My review of Windows 8 Release Preview

0 Comments

Windows 8

Last week, after a lot of thought, I was ready to completely move to Windows 8 release preview. I did the same for Windows 7. I was happy with the RC, and it took 2 weeks for me to install a clean version of release version over the RC!

As you may know, I use my PC in a dark environment. Recently I decided to set my blog theme to a dark one.This helps to decrease strain on my eyes. Below is a screenshot of my Windows Explorer in Windows 7 PC.

Explorer-Dark

This was the only reason keeping me back from fully jumping in Windows 8. Finally, I figured I’d change the settings in the “Advanced Color and Appearance Settings” window and since a lot of applications use these settings, I’ll be find. At worst I’d use a 3rd party app instead of Windows Explorer.

So I created my bootable flash disk and started to install Windows 8. The installation part was great. No problems here. I really liked the new simple Windows logo (instead of the fish icon). Simple and easy.

First, I’m going to iterate key features in Windows 8 which grabbed my attention. These are the facts that persuaded me to change my OS in the first place (because I follow every news on this release closely). Additionally, I wanted to be as fair as possible in my critics so I’ll try to mention any good/bad point in each of the items below.

Boot:

The boot was fast and I really mean FAST. I had a blast. One of the best features of Windows 8 is this. Right from the start you feel how fast and beautiful the Windows will boot.

Design:

I love the Metro design. It has many logic behind its design and its easy on the eyes and the mind. If you head over to the Windows 8 blog, there are a few academic papers behind this design. The new Start Screen has a lot more to offer compared to the old Start Menu. Animations in this design are very clever and not overdone. Controls look very good too.

The Desktop design is very good too. It’s good to see that the controls (checkboxes, radio buttons, text boxes, etc.) have been updated. And they really get along with the Metro look too.

However, I think adding a few small features would help creating a better experience for the user:

  • MetroStyle apps should follow the theme I’ve selected. At least the applications which are offered by Microsoft. I really don’t understand why my mail app looks so bright when my theme is a black one! Try to look at a white screen for 5 hours, then see what will happen to your eyes!
  • Offer at least two different built in Visual Styles for desktop, Dar and Bright. Why should my Windows Phone look different than my PC? I want to use a PC that looks like Windows Phone.
  • Let the user create/edit Visual Styles: Themes are good, but they’re don’t really change anything. Let the users choose what they want to do with their PC. Why should I look for a patch for UxTheme.dll?
  • Where is the “Advanced Color and Appearance Settings” dialog??? This was the only hope I had for switching over to Windows 8 and it’s gone. I tried to edit it through registry but somehow it didn’t work! So here, not only Microsoft hasn’t give the user more freedom to look at a different OS, they have restricted the user even more! Not good MSFT Sad smile
    Advanced
  • In Windows XP, I would Shutdown/Restart my PC using 3 keystrokes (Winkey/U/S or Winkey/U/R). In Windows 7 it turned out to be 3 for Shutdown (Winkey/Right/Enter) and 5 for Restart (Winkey/Right/Right/Up/Enter). Now in Windows 8, I should head to Start Screen, open Charms, click on Settings, Power, and select Restart/Shutdown. They couldn’t have buried it more! I don’t know how to do this by keyboard yet.
  • The split screen should offer more sizes. Maybe I want to replicate Aero snap feature in my MetroStyle apps. Just make it free. I know you have created this snapped view mode to unify development experience for developers, but I’m a developer, I say do this, so do many other developers. You can use threshold-based triggers. For instance if the width is less than x, show the snapped view, otherwise show the full view. I know for a fact it won’t be hard to do and it wouldn’t change any aspect of development. Open-mouthed smile

Charms & Application Contracts:

This is one of the most clever features of Windows 8. The new OS has a common place to put the things you usually look for such as search / share and application settings in there. I have no complains here. It brings a familiar and unique experience to all applications. Awesome.

Performance:

Windows 8 is perfect in this regard. The same hardware performs better in Windows 8 compared to Windows 7. Sometimes twice better. Kudos Windows Team.

Task Manager Application:

Finally! The revamped Task manager presents you all you wanted. It’s simply greatness at its most! The heat map is perfect. The charts are awesome. I just wish you could see and change the timeline and get better reports for resource usage. Nonetheless, I’m happy with this app as is. Love it.

Task Management:

Managing your open applications, switching between them are the most important part of your OS. As much as the Task Manger application is awesome, on the contrary, you can’t really do much management in Windows 8. (Sorry MSFT guys!). Switching between apps is a hell! If I want to switch from my Metro app to a desktop app, I should first open Window manager from left edge of the screen, select desktop, find that app on the taskbar and click on its icon o_o Surprised smile!!! Why?! Isn’t really a better solution for this? Worse than that (yes, dear reader, it’s possible!), if you want to switch from a desktop app to a tab in the Metro IE, you should first open the window manager, go to IE, bring up tabs and switch to it. Do this 3 times, you’ll be thinking about killing yourself (literally)!

