Windows 8 so far

I’ve been using Windows 8 on my Inspiron Duo for a few months and I thought I’d give a little review.

First off I’m a ‘Windows 8 Pro’ user, I have both WinRT (touch enabled) and ‘legacy’ desktop. I probably fit into an exact Microsoft persona for Windows 8, for leisure I switch my Dell into Tablet mode and happily move around in WinRT. For work time I use the desktop apps with Keyboard and ‘mouse’; Visual Studio, Office, etc. In general I’ve found living with both interfaces to be fine. I’m quite used to quickly switching between WinRT (Win key) and desktop (Win + D). Desktop mode is pretty much the same as Windows 7, the Charm bar in desktop mode has its pro’s and con’s. Whilst I like being able to get to the contextual menus quickly it does, occasionally, unexpectedly pop up when I’m just pointing at the edge of the screen. There are some additional quick menu’s for the mouse user. Right-click at the lower left brings up lots of goodies, such as, ‘Run Command Prompt as Administrator’…which is nice.

Using Windows 8 in WinRT is where Microsoft’s PR machine wants us to live. In general it’s nice. Navigation between the tiles is easy, the live tiles are nice…it’s good. However, it’s not perfect, the areas I would like to see improved are;

  1. Notification of application start-up failure – on the phone if you start an application and it fails to be responsive in a short time the OS kills it. That seems ok on the phone. When running WinRT on a Win Pro devices it feels wrong. I don’t expect to start apps to see them disappear, especially when the device is not running on batteries. I would like to see the kill-time extended when plugged in, and I would like the OS to tell me what/why it’s just killed the App
  2. Auto-hiding scrollbars. This is probably the most annoying problem with WinRT when using it with a mouse. You start scrolling and everything is fine. The scrollbar then vanishes are you’re left clicking empty space in a futile attempt to continue scrolling. You have to wiggle the mouse to bring the scrollbar back. Auto hiding needs to at least be an optional settings, preferably related to the device in use
  3. Quality of the pre-installed application. This one is a real shame. For me, People Hub and Mail are not very good. Mail needs a lot more support around junk mail and general rendering of html emails. The People Hub team just need to use a Windows Phone for 20 mins and learn how to do it properly. The experience is clumsy. Having to select individual destinations to post to is annoying. Having only one view of all streams is annoying, I like to have separate streams for Twitter than Facebook. Having said that, I do like the steam viewer. So come on Microsoft, the apps are not terrible but these are so important to the success (or not) of WinRT we really need some updates and QUICKLY!
  4. WinRT to Desktop interop. This is a real pain. Whilst I’ve no problem with quickly nipping into WinRT to have a quick look at the live tiles (it works well) I do want some of the information to be shown in desktop mode. For example, if I have a new email for work, I’d like to be notified on the desktop. As for having to run two versions of Skype…come on Microsoft, that is just crazy talk. I would suggest we need a set of interop services. The desktop system tray could easily respond to WinRT apps raising a specific type of event. I could see this offered as a bolt-on to the SDK. I think this is technically pretty easy to do and would give app developers and users a chance to make Windows 8 feel like a single integrated experience.

In this post I’ve complained about a few things, but I do really like Windows 8. As many people of said before, I really don’t want to go back to Windows 7 (which I liked). Using the Inspiron in tablet mode on the train is great. Sometimes I go back to my iPad, it’s better at games (my Dell is poor at graphical tasks), and the Twitter app used to be a lot better that trying to use the People hub – although now iOS twitter is grim to use too. Overall I find myself reaching for my Dell more and more. It maybe that Win8 cheats to provide rocket fast start up, but I really don’t care how it does it. All I know is that the iPad is great because it’s always ready to work (or used to until after some terrible OS updates) but now so is my Dell. However, try and run Visual Studio on an iPad, even if you do (via another machine) not having a mouse really makes for a poor experience. With Windows 8 I have both worlds, and I like to being able to inhabit both with one device.

So well done Microsoft…now fix a couple of glaring problems and I’ll be happy.

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