CIO on W8: “I wouldn’t want the start menu back, even if I could have it”


Dale Vile, is Research Director at Freeform Dynamics has posted on about his perspective as a Windows 8 user on the operating system, and to help dispel the negativity which seems to be bubbling up from the online community.

He writes:


As an industry analyst, I do a lot of multi-tasking in the average day, juggle many different information sources, and create a lot of content. This often involves working with survey data and making use relatively complex analytical models. I also do a bit of web development and multi-media stuff on the side, so all things considered, I would probably fit squarely into the category of ‘power user’.

In terms of equipment, I routinely use a dual monitor desktop machine and a separate laptop/tablet hybrid (Lenovo T220). Both of these have been running Windows 8 for a couple of months now, and compared to Windows 7, I have seen productivity benefits in both environments.

Surprisingly, given everything you read about Windows 8 supposedly having been crippled for serious multi-talking use, it’s the dual monitor setup that has highlighted some of the improvements the most. Put simply, Windows 8 is ergonomically superior to Windows 7, especially when working with multiple applications and documents simultaneously across two large screens.

The first and most obvious advantage is being able to access the start screen and system shortcuts from any monitor. Another important feature is the option of having independent task bars on each screen. The idea here is that the task bar on any given monitor reflects the application windows placed on that monitor.

Such changes might seem trivial, but they translate to a lot less mouse movement and head swivelling, which is both faster and physically more comfortable. Once you get used to the new way of working, going back to the old Windows 7 approach of all menus and task management being driven from one ‘main monitor’ seems very awkward and inefficient.

The usability benefit on the laptop when used in keyboard/mouse mode is not as great, but is still worthwhile. The combination of the new start screen and various shortcut mechanisms, e.g. right clicking in the bottom left-hand corner to bring up all systems functions, means that you that you can do pretty much everything on Windows 8 with fewer mouse clicks and less mouse movement than you need with Windows 7. I did find it took me a little while to get used to the corner/edge activated menus, but after a few hours of just getting on with work, it all became very natural.

On a controversial aside, I personally think Microsoft was right to do away with the old start menu, which to me now seems cramped, clumsy and inefficient when I go back to a Windows 7 machine. Being a typical lazy human being that gravitates to the familiar when given a chance, if the start menu was there I probably would have continued using it and failed to take advantage of the more efficient navigation mechanisms designed into the Windows 8 desktop. Now I wouldn’t want the start menu back, even if I could have it, as it would be totally redundant, arguably even counterproductive.

His 14 year old daughter has also been using the Samsung tablet Microsoft gave away at Tech Ed.

On her experience he writes:

A few months ago at Tech Ed, Microsoft provided everyone at a press/analyst gathering with a slate pre-loaded with Windows 8, so I came away with Samsung device and various accessories to play with. When I got this home, my teenage daughter (14 years old) asked to have a look, and about 15 minutes later she declared “This is SOOO much better than my iPad”. I haven’t seen much of the device since because she has been practically living on it, while the iPad has sat there with a flat battery gathering dust.

So what’s the appeal to a socially-oriented teenager who, like all her friends, is an obsessive multi-tasking online communicator?

My daughter calls out a few things about the Samsung that she really likes. Firstly, there’s the versatility. The Samsung came with a docking station into which can be plugged a monitor, network cable, keyboard, mouse, and any USB storage device or other peripheral you want. Windows 8 is then very slick in the way it handles docking and undocking – you simply drop the slate into the dock or remove it at will, and within a few seconds the machine sorts itself out. Great if you are doing homework at your desk one minute, then rushing out of the door to a sleepover the next.

Mentioning homework, the other thing my daughter likes is that the machine runs Microsoft Office, so she can do all of her writing and creative stuff as usual. From a leisure perspective, while she likes the Windows Store and some of the early Windows 8 apps, she has not surprisingly highlighted the relative lack of software available compared to the iPad. However, this seems to be more than made up for by the fact that she can access all the websites that she and her friends visit habitually and “they all work as they are supposed to”, which is an indirect reference to the constraints of Mobile Safari on iOS.

He notes that much of the concern expressed by the media is based on hearsay or just casual use, but that Windows 8 is both better for the normal desktop PC user and also for tablet user, if they are willing to give it a try.

Read his full article here (and help spread it around).

Have our readers who are already using Windows 8 on their PCs had the same experience? Let us know below.

  • Andre Lepage

    I use display fusion on windows 7 and get the same benefits and i get to keep my start button.

    • rsgx

      …and you entirely missed the point of this piece.

    • Neo

      Your precious start menu right? It’s there, just full screen. Same shit, different wrapping. Get over it.

  • IIMurphaII

    All I read was a) you must use a tablet or dual monitor set up to enjoy the GUI b) the GUI is horribly inconsistent and c) the new Start menu breaks you away from any content open on your desktop by opening full screen.

    • Neo

      I bet you read on your iPad, that’s why you didn’t understand anything.

      • IIMurphaII

        Playing the old ‘Apple fanboy’ card, are ya? How original. FYI, I’d take a Surface over an iPad any day. I’ve been following Windows 8 for a long time, heck, I even have had a full, genuine RTM version downloaded for over a month, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna use it. As for the GUI, I’d use it on a tablet, but not on a desktop. I find it breaks my workflow too much. Maybe that would change with a dual-monitor setup, but I dunno and don’t care…

        • lol

          how bout you just stfu you little fag

          • IIMurphaII

            Says the 12 year old…

          • lol

            omgz im 12 years old what a gr8 comeback, dont think i will be able to recover from that /s

  • Fail

    Read it again then.

    • IIMurphaII

      I replaced what I read with my own experience. Each to their own.

