Eight changes I'd like to see in Windows 8.1 (but probably won't)

Eight changes I'd like to see in Windows 8.1 (but probably won't)

Summary: When Microsoft releases Windows 8.1 later this year, it will include a slew of usability changes designed to address user complaints. I've put together my own list of small changes that would make Windows 8.1 more usable. Maybe they'll make it into Windows 8.2 next year.

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TOPICS: Windows 8
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  • Add a Quick Launch bar to the charms menu

    In earlier versions of Windows, Microsoft has always included a way to designate some of your programs as favorites, with easy ways to get to them more quickly. You could pin those programs to the top of the Start menu or add them to the Quick Launch bar, for example. And for desktop programs you’ve pinned to the taskbar, you can use keyboard shortcuts (Windows key + 1, Windows key + 2, etc.) to launch them quickly.

    Windows 8 doesn’t offer any quick and easy way to get to your favorite Windows apps. That seems like an oversight. Why not offer up some of the ample free space on the charms menu as a place to pin icons for favorite programs? With the new smaller tile size in Windows 8.1, it seems like a logical addition. Here’s a mockup that shows what it might look like.

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  • Add a visual cue for the charms menu

    With Windows 8.1, Microsoft is adding a Start tip on the taskbar. That change addresses a usability problem with the original Windows 8 design, which offered no visual indication that clicking in the lower left corner was the way to get to the Start screen.

    But what about the charms menu? Doesn’t it deserve a visual cue as well? How is a new or casual Windows 8 user supposed to know that the corners on the right side of the screen also lead to important new elements?

    One solution might be to add a visual cue on the right side of the screen that hints at the existence of the charms menu. In fact, why not borrow the same design already used to separate snapped panes? That’s what I’ve done in the mockup shown here. The slim bar only takes up 22 pixels, but those three dots in the center add an unmistakable visual hint that something else is available there.

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Topic: Windows 8

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  • Common sense stuff

    A "stay alive" charms bar option might have reduced the Start button brouahaha - users should not have to guess at functionality without visual cues. Plus, there's no reason not to have a power down tile as a top level control, like you said.
    Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • or

      Microsoft should have left the start button on the task bar like it always has. Even if it only took users to the new start screen.
      Emacho
      • Agreed.

        Ironically, a start button is more ''touch friendly'' too, I love Windows 8 and I've been defending so aggressively that I sometimes forget the few downsides, but this is definitely something that I'm glad returns to Windows 8.1 (Blue)
        Agosto Nuñez
    • How

      about no charms bar at all? Does the charms bar offer me, the desktop user anything Windows 7 doesn't? No. It's a "feature" for tablets that has a stupid name, and isn't something I ever want to interact with. I'm sticking with Windows 7.
      Corona Borealis
      • Not to mention

        The Charms bar doesn't even visually fit in with the desktop and looks like a 3rd party add on from Stardock.

        Bringing back the Start button would put it all in one place. DOH
        CaviarRed
        • What?!

          Charms bar... Hum... I see. So after more than 20 years of computing I'll have to stick with a... charms bar? What the heck is that?!? I don't need to have a new driver's license each time I buy a new car. Nor do I need one that can be driven with a joystick instead of 2 pedals and a steering wheel. No sale for me folks! I'll have my car the old fashioned way that I used to.
          Kostaghus
          • So your new car hasn't seen any improvements over 20 years?

            Think hard before you use an analogy to make a point, because there have been countless innovations and new features in autos over the last 20 years and it has changed the way people operate their vehicles.

            The name is rather dumb sounding, but when has microsoft ever been good a branding.
            Emacho
          • Yeah they go....

            big DISTRACTING video screens in the dashboard, all sorts of amenities for chat services, Satellite and Streaming music services for the naive children(just learning to drive), map services that put you in lakes and all sorts of airbags to protect the easily distracted from broken bones (and in a pinch might double as flotation devices when you put the car in the drink). Aside from handling and anti-lock brake measures , most technology are warrantless measures to keep the prices of automobiles higher than necessary. WTF is my jetpack? That would be real technology!
            partman1969@...
          • But the fundamentals haven't changed

            We still drive cars the same way. Safety features have been added, as well as convenience items. As Kostaghus wrote, we still have two pedals and a steering wheel (on an automatic, at least). At least until self-driving cars arrive in the mainstream.

            Microsoft decided we should all be using touch interfaces, but they forgot to ask us if we wanted them or were even ready for them. I have a tablet and it works well for what I use it for. Mainly consumption. But there are other things that require a desktop or a laptop.

            If Microsoft had done it correctly, Win8 would have determined during installation whether a touchscreen was present and OFFERED to install Metro/Modern. Otherwise, it should have just installed a standard desktop. It could have offered the option when a touch device was added, too. Or even just offered Metro/Modern during installation.

