lives in the cloud, that I rent forever? No, fuck you.

If it was a hot convertible for $199 and it came with a handwritten apology for impeding human progress I might give it a second look. As it is I'm laying the groundwork to move gramma and uncle Charlie over to some Live USB Linux by the end of next year.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out, M$.
posted by petebest at 5:42 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not innovation that's the problem; it's innovation for innovation's sake. Microsoft is spending a lot of time and energy fixing what ain't broke. To my mind, I have yet to see anything more efficient than the old folder/file hierarchy with File Explorer and a decent search mechanism. Much of the newer stuff is just more convoluted. ( I use W8 with Classic Shell, btw.)

The thing is, a lot of the new stuff is not there to make your life easier. It's there to tie you more closely to Microsoft. Apps? App Store? Give me a break. Walled garden, nothing more.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:48 AM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe the problem is that self-professed "kids" are designing the UI.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:49 AM on December 13, 2013


I am so tired of innovation. The damn kids won't stay of my lawn and the lawn won't stop bloody growing.

Changing shit, and piling-on your latest favorite tech, for the sake of being "innovative" isn't innovative. It's masturbation. A developer circle-jerk.
See also: The ridiculous crap-pile of Google/Google+ and all it touches.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:58 AM on December 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


Well yeah, it's way cheaper and easier to do a redesign than it is to actually innovate.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:32 AM on December 13, 2013


I don't like Windows 8 on the desktop. The Modern interface isn't very fun to use with mouse/keyboard so half of the OS just sits there languishing.

Having experienced the Modern interface and its apps, I don't think I could live with just Windows 8 RT. The apps aren't there yet (at the very least a Remote Desktop app! Please!)

I have a Surface Pro, though, and Windows 8 was made for it. I can lounge back on the couch and dick around on Facebook, Tiny Death Star or any other time wasting fun things that you might do with a tablet. If I need to get some work done or play a more in depth game I can slap on the keyboard and do some work with the desktop apps, some of which are legacy Windows only programs for work.

This is the device I've been dreaming about. I've tried using both iOS devices and Android devices as work machine using bluetooth keyboards and such but the separation between apps always hindered my work flow. I've tried smaller laptops but I can't stand having to deal with a keyboard when curled up on the couch trying to relax.

So screw the haters. I'm not a gadget collector and the Surface combines two of the big ones. Now I just need to be able to snap a phone-sized portion off of the Surface to carry around with me during the day and I'll be in heaven.
posted by charred husk at 6:33 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of course not. But using a button/menu/icon on-screen to turn the machine off is an inherently vestigial function. How long has it been since the phrase "Is is now safe to turn off your computer" last graced our screens*? Computers should be turned off the same way they're turned on--by pressing the physical power button.

* It's been even longer on Macs. I've always wondered why the Apple Menu->Shutdown thing has persisted so long. It seems like the kind of thing Steve Jobs would have axed a long time ago.


You've been able to do this since XP, and (gasp) can even tell the computer what to do when you push the power or sleep buttons. I can even tell my laptop to "do nothing" when I close the lid, something that made me crazy that OSX couldn't figure out.

The reason the on-screen menu is great for shutting down or whatever is that we don't all have tablets or even laptops within arms reach. My PC happily hums away on a shelf at foot-level that's 4 feet away from my chair. It's much easier to use the UI to shut it down (not that I ever really do) than to grope around for the power button.
posted by Mr. Big Business at 6:48 AM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


....my Air spends about half it's life happily running closed on an out-of-the-way shelf under my desk? Admittedly while hooked to a big monitor on my desktop and a Bluetooth keyboard.

Personally I almost never shut any of my computers off any more anyway. Just put them to sleep while I go off and do whatever, and wake them up in seconds when I come back to them. The power button is for when things are going horribly awry.
posted by egypturnash at 7:19 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Microsoft needs to get it through their heads that if they're going to play chicken on this one, they're going to lose. It's not the start menu. The start menu thing is stupid. It's this whole "you guys don't really want desktop apps anymore, do you?" thing. Because yes, Microsoft, a lot of us do.

Windows 8.1 actually broke my ability to use desktop apps on my home laptop--now every single app needs to be set separately to ignore their new DPI scaling whatever or it turns horribly blurry. Everything looked fine in 8.0. I reset my computer to factory settings to get it back. The only reason I'm still running Windows at all anymore is Office and QuickBooks. Well, the spreadsheet alternatives are getting better and Intuit is aggressively pushing their web-based options. Companies like Intuit know which way the wind is blowing, and it's not Windows 8 apps. That would have been something to pull back before OSX and desktop Linux were starting to seem viable, maybe. Not right now.

Consumers and business users are not totally separate classes of people. Most of us who use computers at work also use them at home. You can't sacrifice one for the other.
posted by Sequence at 7:20 AM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


just fyi, the start button hasn't been labeled 'start' for years.

Hover your mouse cursor over it.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:45 AM on December 13, 2013


From the second link:

> Let’s be honest here, when Apple showed the world how awesome a central managed application store is,

Somehow that brought me to a halt right there. Wut?
posted by jfuller at 7:48 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Windows 8 UI never made sense for me until I got a (Black Friday supersale) Surface RT a couple of weeks ago. On that tablet/touchscreen, it works great. Even fully knowing the limitations of the WinRT platform, I'm very impressed with the hardware and the improvements in going from win8 to win8.1.

My coworkers have been joking that Bill The UNIX Admin is impressed with a Microsoft product, he must be ill.

On regular desktops with just a keyboard and mouse, Win8/8.1 is an abomination.

I have legit Win8 licenses for all the x86 machines in my house. The only system that actually has it installed is the aforementioned Surface RT. I've got Win7 on a 6-core AMD box (for games). My primary system is a Mac Mini with OSX, everything else is Linux (Debian for servers, ChromeOS on my two Chromebooks).
posted by mrbill at 7:53 AM on December 13, 2013


Sys Rq:
just fyi, the start button hasn't been labeled 'start' for years.

Hover your mouse cursor over it.
Like this?
posted by charred husk at 7:57 AM on December 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


The Windows 8 UI never made sense for me until I got a (Black Friday supersale) Surface RT a couple of weeks ago.

It does make total sense there.

On the other hand, I spent all day yesterday working on a 2012 server and probably wasted half an hour of my day in total trying to accurately hover my mouse over the erogenous zone that makes the magic windows icon appear so I can to go to a screen where we've had to pin all our applications because the additional step of right-clicking in order to get to all the programs was seriously starting to make people psychotic.

I mean, really? Are we anticipating a big uptick in touchscreen servers? Or even admins using touchscreen workstations to admin servers?
posted by Lyn Never at 8:14 AM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


How is having to press a button called "Start" in order to shut a computer down a good idea?

