Windows 8 - A misunderstood operating system

By now we've all become accustomed to the Metro UI that replaced the Windows start menu in Windows 8, and for the most part, people have hated it. To make my stance clear, I like Windows 8, including the Metro interface, but I still do believe there's much improvement to be made before I feel the same way about 8 as I do 7.

Let's be honest: Most of the people "hating" on Windows 8 (and Metro) really don't have a good reason to do so. From everyone I've spoken to, they all seem to miss the start menu, and therefore dismiss Metro as a poor replacement. The new 'launchpad' for applications is cast out before most people really stop to think about just what's changed.

I can't speak for tablets using Windows 8 (as I've never used it on a tablet and have heard even more mixed opinions on its usability), but the new Metro interface has actually drastically improved on what the start menu originally was.

Windows 95 Start Menu

From Windows 95 right through to Windows 7 we had this folder-orientated system that could potentially have the user hover-viewing many folders to see their contents. You can't tell me this is a good system - And this, in my opinion, would drive people to place their most-used items on the Desktop instead.

Windows desktop icons

And so we have the Desktop of a seasoned install of Windows (perhaps a family computer). The Desktop, as an idea, was supposed to be exactly that: A desktop where you store a few files, organise some work, take a few notes etc. and then clean it when you're done. We all know that this doesn't happen with computer desktops, and we're left with mess like this.

The messy desktops and poor organisation of data on personal computers is the evidence I need to further my opinion that the Windows 8 "start menu" is an improvement, not a poor attempt at being innovative.

Let's strip away the untidy desktop and remove the start menu - They're old and people don't use them properly ("people" being a mass generalisation - I've been the PC home-handyman for a long time so you'll have to excuse my cynicism). The start menu also had a lot of 'useless' items like help files and web shortcuts to marketing pages, so we definitely don't need these anymore.

Moving on, we're given a new interface: Metro. It's a single-layer icon-orientated landing page that allows you to execute applications - by click or touch. You can rearrange them easily, group them, delete them etc. all easily enough. What I love best about it is the lack of 'folders' and smaller units and groups - The entire system is just one panel of shortcuts.

Most programs install 1 or 2 icons on the Metro screen, and they're usually just the main executable. They're not dumping folders worth of crap on there - You've already downloaded/purchased their application and you're going to use it. You can rearrange these and place them in order if you like; Or you can delete a couple of them and be done with it.

You can even access Metro anywhere by pressing the Windows key on your keyboard - Another change that people dislike about Windows 8. I won't elaborate on this, but people seem to forget they have a keyboard in front of them. Stating that you'd rather click on a button rather than press a button is stupidity.

Despite my obvious favouring of Metro, I do still feel that some parts of Windows 8 remain unfinished. For instance, a lot of the UI has been transformed in to the new flat design style, but not all of it. There's a fair portion of uncomfortable crossover between the flat interface and administrative tasks that I've noticed whilst setting my machine up how I like it.

In conclusion, I'm unimpressed that Microsoft is bringing back the start button. I think that allowing stubborn people to remain stubborn by only using a mouse, as it seems, is weak and shows that the company is as unsure of their OS as its users. Windows 8 has an array of awesome features (loving the application tabs on specific screens!) which I feel are misunderstood to say the least.