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8/18/2014
08:06 AM
Jeff Bertolucci
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Windows 8.1: 8 Things I Hate About You

Latest version of Windows 8.1 beats its predecessors, but oh those grating quirks.
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Is Microsoft's Windows 8 experiment drawing to a close? Recent reports claim the next major release of Windows, code-named "Threshold" and expected to arrive as early as next spring, may bring good news to those who hate the colorful, tile-laden Modern interface, the operating system's most notable and controversial feature since arriving in 2012. In fact, the Modern UI may go away altogether, at least on conventional desktop and laptop PCs without touchscreens.

Win 8's touch-oriented Modern UI, which Microsoft bolted on top of a crippled edition of the venerable Windows desktop, has never caught on with Redmond's enterprise clients, many of whom are either sticking with Windows 7 or are still in the process of upgrading from Windows XP. In a recent blog post, Gartner analyst Stephen Kleynhans wrote that his research firm expects most organizations to bypass Windows 8 altogether, leapfrogging from Windows 7 to a "future version of Windows (perhaps Windows Threshold or even a release after that)."

To be fair, Microsoft has improved Windows 8 over the past 18 months. Windows 8.1, for instance, brought back a less-capable version of the Start button. It was missing from the original version of Win 8, much to the consternation of befuddled upgraders who couldn't seem to find their apps on the new Start screen. A second Windows 8.1 upgrade soon followed. Released just four months ago, it offered more interface tweaks designed to make the OS a bit more palatable to the mouse-and-keyboard crowd.

But even with these changes -- some of them quite good, in fact -- Windows 8's inherent clunkiness shows through. It seemed an ambitious, if misguided, attempt to build a single UI for touch tablets, conventional PCs, and hybrid devices.

If the rumors of Threshold are true, it appears that even Microsoft realizes it's time to pull the plug on Window 8's dual-interface design, or at least relegate it to a niche market and give PC users what they've wanted all along: a faster, better, more secure version of Windows 7.

For some time now, critics have derided Windows 8 as Microsoft's "New Coke," a snarky reference to Coca-Cola's ill-fated 1985 decision to change its cola recipe. Public backlash was so great that Coca-Cola executives soon backpedaled, reintroducing "old" Coke, and eventually dropped New Coke altogether.

But Windows 8 isn't New Coke. It's pretty good, actually, but only on a tablet where its touch-oriented design shines. With a keyboard and mouse, however, it blows. Microsoft shouldn't junk the Modern UI, but rather relegate it to mobile devices where it belongs.

That said, here are eight notable annoyances of Windows 8.1.

Jeff Bertolucci is a technology journalist in Los Angeles who writes mostly for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, The Saturday Evening Post, and InformationWeek. View Full Bio

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JediSQL
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JediSQL,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/18/2014 | 1:02:40 PM
Jump Lists
To a large extent, whether the things I click on are menu items or colorful rectangles really doesn't matter much to me.  What I really miss in the Win8/81 interface is jump lists in the menu.  I end up seriously multitasking, and I don't have task bar space for a bunch of icons for programs that aren't currenlty running just so I can have the jump list there.  If the Start screen tiles had jump lists, I could work with that.

At work when they rolled out Win81 (from WinXP), they gave us "Classic Shell" for a classic start menu.  I find it works really well.  I use the Classic mode, and it has the best of both the WinXP and Win7 menus:  WinXP's ability to make my own menu structure and Win7's jump lists.  I have to admit that I am plesantly impressed.

