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Using Windows 8 and the Metro Interface

Metro: entertainment or efficiency?

This clever but somewhat cumbersome set of search tools is the perfect example of the current state of the Windows 8 interface and the Metro-style Start screen, both of which are obviously works in progress.

The Start screen is lively and up-to-date, appealing and modern-looking. If you’re trying to find a file, setting or desktop app you rarely use, that can easily turn into busy and distracting. There’s a rich set of search tools in Windows 8, with different ways to get what you want. That can be confusing when you’re trying to remember which of the slightly different tools you want. Knowing that you have richer options isn’t always a comfort when you’re trying to get something simple done and you feel like you’re jumping through hoops.  And because desktop apps like Outlook can’t expose their search tools the way Metro apps can, you can no longer search email and files at the same time. 

Searching for files no longer finds emails, and there’s no preview of your files in Metro either.

Searching for files no longer finds emails, and there’s no preview of your files in Metro either.

Notifications are another example. There are some notifications you don’t want to miss. If you’re so low on power that your PC is about to turn off, you want to know so you have the chance to save your work. If your PC needs to restart, you don’t want a tiny dialog in the corner of the screen that you could accept by accident if it grabs the focus while you’re typing. Clean and simple is good, but the new Windows 8 notifications for things like low power might be too obvious. They’re full screen, bright green and you can’t do anything else until you click a button in them.

You can’t miss the low power notification and you can’t do anything until you click Close.

You can’t miss the low power notification and you can’t do anything until you click Close.

There are already several Metro-style dialogs that appear inside the desktop and by release we expect the design to evolve and have a more unified look. We don’t know what the final design will look like and we know many things will change, including the green background – which you will be able to customize. The way you work with Windows will still involve something of a jump as you move between the Start screen and the Metro-style tools like charms and search on the one hand, and the desktop and desktop apps on the other, because Windows 8 treats them differently.

These interface changes are trying to give you ways to do several fundamentally different things. To skim new information quickly, to find just the app or file you want from dozens or hundreds of alternatives, to explore resources inside many different applications and to work in ways that marry touch, pen, muse and keyboard. That’s hugely ambitious but at this stage there are too many rough edges and overlapping options to call it completely successful. You can learn the tricks to work reasonably efficiently with Metro. If you don’t, expect to find it frustrating.

  • soo-nah-mee
    The longer I have my WP7 with Mango, the more I'm liking how Windows 8 looks.

    ...Just as long as it's not intrusive when you want (or need) to use the "standard" Windows GUI"
  • theconsolegamer
    W8, the Windows that went Xbox.
  • mcd023
    I'm looking forward to having this on a tablet. I'm using an iPad 1 (mainly for aviation charts), and I'm really liking the idea of being able to snap windows or apps into panes. That's gonna be really nice for productivity, especially for guys like me who may have a hard time remember what numbers to plug into the calculator ;)
  • danielravennest
    Touch interface is useless for desktop monitors, since the optimal view distance to avoid eyestrain requires holding your arms out horizontal, which induces arm strain if you do it all day long. On the other hand, I have room on my physical desk between the keyboard and the two large monitors for a tablet-shaped screen where taskbar, weather gadgets, and application launcher could live comfortably, and touch interface could work.

    So what would be needed there is an option to use *both* Metro and standard desktop UI, selectable by monitor, at the same time.
  • nikorr
    Still don't like it. Looks boring. Unattractive yet...
  • amk-aka-Phantom
    You can’t miss the low power notification and you can’t do anything until you click Close.

    That sucks.

    The Start screen is lively and up-to-date, appealing and modern-looking.

    The Start screen is childish, disgusting green and different from what we're used to for no particular reason. Fixed.

    Unless there will be an option to turn Win8 into something power user-friendly (no Metro AT ALL, no intrusive alerts, no impression that I'm using an OS designed for retards who need to Search all the time because they keep forgetting where they keep their files), I won't get it. It's just disgusting and doesn't deserve to be on my PCs. If you want to work with a retarded OS, there's Mac OS X with its stupid dock; I want Windows to be something that is actually useful and not enraging.
  • shanky887614
    im suprised they dont have a choise which gui you want and could just uninstall metro

    for example on linux you can use gnow or kde as desktop enviroment
    I shutter to think how awful the Windows experience will be on a large multiple screen desktop workstation, having to run almost every application full screen because developers can target all Windows devices with only the Metro GUI. That's right - 30 years of perfecting the desktop metaphor down the drain. Thanks Microsoft.
  • HolyCrusader
    For tablets, the Metro GUI has potential, although I find their current choice of colors unattractive. For desktops - not so much. Like others, I have multiple monitors attached to my system, and nothing I've seen with Metro hints on how it'll work in 2+ monitor environments. Furthermore, it looks as if it'll be a *slower* interface than the current tried-and-true GUI that's current employed by Windows7 I keep wondering if they have Kinetic in mind for Desktop usage of Metro?
  • lordstormdragon
    I don't care about tablets. I'm in the 3D rendering industry, and tablets are not only not an option, they're silly toys for mediocre people doing little to no actual work. Entertainment devices at best. I can see their usefulness in medical and scientific fields, but these fields already have tablets that work great and have for years. Not that there isn't room for improvement, obviously!

    Thus far, the media (be it Tom's or any other site, but most importantly Microsoft themselves) have done no justice to the actual infrastructure of the world in their marketing. Tablet UIs mean nothing to people with real jobs.

    There is no reason to sidegrade to Windows 8 if you have a Windows 7 computer.