Windows 8 test drive: How Metro won me over

Windows 8 test drive: How Metro won me over

Summary: Microsoft has thrown a curve ball with Windows 8 on a tablet: it's slick, intuitive and actually makes you want to use it. More than that, it manages to keep disappointments to a minimum. So what exactly has the company done to get me interested in Windows again?

TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft

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  • Windows 8 apps

    One of the reasons it confounded me so was my experience of the developer preview earlier in the year. I was using it with a bog-standard laptop and it was missing even the simplest of features that would make it a pleasurable experience without a touchscreen.

    However, I've recently spent a decent amount of time with it on a tablet - and my opinion of the OS has been entirely changed.

    The context-sensitive features and settings (pictured) in Windows 8 are shockingly logical.

    For example, once you know that the right-hand side of the screen is always going to be the quickest way to access the options of any Metro app, or get to the Start screen, or check system settings, navigation is simple.

    Microsoft might not spring to mind as a designer of cutting-edge UIs but somehow it has pushed itself with the Metro interface and delivered something people will want to use.

    It's surprising to me as much as anyone, but Metro really does make you want to flick your way around to see what the OS can do.

    When I did, I was pleasantly surprised to find an alternative keyboard layout geared towards typing with two thumbs while holding the tablet.

    Of course, if you look far enough beneath, you'll find a much more familiar view of Windows in the desktop mode but it's not one you'll want to spend much time with if you're using a touchscreen device. Not that it doesn't work, or is excessively fiddly, it's just not as enjoyable nor as well optimised for touch controls.

  • Windows 8 uses IE 10 as the default browser

    Realising I liked Windows 8 also forced me to re-evaluate other Microsoft resistances I've built up over time.

    Internet Explorer isn't a browser I've had too much time for in the past decade; I switched to Firefox, and then to Chrome, when Firefox got too slow and bulky for my needs.

    But with IE10's 'chromeless' Metro view filling the whole screen this could change. I imagine other vendors are furiously working away to deliver Metro versions of their browsers but until they do, IE10 is my preference.

    These are words I didn't anticipate saying this year.

    That's not to say it's perfect: it bugs me that with IE10's Metro view filling the screen I can't have two instances, or tabs, displayed at the same time.

    You can get around this for now by using another browser in the desktop view and docking it in the side (pictured), but it's not the same thing. Similarly, switching away from Google Mail to another tab constantly results in being signed in and out of Google Talk, but that's another pretty minor gripe.

    And that's what I mean: the OS is by no means perfect — using a browser or other small-windowed app in the desktop view on a tablet isn't the best experience — but there's so much that is impressive and easy to use that I want to keep using it in spite of its annoyances, rather than it being a case of having no choice in the matter. No other version of Windows has ever managed that for me.

  • Windows 8 share charm

    Put simply, Windows 8 makes Windows easy and fun to use again.

    If I don't know how to do something, there's a really good chance I can work it out without resorting to Google or other forms of help, and that can't be taken for granted.

    Sharing links and other content using the 'share' charm (pictured) that's baked into the OS is so much easier than having to fire up another tab or window for Twitter or Facebook and paste it in directly.

    Are there other tools that do the same job on Windows and other platforms? Without a doubt, hundreds of them. Have I bothered to download and use them? Rarely, and I suspect the average user would be in a similar position.

    I don't share half as many links as some of my colleagues, but when I'm using the Windows 8 tablet I'm far more inclined to.

    And if you haven't downloaded some form of social sharing app, no problem, you can share straight to Twitter and Facebook natively using the People hub, which can also be accessed through the 'share' charm.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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  • Edit your Surface article

    This is the same thing that will be on the Surface, yet you complained in it that it wasn't discussed. How/Why are you covering this months after Windows 8 has been unveiled? Are you really only now seeing it for the first time?
  • This article is a red rag

    Wait for the Apple/ Linux bulls to charge in.
    • Nothing to attack

      No detail, just a claim Win8 exceed his expectations and a few screen shots.

      We've all seen Win8, and his expectations might have been really low. All the issues rest of us experienced and concerned about not discussed.
      Richard Flude
      • Each screenshot has a story...

        You did click the screenshots?
    • They're already here

      RF is already in spin mode. ;)
      William Farrel
    • are you ragging us?

      you said it, and a ref flag as well.
      Francois Fermier
  • Good for tablets? What about desktops?

