Dogfooding Windows 8: six long-term Windows 8 users tell all

Summary:We've all read the reviews. Many of us have installed Windows 8 in a virtual machine or on a test box. But how is Windows 8 to use, for real, day after day? We asked six users who've been using Windows 8 daily for their opinions. Their answers may surprise you.

Question #5: How have you tweaked your environment for day-to-day productive use of Windows 8 (add-ons, settings, etc)?

This question expands on the previous Start menu question, to see how our dogfooders are using Windows 8. I wanted to know if they'd customized Windows 8 beyond the Start menu. I expected a relatively measurable amount of customization to have been done by our diehard users, but surprisingly little tweaking has been done.

Perlow: No.

Michael Krigsman: Nothing different from Win7.

Michael Lee: My desktop PC is on 24/7 and has a number of services running, some of which are manually started. I've come home to find that automatically installed updates have restarted my machine (even though they were applied several days prior), meaning any manually started services have stopped running and upon reboot, there is no indication of what actually occurred, only that the system is at the login page.

The first time it happened, I figured I may have had a power failure, but after looking through the system logs, I realised it was scheduled to occur, but without any user prompting. Needless to say, I don't allow Windows 8 to automatically apply any patches any more, which ironically reduces security rather than increasing it.

On security, it's worth noting that if you choose to link Windows 8 to your Live account, it also means that a compromise of one PC can lead to the compromise of the other.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: I tend to keep it basic other than Start8 so when I have something to say about Win 8 my experience will reflect what most people will see.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes: Not much yet. I've tried to keep the OS as vanilla as possible until I get a feel for how best to customize it.

Andrew Brust: Start8, as mentioned above, is my biggest tweak. I have also added a few important icons to the start screen that launch sites directly in the desktop version of IE10. These are sites that use Flash and are not whitelisted by MS, and so require desktop IE.

Question #6: Have you added any touch hardware (like a touch mouse or trackpad)? Do you find that improves productivity or just simply makes Windows 8 usable?

This whole dogfooding project has been about getting a feel for Windows 8 on traditional desktop machines, so I was very curious whether touch hardware added to the experience.

Jason Perlow: Yes, I use the Logitech touch products (mouse and trackpad) and I find it makes Windows 8 easier to use, as well comes in handy with particular apps that are multitouch enabled, such as Visio and Internet Explorer.

Michael Krigsman: No.

Michael Lee: I have neither, but I've found that the new "slide in" menu when right clicking seems to have a lot less functionality than the previous context menus. I've yet to notice any productivity gains or losses, however.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Nope. I'm sure it would be much better with such an add-on, but really what OS should require you to get an add-on to use it properly? I've also heard people swear that Win 8 is great with two monitors. Again, that's fine for someone like me, with tech lying everywhere, but how many normal people have two monitors?

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes: There's some good hardware out there and the touch hardware does help. Problem is, the hardware is having to bend over backwards to accommodate for stupid UI decisions that Microsoft made, rather than complementing the OS. For example, I cannot for the life of me figure out why Microsoft decided that the Start Screen should scroll in a landscape manner as opposed to portrait.

Andrew Brust: I got Win8 installed on my Office PC today and so got to play with the Touch Mouse gestures. I guess they’re still new to me, and my muscle memory is still biased toward older techniques, but I didn’t really find them comfortable and the old tricks seem easier. For example:

  • Windows key + C seems a much easier way to get the charms menu then swiping two fingers from right to left on the mouse. Plus Win key + C is a toggle whereas I don’t think there’s a touch gesture to make the Charms bar go away.
  • Likewise, using a right-click (or Windows key + Z) to toggle between the App Bar being visible/invisible seems easier than a two-finger swipe up or down on the mouse.
  • To get “Semantic Zoom” to work on the start screen requires a *three*-finger swipe down (to zoom out) or up (to zoom in), but I find it easier to hold down the Ctrl key and then do a single finger swipe down/up (or scroll wheel down/up on a non-touch mouse).
  • A two-finger swipe from left to right is akin to a touch swipe in the same direction (i.e. it swipes over the next app). I’m not sure there’s an equivalent for a conventional mouse, but I’m happy to click the upper-left-hand “hot corner” or do a good old Alt-Tab instead.

Next up, Windows 7 vs. Windows 8...

Topics: Windows


In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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