It's not as bad an idea as having a "delete" key that doesn't delete.
posted by cincinnatus c at 8:16 AM on December 13, 2013


(People still shut down their computers regularly? I thought this was no longer a thing.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:26 AM on December 13, 2013


I am so tired of innovation. The damn kids won't stay of my lawn and the lawn won't stop bloody growing.

Don't confuse mere change with innovation.

I too always thought it was weird how quickly MS dumped Windows 7. It was one of their best received products in years and they should have milked that longer and built on it, instead of immediately running off in a different direction.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:32 AM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Personally I thought that Windows 7 was the best thing that MS ever released. It really seemed like they're finally gotten the Windows GUI right. And then they go and throw that all away with 8 which is the most ill-conceived mishmash of interface concept that I've seen in a long time or ever.


I still have my Windows 7 laptop that I dig out for gaming but lately I've been doing almost all of my work on a cheapo Acer chromebook that I totally love. Super simple UI without any horrible spinning/zooming/flashy effects, fast as hell, six to eight hour battery life, the only touch-pad I've ever liked. Plus with Crouton, I've got access to a full Linux environment.
posted by octothorpe at 8:49 AM on December 13, 2013


It was one of their best received products in years and they should have milked that longer and built on it, instead of immediately running off in a different direction.

I've seen the defenses of Windows 8, but it seems fairly clear that it was introduced primarily in a panic. It does not make a lick of sense as a business UI, and since at this point Windows' primary strength is enterprise (and other strengths flow from that) it makes no sense at all. They didn't stick with Windows 7 for longer, or go a different more rational direction as they made the change, because they were panicked.
posted by OmieWise at 8:55 AM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mrbill - I'm very much with you. I picked up one of Dell's new Atom powered tablets over the holiday sales. For the things that I want to do that metro apps exist for, it is a most excellent tablet. Metro IE 11 is enough to make me grab the Dell for web browsing, instead of my latest/greatest iPad mini. It is so much smoother than the iPad, and unlike the current iOS7 on A7, it doesn't crash randomly several times a day. And the one finger edge swipe for multitasking is very nice (although the start menu should be on the list of places you can swipe to).

The big problem in metro - I want a goddamn good twitter app, and thanks to Twitter, there won't ever be a good one.

But it really exposes how far Microsoft's head is up its ass the moment that you land on the desktop. It is almost perversely touch disabled. Click a text field, no keyboard appears. If the process bar is hidden, try minimizing the app, and showing the keyboard. But now the process bar is hidden by the keyboard, so you can't bring the app into the foreground. All touch targets are perversely small. And there is no way to switch quickly between desktop apps.
posted by wotsac at 8:58 AM on December 13, 2013


The Windows 8 Start Button, how UI designers say fuck you.

I'll be sticking with Windows 7 for as long as I can. I hate the tablet-ization of the desktop.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:03 AM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


How is having to press a button called "Start" in order to shut a computer down a good idea?

Because having a backup to the use of the Windows key to open the start menu is helpful for new users?
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:10 AM on December 13, 2013


Shutting down (or restarting) Windows 8 is really confusing. You have to move the mouse to the right side of the screen to activate that menu thinger. I use a VM with an instance of Windows 8 and moving the mouse offscreen doesn't show the menu. So I finally googled and found that if you set focus to the desktop (the real desktop) and press Alt-F4, you can shut down or restart from the menu which appears there. Am I missing something, or did they make another big mistake by hiding Shutdown/Restart features and requiring the user to do an easter egg hunt to find them?

Ivan FyodorovichThey should have made a huge push — like, bet the company sized push — to get into the tablet space and designed a version of Windows around the tablet and focused their marketing on that.

I think that's what Windows CE was supposed to be, and also Windows Compact Embedded, no?
posted by TreeHugger at 10:10 AM on December 13, 2013


technofou: I don;t see any gradients in this design and there is no gobbledygook to hypnotise the audience. There is a full analysis of the problem and the ways to improving including the how and why of it.
With all due respect (and as a reminder), your animation of the transition from Classic to Modern is full of animated gradients. While not perhaps the intended effect, the 7-tone echoing acoustic cue also seems designed to psychologically ease the viewer into accepting the transformation (i.e. hypnotize).

On that note, the three main videos where you attempt explain the rationale behind your redesign is scored with a hypnotic, affectless, techno track that—and I am being completely serious here—subtly sets an expectation that your explanations are leading to a meaningful conclusion (i.e. hypnotize).

When I mention "gobbledygook", I mean that your presentations are full of distracting non sequiturs and asides to your viewers; the language you use to describe UI elements and your methodology for diagnosing and improving the interface is imprecise and confounding.

I'm going to stop here because I believe your intention was to put together a convincing and well-reasoned alternative to Windows 8. My opinion is that what you have crafted is baffling and watching it makes me at best skeptical (at worst suspicious) of your ideas and accomplishments.

In any case, it's clear you've put quite a bit of work in this. I think it needs more, especially in terms of refining its concept and delivery.

Best of luck to you.
posted by mistersquid at 10:16 AM on December 13, 2013


Well that is a fair opinion with good described points and a theory that makes sense. I am sorry that you see my work like that, but since it's a fine argument, I'll just say thank you. You honestly is greatly appreciated and your feedback is actually helpful, I'll take those points in consideration next time.
posted by technofou at 10:33 AM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Let’s be honest here, when Apple showed the world how awesome a central managed application store is, everyone had to do it.

I'm pretty sure he means "when Apple showed the world's CEOs how much money a centrally managed application store could make, everyone had to do it."
posted by straight at 10:54 AM on December 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


That's actually how I read it. I mean, yeah, everyone was like, holy shit, we need to do that, KA-ching!
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:52 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Windows 8 was made for Surface. The problem is only a tiny part of the installed base have a surface. The rest of us have traditional notebook or desktops. We have a mouse or trackpad and touching the display only leaves a fingerprint.

If it were me, I would have made windows 8 default to the regular UI that has be around since 1995 unless the system detects in the boot sequence the device is a surface or other device that would do well with the metro ui. They could use what Apple did with Launch Pad and make invoking metro easy to from the task bar. I use Launch Pad on my MacBook Air with a similar UI as iOS. But Apple didn't ditch the dock and hide finder to force users to the new UI.
posted by birdherder at 12:01 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Microsoft could have done with Windows what Apple did with OS X, and just start over from scratch. Too late to do much more than sell a crumbling mess of a desktop OS to enterprise.

Yeah, but the only reason people stick with Microsoft is the legacy apps we're forced to use at work.


Well Apple managed to support Legacy apps up til OS 10.7. That's several years worth of transition time.
posted by Gungho at 12:04 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well Apple managed to support Legacy apps up til OS 10.7. That's several years worth of transition time.

