Windows 8 Release Preview – Quick Review

by
Inf

The Windows Release Preview came three days ago. I decided to download the ISO and give it a quick run through to see if it’s really as horrible as people claim it is. The short answer: it is. My opinion? It will throw off any average computer user.

Things are seriously different, and not in a good way. I’ll go through the issues I have as we go along. This will be a quick review since I didn’t have time to go through every little nook and corner of Windows 8. It’s also my first time trying it, so if I seem a bit clueless, think of it like how an inexperienced user views the OS.

This review has lots of pictures so bear with me if you have a slow-ish Internet connection. I’ll go through the setup phase to actually having the Metro interface and the Desktop. Let’s see how that goes.

Right, so when you boot up, you’ll see the screens that allow you to install the OS. Fortunately these haven’t changed much from Windows 7 and installing Windows 8 was a breeze and was completed quickly.

This black window greets you when you first boot up. Nothing to be scared of. It moves on quickly. Interestingly, if you stare at that loading animation circle enough, you will experience an optical illusion and see a grey-ish circle on which the white dots are spinning! Might just be me though!

This is the screen that shows up immediately the black screen. Seems familiar? It’s the same as the Windows 7 installation screen. Good! Clicking next leads to:

Nothing great. Click Install now.

So they’re still using Product Keys huh? It’s provided by Microsoft, on the download page for the ISO. Just type the code in there and you’re done. There was a slight delay after typing the code and clicking Next. Either Microsoft’s checking of Product Keys is fairly compute-intensive or there was a background-check with Internet access in the background. I wasn’t monitoring the network so I can’t tell for sure.

Moving on, you will see the License Agreement window. If you have time, read through. Otherwise, check the box and Next.

Alright first issue right here. I am installing Windows 8  for the first time, on a blank hard drive. Why is there an Upgrade option? I wasn’t upgrading! Confusing!

Anyway, to be safe, I selected the second option, which incidentally says “advanced”. That’s not something you’d want an inexperienced user to do. Then again, not many inexperienced people do Windows installs. Ok, enough of that so let’s proceed.

The partition selection window. As you can see, am installing on a blank drive (a VM’s drive actually), but it should be same. No issues here. I won’t partition or anything so I just told Windows to use the whole thing. Next!

Finally! We’re done. Only waiting now. It doesn’t take long. On my VM, it completed in under 20 mins. After this is done, you’ll be shown this:

So you get to name your PC. Fine, I just chose a name, “Inf”. Your PC name and your account cannot be the same thing! I’ll regret my choice later!

I don’t understand why you need to pick a color during setup. I’d believe this would be an option you’d choose after having done the whole setup and presented with the “desktop”. This has no place in Setup. Fine, whatever. I just picked Orange. DON’T DO IT! IT’S AWFUL LOOKING! You’re warned.

Yeah, well, that wasn’t a pretty color to choose finally. Can’t be bothered. Next!

So what’s that? I’m used to see a set of radio buttons here to allow selection of how updates are done. At least that how it was in Windows Vista and 7 I think. They changed that to a wall of text. So after reading through what Express Settings does, I still have no explanation of what “Customize” would do. Anyway, being a tech person, I just clicked Customize. I didn’t anticipate what would come next.

It’s confirmed, Microsoft no longer likes radio buttons. Not a problem. So what’s this? It doesn’t give much explanation as compared to the wall of text I just read in the previous window. I know what it does so I just turned sharing on. More in-context description would help, Microsoft! This is a release preview so I’m expecting this to be nearly final. That window is devoid of any instructions! Not good.

Choices! So someone got inspired by Apple’s toggle switches in iOS apparently and made a square version.No checkboes. You actually have to slide those switches with your mouse. Am I the only one who thinks Windows 8 is completely cut for tablets and not-so-much for desktops?

The choices for updates are similar to Windows 7 installation.

