Windows 8 Review

You know, for a minute there I was getting kind of excited about Windows 8 – faster boot times, restore factory settings without wiping out all of your programs, easier file backups, and let’s not forget that $40 upgrade price through Jan. 31, 2013.

My enthusiasm lasted until I was able to poke around on a Windows 8 machine for about 15 minutes tonight at Best Buy.

I saw the Desktop app on the user interface formerly known as Metro screen that pops up after log in, clicked on it, and was taken to what looks like a Windows 7 desktop without the Start button. I expected that but what I didn’t expect was that hovering and clicking in the corner where the Start button used to be brings you back to the ex-Metro screen. What crap is this?

This is where I started to discover that Windows 8 is simply not designed for the work I work on a computer. Maybe I’m just weird but I like very sparse desktops with few if any shortcuts. I want whatever picture I have on my desktop to be shown to maximum affect without a bunch of icons getting in the way.

When I want to launch a program on Windows 7, I use the Windows button to open the Start menu and either start typing in the name of the program or select it from the menu list. I don’t have any launchers in the Task Bar because I don’t want to wonder if an icon is there because I have that program open or if it’s just a quick launch menu item.

And there appears to be no way to search for a program in the traditional version of the Windows 8 desktop. I couldn’t find it if there is. Doing a quick Google search did me no good. On the other hand, all you have to do to search in the ex-Metro desktop is starting typing and whoomp – there it is.

But why would I want to go there? The ex-Metro desktop has no appeal to me whatsoever. I prefer simple, sparse desktops. Ex-Metro is loud, garish, and colorful.

On the other hand, I thought, its live tiles do have handy apps like live weather and Facebook and Twitter info. I was then reminded of another clutzy move on Microsoft’s part – it’s really hard to close an app in ex-Metro because there is no X in the top right corner of the window nor is it in the left corner nor is it at the top of the screen in a border somewhere. There might be some kind of keyboard shortcut but I couldn’t find it. You apparently have to left click on the top of the window and drag it all the way to the bottom of the screen to close. C’mon, seriously?

And did I mention that apps in the ex-Metro desktop open to full-screen and there’s no way to minimize? You can snap them to the sides of the screen and have one app taking up a third of the screen and another taking up the rest of the real estate but that’s about as good as it gets. I like being able to snap a window to each side of the screen in Windows 7 with each window taking up half of the monitor. It’s darn handy for doing a visual comparison of files, for instance.

Aside from jacking up the user experience, Windows 8 is very integrated with Skydrive and the cloud. I guess this is all well and good if you like Skydrive and want to use your Windows Live (or is it Windows Outlook now?) password to tie into online social media and the like. Here’s the deal: I like Google (but don’t care much for their politics). I use Google Drive. I don’t want to deal with another integrated cloud environment. As a webmaster on the side, I have A LOT of passwords and online accounts to keep up with. I’m just over it. Any mail sent to my Live account is forwarded to my Gmail and that’s the way I like it, thank you very much.

So there you have it, Windows 8 is a half-baked tablet UI grafted onto a desktop. There’s really no way for desktop/laptop users to avoid using the ex-Metro screen for certain functions. Traditional desktop users are consigned to being second class citizens. Happily, Windows 7 is going to be supported until 2020. What will I do if my notebook spontaneously combusts before then? I’ll buy a Windows 8 laptop – and install Linux.

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