  • Njoi Fontes

    Could not agree more with this article. I have also been using Windows 8 since the developer preview, and there is no doubth and once you get used to the side menus, life becomes so much easier than it was with Windows 7.

    • Lasp24

      Lol when i first glanced over the Headline, I thought “why doesn’t this guy like windows 8???” Thanks for clearing it up… completely my fault

  • Frightned

    Spin control in full force. The new UI is ugly. The fact that they have to do SO MUCH work trying to convince people that it doesn’t suck, it simply more evidence that it does suck (meaning it’s repulsive and requires the user to “get used to it.” A good UI should be intuitive, not confusing. Until and unless Windows 8 releases a way to easily and permanently disable the Metro UI, I won’t use it. And I know a LOT of people who feel the same way.

    I installed Windows 8 at home. I TRIED to use it. It’s horrible.

    • just

      What is so confusing about the Windows 8 UI? I find it easy to use and helpful.

    • the person

      you probably installed it on a VM or a desktop with just a mouse. You cannot get the full experience of Windows 8 without touch. With touch Windows 8 is beautiful, wonderful thing that I’m sad I haven’t been using sooner.

      • Bugbog

        Actually, you can get the full experience of Windows 8 with a mouse! But if he tried just mouse alone, pre-RP or RTM, then his experience may not have been all that great.

        I find it rather surprising that a lot of people have based their final opinion of Windows 8 on limited use of the Developer or Consumer Preview, when all the other interface issues hadn’t been released/resolved.

        The Whole point of a Year Long, multiple-release Beta, is for people to experience it’s usage and contribute to issues that they believe need rectifying, then come back after the next update to see if it has been resolved.

        I believe that Windows 8 provides the most complete and polished (not perfect) implementation of a multiple-method UI on a full O.S. currently [soon-to-be] on the market!

        • the person

          going between Desktop and Start screen is still disjointed I will give them that. Microsoft needs to be working diligently to replace the remaining legacy desktop stuff asap. Desktop’s days are numbered that’s for sure.

  • Wheez

    I dont use dual monitors or work overly much on the PC (except some university assignments, but light stuff anyways), and I fell in love with th customer preview. I will probably give it some time before I take on the 40$ upgrade option just to give them a while longer to iron out any early kinks in the software. Probably by the time I get the Surface RT I will upgrade my desktop too.

  • Brad

    I find there to be little to no difference using Win8 vs Win7 on a desktop. For most any application I want to launch i hit the win key and start typing (with the exception of some pinned sites on my taskbar). It works just the same in 7 and 8.
    I do admire the focus on performance and efficiency. Unlike iOS constantly getting more bulky and slow, MS has worked on making things work faster since the tragic release of Vista. And with that apps that run in the Modern UI are sofar are insanely quick and switching back to desktop is simple and you have several options of doing so depending on keyboard/mouse/touch setup.
    All in all I like Windows 8 for it’s speed and way that it will link pc/tablet/phone together in a nice package while still having choice of hardware and software(pro version)

  • Breakingillusions

    smart man :)
    im not going back to windows 7 after intalling the final version of windows 8

  • ckeledjian

    The point that many are missing is that touch is here to stay. In a few years, people will be reaching spontaneously to touch the screen sometimes to operate it, and will be baffled and confused when they realize is not touch enabled. Windows 7 UI is a mouse/keyboard user interface. In the near future, the first exposure of people to computers will be a tablet or any touch enabled device, not a regular mouse and keyboard desktop or laptop, since they will become extinct. Contrary to the way most Windows 8 critics first impressions were, most regular people’s first impression of Windows 8 will be in a touch device. When people approach a touch device they are used to expect new/unfamiliar user interfaces, they expect that there will be some gestures to learn. Nobody testing an iPad or an Android tablet is criticizing the UI and comparing it with Windows 7. They just use it, the see a browser, they tap on it, Internet works fine, the email app works fine, videos and games play fine. That’s how people will evaluate and compare Windows 8 tablets with other tablets, and in that respect, Win8 eats the competition. Before the corporate market makes the move from Win7 to Win8, almost everybody will be extremely familiar with Windows 8 Start Screen, because they’ve seen or own a tablet already. Corporations migrating to Win8 might even change user’s laptops with dockable Windows 8 Pro tablets, therefore replacing both laptop and tablet with a single device. We’ve been through this before: when Windows 95 came along, people who still needs DOS Applications would use a Command Prompt window. Nobody complained that is ‘jarring’ to go from the GUI to a command prompt, and in time most apps got a GUI equivalent. Same will happen with Windows 8. New versions of application will either use the MetroUI design, taking advantage of the cross platform portability, or a design such as Office 2013 in which you can run it windowed or in touch mode, full screen, yet remaining stylistically consistent with Metro. Instead of criticizing, what was the alternative? To make two different OSs, a tablet OS and a desktop OS and not being able to use the same applications in both, fragmenting the platform? Or to make a tablet OS with the Windows 7 UI and be criticised for lack on innovation, and for repeating the Windows Mobile 2003 thing of porting a mouse/keyboard UI to a touch device? I think that MS did the right thing: designed for the future first, provided backward compatibility second, and established the path for a homogeneous, familiar starting point and developing platform for all computing devices from a smartphone, to a tablet, desktop, gaming console.

    • just

      Great writing! I thought I’m reading a novel. 😛

    • John Smith

      You honestly should be writing on a tech site to a bigger base of people instead of the losers that I’ve seen writing about windows 8. I’m a film editor and I’ve fallen in love with windows 8 so I’m absolutely shocked by the criticism I saw about it a few months back. I agree with you 100%

    • sumedh kumar

      Ooohhhh… A long read..
      But well said.. :-)