    My main gripe with Windows 8 Metro-mode is definitely the use of it on laptops and desktops. I'm not planning to shift away from my desktop any time soon. I do like the look of Metro, but IMO it is really, really badly planned for desktops and laptops. I should be glad then that they haven't ditched the desktop mode, because I can't see myself being a heavy user of Metro apps on my desktop machine.

    Simple things like closing an app with a mouse being incredibly annoying, and not being able to easily have more than one app open at once will be a pain. Metro is for touchscreens. MS should have thought it out a lot better for desktops and laptops. Why not having a simple close (X) button in the corner? Obviously you don't need minimise or restore, but clicking and pulling to close an app with a mouse is not user friendly...
    • Closing apps???

      Why would you close a metro app? What would you gain by doing that?
      • Close APP

        well it is even easier than 2 clicks. Simply move your mouse to the center of of the screen at the top. your mouse tunrs to a hand. Left click , hold and drag to center bottom and app is closed. once you do it one time you will see how intuitive and easy it is.

        I like the Metro UI on both tablet and laptop. Yes it takes a little getting used to but once you do it is easy. for example close an app is SAME with touch and keyboard / mouse.

        I also love keyboard shortcuts. they are FAST and I used them in Windows 7 so Windows 8 will me easy to transition to.

        just my opion but I cannot wait for Windows 8
        • Keyboard shortcuts are supreme ... even in the Metro environment

          Why not just Alt+F4 to close an app? Keyboard shortcuts beat mouse travel anytime.
          • Alt+F4 exactly

            If you are really a desktop user as everyone is in Windows, many, many times the keyboard is the main interface with the computer. Well you can accomplish almost everything with keyboard strokes in Win8 just as you can in Win7, Vista, XP, or 95. I mean does anyone really use a mouse to copy and paste?? No-they use Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V, Ctrl+X. There are a whole slew of new shortcuts that make navigating Windows 8, if you are hooked to a keyboard. Want to go to the desktop, simply Win+D, etc. Just a little be of learning those shortcuts will eliminate a lot if agravation and also make you more productive. Alt+Tab still works, and Win+Tab cycles through open Metro apps. And like theNewDanger said alt+F4 closes current app just like it does in Win 7, etc. Which is really a whole lot faster than taking your mouse to the top right of a screen and pressing some little x mark.
          • "typical users"

            use the mouse, if they can't find a button, they're FOR SURE not going to try some keyboard shortcut, especially with the F keys, or alt or ctrl, as they KNOW that is what the devolopers do, and hate that the shortcuts are there, and that if they accidentally hit those, that the computer will shut itself off, or wipe its drive. Sorry, no. MOST users will stay with clicking a button, as it's LABELLED what it does, and you can't very well accidentally shut down, or maximize screen or something and not want to, if you stick with those.
          • shut down

            How in the heck do you shut down Win8. I played with it about three different days and found no real reason to change from Windows 7, or Snow Leopard :) Tried Ubuntu for a few weeks. Not bad. Win 7 and OSX are better. I just don't get where Win 8 is going.
        • Close App Tip

          Thanks! I love getting these (kind of) pointers re Win 8 / Metro apps.
          MSoft really, really needs to include a Wordpad file that tells us new users how to get around this new OS.
          Crashin Chris
          • Not to belabor one point.

            But, I'll do it anyway. Alt-F4 really has been around throughout Windows for a very long time. That said, there really should be a list available for ALL these shortcuts available via the source, MSFT. Maybe it exists, but I've not found it yet. That is a good idea. Even a repost by the source... and include similar for Office or any offering. (I admittedly did not do a prior search, but I shouldn't have to). My only 'clue' to knowing this things is by hover-texting over the included API dropdowns and actually reading them. Not really available in this new UI, as far as I can tell.
          • ONE CLICK ONLY..

            Just ONE click only:

            Click the red [X] button.

            NOTHING could be easier than that..


            Win8 Metro has no red [X] buttons..

            Oh well.. back to Win7.

          • one click in metro

            Slide your mouse to the left see the list of open apps, select the one you want to close by right clicking then select close. Ok technically 2 clicks but one basic motion.
          • Windows+tab

            Will also bring you into the open apps section. Windows+d is a good one to quickly get to desktop mode from Metro or any app.
          • Closing apps is easy!

            All you have to do in Metro is drag from the top of the screen down to the bottom (using your finger or a mouse) - app is closed.
            Jim Swarr
          • Shortcuts...


            Granted these are for Windows 7, but I simply went to Microsoft's Windows website, punched in Keyboard shortcuts in the search bar and it came problems. They do provide pretty simple ways to find good help nowadays. It's not the 90's anymore ladies and gentlemen... ;)