Windows 8 Review – Part One: The Things I Hate

by Rob Williams on October 25, 2012 in Software

You’ve heard it here first: Microsoft is about to release a new version of Windows. Called “Windows 8″, the OS aims to change the way we use our computers, and it’s been built from the ground up with touch in mind. Like all other OS releases, there’s both things to admire and things to complain about. First, we’ll tackle the latter.

UAC, Search, Shutting Down, Modern vs. Desktop Apps & Final Thoughts

UAC can be a nag

Way back in 2007, prior to the launch of Windows Vista, I wrote an article much like this one where I tackled the top 8 things about the OS that annoyed me. Lo and behold, one of the mentions there makes a return here, although perhaps not for the same reasons.

In order to experience Windows 8 as it will be by the average user, I’ve left UAC on for the time-being. I wanted to see what kind of nag it could be over time, and also see if I could actually end up leaving it on. You know… to feel a bit safer. Well, so far, I’ve been finding it to be more problematic than it’s worth, and for reasons I’m not sure of.

As an example, Notepad++ won’t save certain customization options unless I run the program as Administrator. This could be considered a Notepad++ issue, but what could the program possibly be doing that doesn’t let me save a font choice? Because of this limitation, the only way to have Notepad++ run fine all the time is to run it as Administrator – which, because of UAC, results in me having to click a “Yes” each time I open it.

I also need to authorize any Steam game any time I start one up. It’d be nice if Windows asked me if I’d like to permanently add a program to a whitelist, but it doesn’t. So I either have to put up with these regular nags, or disable UAC entirely.

The search can be useless – until you configure it

I’ve never been a big fan of the search tool in Windows, but with the new Start screen (did I talk about that already?) it’s made even more useless – unless what you’re searching for happens to be in your main user folder. A couple of nights ago, I wanted to search the entire PC for a particular folder, and upon hitting Ctrl + F, I was brought not to a pop-up search tool, but a search tool found within the Modern UI. For what I was trying to do, this was totally useless.

Windows 8 - Useless Search

In order for the search to find a lot more than just what’s in your user folder, you’ll need to add directories to the search index. The problem is, it’s not immediately obvious that this is what you need to do. This becomes yet another issue I am sure will creep up for a lot of people – those especially not exactly the techie type.

For those who don’t want to mess with indexes, the alternative is to open a folder up and use the top-right search box. This in itself should negate the problem of the limited Modern UI search, but honestly, if I push Ctrl + F, I want to see a real search. In addition, when searching from this box, the entire PC will be searched – there are no fine-tuning options available in Windows 8.

Shutting Down and Rebooting is tedious

A video that made the rounds last week showed a host interviewing random folk on the street to see what they thought of Windows 8, and one of the tests offered was shutting down the PC. Now, these people were left clueless. That’s sensible, right? These are just random people found on the street, after all. But no, it’s not that at all. Even I, the first time I used the Windows 8 beta, was left seriously confused about shutting down.

This might be fine if it’s a case where, once something is learned, it becomes easier, but this is an exception. The easiest way to shutdown in Windows 8 is to hover your mouse over the bottom right-hand corner to bring up the Charms bar. Once there, you click on Settings, then Power and choose your option. The alternative is to logout and then choose the option there.

Microsoft, was there something wrong with offering the power options right inside of the Start screen? A common retort to this issue I’ve seen is, “Just hit the power button on the computer.”, and that’s fair, but useless if what you really want is a reboot. This is something that’s going to lead many to create their own shortcuts to place in their Start screen (the command is ‘shutdown -s -t 0′, for the record; -s is shutdown and -r is reboot).

Modern UI Apps vs. Desktop Apps

Thanks to the fact that Windows 8 employs both regular desktop and Modern UI apps, using two programs for a similar task can be a little frustrating. The best example for this I have is with Web browsers. I use Chrome as my primary, but on rare occasion I load up Firefox or Internet Explorer for the sake of testing a change on the site or some other purpose. Prior to Windows 8, this was never a problem. Some apps might ask you to set a default, but once you tell them to lay off, they do.

Windows 8 - Useless Search

In Windows 8, it’s assumed that the browser you make default is the one you want to use in the Modern UI as well. As such, you’re simply not allowed to use more than one browser in the Modern UI interface at once, because in order for one to work there, it must be made default. So – don’t expect to use Chrome on the desktop and IE in Modern UI.

Final Thoughts

For someone who likes Windows 8, I sure do have a lot of complaints, don’t I? As I touched on before, when there’s a piece of software that people use day-in-and-day-out, there’s going to be a lot of issues that stand out when a major revamp like this is seen. It’s just a given. Windows 8 is the most ambitious OS Microsoft has ever released, and also the riskiest. This is definitely a revolutionary release, not just an evolutionary one, and it may very well take the entire release generation for people to reach their own conclusions.