Classic Mac OS software* worked only up to 10.4. Unless you're talking about PowerPC Mac programs, but support for that disappeared in 10.6.

I am not a fan of the attempt now to call all programs/software/application apps, which Microsoft itself is guilty of as of Windows 8. To me, "apps" are mobile software.
posted by JHarris at 2:24 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Your graciousness and patience toward so cranky an Internet denizen as myself is exemplary and humbling. Better than I probably deserve. Thank you so much.

Complex as it is, I would love to see your interpretation of the Start menu implemented. It reminds me of Classic Mac OS's Control Strip in that it's modular and customizable, but your aesthetics are far beyond what Apple implemented way back then.

And once again, best of luck!
posted by mistersquid at 2:48 PM on December 13, 2013


I am 24 and I feel officially Very Old, because I simply cannot work on Windows 8. We use it at my job, where I go, five days a week, and I still have not adjusted, and maybe I never, ever will. We use Windows 7 on some computers, and that is almost as bad to me. I grew up using Windows, but got a Macbook when Windows 7 was released, because I figured if I was going to learn something against the grain I'd rather it was something that felt more robust.

I just hate it. I want to cry. I feel like Johnathan Frazen. What do I do.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:12 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am 24 and I feel officially Very Old, because I simply cannot work on Windows 8.

I'm 25, and I'm with you. I had to get a new Windows 8 laptop for my boss's wife, who handles the business's HR/Payroll, and had to help her set it up. My god, it was terrible. It felt so clunky to use until I got to the "desktop," and it took me a few minutes to even figure out how to shut down/restart the laptop. A few minutes! You should not hide such a basic thing in some menu that only shows up if you wave the mouse at the right part of the screen, and where there is no context for putting it there.

And ugh, all those tiled apps and programs. Pretty to look at, though it's not exactly easy to parse all the information on those tiles, but functionally useless on a laptop or desktop used for business purposes. I only use Windows at work and will never return to it for my personal machines, so I feel doubly pissed off that Windows 8 is such a failure for enterprise. That is literally the only thing I expect from Windows, to be a decent business-use OS, so to have it be bad at that...so much rage.
posted by yasaman at 3:29 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Right click on the lower left corner of the desktop for some shortcuts, including a shutdown menu. Right clicking in general is the key to a lot of shortcuts in Windows, but I sympathize with your frustration. I don't have a problem with desktops, but it seems like the "smarter" my smartphones get the more clunky it is to use one.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:33 PM on December 13, 2013


> Let’s be honest here, when Apple showed the world how awesome a central managed application store is, everyone had to do it.

Why are people taking issue with this statement? I, for one, love having all my applications in one place, backed up to the cloud and updated automatically. Steam changed the way I buy and play games, as did the iOS App Store for apps. I certainly don't pine for the days of digging around on FilePlanet for patch version 1.01.1.2, or moving my save directories from computer to computer, or carefully vetting each page for fake links and viruses, or...

Granted, there are many problems yet to be solved: corporate censorship, banned categories, rigid sandboxing, exclusive frameworks, etc. I certainly wouldn't want app stores to be the only way to get software in the future, and in fact it's the main reason I'm staying away from Windows 8. But for many use cases — namely, appliance-like apps and entertainment — it's a fantastic paradigm that eliminates many of the problems that people have with software.
posted by archagon at 4:22 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


OK, so I'm a jerk and didn't read the linked article. When I saw mistersquid's linked video, I assumed that was what the new Windows 8.2 looked like and was really impressed. Turns out it's "just" technofou's project, alas. Great work!

(Now I'm reading the page and finding myself nodding my head in agreement.)
posted by archagon at 4:27 PM on December 13, 2013


at the very least a Remote Desktop app!

There is a Remote Desktop app. It's called exactly that, "Remote Desktop", and it's by Microsoft. In the App Store. (You've perhaps not found it because it doesn't come up as a suggestion if you type "remote desktop" in the search box - you have to press return to execute the search.)
posted by alasdair at 5:45 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Remote Desktop has been built into Windows since XP.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:55 PM on December 13, 2013


I am not a fan of the attempt now to call all programs/software/application apps, which Microsoft itself is guilty of as of Windows 8. To me, "apps" are mobile software.

I am not a fan of the fashionable use of the term "app", which has been in circulation as an abbreviation for "application" since at least the early eighties to my personal knowledge, to refer exclusively to applications installed on a mobile device.
posted by flabdablet at 7:39 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Applet" ground my gears as well, for what it's worth. And don't get me started on "servlet".
posted by flabdablet at 7:41 PM on December 13, 2013


Any other xmonad users out there who find this whole thread laughable?
posted by beukeboom at 8:35 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Right click on the lower left corner of the desktop for some shortcuts, including a shutdown menu. Right clicking in general is the key to a lot of shortcuts in Windows, but I sympathize with your frustration.

1. "Short cuts" are by definition not the primary way to do something.
2. Most things you right click in Windows are visible.

When Windows 8 is first installed it does present a short visual introduction to the Charms menu, but it's only seen once and has no obvious way to repeat it, or even know it existed if someone else set up Win8 for you.

Back in Windows 95, which might well be the height of Microsoft's ingenuity when it comes to UI design, I remember hearing that they put a lot of effort into improving the discoverability of the OS, that just poking around menus and other items would give the user a pretty good idea of the capabilities of the OS. Now, the official Microsoft instructions for doing many things involves typing in words into a search box to call up a link to the GUI tool that will let you change some option. That is terribly stupid -- if you're going to make the user type, you might as well teach him how to use a command line anyway.
posted by JHarris at 9:02 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Every os should have a package manager... but an app store adds little over that compared to what it t akes away.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:06 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Windows 95 ... might well be the height of Microsoft's ingenuity when it comes to UI design

I've said before that I think Windows 95 is where the desktop UI was got essentially right.

It was better than its contemporary Mac OS UI because it didn't have the stupid global menu bar: attaching the menu bar to the window is an absolutely natural way to keep multiple concurrently running apps conceptually separate. It didn't have Apple's (ongoing!) ideological attachment to crippled single-button mice, meaning that right-click (as opposed to poor substitutes like ⌘-click) could indeed be used to make your options with respect to any given UI element discoverable. The menus worked better than contemporary Mac OS menus in that you could just click a Win95 menu and it would pop open and stay that way, letting you scan it for what you wanted without having a distracting highlight anywhere your mouse happened to be. The window buttons in the bottom panel provided a tidy way to find and manipulate occluded windows, and the Start button was a tidy replacement for Apple's mandatory Apple-logo menu item. Allowing filesystem navigation within a single window was so much less fiddly than forcing a separate window to open for each folder. The whole thing was just neat, unobtrusive and functional.

