The Windows 8 'tutorial' is a joke

The Windows 8 'tutorial' is a joke

Summary: Given the huge user interface changes that Microsoft has forced onto users in Windows 8, I'd expected that the Redmond giant would have tried to ease the pain with a comprehensive tutorial. I was wrong.


It's now too late to whine about the user interface changes in Windows 8. They may be "confusing" and put a "cognitive burden" on ordinary users, but for now at least, these changes are there to stay. That means it's time to put down the pitchforks and flaming torches and help people get used to the changes.

Windows 8 represents the biggest and most dramatic paradigm shift for the Windows platform since Windows 95. It's a melding together of desktop and mobile platforms in an attempt to create a single operating system that will work on the desktop, notebooks, and tablets.

Given that these interface changes have been spearheaded by Microsoft, you'd think that the Redmond giant would be the company putting the most effort into communicating these changes to users? One way that it could do this would be to offer a few step-by-step tutorials outlining some of the major changes that users will have to get rid of.

Imagine my surprise when I first booted up the final Windows 8 code onto a system to find that the tutorial led with this:

That's it. No explanation of where the Start Menu has gone and what replaces it, no tips on using the new Start Screen, and no tips on using Metro -- sorry, I mean Windows 8 style apps.

"Move your mouse into any corner". That's it.

It doesn't even explain that moving the mouse into different corners does different things, and leaves anyone using a Windows 8-powered tablet a little bewildered as they look around for the mouse.

When Apple decided to introduce reverse scrolling into Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" the company put a great deal of effort into communicating this change to users. It also gave users a chance to disable the change and go back to the old way of doing things. While I didn't expect Microsoft to put a kill-switch into Windows 8 that would rollback all the changes, I did expect that users would get a tutorial to help them make sense of the changes.

It seems that I was expecting too much.

Back in June, I called Windows 8 a "design disaster." As much as I like the speed and performance gains that the new operating system brings, and despite being rock-solid, snappy and responsive, as a platform to do real-world work on Windows 8 feels utterly unusable. There's too much mystery meat navigation and the last thing I want is for my PC to force me into playing "hunt the app" every time I want to get something done.

If I feel like this about Windows 8, I hate to think how Joe and Jane Average is going to feel.

A bit like this, I bet.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

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  • I really don't miss the start menu

    I have been using start menu for 15+ years. And I don't miss it at all. I wrote a blog post on the subject a few days ago,

    And actually that tutorial is quite enough for most of people. If you use the start menu to shut down your computer, maybe it really is time to learn something new?
    • "YOU" don't miss it.

      And then you patronise people by your smart ass comment "if you use the start menu to shut down your computer, it's time to learn something new"

      Here's something you need to learn, Empathy.

      Just because "YOU" don't miss it, doesn't make other people who do, lesser than you. If that is too difficult for you to understand, or you don't agree, then

      a) You're just too old to change.
      b) You don't like change
      c) You're just not prepared to get used to it.

      But the "I don't miss it" line is a common one.

      But it's not really productive, it's just an arm wave dismissive attitude based on your own subjective opinion.

      Brilliant you've been using Windows for 15+ years. What do you want, a bloody medal or something?
      • Of course the

        Exact same thing can be said about people who complain. All of that is all highly subjective.

        I don't really get it anyway, it is not like Microsoft is forcing you at gun point to install it on your system.

        My favourite nowadays is people claiming it is less productive, or better, the UI is touch onkly and is clunky or even uncontrolable with keyboard and mouse, yet plenty of people do just fine in day to day usage. Are these people all of a sudden great, or are they just open to learn a few tricks here and there to gain the same productivity. And does this not clearly indicates some of these remarks are either due to sheer ignorance or is there more going on here ?
        • Actually, it is NOT subjective.

          There is a science behind UI design. Microsoft broke several of the rules with Windows 8. It IS going to be more frustrating and difficult for everyone to use. It's just that some people will spend time lying to themselves about it. Mostly, I suspect, the marketing team at MS, which seems to be going into overdrive on the blog posts.
          • What "Rules" did they break?

            Did Microsoft break the design barrier of "known entities?" YES. Did they improve from the previous way it was done? YES.

            Just because you change something doesn't make it wrong. While the Windows 8 UI is not as clearly intuitive for those who are used to the past. It is extremely productive and fast once you take the 5 minutes to learn the few tricks it has.

            From a Design perspective, they actually did a lot of things right...

            - They reduced clutter by removing overdone chrome effects.
            - They aligned the text so its easier for the eye to follow.
            - They provided lots of whites space so your eye can discern areas of content.
            - They used different scale fonts to provide a visual hierarchy.
          • Actually, a lot of it IS subjective.

