At an upgrade price of $14.99,the switch from Windows 7 to Windows 8 was too cheap for me to pass up. Especially considering that I’ve never been a huge fan of Windows 7 to begin with (call me old-fashioned, but I thought XP pretty much had it nailed as an interface). Given that the reviews of tech products often amount to nothing more than a side by side comparison of the existing options or are based on a very brief period of use, I wanted to offer my own experiences for those considering making the jump.
First of all, I think it’s necessary to profile my computer/tech use. I am currently an avid smartphone user with a Blackberry for work and a Motorola Droid 2 Global for personal things. I also use an iPad and a netbook for most of my more simplistic computing needs. That all being said, my main computer (a laptop) which I chose to upgrade to Windows 8 tends to get a number of complex tasks thrown at it from project management documentation and modeling to graphic design. I use a computer for those tasks which are too robust for tablets, smartphones, and netbooks. I use my computer as a stationary setup and use a second 24” monitor.
All that being said, my Windows 8 experience so far has been somewhat mediocre (and frustrating). I am glad that I upgraded, because it feels substantially more stable than Windows 7 and I don’t notice near the lag, but that’s pretty much the extent of my happiness with Windows 8. Here’s my rundown:
- Start button. Or more correctly lack thereof; there’s no Start button. It’s been moved. So now in order to find your programs, you have to browse to a corner, launch the Start screen and dig through it to find your program. This is cumbersome, and since this computer is not used for routine task, I feel like I’m wasting time. You can customize the Start screen, but I don’t think any amount of customization is ever going to result in an optimum set-up.
- Corners. It used to be that the corners of your screen were accessible to programs (i.e. they were just another section of screen real estate). That’s gone. Windows 8 uses the corners of the screen as ad hoc gesturing to bring down contextual menus and shortcuts (like the Start screen). So when I’m trying to use Firefox, which has migrated the bulk of its menu options to the top left corner, I’m constantly fighting between Windows and Firefox about what menu I am trying to use. You also run into the same issue when trying to exit a conventional program.
- Apps. Okay so this is a computer, not a phone or tablet, most of what I do requires intensive programs rather than apps. Don’t get me wrong, I love apps. I also love the multi-platform, non-location specific approach to computing that apps (and cloud computing) afford us, but I am tired of digging through overly-simplistic apps to get to a real program. This also relates to the Start screen, in that it’s designed for apps, and by customizing it for quick access to your programs, you kind of destroy the feng shui of the Windows 8 UI (formerly known as the Metro interface).
- Windows account integration. So, I have at least a dozen e-mail accounts, one of which happens to be an Outlook.com address (not because I wanted it, but because I didn’t want anyone else to have it). It turns out that in order to access the full functionality of Windows 8, I’ve got to use that account (or another Microsoft account). This is of course understandable, except for the fact that it’s required for the Windows 8 mail interface. I can add my other accounts in manually, but I was pretty turned off by the fact that Microsoft is using its operating system as a platform to try to suck users into their online offerings. I will say that integrating the Microsoft account concept is what enables the cross-platform functionality of Windows 8, something I haven’t tested (but something that doesn’t fit into my computing regime unless I want to buy all new stuff).
- Dual interfaces. This really was Microsoft’s big chance to challenge both Google and Apple and to go for one last bit of relevance for the traditional operating system… but I feel like Microsoft only took the challenge halfway in that it gutted Windows 7 and threw in sections of the Windows 8 UI without really creating any sort of clear dividing line. This was all too obvious when I was attempting to tinker around with user account settings and I kept switching between the traditional Control Panel settings and the Windows 8 UI settings. It was ridiculous really, it’s like Microsoft didn’t want to make choices about how to transition away from Windows 7 so they just went with what they had when it came time for the release date. The inconsistent switching between the traditional environment and the new cartoonized version of Windows is frustrating. Overall it’s a poorly executed, clunky amalgamate of interfaces.
- Closing Apps. Seriously, it would seem like a pretty much standard feature that you build in a way to close apps, but as you can see from this article, it’s a little obscure. This goes for anything in the Windows 8 UI, gone is the “X” of olde.
- No touch screen. Windows 8 makes it pretty much clear that it hates you if you don’t have a touch screen. I did have the ability to test out a touch screen laptop as well as the Surface tablet, and many of my concerns about the interface were eliminated on those devices. However, if you’re still locked in the stone age and you own a computer that’s not touch screen, plan to click a lot more in Windows 8. With Windows 8 it seems that the user experience was based on the touchscreen market because using it with a mouse will wear you out.