Windows 7 on the other hand, is something else. No other OS has a better app manager than the Windows 7’s Awesomebar (Taksbar). I know Windows 8 has it too, but combination of Metro and desktop will not work for you. A few days earlier, when I was working on my paper in my beloved Windows 7, suddenly I realized that I had about 50 open windows and I didn’t have any problem with them. I could easily switch to any other app by at most 2 clicks.Below is a screenshot of my desktop. Notice I have two 1920x1080 monitors and I have used Aero Peek to show the open apps so any rectangle you see is a window. I wish I could do that in Windows 8 in both Metro and Desktop. (click to see larger image)

MultiTasking

Multiple Monitors:

This one won’t get better! I don’t know how hard is this for MSFT Windows Team. They don’t seem to get it. Dear Windows Team, enable the secondary taskbar do whatever the primary does. It shouldn’t be hard. Take a look at the picture above. I’m using the sacred Actual Multiple Monitors software in Windows 7. I have pinned some of my apps to the primary taskbar and some to the other one. Both of them have tray, clock and Aero Peek buttons. Clicking on an application will launch that app in the same monitor that I have selected. Both of taskbars are identical feature-wise.

In Windows 8 the multiple monitor support is like a joke! Seriously! After selecting the most obvious choice for management (show the apps in the monitor which they’re running on), you notice that there’s no pinning support!!! Also no clock and system tray on secondary taskbars. I mean come onnnnnnnn!!!

IE10:

It’s good to see the new changes in IE engine. Better HTML5/CSS support. Now things like gradients are supported (which I personally have been waited for a long time). Hardware acceleration just blows off other browsers. Touch gestures are perfect and the new controls are great too.

It seems that  IE team at Microsoft don’t really pay much attention to the User Interface and features. The engine is great but what have you done to offer a better user experience? User interface is the language you’re talking with the user. An average user doesn’t see the underlying structure of your engine, he/she sees that Firefox and Chrome have better UI than IE. Take a look at these missing features:

  • Tab animations
  • A good start screen with the ability to pin desired websites
  • Setting syny
  • Better support for addons
  • Setting applications inside tabs
  • A better bookmark manager for Desktop
  • Why there’s no access to bookmarks in Metro? I can’t pin 1500 bookmarks to Start Screen. It’s not rational
  • A unified download manger between Desktop and Metro IE. What is that button when my download finishes? I can’t even navigate to download location from there! Pew!
  • Where is my context menu when I click in Metro IE? The interesting thing is that the IE team were bragging about adding a new option to save image to library. What if I want the image’s location? Go do desktop mode? So why is Metro IE there, again?
  • Why can’t I change stuff like encoding of the page, view source, etc. in Metro IE? Give me my full control.
  • Why does IE have a whole row of pure emptinessin maximized state? I mean what is wrong with this design below? (click to see the larger image)

IE-Full

Cloud (SkyDrive):

Windows 8 is natively integrated with SkyDrive, a cloud storage for your files and settings. I like it very much. The 25 (read 7) GB storage is awesome. Although I wish for options that the amazing DropBox offers. Here’s my wish list:

  • Shared content. This helps you and your friends have a synchronized folder. Create a folder in SkyDrive, share it with your friends and enjoy the life together. How great is that?
  • Options in context menu for sharing, getting direct link, making public or private, etc.
  • Version control and context menu option for it. A simple option like “View older versions for this file” would be great.

File Management & Windows Explorer:

The new Windows Explorer looks great and will look better in the release version. The Ribbon is much more better than the previous designs. It’s good to see PowerShell there. The new location for the details pane is better than Windows 7’s. Everything’s good, except one thing. I wish we had the option for tabs.

Windows Store:

Windows Store is the great jewel of Windows 8. It’ll change the history of Windows. I’m telling you, it’s gonna be great. I just wish it was open for all countries; at least for free apps!

Metro Control Panel:

The Metro settings is great, however it’s missing some key settings. I know it’s not there to replace the old Control Panel and Group Policy settings, but where can I change proxy settings for only my MetroStyle apps? There should be some settings somewhere.

Conclusion:

Windows 8 has the potential to be the greatest thing there is. However, there are some slight details which make the user experience unpleasant (at least for someone like me). I know I’m one of those 1% users you mentioned in your blog, but we are a few million people. What about us? Should we always rely on 3rd party apps? Scott Hanselman refers to this by “death by thousand cuts”. It certainly killed my Windows 8 appetite and now I’m back in my dearest Windows 7. Come on Microsoft…