There are now options to control retrieving drivers etc from Microsoft. Normally you’d want to leave this on. I’m just pointing it out that the option to turn this off is now in Setup. For example, if you want your system stable and don’t want drivers to be auto-downloaded and such. Whatever, next!

More choices! If you want to help Microsoft improve experience and gather data on your usage, turn any of these on. Privacy-minded people would just leave it all turned off. Again, I don’t like the lack of information for some of these points. Like the second one. What is actually being sent to Microsoft? It sounds like something I’d want to turn on, but without more information I’ll leave it off.

So many options and choices! Starting to get tiring! At least now, you can turn off “Error Reporting” completely from setup, so that should be one less nagging.

Do note the second set of options, where you can let apps use your name and account picture and the inclusion of a Location Platform. Again, this strengthens the point that Windows 8 is geared towards tablets and devices that have GPS capabilities built in I believe.

You can now sign into Windows 8 with your Microsoft Account (the ex-Live account). It’ll also allow you to access apps from the Microsoft app store and sync settings online to keep your history, bookmarks and such synchronized across machines.

It’s both good and bad: you will have your stuff on machines on the move. The bad? Tighter integration with Microsoft’s cloud, so your data could potentially be uploaded and stored online. Also, when you sign in to another computer for e.g. a friend’s, data could be downloaded on their machines, such as your browser history. I’d be careful with that if I were you and carefully read that Privacy Statement. I chose “Sign in without a Microsoft account” for the time being to create a local account.

I just made the choice! Why are you showing me more information and then a choice again, Microsoft? I think this wall of text is misplaced and should have been on the previous screen. So again, I want a Local account, so that’s what I clicked.

Earlier, I had named my PC “Inf” so now, I can’t create an “Inf” account. Why?! So I have to use some other name and choose a password and hint.

When you’re done with the password screen and wait a bit, that’s what you’ll see. The famous metro interface! In all its glory! On that ugly orange background I chose! Ugh! Anyway, that’s where I start getting lost. What is that thing? It’s a wall of panels! It looks good, but what are they? Apps? Information?

You scroll through that using your mouse whell or a scroll bar at the bottom of the screen (it hides after some time). This is the final point that confirms Windows 8 is mainly for tablets, where you’d normally flick through with your fingers. It’s awkward to scroll horizontally, using a vertical mouse wheel. This screen also doesn’t show all apps available. It mainly shows Metro apps and your custom-installed apps. It doesn’t show the Windows apps for e.g. like Notepad. Weird stuff!

I wanted to access the Desktop and it took some time for me to find the Desktop panel at the bottom. I’d believe that would be the first panel at the top, in the place of “Mail” to allow users to quickly find it. Microsoft thought it was a nice idea to put it at the bottom. Not a good idea!

The various apps I tried didn’t yield much. Most wanted me to sign in with my Microsoft account, such as Calendar. I’d think I’d be able to access a calendar offline but nope. Others like Music, showed me a bunch of covers of albums but no obvious way to play any music. I’m used to seeing a set of Play/Stop buttons and a volume control but none of these were immediately visible on screen. I didn’t want to dig in too much in that since if I move to Windows 8, I’ll be installing my own music player and probably not be using the one in-built.

I fired Internet Explorer and guess what I installed? Firefox! Internet Explorer’s only use – To download another browser! Confirmed! Joking. Internet Explorer has been getting better recently and I hope it continues and supports standards better in the future. It’s on the right track.

So anyway, you can see the Firefox tile added. Again, I don’t understand why it’s not with the other apps, but stuck to things like “News” which I’d associate with live information and not “programs”. Weird design decision.

Out of curiosity, I clicked on the Minimize button on the scrollbar. It’s found to the right of the right-arrow button. This happened! What is that? Everything shrunk down. I think it’s supposed to give you a “global” view of all your installed stuff (I hadn’t installed Firefox at that time). So I think if you have lots of apps eventually, you’d be using this quite a bit.

