Windows 8.1 Won't Fix Problems Users Care About Most

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-06-02 Print this article Print
Windows 8

I noted the complexity of the touch interface the first time I looked at Windows 8 back in March 2012, and it hasn't improved since. While using the Windows 8 interface with a mouse and keyboard is certainly possible, it's not as easy as it should be. This is made worse by forcing users into a more complex two-screen interface that is far less than intuitive. Why can't you do everything from either the Start Screen or the Desktop? The reason is that Microsoft's designers chose not to let you.

Fortunately, there are a few solutions to one of the biggest problems, the lack of the Start Menu. Classic Shell provides a free, Open-Source Start Button and menu for Windows. Pokki provides the Start Button and menu, and it supports the "Modern" apps that you got from the Microsoft store as well. Start8 was one of the first Windows 8 Start Button replacements, and while it'll cost you five bucks, it's worth it. There are several more that you can find using your favorite search utility.

Fortunately, not everything in Windows 8.1 is a disappointment. Internet Explorer 11 fixes most of what was wrong with IE10, including better support for tabs and an address bar that's visible all the time. Some of the original Windows apps are back, including the Calculator, an improved Photo and Camera app and something called the File Explorer, which presumably was changed to keep people from confusing it with IE, even though it's been around as Windows Explorer forever.

In reality, the biggest problem with Windows 8 wasn't the software itself—although there were some serious gaps—but the fact that Microsoft decided to effectively abandon its existing user base. Windows 8 was launched into a world with something like a billion and a quarter Windows computers already in use, and it required a change to the way all of those users interacted with those computers. While there was never any likelihood that those existing users would change, the fact is that all of them knew how to use Windows in that iteration.

Windows 8 was totally new and it wasn't as good for those users with existing PCs. While Microsoft's desire to keep up with the mobile revolution is understandable, it needed to accommodate those billions of people who had learned to use the previous versions and who weren't planning on buying a touch-screen computer. Worse, Microsoft made this change in a world where touch-screen computers were more of a novelty than the rule. In other words, if you didn't want a novelty for a computer, you were left behind.


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