Very few of the subsequent departures from the Windows 95 UI design have actually been improvements, though the same cannot of course be said for the quality of the underlying OS.
posted by flabdablet at 9:28 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Every os should have a package manager...

I'd argue that every package manager should be backed by a well maintained collection of package repositories. Debian got that one right and I have yet to see anybody do it better.
posted by flabdablet at 9:31 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've been working for the past year on the new "Metro" mode for Firefox, so I've spent a lot of time using, developing for, and thinking about Windows 8. I haven't had enough time to think about the solutions offered in this article, but the problems identified are spot on. Windows 8.1 still needs a lot of work to get to a point where the system's actual behavior matches the mental model that users will develop.

They're going through an awkward transition, but I think that Microsoft is making a well-reasoned decision that's more than just a panic reaction. After using several touch-screen Windows 8 devices as my main computers for the past year (a touch-screen laptop, a convertible notebook/tablet hybrid, and a slate), any screen that doesn't respond to touch now feels broken. When I switch back to my Linux laptop, I'm constantly trying to tap or scroll with my fingers.

And there's a whole generation growing up now on touch screens. My daughter's first-grade classmates have all learned to use their parents' iPads and smartphones long before ever using a mouse. When they do standardized testing in the computer lab, the teachers need to explain repeatedly that touching the screen won't work.

So I'm pretty convinced at this point that almost all screens in the not-too-far future will be touch screens. Not just tablets and handhelds, but laptops and desktops and TVs and so on. But many of these devices will still have a mouse and/or keyboard in addition to the touch screen. Mobile operating systems like iOS and Android might continue to grow "upward" from phone to tablet to notebook, but I think that "desktop" platforms will also survive the next decade based on how well they transform themselves into something that feels and works right on a touch screen while still working well with traditional form factors. Not that I think we've figured out the best way to do that yet.

(Oh, and I'm one of the xmonad users that beukeboom mentioned! I was a Mac user starting in the 80s, switched to BeOS and then Linux in the 90s, spent most of the past 5 years doing Android development, and never really used Windows at all until just recently. Go figure.)
posted by mbrubeck at 9:52 PM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I only use Windows at work and will never return to it for my personal machines, so I feel doubly pissed off that Windows 8 is such a failure for enterprise.

It's possible to neuter it for an enterprise deployment; the Win8 image our desktop team has been rolling out for the last month or so is basically Win7 with a cartoonishly ridiculous full-screen Start Menu replacement. I've had it for about a month and I've never even seen a Live Tile or a Metro app. I'm actually quite a bit happier with it than I was with my old box, but the performance bump from replacing 32-bit XP with 64-bit Win8 and twice the RAM is probably a big contributor to that feeling.
posted by Lazlo Nibble at 10:00 PM on December 13, 2013


Fanboi loon.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:59 PM on December 13, 2013


alasdair: "There is a Remote Desktop app. It's called exactly that, "Remote Desktop", and it's by Microsoft. In the App Store."

Huh, how the Hell did I miss that? I love the Surface Pro but it's provided by work for testing purposes so it may go away some day. I can't afford a Pro myself but a regular Surface is in my range and being able to remote into the office would make it almost worth it.
posted by charred husk at 11:03 PM on December 13, 2013


So I'm pretty convinced at this point that almost all screens in the not-too-far future will be touch screens. Not just tablets and handhelds, but laptops and desktops and TVs and so on.

My arms feel tired just reading this. Does your envisioned future mean I would have to get up and go across the room to change the tv station? And put finger smears on it doing so?

You will pry my mouse from my cold, dead fingers.
posted by marble at 11:13 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fanboi loon.

I think this is the first time in my life I've ever been accused of being a Windows fanboi.

Do you have some actual disagreement with the points raised on the Windows 95 UI, or are you just trying to be funny?
posted by flabdablet at 12:17 AM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd be all about a tablet that switched to a desktop UI if you plugged a screen into it.

Oh man. If, within the next 5 years, you can't get some kind of emulated "OSX" app on your iPhone 9S, that gives you the full OS wirelessly on your nearby monitor and keyboard, I'll eat my socks. Imagine that. Carrying around your desktop OS in your pocket. Come home from work, open the "OSX" app on your phone, and there's your desktop.

There are of course a million reasons why this is a bad idea and will never happen, but dammit I want it.
posted by Jimbob at 1:12 AM on December 14, 2013






flabdablet: "Every os should have a package manager...

I'd argue that every package manager should be backed by a well maintained collection of package repositories. Debian got that one right and I have yet to see anybody do it better.
"

This. And they did it twenty years ago.
posted by octothorpe at 7:46 AM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do you have some actual disagreement with the points raised on the Windows 95 UI, or are you just trying to be funny?

Diagreement with your weird accusations against the OS X UI. That it's "natural" to have menu bars that float all over the place instead of sticking to the top of the screen; that there's a one-button mouse paradigm when pads with a dozen touch gestures are the norm; and whatever else your lathered rant went on about. It was a hell of a performance.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:55 AM on December 14, 2013


OK, so you're basically just being rude. Got it.
posted by flabdablet at 8:05 AM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


And for what it's worth, the Mac OS I was comparing Windows 95's UI features to was the one contemporary with Windows 95, which would have been what, System 7? OS X did not exist then, and neither did multi-touch pads, gestures or any of the rest of the non-discoverable UI features so beloved of those for whom allegiance to their technology in-crowd is more important than their ability to be productive. So not only are you being rude, you're being rude about something you only imagined reading.
posted by flabdablet at 8:13 AM on December 14, 2013


That it's "natural" to have menu bars that float all over the place instead of sticking to the top of the screen

This is actually one of the big things that pisses me off about OSX. Interface elements should be attached to what they modify.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:15 AM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also for what it's worth, let me list a few of those changes to the Windows 95 UI that I think have been worthwhile:

* Multiple panels allowing for user-preferred placement of panel items (such as the clock, the window buttons, program launcher and filesystem explorer buttons and menus, notification areas) such as I first encountered in GNOME (I've since switched all my computers to Xfce to keep this feature, the GNOME dev team having fallen victim to the everything-is-a-phone brain worms)

* Adoption of a nested organising system for the main application launch menu that's based on functional categories by default, as opposed to the manufacturer-based nesting that Windows installers rapidly adopted

* Multiple desktop workspaces, so that instead of temporarily closing all open windows to reveal the desktop you can simply switch to a new desktop workspace

* Recycle bin as a panel item so windows can't occlude it

* Alt-drag to allow windows to be moved around even when their title bars are off-screen

* A standard window control menu available on every window that includes Always On Top and Always On Visible Workspace settings

...and a few that absolutely give me the shits:

* The conflation of launcher buttons with window buttons as in the OS X Dock, GNOME 3, Ubuntu Unity and to a somewhat lesser extent Windows 7

* Forced use of the entire screen as in the Windows 8 "modern" UI

* The bogus assumption that my having dragged a window's title bar to the top of the screen means I want it to maximize

* The fucking Ribbon.