 
MemphisITDude
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MemphisITDude,
User Rank: Strategist
8/18/2014 | 1:01:13 PM
Re: Windows 8 & 8.1
I recently set up a new Windows 8.1 PC at home and my wife had the same reaction - she's going to give it a try and I'm not. There is a free app called "Classic Shell" that restores the Windows 7 start menu. The PC is set up so my user account logs in to the old desktop while hers shows the start screen. (Speaking of user accounts- that's another annoyance in Windows 8, the attempts to get you to use an online account. This annoyance has forced me to regress from the OneDrive app in Windows 7, to the OneDrive Web Site in Windows 8...)
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
8/18/2014 | 1:00:51 PM
Works for me
I got a Lenovo Yoga when the first version was released. It came with 8. Honestly, it has given me very little trouble. I spend nearly all the time in desktop mode. All the application I use seem to work fine in 8. I found the adjustment curve to be not that steep, but did have to Google a few basic things that were not intuitive, like how to connect to a hotspot.

The tiles interface is something I almost never use, so don't really have much of an informed opinion there.

One thing that irks me a bit though, is that some thrid party folks insist on use of Metro apps. Take Netflix for example. Hit their site with a browser, you get a message that you need to use the Windows App to access content.
ANON1241631011972
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ANON1241631011972,
User Rank: Strategist
8/18/2014 | 12:56:18 PM
It doesn't take much to overcome these issues
While I agree that there are a lot of clunky things about the Windows 8 UI, I think the ones mentioned are all minor issues.   The larger issue is that very few apps are designed for touch. The smaller problem is that Microsoft removed the start menu and replaced it with a button that takes you from the desktop to Tile World.  That is easily remedied by installing one of the after market start menus.  I use Start8.  I have a Surface Pro that I use in desktop mode most of the time.  When I disconnect the keyboard and use it in tablet mode, I use TileWorld--but even then, only for the apps that are designed for tablets--like Nook and Kndle, for example.  If Microsoft could do anything better, it would be to create a ccontextual distinction between apps that are more adaptable for desktop mode vs. ones that are more suited for tablet mode and not try to force everyone into touch mode.  For example, Word and Excel documents willl always be very difficult to author using only a touchscreen.  So, they should simply admit that the different modes are compatible with different types of user applications and optimize around the two contexts.
bjackson310
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bjackson310,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/18/2014 | 12:42:28 PM
Windows 8 & 8.1
Both versions of Windows 8 are a mess.   I'd probably still be with XP if it supported more than 4 GB of memory...  but Win 7 64 works well and is very stable.  My new laptop came with Windows 8 and I screwed with it for about 20 minutes before I gave up trying to get anything done with it.  I blew it off my machine and replaced it with 7. 

My wife's new laptop came with 8 (and a touch screen) and she's been determined to learn it and make it work.  Still, she often finds herself cursing Win 8 becaue it seems to make no sense or lands her someplace she never intended to go.  Then she struggles to get back to where she wanted to go in the first place.  Sometimes she just gives up and fires up her desktop that has Win 7 on it.  Who needs those kinds of headaches?


I suppose most people have now figured out that MS gets it right with every other version of Windows... let's see if Win 9 upholds that tradition.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
8/18/2014 | 11:31:06 AM
Re: the wisdom of a single interface
It's not you. MSFT is just full of hubris. It is that arrogance which allows them to think that they can throw anything out there and the market will adjust to their wishes. There is a reason why millions of regular and corporate users have not switched from XP. And I won't switch from Win7. I'll go to Apple first before I screw around with 8.x
cafzali
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cafzali,
User Rank: Moderator
8/18/2014 | 10:31:54 AM
the wisdom of a single interface
Maybe it's just me, but I never understood how Microsoft thought a single interface, spanning different types of devices and interaction types, was going to work. It seems to me that in its quest to prove it can still innovate, Microsoft tries to convince us that they're ushering in a trend, when in fact they're giving users a "feature" they don't want. 

The computer and software industry hopefully by now understands that people who buy a conventional PC don't want a touchscreen environment because those devices are geared more for productivity than information browsing, which is the main strength of a tablet. That distinction should play a big role in guiding the way an OS is designed for consumer interaction. But, in its quest to come up with one product, Microsoft completely ignored that fact. To me, such an oversight is beyond baffling. 
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