Don't hate Windows 8!

Summary:Windows 8 takes a lot of getting used to, but it's the best OS made by Microsoft, and could be the best OS ever made by anyone...

Windows 8 is really hard to get used to. Really, really hard.

Don't get me wrong, even when when you're running through the install process, Windows 8 looks absolutely fabulous. Never before has so much elegance been wrought from such basic use of colour and typography. It's beautiful from the get-go.

But when you get to the Start screen -- well, it's really that where it starts to fall apart for people.

I started using Windows 8 full-time on March 1st 2012, just under eight months ago. Soon after starting I wrote a particularly harsh article about what I thought of it. Over the weeks and months that followed, I grew to really enjoy using Windows 8 and -- in all honesty -- regretted being quite so harsh.

(For clarity, I use a MacBook Pro hardware and OS X, with Windows 8 virtualised. All of my Windows development is done in a VM, all my "open web" and non-Microsoft device work is done outside of the VM.)

The Start Screen

Most of the public ire towards Windows 8 is focused on the new, modal Start screen. But I hope you will come to realise that it's is actually a much better task switcher than the Start menu in Windows 7 and Windows XP. The Old Windows Start menu is fiddly, fussy, and arcane. Have you ever tried getting a novice user to find Paint in the Start menu? It's like one of those wire-loop games that buzzes when you go off track and get sent back to the beginning.

And, I'll bear my soul for you on this despite much ribbing I got on Twitter for it, I had no idea that on the Windows 7 Start menu you could just type and it would find apps for you. Yes, apparently you can press the Start button and just type "notepad" and it'll find Notepad for you. What I learned was that people who loves the Start menu tended to do that, but hardly any non-technologists knew about this feature. And guess what - that same feature is in Windows 8. Hit the Win key, start typing, and off you go.

In summary, the Start menu won't make or break Windows 8, and people will get used to it. Some others will make money making replacement quasi-Start menus for Old Windows. Good for them.

Dualism

My problem was never really with the Start menu. What I could not understand was this dualism of the Old Windows way and the New Windows way. (New Windows, by the way, refers to the Metro-style/Previously-differently-named-style apps that work full screen on Windows 8 and Windows RT.) A couple of months after using it I suddenly understood why it was like that, stopped struggling against it, and I've never looked back.

Coming at it cold, what we technologists don't understand is "who is going to use these New Windows" apps on the desktop when you have a "proper" PC underneath. Non-technologists, for what it's worth, won't care.

Microsoft's problem is that if you're trying to transition over to a world where the PC becomes an archaic irrelevancy you have to be bold. And Windows 8 is smack-bang in the middle of that transition. It's neither one thing nor the other for the specific reason that both Old Windows and New Windows are relevant today. Go back ten years, New Windows would be too futuristic and out of kilter with the hardware. Go forward ten years and hardly anyone will be using an OS that looks like Old Windows today. (Well, maybe 20 years.) And that includes OS X and the various Linux front-ends that are WIMP in nature. They'll also die off, or have to negotiate the inventor's dilemma.

It's that fact that we all have to make peace with when thinking about Windows 8. There isn't a better way of making Old Windows and New Windows work together. What Microsoft has come up with is the least-awful way of doing it. Which I mean kindly.

Don't hate it!

Since September 2011, there have been four versions of Windows 8 -- Developer Preview, then Consumer Preview at the end of February, then RTM in August. One problem with this schedule is that it takes between six to eight weeks to get used to Windows 8.

As soon as a new drop of the OS hits all of the amateur and professional pundits pile on to comment. Because Windows 8 is so weird, most of these articles end up being negative. I do wonder how many writers have crafted a piece that's harsh on Windows 8 when they started using it, only to look back and regret it weeks later just like I did.

The wave of anxiety never calms down firstly because of the time for the user to reach acceptance, and also because Microsoft has consistently created a vacuum with regards to facts about the OS. That just breeds speculation.

No one ever likes the new versions of Windows when they're released, and business never buy them for years. Windows 8 will be judged in 2018, not 2013 .

So that's my advice really. If you're new to Windows 8, don't give it the hate. Sit back, relax, and in a few weeks I'm sure you'll be loving the whole Windows 8 groove. And definitely, definitely don't downgrade if you buy a new machine with Windows 8 pre-installed. You'll be missing out on a fantastic operating system.

What do you think? Post a comment, or talk to me on Twitter: @mbrit.

Image credit: Wikimedia

Topics: Windows

About

Matt Baxter-Reynolds is a mobile software development consultant and technology sociologist based in the UK. His latest book -- "Death of the PC" -- is available on Amazon now.

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