Interface elements should be attached to what they modify.

That principle seems very natural to me, and not because I "grew up with Windows" or because I'm any kind of "Windows fanboi"; in fact I grew up with 80-column punch cards on the college computers and an Apple II+ at home, and have worked with a wide variety of CLIs and GUIs on Apple, Microsoft, Amiga, Solaris and Linux boxes.

The global application menu bar was OK on the Mac in 1984; Bruce Tognazzini was quite right about the advantages of the "mile high menu". But that was a small screen, and the system ran one app at a time. It was even kind of OK after Switcher came out and let you run a few things kind-of almost at once. But given genuine multitasking on high-resolution displays large enough to make multiple concurrent windows comfortable, and especially on multiple large high-resolution displays, it's clearly an anachronism.

Windows was kind of laughably shitty until WfW 3.10 at which point it became merely shitty. As a productivity tool, Quarterdeck's DESQview crapped upon Windows from a great height but neither was any kind of match for the Mac.

But the Windows 95 UI was a genuinely good and hugely influential design, and deserves to be recognized as such.
posted by flabdablet at 9:01 AM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


That it's "natural" to have menu bars that float all over the place instead of sticking to the top of the screen

This is actually one of the big things that pisses me off about OSX. Interface elements should be attached to what they modify.
Here's a half dozen for the six you offer: Forcing menus to reside in windows often provides little to no information about which app is frontmost in a multi-window environment.

Attached menus also further constrain the dimensions of an app's windows and redundantly replicate chrome for apps that can spawn multiple windows.

The problematic aspect of this can be witnessed when users of such computing environments reflexively maximize the frontmost app whenever they interact with an app, thus eliminating most (if not all) the information background tasks might provide.

The only time I prefer a menu bar to be forced inside a window is when the window represents a virtual computing environment.

While I understand you are frustrated about OS X's behavior, Pope Guilty, in my experience constrained menu bars are an inferior interface model to system wide menu bars.
posted by mistersquid at 10:22 AM on December 14, 2013


I absolutely hate system wide menu bars. If we're all just going to state our preference as if it's authoritative. I don't have any other subjective evidence or loaded metaphorical language to contribute.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:46 AM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also a hater of those. Also Finder and the dock, though weirdly I don't have a problem with the taskbar on Unity or Win7 even though they've started looking like the dock.

Me and OsX are pretty unlikely to get on, really.
posted by Artw at 10:51 AM on December 14, 2013


Artw: Also a hater of those. Also Finder and the dock, though weirdly I don't have a problem with the taskbar on Unity or Win7 even though they've started looking like the dock.

I dunno about you, but the first thing I do with any operating system I use is to make the taskbar stop behaving like a dock. I don't want launch buttons for a dozen programs I never use, I don't want my multiple documents open in a program to stack (I hate this, it takes a bunch of extra clicks to select anything), and I don't want icons without text. Windows 95 had taskbar behavior exactly right, at least. But everything else up until Windows 8 will let you adjust it to work correctly.

The difficulty in making the dock do that in OSX is one of the reasons I can't stand it, despite really liking the BSD framework and underlying architecture. However, even if that could be fixed, the incredibly awful mouse control would still make OSX a miserable experience to do any actual work with.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:02 AM on December 14, 2013


Forcing menus to reside in windows often provides little to no information about which app is frontmost in a multi-window environment.

X got this right: the window in focus is the window you're pointing at.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:37 AM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a big fan of Windows 8 and find, when I'm using it on the desktop, to be largely just like Windows 7. Like everything, it can be improved, but I like the basic idea.

I'm not exactly the happiest Mac user, but I just don't understand how anyone uses Windows anymore. Seriously.

Strange. It's much like using any other computer. For example:
  1. If I happen to have powered it down, I turn the computer on.
  2. A few seconds later I type in my password using a keyboard.
  3. The desktop appears or the Metro screen (depending on what I set it up to go to by default).
  4. If I want to browse the web I click on an icon that represents my web browser either on the desktop itself or in a quick start area.
  5. I use the browser.
  6. If I have to use Photoshop or Premiere Pro or InDesign I do the same thing, namely I click on a icon that represents the program and a second or so later, the program is there to be used. I use it. I can click on this icon in the Metro interface, the desktop, or in a quick bar area.
  7. I may have to install new software. I get the new software by purchasing it (if it has a cost) online and downloading it. I click on the installation program. When that's complete, I can run the program once again by clicking on an icon or, even just typing in the program name.
When I use a Mac or say Mint for Linux the procedures are largely identical.

Seriously.
posted by juiceCake at 12:13 PM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I absolutely hate system wide menu bars. If we're all just going to state our preference as if it's authoritative. I don't have any other subjective evidence or loaded metaphorical language to contribute.
It's not about "stat[ing] our preference[s] as if [they're] authoritative".

If you have no articulable reasons for your "hate", it may be a good thing for you to have little to no influence designing UIs for users.

Because I do have influence in UI design, I try my best to inform my preferences with actual use cases.
posted by mistersquid at 1:05 PM on December 14, 2013


It's not about "stat[ing] our preference[s] as if [they're] authoritative".
If you have no articulable reasons for your "hate", it may be a good thing for you to have little to no influence designing UIs for users.


Except one can hate something without knowing why. Ultimately, if everyone hates a thing, even if they can't explain why they hate it, it's still not a good idea. And there's a lot of hate for various UI aspects of computer systems, be they system-wide menu bars or one-button mice on the Mac side, or the Ribbon or Metro/Modern on Windows, or ideas that work well in mobile but not on the desktop trying to be forced on PC users, by anyone (but especially Microsoft and Canonical).
posted by JHarris at 5:11 PM on December 14, 2013


Forcing menus to reside in windows often provides little to no information about which app is frontmost in a multi-window environment.

That's like saying cars without calculators provide little assistance in doing math. I mean, technically correct, but completely irrelevant to the function of a car.

The problematic aspect of this can be witnessed when users of such computing environments reflexively maximize the frontmost app whenever they interact with an app, thus eliminating most (if not all) the information background tasks might provide.

Yeah, the only reason a person would maximize a window is because that awful interface chrome is taking up so much space.

I do have influence in UI design

Well that's a damned shame to hear.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:51 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ultimately, if everyone hates a thing, even if they can't explain why they hate it, it's still not a good idea.

I don't think such reactions are invalid. Far from it.