            There are some philosophical reasoning behind UI design concepts, but a lot of the "rules" are still culturally bound. For example, you put buttons on the top and left, because Western cultures read left-to-right, and we typically read top to bottom. Many of the rules follow this same concept. Look at what people are used to, and keep in line with that. That's great as far as it goes, but if you follow it too religiously, then you start to stifle innovation, because sometimes relearning a process is actually a GOOD thing. Initial "ease of use" is not always the most important part of an operating system. As people's idea of "normal" changes, the rules change. I'm sorry, but a lot of UI theory ends up being voodoo science based more on the theorist's opinions than on what MUST be. I say this because so many times, theorists disagree. What is "easier" for a certain batch test subjects isn't the same thing as "interfaces must be designed this way," and looking at the studies over time bears this out.
          • Second

            Time I am being accused of being part of Microsoft. I do not work for MS, I own no stock and I earn nothing by stating my actual science defying experience. It seems your science is either in your head, or needs some updating.

            The UI is dead simple to use, with keyboard and mouse. I don't know how it works with touch as I do not own a touch device that is connected to Windows 8.

            Microsoft being the number one in terms of marketshare on the desktop, seems to disagree with your science, and as a matter of fact, so is the number two Apple.
          • Strange

            Thats strange... I have been a HMI Developer for the last 15 years and Microsoft actually implemented more of their design practices in this than ever before, especially around simplification and what they call "natural interfacing".

            I think you need to start with the understanding that use of a computer in and of itself is not "natural", nor is it in general done in any form that is conducive to normal human function. The use of peripherals like keyboards and mice have gone a long way to facilitating a method of interaction that we can live with, but these still only attempt to "approximate" what we need to do.

            By moving to a "touch-based" interface, we are actually getting closer to a natural form of interfacing, one that blends in with the rest of our lives. Touching, sliding, pointing and moving are all natural movements that we use in our everyday lives, whereas mice and keyboard are only ever used when interacting with devices.

            Another major UI design philosophy is "economy of information", which microsoft is embrassing with this new interface. At a glance I can see how many emails I have, face book notifications, new news stories, files in drop box etc. I am not overloaded with information that is not relevant. If I want to delve deeper then it is my choice to do so.

            Currently if I wanted to achieve the same thing I would have to open my email account, only to find there may not be any messages waiting for me (thus wasting my time), then open facebook, then open my news reader, then open drop box and go through one at a time until I found out what the situation is. All of this is wasted time to me, and I shouldn't have to open applications unless I choose to, and opening an application to find out whether you need to is poor UI design.

            Xerox may have started the trend with this paradigm of interfaces, and at the time everybody complained about it and how difficult mice were to use and how windows didn't feel natural... yet here we go again, around the same circle, saying the same things, accept this time, people are saying the "old way" (which was new back then) is better.

            Having said all of that... if you don't think this is the right direction, how about suggest a BETTER one. Its easy to complain, but its hard to innovate. At least Microsoft are innovating
      • I could easily go in the opposite direction and say

        that you're patroniZing with your holier-than-thou attitude about how empathetic one should feel towards users that refuse to leave their comfort zone and try something new.

        But here's a brownie for you:
        If you simply must have your start menu back, try this wonderful idea here:
        h ttp://
        This method renders a hierarchical menu much faster and compact than the traditional Start Menu.

        Happy Windows 8ing
      • Ease up there turbo

        Sorry, but you just don't like change... simple as that. And I do empathise for you, because I would strongly hate to feel so lost without the start menu that I have to trash the OS just becuse it doesn't look exactly the same as every other version.

        The thing I think you are forgetting here is that NOBODY IS FORCING YOU TO PURCHASE IT. So its not like you are having the OS forced on you and you have to take it. So if you want that crusty old start menu, then you just keep on using Windows 7 and be as happy as larry...

        I just don't see the need for you to trash something which clearly doesn't suit you. Thats like trashing 3D movies because your favourite thing to watch is a sock puppet, and 3D movies just don't live up to the same thrill you get from that sock puppet.

        But seirously... The "do you want a bloody medal" comeback... really? Why don't you just call him a "poo poo pants", that will really stick it to him... or maybe a "I know what I am, but what are you", that will have his head spinning.

        Fact is, time will tell whether this interface succeeds or not, and in my estimation of about 30 years experience (yes, I will receive my medal now) I think it will eventually be the future. When that happens, you will still be sitting here crying about your poor start menu, while everybody else is out there being productive and switching between their phone, tablet and PC with ease because all 3 environments look and feel the same, and their data is shared between all 3 of them in a pinch.
        • Purchasing is the only place you aren't forced

          But everywhere else, Microsoft will try to close the walls around you. They already tried to shut down gadgets on Windows 7 (security? yeah, right). And in other places, as well. Look at the same thing that's happening to XP, Microsoft is trying to close the walls around it (although there, I can say, maybe it's about time, Windows 7 is actually great). And then, every new computer you will buy will come with Windows 8. Sure, you can downgrade. Really? Not everyone can install an OS, never mind getting rid of the old one. In fact, it's one of the main reasons I bought a new computer now, so I don't have to get Windows 8 on it.
          And why is it that you have to do as if every person who doesn't like the new interface is a child?
          It's not about people not wanting change, it's about people not wanting change in a backwards sense.
          • Paranoid much?