            But they had to force a major interface change down users' throats, with little guidance on how to actually use it. Or consideration as to whether it would make us more productive. Certainly, most people can adjust to it. But for many, it's change for the sake of change, to benefit Microsoft for their vision of the future. Customers be damned.

            I'm not saying it's automatically a bad interface, in principle, but it's implementation was handled very poorly.
            mdsock@...
          • car hasnt any improvements in 20 years?

            No, the steering wheel still turns the car left and right, the lever on the left makes the signals work, the gas pedal is on the right, the brake is always left to it, and if the car is Manuel , the clutch is on to the left of the brake. Drivers seat is on the left, passenger on the right, windshield still in front of the driver, 4 tires on the road. Still has brakes. Need I go on? I guess You are on the side of don't change things were use to. I agree.
            hd82fxs@...
          • There are cars that drive themselves now

            20 years of gradual changes is not as shocking as one massive dose of changes.

            There have been plenty of changes that have affected how people drive, even if the most basic level of features are still there.


            Yet cars are not computers and talking about how cars are doesn't accurately depict how computers change.
            Emacho
          • Manuel the car ...

            ... is he going go to be in Cars 3? I don't recall him from the first two movies ...

            ;-)
            Gravyboat McGee
          • My car

            "Drivers seat is on the left, passenger on the right".

            Not in my car they aren't!

            Adrian (UK)

            I do like the speed of Windows 8, but since I don't use my laptop much for reading the news or gossiping with friends I've never met, I only use the Metro screen as an inconvenient way of getting to the desktop where the real action takes place. I suspect I am far from alone in that.
            Gerrards
          • No stupid changes

            The steering wheel is where it has always been. The pedals are in the same place. No pointless changes for change's sake. The engine is more efficient, but that doesn't mean I have to learn a new way to drive. It's safer now with airbags, ESC, ABS, and so on, but none of that makes me have to relearn to drive. Even where there are new features to learn like how to operate the GPS, if I choose not to learn them, I can still drive the car using the skills I already have.

            I would have thought that after Bill Gates' dumb crack at the car industry many years ago and I think it was GM's CEO who made the witty response, people would be smart enough not to draw parallels between cars and Windows.
            BRC-4c5c4
          • the car analogy, what did you think it was indicating?

            Actually, Kostaghus was spot on with the car analogy.

            Mass produced cars today -- each and every single one legal to drive on the streets of America today -- have the EXACT same basic control layout (interface) as cars from 30, 40, 50, 60, even 70 or more years ago. Steering wheel. Accelerator pedal. Brake pedal.

            Have people *tried* to introduce new control mechanisms/styles/layouts? Yes. Since the introduction of the afore-mentioned standard layout, have any alternative layouts/structures *ever* been successful? No. Changes to the underlying mechanical systems? Yes. Additional features? Yes. But absolutely NO changes to the core basic control interface design. Why? Because the wheel-and-two-pedals interface design is at *peak utility*. It simply *works better* than any alternative design ever created.

            So ... that's my take-away from Kostaghus' post ... yes, we want/like to have improvements *under the hood* ... improvements that make the machine *work better* ... but the INTERFACE that we use to CONTROL the machine is already at peak utility.

            Win8 introduced a lot of improvements under the hood, and I am pleased for that. But the *interface* -- the first (and now second) go round of the "Metro" ui -- is utter and complete user-unfriendly garbage. It's the joystick to the steering wheel. It's a hand-clutch to a pedal. It's different, not better. It's an abject failure of sensible UI design. Changes to the INTERFACE that don't create clear and obvious improvements -- e.g., ease or simplify the process of CONTROL -- provide no net benefit, hence are contra-indicated. It's bad UI design to change things just to be different, and that's exactly what happened with Win8 Metro.

            So, what were YOU talkin about? :-)
            Gravyboat McGee
          • Cars nor computers

            Does your computer have the same interface from 20, 30, 40 years ago? No.

            There seem to be 2 different issues being brought together into one point.

            1) Some people don't like the changes made to Windows8 interface.
            2) The changes were made for no reason.

            The first is primarily an issue of preference and compounded by the typical mishandling of anything Microsoft touches. The second isn't true at all.
            Emacho
          • Think hard before you comment

            Nobody is moving the controls on cars and making the steering wheel square.
            AnalogJoystick
        • Did Siri tell you to say that?

          Survey Says!?
          Smigelhoffen
        • That's right

          The charms should be in the taskbar in desktop mode. Why have two menus?
          AnalogJoystick
      • The charms bar = the start-menu.

        Many people fail to realise this.
        Agosto Nuñez