As you say, it is possible for unpleasant reactions to indicate the need to redesign a UI element. However, my specific point was that an inability to put words to such a reaction suggests a short career in UI design!
posted by mistersquid at 6:53 PM on December 14, 2013


Forcing menus to reside in windows often provides little to no information about which app is frontmost in a multi-window environment.

That's like saying cars without calculators provide little assistance in doing math. I mean, technically correct, but completely irrelevant to the function of a car.

How so? One of the main affordances of modern personal computing was the advent of multi-tasking and the ability to see more than one piece of information or display at a time.

In a multi-window environment with, say, half a dozen windows from different applications exposed, a system-wide menu bar makes it easy to see which app is frontmost. There are other ways of doing, sure, but I don't understand how this feature is irrelevant.
I do have influence in UI design

Well that's a damned shame to hear.
Why is it a shame? I love what I do and am compensated well to do it.
posted by mistersquid at 7:00 PM on December 14, 2013


Seems like a strange justification for positioning the menu bar, though. I can tell which window has focus because its edges glow a little.

That's a point: on a web browser in OSX, do your bookmarks menus live on the menu bar at the top of the screen, or in the browser window?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:12 PM on December 14, 2013


a system-wide menu bar makes it easy to see which app is frontmost.

That strikes me as weird. If a window occludes others, it is frontmost with respect to them. If windows are non-occluding, then "frontmost" is meaningless.

If you're talking about which app has keyboard focus, fine. But I can see absolutely no justification for putting the chrome that means "this window has keyboard focus" anywhere but the window itself. In particular, when using OS X or Unity I am frequently disconcerted by needing to distinguish the items this app puts on a global menu bar and the items that app does, especially when so many of the menu items are standard. And if I have two instances of any given app running, I get no cues at all from the menu bar about which has keyboard focus.

The whole point of per-window menu bars, it seems to me, is that when I'm working with several apps and I want to do something with one of them, I can just point to the menu item I want and click it; I don't need to care which app is "frontmost". The difference is especially noticeable when working on multiple large screens: needing to navigate all the way back to the top of the leftmost screen just to choose something from a menu does not feel at all natural to me.
posted by flabdablet at 7:18 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also,
The problematic aspect of this can be witnessed when users of such computing environments reflexively maximize the frontmost app whenever they interact with an app, thus eliminating most (if not all) the information background tasks might provide.

Yeah, the only reason a person would maximize a window is because that awful interface chrome is taking up so much space.
This is very interesting because in my observation of people who interact with Windows systems is that they do usually maximize their windows and I believe that contained menu bars greatly influences this behavior, not that it determines it. (That is, I don't think it's the only reason users maximize windows, just an important influencer.)

ArmyOfKittens, in Safari on OS X, "Bookmarks" live at the top of the screen with a subset of bookmarks that can be exposed in the window chrome ("Favorites Bar" in Safari 6.1).

As someone who uses command line interfaces as well as GUI interfaces ranging from iOS to Android to OS X to Windows (XP, 7, 8), I pretty much do not like window chrome to contain too much menu functionality.

Just to be clear, I do not design OS GUIs, though I do have deep personal and professional interest in them.
posted by mistersquid at 7:18 PM on December 14, 2013


flabdablet, sometimes I have 6 or more non-overlapping windows from 3 or 4 different programs. At times like those (which is quite often), I want to see as much content and as little chrome in those partitioned windows as possible. It's true one "get[s] no cues at all from the menu bar about which has keyboard focus" where there are multiple windows from the same app.

Without going into so much detail that I'm writing a functional specification, I do not use the menu bar to distinguish which window of an app (with multiple windows open) is frontmost. (I use a quite different mechanism involving gestures and a custom application.)

All this said, I feel this really is six of one half dozen of another. I do think there are use cases for window-constrained menus. You've articulated one of them, flabdablet.

I could respond with an alternative way to do what you do but there's no point. It's good you can interact with an OS in ways you prefer and I in ways that suit me.

Of course, I take a very different approach when working on UIs for user bases larger than myself! : ) In such cases, I work with UI designs produced by my team's UI designers and I do my best to ensure those designs have sensible pathways for users to achieve their goals in any particular use case.
posted by mistersquid at 7:33 PM on December 14, 2013


Why are you guys slinging insults over the position of the menu bar, of all things? As someone who uses both OSX and Windows on a daily basis, I can say from experience that even if one system is slightly better than the other, it ultimately makes little to no difference in usability. Is this not the case for you?

(Come to think of it, I use OSX's Command-? shortcut far more often than actually navigating the menu. Even if Windows has the better menu bar system, it really, really needs this feature.)
posted by archagon at 7:40 PM on December 14, 2013


Why are you guys slinging insults over the position of the menu bar, of all things?

I think in this recent exchange over menu bars only one insult was slung.

Like you, archagon, I use Windows and OS X GUIs and Linux CLIs on a daily basis. In the GUIs, there is a usability difference for me, but if forced to use window-constrained menus I can get by.

I don't think it's worth insulting people over, but we have all observed people who are prone to bash others over their choices of UIs, computers, phones, automobiles, Star Trek franchises, religions, and sports teams.

Sometimes my own emotions flare, but I try to channel that into a discussion of the merits of a thing and not attacks on people who disagree with me. I recognize people differ and enjoy thoughtful conversations that expose these differences.

Sometimes the exchange can get heated, and I do my best to be clear-headed and respectful, but I don't always succeed.
posted by mistersquid at 7:51 PM on December 14, 2013


in my observation of people who interact with Windows systems is that they do usually maximize their windows

My observation of most desktop computer users is that they do indeed work instinctively with one maximized app at a time, making the distinction between global and per-window menu bars moot for them. But this has, it seems to me, more to do with the way they were trained in the first place.

Most desktop computer users don't give a shit about the computer per se; they see it as an irritating embuggerance that they only need to interact with in order to get something else done. The idea that somebody might actually enjoy the process of working with a computer for its own sake comes naturally only to IT enthusiasts, and we're a relatively tiny crowd.

Most desktop computer users are, in fact, Windows users. The way most of them get shown how to use a computer is depressingly predictable: the very first introductory class will show them how to start up the machine and launch Microsoft Word, maximized. And about two thirds of them never move far beyond that.

I have lost count of the number of people to whom I have taught the use of a file browser for doing basic jobs like moving files around and renaming and deleting them, rather than doing all those jobs by opening stuff in Word and using Save As. For most of these people the idea that you can have two windows open at once is kind of a revelation, as is the fact that "start up Word" is not a mandatory first step.

I don't think that the failure of the populace at large to make best use of any given UI feature is ever a good reason to dumb-down years of careful adaptive design in favour of something slicker that looks prettier in a glossy brochure. The simple fact is that most people won't and up using any of the new stuff either.

