Windows 8 and Christmas

Windows 8 and Christmas

And then there was Windows 8… my head hurts.

Why talk about a geeky operating system on a Christmas website?  Many people use their computer for a variety of tasks during the holidays.  Think anything from creating greeting cards to running over-the-top computerized light shows.  If you want a Microsoft Windows centric computer, you have to get Windows 8 since that’s what comes installed whether you want it or not.

I’ve been in the PC world since the beginning.  Started with a Radio Shacks TRS-80 and a cassette recorder for storing programs.  I eventually became really comfortable using the CP/M operating system but grudgingly shifted to MS-DOS when it became obvious Microsoft was talking over the world.  I played a little with Windows 2.0 but didn’t bother to learn it until 3.0.

I’ve lived through most all the Windows versions.  Over the years there have been some really marginal releases.  The best ones have been Windows 3.1, 95, XP and 7.

Each Windows release has been a bit more polished.  The overall appearance and ease-of-use has always improved with each version.  Over the years the Microsoft ‘look and feel’ team went from a super-geeky interface using simple primary colors and lots of ugly boxes to a polished diamond that made you feel like you were using something real.  Apple might have blazed the trail on how things were presented on the screen, but Microsoft was always close behind.

Then came Windows 8.  Tablet enabled.  Touch screen.  Live tiles.  A ‘Metro’ interface.  Really snazzy TV commercials.  What’s not to like?  It’s the answer to every known problem in the universe.

I upgraded to Windows 8 back in December 2012 with high expectations.

As I write this I’ve realized I finally got my computer working like I want… it’s Windows 8 with all the Windows 8 stuff disabled.

What in the world was Microsoft thinking???  We’re back to primary colors,  Everything looks boxy.  Nothing is polished.  I’m back in the third grade.  Where Apple continues to build a more sophisticated look and feel of the user experience, Microsoft has decided on the minimalist approach.  Hmmmmm.  I’m thinking I just bought a new computer with an interface a toddler would love while my Apple friends walk around with gorgeous products that make me drool.

Actually I know what Microsoft was thinking.  Update their Windows flagship product, bridge two different worlds and make everyone happy.  Tablet users don’t need polish… all they need are big buttons to stab with their stubby fingers.

In reality, Microsoft faces what’s called ‘the Tyranny of the Installed Base.’  How do you bring those millions of existing users along as we all adapt to the constantly changing world of computers?  In Microsoft’s case they decided to have two different user interfaces, hide the old one and make the unfamiliar new one the default interface people feel obligated to use.

What in the world was Microsoft thinking???

There’s nothing wrong with tablets and touch screens.  I have multiple Apple devices and use them for simple tasks like texting, surfing the web and playing games.  If I had to write this article on my iPad, I’d cringe.  Some things require a physical keyboard, with real keys where you can type with multiple fingers at the same time.

The good news is that Windows 8 can still do all the stuff as previous versions of Windows.  In most cases you can get to the applications through the tablet interface… after swiping (scrolling) through a few pages and looking at a bunch of big, pretty colored buttons.  In a hurry to call up an application?  Probably not.  I’m constantly looking for stuff.  I swear things move around based on where I begin the hunt.  Move your finger/cursor into a corner and new icons appear taking you into even deeper tunnels of mystery.   I’m still trying to figure out an easy way to turn off my computer without getting lost in nested menus.

What in the world was Microsoft thinking???

The good news is you can press the ‘Windows’ key on your physical keyboard and toggle back into a more familiar world of Windows with the icons we’re used to.  It’s now called the ‘Classic Interface.’  But, where did the familiar Windows Orb/Start button go that was the anchor for everything we did?  I dunno.  Frustrating.

Luckily I found a $5 product called Start8 from stardock.com.  It brings back the trusty start button plus many other familiar Windows features.  It wasn’t until I installed this did I begin to use Windows 8 productively and stop my grousing.  All my old programs were where I could easily find them.  I could even turn off the computer without starting a new treasure hunt.  Life is so much better.  But… why do I have to pay $5 to a third party to use what this old-timer thinks is the useful stuff in Windows 8?

What in the world was Microsoft thinking???

I’m sure Microsoft has received an earful from all the Windows haters… and the Windows lovers.  I’m betting Windows 9 will be better.  It will probably be the best of both worlds.  It will be the answer to every known problem in the universe.  Oh, wait.  I said this earlier about Windows 8.  I’m worried.

What would I do?

Instead of trying to create a new interface for touch screens, I’d extend the well established interface the entire world has grown used to.  People will always complain, but don’t abandon the folks that made you successful.  It sure seems like Microsoft is so focused on not being Apple that they’ve also decided to not be Microsoft, leaving customers scratching their heads.

I’m done now.  My Windows 8 is acting like the Windows 7 and I’m more productive than ever.

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