Windows 8 - Desktop
Wallpaper credit: mediapohl

We may end up seeing more people favor the changes Microsoft has implemented here than dislike them, although as pointed out in this article, there could have been a lot that Microsoft did different to make the transition just a bit easier. A robust tutorial, for example, would have helped things a lot, rather than have just a quick introduction video.

To me, the biggest issue with Windows 8 – aside from the lack of choice between Start menus – is with the lack of customization in the Metro Modern UI. You can’t perfect the color scheme to your tastes, can’t change the background wallpaper, can’t change the sizes of the tiles, can’t place the tiles wherever you want (it insists upon a specific orientation) and you can’t adjust its sizing so that it doesn’t take up the entire screen. That last part is important, because not everyone has a billion apps installed, and not everyone will use any of the Modern UI apps. Having the option to scale the Start screen, then, would have been excellent.

As I mentioned at the outset, there’s a lot to love about Windows 8, too. That article will be posted very soon, because we really need some love to balance out this article!

Discuss this article in our forums!

Have a comment you wish to make on this article? Recommendations? Criticism? Feel free to head over to our related thread and put your words to our virtual paper! There is no requirement to register in order to respond to these threads, but it sure doesn’t hurt!

Page List

1. Introduction & Start Screen Quirks
2. UAC, Search, Shutting Down, Modern vs. Desktop Apps & Final Thoughts

  • BornRight

    There are tons of free third party apps available now that will put a start menu back on your desktop. Try Classic Shell, Vistart, Pokki or Start8, for example. In fact these programs allow more customization than the traditional start menu ever did! For example, you can use a Win 95-style start menu or a Windows Vista/7 style one. You can even boot directly into the desktop bypassing metro!

    ////Microsoft should have given its customers a choice, but instead insists that they adopt this new solution./////

    This is a business strategy. If customers are given a choice, many of them will switch off the start screen. Then, metro app developers won’t get the audience they’d like, so the app ecosystem will not grow and revenue generation will not take off.

    • Rob Williams

      Do you happen to have a favorite between those Start solutions? I’ve been putting off testing some of them out, but will be looking at some soon (will be moving from the preview release to retail, so I plan to do all that testing before the format).

      And… I do agree completely with your second point. It still just burns a little bit. As a consumer who has used the same basic solution for so long, it sucked not having a real choice. Well, aside from simply avoiding Windows 8 entirely, that is.

      • BornRight

        My favorite is Pokki, though I find myself preferring the start screen the more I use Win 8. I may soon uninstall Pokki. However, this start menu replacement will even let you disable the hot corners in desktop mode apart from booting directly to the desktop! That means you can essentially live in the desktop as in previous versions of Windows.

        • Rob Williams

          See… this is the thing. I don’t use the Start screen that much at all, so having it there hasn’t proven to be as much of a pain as I originally thought. The programs I use most are on the taskbar, and anything else, I can open really quickly without thinking about it. I might just end up forgoing another solution. But, perhaps after I install something like Pokki, I’ll feel right at home and want to keep it, haha. We’ll see…

  • BornRight

    ///can’t adjust the size of the tiles///

    You can adjust the size of the tiles. Right click on the tile and choose the option from the bar that appears at the bottom of the screen.

    • Rob Williams

      What I meant by this was having true scalability, to make them as large or small as you want, much like you’re able to do with desktop icons. The entire Start screen is comprised of vector graphics, so offering true scalability wouldn’t have been difficult. At the end of the day, this is one of the most minor complaints I could have.

  • BornRight

    ///We can’t put our own background image in there///

    A Microsoft guy had given the following explanation:

    “Not only would a photo not stretch and scale as you add more tiles and groups and zoom in and out of the Start screen, it would also be covered up so much by the tiles that you’d never see it.”

    • Rob Williams

      I don’t buy that excuse at all. It doesn’t matter if most of the wallpaper would be covered… most of it could be seen, and some people could even create special wallpapers with that exact limitation in mind. As for scaling with the tiles, the wallpaper could remain totally static, and only the tiles themselves move. Or again, people could create huge panoramic wallpapers for use in the Start screen.

      There’s some solution out there at the moment that does allow heavy Start screen customization, so I think I’ll look for it again and test it out. I saw that people were able to integrate all of their Steam games into the menu as well, which looked rather awesome.

  • Rachel Quaill

    I am a passive aggressive and say that okay give it a minute and it might grow on me but I don’t really like it. But it seems, after reading your review, hilarious by the way, I would feel a bit trapped by all of their overthinking. I’m a Mac user and love the freedom I feel. I don’t like the boxes. I just don’t. It looks fun though.

    • Rob Williams

      With new management at the helm, it seems very likely that Windows 9 will be a very different beast. You can tell Microsoft regrets everything about Windows 8 that drove people away, and it’s even fired some of the management tied to the design teams. It’s silly. In this day and age, Microsoft should be bending over backwards, giving people -exactly- what they want. Instead, the company tried to force a revamp on people, and it didn’t bode too well.