Most people will find some canalized way to launch Word or Facebook or whatever it is they use their device for, and explore the rest of their device's UI no further than they absolutely have to. This is not the same as saying that most people are dumb. It's the same as saying that most people don't care about UI design as long as they remain free to ignore the vast majority of it.

And this is exactly why focus-group testing on randomly selected users is such a two-edged sword, and why I would very much like to see more attention paid to the way well-trained people interact with UI designs. Because it seems to me that the whole industry is now sliding inexorably in the direction of reflexive UI choice removal, and as somebody who does enjoy exploring and working with a well-conceived UI that adapts itself well to my usage preferences and doesn't make me feel like I might as well be doing everything with Save As, that strikes me as a great pity.

I can say from experience that even if one system is slightly better than the other, it ultimately makes little to no difference in usability. Is this not the case for you?

No.

I'm a school IT technician, so I work with Windows boxes and Android and Apple tablets for money. And after a long day of subtle but completely unrelenting irritation from those, I'll come home and log into one of my house's Xfce boxes to relax.
posted by flabdablet at 7:56 PM on December 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


> I think in this recent exchange over menu bars only one insult was slung.

Sorry, you're right. I appreciate your approach.
posted by archagon at 7:58 PM on December 14, 2013


And this is exactly why focus-group testing on randomly selected users is such a two-edged sword, and why I would very much like to see more attention paid to the way well-trained people interact with UI designs.

Sometimes I feel the same way, but to be fair there is a lot of amazing stuff for serious interface nerds and computing geeks to play with today. Contemporary computing is really nothing short of amazing and I wake up every day THRILLED there is so much going on.

I think the subject of this FPP is a prime example. Completely weird and idiosyncratic for me even after going fairly deep into the author's work, but I learned a lot about what some of the prevailing concerns are for users who switch between desktop and touch modes in Windows 8 (something I've never done).

And I know what I've learned will inform my work in the future, whether I'm part of a team developing software that has to work in both desktop and touch environments or I'm interacting with such software in a support role, etc.

Also, flabdablet, I want to nth-favorite your remarks regarding the way most users use multi-window environments versus people who work and thrive in technology work (UI design, app development, etc.). I would add even highly competent technical people will not make the most efficient use of an interface, and I count myself among such people.

I'm feeling the itch to work on a UI design project and, to bring it back around once more, I think this is partly due to being exposed to Jay Machalani's "Fixing Windows 8".
posted by mistersquid at 8:13 PM on December 14, 2013


I've gotten into the habit of moving windows around with the Windows key+ the arrow keys; it's been a nice part of the Windows UI, for me. The new(er) way of opening programs by hitting Start and typing three or four letters + Enter is really nice, too. It really is different strokes for different folks. As long as the UI can accommodate me to some extent, I can work with quirks.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:16 PM on December 14, 2013


Attached menus ... redundantly replicate chrome for apps that can spawn multiple windows.

Personally I experience that redundancy as a good thing. It means I don't even need to care whether two windows I'm working with happen to belong to the same app or not. I can just use them as they are, regardless.

This is probably related to the irritation I experience while attempting to remember how to launch a second instance of something using a Dock-alike. NO! I don't WANT to bring the existing instance to the front, I want another one! Why are you making this hard?

I dislike the Windows 7 task bar compared to Win95-style separation between quicklaunch buttons and window buttons for exactly that reason, though Windows 7 mitigates it to some extent by (a) making a very clear visual distinction between a task bar button that has open windows associated and (b) consistently making a new-instance option available via right-click.

I also dislike mouse/pad/screen gestures as replacements for right-click context menus. A mouse button with visible boundaries that sits under my middle finger and clicks when I press it is inherently discoverable and invites experimentation in a way that the gesture du jour just doesn't.

Getting stuff done with gestures means that you either have to know about them beforehand or they've triggered some unexpected response when performed inadvertently often enough to force you to pay attention to the possibility that they exist. And no, just because a gesture "makes sense" once you do know about it, that doesn't make it either discoverable or "intuitive".

I rate the Windows 8 Desktop's hot corners as UI fails for pretty much the same reason. There's no there there.

The new(er) way of opening programs by hitting Start and typing three or four letters + Enter is really nice, too.

Plus ça change.. where I come from we call this "tab completion" and it is indeed a good thing, but I'm frequently amused and saddened in equal measure when I hear about UX designers touting that decades-old feature as if it were in any way fair compensation for the degree to which the rest of their shiny new GUI just doesn't work any more.
posted by flabdablet at 8:27 PM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree completely. The right click context menu is the perfect place for tons of stuff. (Windows' context menu is actually fairly configurable. But you have to be pretty geeky to do that, so it's really beside the point.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:39 PM on December 14, 2013


I dislike the Windows 7 task bar compared to Win95-style separation between quicklaunch buttons and window buttons for exactly that reason

Just to note that you can set up Win7 with quicklaunch icons and an xp-style taskbar.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:23 PM on December 14, 2013


Can you get the behaviour I prefer and now have on Xfce, where I do group window buttons belonging to a given app but also have a separate quicklaunch button elsewhere (in fact on a completely separate panel)?
posted by flabdablet at 1:39 AM on December 15, 2013


I don't know if it's exactly what you want, but this is the taskbar on my main screen. Grouped and pinned applications on the left, and quicklaunch stuff on the right. Both my quicklaunch things are shortcuts to folders but there's no reason you can't have icons for individual apps there.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:08 AM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's actually the conflation of grouping with pinning that I personally find irritating, because I like grouping and I like pinning but I also don't like having a window button (grouped or otherwise) replace my pinned quicklaunch button as soon as I launch whatever it is.

As I said earlier, the Windows 7 implementation of this (to me) irritating trope is probably about the least irritating way it could possibly be done, but I am much more comfortable working in an environment where it doesn't have to happen at all.

Quite a lot of what I personally consider to be backward steps in desktop UI design have been apparent attempts to imitate whatever the Mac does, on the grounds that the Mac UI is well known to be streets ahead of what anybody else has. Well, I've used loads of different desktop UIs and I just don't see things that way. I'm far more often irritated than delighted by Mac ways of doing things, and I wish the cultural cringe afflicting everybody else's designers would just go away.

If you like the Mac, use a Mac. Just don't tell me I'm stupid, or backward, or some kind of fanboi, merely because my UI preferences are not yours. And especially don't make it mandatory for me to adapt to something more Mac-like or (worse!) more phone-like simply because I want to use an OS that's up to date with security patches and runs current apps, or even merely one that I can actually buy. That's being actively user-hostile, and millions of existing users will think worse of you for it.

If Jay Machalani had been the lead UX architect for Windows 8, lots more people would be far less unhappy about it.
posted by flabdablet at 3:10 AM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


flabdablet: "Yeah, it's actually the conflation of grouping with pinning that I personally find irritating, because I like grouping and I like pinning but I also don't like having a window button (grouped or otherwise) replace my pinned quicklaunch button as soon as I launch whatever it is."

