It’s been almost 2 months since I attended the Windows 8 APAC Launch in Singapore, and I couldn’t let the year end without reporting my user experience. 🙂 Why didn’t I publish this earlier?
SIMPLE – I would like to experience Windows 8 across as many devices possible before I write a piece, and now it’s time. 🙂
Over the past month or 2, I’ve used Windows 8 on the following devices (not including devices tested at Windows 8 launch and other events)
a) my gaming desktop
b) Asus Vivobook S200E (Intel® ULV Pentium® 987 Processor)
c) Acer Iconia Tab W510 (Intel® Atom Z2760)
d) Dell Inspiron 14 (non-touch screen notebook)
How Should I START?
What EVERY would-be Windows 8 MUST KNOW is that there is no more START button. However, there is the START SCREEN. This is something that Microsoft doesn’t tell you even as you first initialize Windows 8.
Yup, it’s all “Widget-tized” – the default installation of Windows gives you AS MANY THINGS as they deem fit for improving people’s lifestyle. Sure it does for some but in my opinion, this adds to a whole lot of confusion.
In my case, I’ve quickly reconfigured my start screen to what I like. I did that for both my gaming desktop and the Asus and Acer devices. What about the less tech-savvy people? Let’s take my father for example, someone coming to 7-decades of age, somewhat familiar with Windows XP and Vista – how was his experience?
He ordered a Dell Inspiron 14 notebook – it’s non-touch screen and comes with Windows 8. On the day he received the notebook, I also had to be there to guide him. On the plus side, Dell (unlike Acer and Asus) has a very good guide on how to use Windows 8.
Note also the fact that a video guide on how to use Windows 8 just means how different Windows 8 is from Windows 7.
A Not So Good START
Windows 8 is ridiculous over a few matters related to the start screen. (Refer to the 101 other screenshots on Windows 8 START screen, including those here)
There’s no CLOCK
Seriously man, this is the most BASIC of BASIC item that EVERY SINGLE OPERATING SYSTEM has. If it’s not on the bottom right (Windows), it would be on the upper corners (eg Mac OS X, Linux distributions). Even Android and iOS tablet operating system has them on the screen!
I shouldn’t have to take additional steps just to know the time. 🙁
There’s no Connectivity Indicator
So I get a fancy start screen without knowing not only the time, but I also don’t know if I’m actually connected. It’s a joke.
There’s no Battery level indicator
Arggghh – what?!?!?! Yes, I can look at Windows 8 UI and have no idea how much battery is left. Can you believe it?
There’s no Shutdown button
At this point, you get what I’m feeling – Windows 8 aims to simplify user experience yet removing all the most common stuff.
These are the 4 main complaints I have, there’s probably more but I think it’ll be a full report. So how do you know the time and connectivity? And how do you shutdown?
There’s none of these indicators on the start screen because Microsoft thinks it’s good to hide them, which I have no idea why. These things are EXTREMELY important to users.
Hide them? You read that right – Microsoft “HID” them.
What’s FASTEST way to see TIME on Windows 8?
On touch screen devices, you can just swipe the right side of the screen to invoke the CHARM and time, connectivity and battery details appear on the lower left.
For non touch screen devices, you move the mouse cursor to the upper right and mouse over any of the buttons on charm and you get the details appearing. Alternatively the faster way is Windows Key + “C” to see it.
Regardless which method you use, you still can’t see the battery life % nor the details of which network you’re on. Laughable.
To see your network, you much call CHARMS and click ON SETTINGS. It’s there.
Same goes to the SHUTDOWN button. Battery % indicator? Nope, not there either. Your best bet is to reach Desktop Mode, the battery indicator will be there.
All is Well with Desktop Mode
NO, it isn’t. My gaming rig was on desktop mode most of the time. Same goes to my other devices. There’s no COMPUTER icon on desktop. 🙁 You can only access it with a little bit of effort.
On Windows 8 UI – you have to either right click (or mouse) or swipe from bottom of screen (touch screen, obviously) to see the ALL APPS bar. Click the ALL APPS icon and spend a while looking through the list of apps for COMPUTER (hint, it’s always on the right side).
You can however, PIN those apps to the START screen. So even as a Desktop mode user, I still have to return to the UI to reach COMPUTER. 🙁 That means moving your cursor all the way to the lower left (or press Windows key) and click the COMPUTER shortcut pinned.
Text Selection Nightmare in Tablet Mode
Yup, you read it right – NIGHTMARE. Sure, you’ve probably seen other articles saying that they’ve done away with the HOLD for selection options and used tap instead. What they didn’t tell you that it works only on Internet Explorer 10, and perhaps some other apps which I haven’t discovered (like the one seen here).
I’ve tried Chrome (both Desktop and Windows 8 mode) and even Microsoft’s own Notepad and Wordpad – tap doesn’t work. Hold doesn’t work either. I can’t use it for productivity purpose in tablet mode for sure.