I was tired of the orange color, so I clicked on the Desktop tile and was shown this. Microsoft is back with nature wallpapers. Hello Windows XP! They’re moving away from the logo-wallpaper of Windows 7? I kind of liked it.

Immmediately noticeable is the lack of a start menu button. This will be a major point of disagreement among users and I believe will seriously confuse average users. How the hell am I supposed to access my installed applications?!

Tentatively, I clicked the area where the start button was. Nothing. What?

You have to shove the cursor completely at the bottom-right to trigger a “hot corner” to show an option to show the “start menu”. Yes, it shows a small square which you have to click on! It doesn’t even activate if you’re just generally hovering. Takes some getting used to, to actually get the activation right. Especially on a VM. Anyway, guess what the “start menu” is!

Yup! That metro screen? That was your start menu! It’s even written at the top! “Start”! Daaaamn! What the hell? So every time I want to access the “start menu” I’ll get a full-screen something shoved in my face? Not good! Not good at all! That’s not a quick way to access apps! It completely kills multitasking! And if you want to go back to your desktop, you will have to click on the tile again. That’s just plain bad design!

Playing around with the desktop, I found that the top-right corner is a hot corner too!

The top-right corner triggers this thing. The bar on the right, understandable. Why is there a huge clock over my desktop now? Makes absolutely no sense apart from covering my apps and icons with useless stuff. Why does the bar have to cover the clock area of the taskbar? If it didn’t, I’d still be able to see the clock, instead of that gigantic space-eating clock. Again, bad design!

So what’s that bar? It shows a couple of options. Click on start? You’ll get the metro interface again! What the hell again! Why are there two methods right on the desktop to access the same screen? Pointless.

I was actually interested in “Devices” but it said something like there is no device for me to send stuff to.

Let’s see what “Settings” does.

What is this obsession with obscuring my desktop and eating screen space? This screen is such a waste! So much white… err orange space!  All these options could have been fit on that hot-corner-triggered bar itself. That bar is useless as is. I guess it gives a quick way to customize your computer. But such wastage of space! Like the two “Unavailable” icons! Why show these?! They only eat space. And the volume icon! The icon is already shown in the notification area! Why are you showing it to me again! Oh and, try clicking on it to see what happens. It triggers the notification area icon! DUH! WHAT?!

Yet another thing to throw off inexperienced users: Power. Before, turning off or restarting your computer was ironically done through the Start menu. I used to think of it as “start shutting down procedure” instead. Now? It’s in the Settings bar. So you hover in a corner, get the bar, click settings, click power, choose. Before? Open start, click button. So two steps now turned into 4. Poor choice Microsoft.

I understand people are not shutting down their computers as often today, but it’s still a poor decision.

So I returned to that bar thing that is triggered by the right hot corner and clicked on “Search”. I thought I’d get a search box or something to allow me to look for files and apps. Think so? Hah!

Windows 8 is absolutely bent on popping up full screen stuff in my face, covering my desktop and disrupting my multi-tasking. What the hell is that thing! It has the same apps as the “start menu” but this thing is actually useful! That’s the “start menu” for me. Question then. Why isn’t THIS the start menu? It’s more useful than the screen with random tiles that doesn’t even show all apps.

EDIT: Turns out, this CAN become the start menu. Press the Win key on your keyboard and start typing an app’s name. It’ll switch from Metro UI “start menu” to the Apps menu.

At least this one shows me all apps, including stuff like “Notepad”. It’s way more useful.

Actually, what’s not seen above is the search box. It’s in yet another panel that hovers over the icons:

I am seriously starting to believe Windows 8 likes to cover stuff with random floating panels! Look at that thing! It takes a third of the screen, shows the same icons I can see on the left and hides useful apps. Guess what happens when I start typing in the search box? I’d believe that the options below the search box will be changed to reflect the search results. Nope! It’s actually the left panel that changes to show results. Whaaat? That makes absolutely no sense.