I had mine set up like that for a while when I first upgraded to 7 from XP: nice chunky app launching icons on the left, and grouped open tasks on the right. After I got fed up with wrangling shortcut icons (it's not actually more than a couple of seconds work, but I'm that lazy) I gave in and got used to the pinning; now I wouldn't want to go back.

My main problem with Windows is its godawful font rendering. More than any other part of the UI it's the thing that would drive me to Apple or Linux, and if it weren't for gaming I would already have switched. I don't know why they're so wedded to bloody ClearType that they won't give us an option for a Mac-like renderer at system level.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:46 AM on December 15, 2013


I can't say I've ever noticed any issues with font rendering on any computer. Do you have like a comparison image to show what you're talking about?
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:24 AM on December 15, 2013


This page sums up the differences between OSX and Windows font rendering.

It's an aesthetic preference, really, but it's frustrating that MS don't offer the choice. People like me, who prefer an Apple-like method, have to use third-party software for a compromise solution.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:16 AM on December 15, 2013


As long as you can read the letters, why would the type of font rendering matter?
posted by octothorpe at 7:19 AM on December 15, 2013


Can you get the behaviour I prefer and now have on Xfce, where I do group window buttons belonging to a given app but also have a separate quicklaunch button elsewhere (in fact on a completely separate panel)?

Sure. Grouping is controlled easily enough from the taskbar properties menu, just select "always combine." Getting the quicklaunch area back isn't that simple, but is easy enough for something you only have to do once per installation.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:53 AM on December 15, 2013


As long as you can read the letters, why would the type of font rendering matter?

I wish I could answer that in Comic Sans :-)

I spend a lot of time working with text on screens, and as I said: after a day of subtle yet relentless irritation from working on Windows boxes I come home to relax with Debian. The fact that Freetype-rendered text is easier on my eyes than Windows-rendered text has a lot to do with why one is a source of irritation while the other is relaxing.

Webkit-based browsers do their own text rendering, which I also truly dislike - it's way too heavily hinted. That's mainly why I continue to put up with Firefox's anachronistically excessive startup time and only use Chromium for watching flash movies.

Getting the quicklaunch area back isn't that simple, but is easy enough

Good tip! thanks for that.
posted by flabdablet at 8:03 AM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess that I'm just font rendering blind. It all looks the same to me.
posted by octothorpe at 8:26 AM on December 15, 2013


I can see the difference on that website but only with the letters blown up to "I'm visually impaired and using a screen magnifier" size.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:45 PM on December 15, 2013


I've noticed before that badly done subpixel rendering can be very tiring to look at. But neither Mac or Windows has done it too badly, to my eyes, lately.
posted by JHarris at 7:04 PM on December 15, 2013


We are more a consumer electronics society that ever before. Tweens could give a shit about 'operating systems'. Apple and Android realize this. MS never has...
posted by judson at 11:09 AM on December 16, 2013


21st cty. so far, tl;dr version: whatever tweens don't give a shit about isn't important. Put it out of your mind.
posted by jfuller at 6:16 PM on December 16, 2013


judson: We are more a consumer electronics society that ever before. Tweens could give a shit about 'operating systems'. Apple and Android realize this. MS never has...

Who cares what Tweens want? Adults need to actually do things, and if you're going to be constructive on a computer, either you or someone else had to care about the operating system. That's what MS should realize; Apple and Android only marginally compete with their real market, computers for actually doing work. Android is currently no threat in this area (tablets are nearly useless for productivity) and Apple is only marginal. What MS is really competing with is their own, superior products from the past, which is why Win8 was such a misstep.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:41 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


An assumption that mouse/pointer driven interfaces will be dead within a decade actually seems pretty sound to me, TBH, whatever the merits of their solution to that.
posted by Artw at 10:44 AM on December 17, 2013


That's what MS should realize; Apple and Android only marginally compete with their real market, computers for actually doing work. Android is currently no threat in this area (tablets are nearly useless for productivity) and Apple is only marginal.

Actually it's a funny thing. I ran Android-x86 on my old laptop for a couple of months earlier this year, and it was pretty damn nice. I mean, I couldn't run some software that used native code, and there were a couple of glitches, but it turns out that Android scaled up with a mouse and keyboard works great, preferable, to me at least, to Ubunto's Unity and Gnome's dock. If more popular native-code Android software were compiled for that platform (I had to run Browser instead of Chrome, and just run Firefox I had to install Nightly!), there might actually be something there.
posted by JHarris at 10:57 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Artw: An assumption that mouse/pointer driven interfaces will be dead within a decade actually seems pretty sound to me, TBH, whatever the merits of their solution to that.

I hope not, because that would be really stupid. Mice are the best instrument for sustained, quick usage of a computer. They're more versatile and faster than trackpads, and touchscreens neither work well with a keyboard nor are ergonomic for sustained use. Seriously, imagine spending two hours doing data entry on a spreadsheet with a touchscreen. You are either going to have to use a tablet flat on a table, and therefore painstakingly do data entry with an on-screen keyboard, or destroy your shoulder holding your arm up for two hours to twiddle the screen on a touchscreen laptop or desktop.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:12 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree with those who say declaring the death of the mouse is premature. In addition to the issues already identified, it's often difficult just to place a cursor accurately and select text with a touch screen, I've noticed, because your finger obscures what you're trying to touch, which decreases accuracy.
posted by JHarris at 5:36 PM on December 17, 2013


For me, the best thing about the mouse (aside from its reasonable balance between speed and precision) is that when I don't have my hand on it it doesn't do anything. This is a quality that any proposed high-technology mouse replacement (gaze tracker, neural interface, whatever) absolutely needs to duplicate.

There's a really strong tendency in IT to believe that things that are not new are therefore not good. But just as Windows 95 got the desktop UI essentially right, so did Doug Engelbart with the invention in 1967 of the mouse+cursor for controlling arbitrarily placed stuff on a screen.

Separating the control in your hand from the screen that you're looking at is not an instantly user-obvious idea, especially given a control that is itself mobile and lightweight; but doing so plays to the strengths of both hands and eyes and lends itself to sound ergonomics. And there's been a lot of incremental refinement work done on mice since Engelbart's initial design.

I would far rather use a nicely weighted wired optical mouse with two reliable clicky buttons and a decent wheel than any of the alternatives I've tried so far (trackballs, trackpads, multi-touch trackpads, assorted kinds of joystick, light pens, touch screens, touch screens with styli, gaze trackers).

It's undoubtedly fun for designers to dream up and implement exciting new interface possibilities but the sense of progress implied by the pace of technological change is often illusory.
posted by flabdablet at 7:08 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


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