If you’re a writer, you’ll know how important are text selection. We often have to move sentences or even paragraphs around to make the article flow the way we want. Sorry to say, if were to choose any device for mobile blogging purpose – I’ll stick with Android, iOS comes 2nd.
What Google and Apple did was the best – as long as it’s TEXT, you have the option to invoke the text selection tool and copy / cut / paste / delete. This is not so, it’s app limited. 🙁
Lacking Zoom Capability
Again, another crucial feature feature that’s lacking. I’m stuck on a tablet screen with 1366×768 resolution and I’m unable to ZOOM IN to see the smaller text on web pages. Sure, it works on Internet Explorer 10 but not on other browsers. Yet again, another ‘app limited’ feature that should have been OS-wide.
Predictive Text Does Not Predict
Unfortunately so, regardless of how my settings were – they didn’t show up. I had more typos than ever with the Windows on screen keyboard. I just wish the prediction works. Keyboard layout is actually fine, though nothing beats the keyboard on iOS (tablet) and Android (Jelly Bean, mobile devices). I think the split keyboard is pretty cool.
Is There Anything Good in Windows 8?
While I think Microsoft is heading the RIGHT direction with Windows 8, I think they’re doing a lot of things WRONG. Yes, you read that right – WRONG. It’s not even considered LESS OPTIMAL or NOT AS GOOD, it’s just plain wrong.
I do understand that a complete overhaul was necessary but the thought of losing even the most basic of information for usability is just unfathomable. It felt like Microsoft is so focused on INFORMATION DELIVERY for lifestyle – I see messaging, calendar, travel, whatever on start screen but I’m not seeing my TIME, BATTERY & CONNECTIVITY. 🙁
Perhaps they should have an option for user to retain a bar to display those critical information, kind of like Windows UI with a tiny taskbar at the bottom.
On the plus side of things – I’m most impressed by the responsiveness of Windows 8. Despite having a fancy UI, it’s still very zippy even on low spec machines like Intel® Atom Z2760!!
I’ve even played games like Street Fighter Alpha 2 and Expendable (not the movie, nothing to do with the movie) on the Iconia Tab W510!!! Only encountered minor problems like say Windows button on the tablet doesn’t exit me from the game, no idea why.
On my desktop gaming rig – I’m playing games with no problem. I ran my usual benchmarks with no hiccups. I’m currently playing Torchlight II with no problem.
I’ve not upgraded my Windows 7 work rig to Windows 8 as it’s working fine and I really don’t wish to change my work flow.
On the Acer Iconia Tab W510 – I tried had USB tethered Internet Connection with my Samsung Galaxy Nexus (i9250) working flawlessly, and also dialed using a D-Link USB Modem to U-Mobile with no compatibility issues. On the Asus Vivobook S200E – I’ve also loaded some shows off my Samsung Galaxy Nexus and output to my HDMI TV before – worked perfectly!
The only thing I couldn’t do is to USB connect a Windows 8 tablet to my Windows-based desktop and have it read as a USB drive like Android tablets / phones.
I like that they’ve now included a SCREENSHOT combo by default. 🙂 Just press Windows Key + PRINT SCREEN key.
I also like that Windows 8 now includes Microsoft Security Essentials as a component, now titled as Windows Defender (yes, that old name). This will be very helpful when it comes to protecting users.
I really hated that Windows 8 UI doesn’t display critical information (or at least give an option to enable it). 🙁 I’m happy that at least I get to use Desktop mode where all the details are there.
I also felt that Microsoft should allow advanced users to totally disable the Windows 8 UI. The system is rock solid like Windows 7, in fact it felt somewhat faster. It’s more responsive overall and it really feels awkward that being on Desktop, I have to access Windows 8 UI to click on the COMPUTER shortcut to be forwarded back to Desktop with the Computer details open. 😛 No, apparently you can’t PIN TO TASKBAR the Computer function.
IF you’re a Windows 7 user now – should you upgrade? It’s cheap now but I don’t see why you should upgrade just because it’s cheap. If it’s working fine now, stick to it. You don’t lose anything staying on Windows 7 but coming to Windows 8, you might lose a bit of sanity at the start.
If you’re buying a new device, they’re all Windows 8 already anyway. If possible, get a touch screen device as it improves your Windows 8 user experience.
Me? I love it (Desktop) and hate it (Windows 8 UI). 😛 Fortunately the desktop mode (which I spent 99.8% of my time at) that allows me to ignore for the most part the things I hate about it. After getting to know how to go about, it’s back to normal Windows usage already. Of course as a techie, I adapt very fast but I can’t say the same for the average user.
What about the rest of you who used Windows 8? How was your experience?
tl;dr – Windows 8 – an OS with great potential that screwed up on the fundamentals of user experience.
*NOTE : After I published this article, a few of my friends had a discussion with me and I believe I need to highlight this –
— Brian Chong (@goldfries) December 29, 2012
Microsoft – If you’re reading this. A suggestion – Let Desktop mode be the default, with W8UI mode as option. 🙂 I think the response will be better. I believe this article echoes the same idea.