If the box will change the full screen panel, why isn’t it right in the window? Why is it in its own dedicated panel that doesn’t change! If I’m searching for something, I don’t need non-search-result stuff! I only want my results! It’s pointless to eat up screen space to show me stuff I’m not looking for! That search box should be below the main list of apps, in its own toolbar.

Yet another stupidity: in 2012, a search engine is not smart enough to search all of “apps”, “settings” and “Files” at the same time and present results in a meaningful way. Instead it lets me, the user choose! Why should I? Apple’s designers would laugh so hard at this.

As you guess correctly, if you install a lot of apps, that window will be filled with applications. Considering how much white space there is between the icons, that will will take a couple of scrolls just to get through. So what can you do? You click on the minimize button in the scroll bar and you get to see a global view of your apps. Sort of like an address book of apps:

This is not much use to me at the moment but whatever. Oh funny thing? If I had clicked N for e.g., I’d think it’d show “Notepad” too, even if it is a Windows app under Windows Accessories. It doesn’t. It considers that this panel is divided into 3 classes of apps. The letters on the left only affect apps you’ve installed or other apps like Skydrive, but not applications like Notepad. Uhhh… no.

Another thing really annoyed me with this “Search” panel. How the hell do I get back to the desktop?!

I cannot find a back button or a desktop pane. I actually had to press “Escape” on my keyboard to get back to my desktop! I really didn’t know how to get out of that full screen panel! Again, bad design. Oh, the “desktop” panel is not shown this time, as it’s shown on the “start menu”. Truly annoying.

Right so after all this, I went back to the desktop and explored around a bit. I was starting to get tired. Navigating that OS is a nightmare.

That thing popped up when I clicked the “Network” icon in the notification area! ARGH! It covers my desktop again! With a ton of useless whitespace! Why?! OH WHY?! It gives no information except “Connected”. Not even the type of network for e.g. LAN or Wireless. Just “Network”. Not even my IP address!

I noticed that the cursor changes when I hover near the top of the desktop. So I clicked and dragged. This happened. I have absolutely no idea what that’s supposed to do. It allows me to move my desktop around. Why? Don’t know.

The Task Manager is actually useful!

It even shows you which apps you’ve run recently, and how much bandwidth they have consumed. That’s nice. Although if you’re running suspicious apps… I’d be careful!

The ribbon interface is now integrated in Windows Explorer. It’s not that bad. Quite usable when you get used to it. I don’t particularly mind it.

Alright that’s about it. I shut down the OS and it happened quite quickly so it’s a good sign. It boots up fast too, in like 15 seconds on a VM. Good! But then again, it’s freshly installed so I don’t know what will happen after some use.

Conclusions

While the OS certainly LOOKS nice, even the Metro UI, I think it’s not usable on a desktop. Scrolling through apps horizontally was meant for tablets, not a desktop. You have to scroll horizontally using a vertical wheel mouse! And that list can get big so that will take a lot of scrolling, leading to finger fatigue.

I also don’t like Windows 8’s constant popping up of full-screen stuff in my face and generally obscuring my desktop with random stuff. Screen space is not efficiently used and in some places, there is just plain wastage.

The OS is not cut for multi-tasking. Just to open an app, you have to go through a full-screen panel, do a lot of scrolling then clicking. Not very nice.

I don’t like how the Metro UI is forced on me in the form of a “start menu”. It’s pretty much useless. It doesn’t show all apps, it doesn’t allow quick searching and it’s full screen. Even then, it has lots of white space and doesn’t make good use of screen space.

Instead, the “search” option is more useful for launching apps. Strange that it is called “search”. That will again confuse users: launching apps from a “search” option instead of a “launcher” option or you know, “start”!

The lack of a start button will definitely make things tough on users. There are two ways to go about things on the desktop: the “start menu” and the right-side app bar thing. Try explaining that to users! That they have to do different things from different areas of the screen. Like, launch Metro apps from the “start menu” but launch “windows applications like Notepad” through the right bar. Horribly confusing and am sure tech people will be angry soon! Oh and the lack of “shutdown” from the “start menu” where people are used to find it.