            Wow... "closing the walls around you"....

            I dont consider "we will no longer be supporting this operating system (ie creating new patches, after having patched it for several years already)" as "closing the walls around you"....

            Would you consider Ford to be "closing the walls around you" by no longer making FJ Holdens? Nothing is stopping you from driving your classic around, your not being forced to buy the latest commodore.

            Its the same thing.

            But I dont understand how you see this as being "backwards". If you really have to, consider Windows 8 to have an additional smart "front screen". Normally you log in, get your desktop and spend your time fiddling around trying to reach where you want. Now instead you go to this "front screen" which has tiles on it, that update in real time and give you information you may need. Now you just go straight to the "desktop mode" and open it up like a good old Windows 7 environment, and use your old applications the old way.

            To me that isn't backwards, and given the fact that people are providing tools to give you start menu functionality (for those who still need it), none of this is going backwards.

            Live tiles, content contracts, multi-platform consistent interfaces, cloud-based "use anywhere" data access.... If you think that is going backwards, I have to question your point of reference... I can only conclude that for you "Where I am is the ultimate, therefore anything that deviates from here MUST by definition be going backwards" must be a true statement!?!?

    • If you use the start menu to shut down your computer, maybe it really is ti

      Really? Why is that?
      Do you still have an ON/OFF switch on your electronics?
      Maybe you should learn somethinmg new...

      The fact is, most of us use a computer, the way we use a car....
      We get in and drive...
      If you put the igntion key in the trunk, Yes, it's still there but it's a pain in the butt to use it....

      Just becasue an idea is new, doesn't mean it's better....
      Maybe you just don't use a computer to the degree that some of the rest of us do.... your mileage may vary.... and so may the next person's....
      Chimera Obscura
    • What like...

      "%WINDIR%\System32\shutdown.exe -t 00 (-r)"
      Elijah Beale
  • Haha

    How long are you in this business ? Expecting a comprehensive tutorial from Microsoft ? Users however will know how to use it, that video was utterly staged,as any Windows users would hit the windows key.
    • "any Windows users would hit the windows key"

      Do you know how many people still don't have a clue what the Windows and Menu keys are for on a keyboard even though they've been there now for more than 10 years? Just like so many don't know why Scroll Lock key is there.

      If the tutorial is really that lame, then it shouldn't be there at all. They could have done like on Windows 95 when the Start Menu was introduced, you had that arrow on the taskbar that said "Click here to start" pointing to the button. Having some indication of what the different corners do for the first few logins would have been a better introduction.
      • I am not

        Saying the tutorial isn't lame, but since the start button (allthough hidden) is still were it was since 95, the Windows key also brings up the startmenu and the tutorial clearly shows how to invoke the charms bar (where the familiar start button is in plain view) I do believe people will find the way.

        Microsoft to the best of my knowledge never was great in the communications area, probably never will be.
        • "where the familiar start button is in plain view"

          I didn't think of that Windows logo on the charms bar as the Start button until I read a review that mentioned it and I used Windows 8 preview versions.

          First, the logo has completely changed, instead of a flag with 4 color sections like before it's now a tilted window all 4 white squares, even though I knew that to be the new Windows 8 logo, I didn't make the connection with Start and never clicked on it. I'm like that, if I don't know what it is or what it does, I don't touch it.

          And someone coming directly from XP might not even have the "resemblance" as a tip as XP clearly has the word "Start" and a very small Windows flag beside.

          It actually never occurred to me that this was a start until I read about it, also because I knew from the first article I read that despite that the button was gone hovering in the corner and clicking would bring the Start screen, so I never thought to find the button elsewhere.

          The tutorial might say something about the charms bar, but does it say that bottom left corner bring the Start Screen, that top left brings a list of running applications?

          Anybody ran the tutorial on a touch device, is it different with more "touch oriented" instructions telling about gestures and what they do? Because "Move your mouse in any corner" does not mean anything on a tablet with no mouse.
          • No ?

            It even says START right underneath the logo ! What else could it possibly be I wonder.

            Sorry but not buying this.
          • Tutorial on a Touch Device

            I installed Windows 8 on a Samsung tablet a few days ago. The tutorial consisted of the screen shown above and an additional screen that says something like 'Swipe in from any edge' It showed a finger swiping in from the side and the same charm bar coming up, nothing more. It then kept alternating between the two tutorials while the installation finished.
            Rob Prouse