Finally, I don’t like how the hot corners are implemented. On a multi-monitor setup, hitting the top-right corner will be hard. Also, the fact that you can’t trigger the corner by clicking is not good. I’d rather just put my cursor in the general area and click to trigger the corner. There is absolutely no visual feedback to indicate that an action is possible at the corner. For example, when you approach the corner, maybe the screen color at that area could change to another color like, start glowing or something. But no, there is no such feedback.

I end this post with this statement: If Windows 8  is released like this, I will not upgrade. I’ll stick with Windows 7, purely because it allows easier navigation and multi-tasking. I like launching my applications by just pressing the Win key on the keyboard and type the app name. Can’t do that in Windows 8. Also, I don’t like how the Metro UI is forced upon users. When you first boot, that’s what you see. It’s full-screen and blocks your view of other apps. You can’t do fast-switching between apps without having a full screen panel pop up before your eyes, obscuring everything.

Overall, if the OS is released like this, users will be confused. Users will be annoyed. Users will not upgrade. Or users will switch to Mac OS. Linux? Perhaps, but higher chance of them moving to Mac OS instead. I’m starting to think this is true now: every other Windows release is a complete flop. I’ve been using Windows since Windows 3.11. This is perhaps the first time, since a very long time, that the OS caused me to feel lost… This is what I kept telling myself: how frustrating!

  • I stopped reading when you chose orange. Just kidding.

    I know you’re trying to behave like an inexperienced user using Windows 8 for the first time, but please do read the other reviews. Half of your ‘problems’ could be solved by proper use of the Start key. (Yes, those shortcuts should have been detailed here, but they’ll probably add a quick-start guide only on RTM).
    For e.g., to start Notepad, press Start button, it launches the Start screen and then start typing ‘Not…’ just like on Win 7.
    On multi-monitor setups, hot corners appear on all monitors.

    That said, I do absolutely detest Metro on desktop. Full-screen apps is a massive middle-finger to multitasking. Switching between desktop to Metro Start screen to launch apps is a nightmare. The shut-down steps make me facepalm every single time!

    As for Metro, I read a comment once on how to make it less disruptive to the desktop experience – instead of a unicolour backgrounds, make it…. translucent. Think of it.

  • Inf

    I don’t like having to type a name to launch an app, when the said app is not visible on-screen. It’s confusing. That’s not how the average user launches apps. They click on icons or through menus. Typing and pressing enter is how power users do it.

    As for multi-monitor, I admit I cannot test it because I’m running the RP on a VM so it’s not feasible. But does the hot-corner appear at the boundary between the two monitors or only at the corner of the “unified” desktop? What if I have triple screens? I have to move my cursor completely to one screen just to trigger a corner?

    I just don’t like how Metro is forced on users.

    Why can’t the metro panels be integrated to the desktop itself? Like, instead of your wallpaper, you’d have a scrollable Metro background, and your icons and windows are overlayed on top? How’s that?

    Just how is Metro UI supposed to replace a start menu? I know Microsoft is trying to move away from the UI they had for like two decades, but that’s the wrong change. In my opinion, they’re simply forcing Metro on users across platforms with the hope that more app developers will be interested in writing apps for Metro, and hence boost the sales of Windows Phone. It’s not fair to users who are trying to be productive.

  • I repeat myself – hot corners appear on all monitors/screens.
    Drag from top to close Metro apps.
    Hover on top-left corner to switch between apps.
    Metro also has snap-in, which snaps apps to 1/5 of the screen. Only 1/5. They could improve on that.

    With Metro, the key thing to note is that the desktop is just another “app.”

    A tablet OS on desktop PCs.

  • Inf

    Thanks for clearing that up! I couldn’t test multi-monitor on a VM.

    Drag from top to close Metro… they should have instructions for that!