Over the last few weeks I have received many emails from IT professionals across the country about their experience with Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Overall, I have to admit that the switch to the Metro UI by a number of you has not been a happy one. Looks like you’re having some challenges with the new UI and I hope sharing my own experience with Windows 8 Consumer Preview may help others feel more comfortable with Metro.
Before I get started with my own story, I want to point out a couple of really good articles on the new Windows 8 Metro user interface. My colleague, Pierre Roman, also blogged about his experience with Metro on his own blog – Thoughts…but Mostly After Thoughts. Check it out! As well, a MUST READ blog post from the Windows 8 product team is Getting around in Windows 8 which does a great job of helping you make the transition. It also references an earlier post that introduces the new UI to provide a little more background and relevant info.
Ok, now back to my story with Windows 8.
Like many of you, I was very excited when the Windows 8 Consumer Preview was released on February 29th and downloaded it right away. Working at Microsoft, we also have an internal version supplied by our own IT department that we are encouraged to install on our company machines. I did both – I installed Windows 8 Consumer Preview on my home machine (no touch – just mouse and keyboard) as well as on my work machine – a touch-based Lenovo X201T.
My initial reaction after installing Windows 8 Consumer Preview was Where’s the Windows “Start” Button? I had gotten so used to that little icon being in the bottom left corner of my screen, that it threw me for a loop for a little while. The Metro UI showed me all of the things that I was working with in a single pane (email, calendar, instant messages, weather, stock reports, IE, etc.) but I really just kept looking for the “Start” button.
Besides clicking on the apps and scrolling them left to right, my first question is how do I install an app. Funny enough, the old tried-and-true method of installing a CD in the drive worked – I got prompted to install the app, and did so. Windows Explorer is also there and works the same as always, so I can navigate to an install folder on a share or a USB key and also install apps from there. Once the apps was installed …lo and behold – it appeared as a tile on Metro!!! OK, now we’re getting somewhere.
I also learned that apps, when launched, also appear on the Windows Desktop just like they did in Windows 7. All of my apps that I used in Windows 7 worked fine and they all worked as I expected them to – via the Desktop. In fact, for most of my time, the interface that I find myself in looks an awful lot like it did in Windows 7:
When I want to get back to Metro, I simply press the “Windows” key on my keyboard, which toggles between Metro and the Desktop, or the last app I was in. Even better, I can move the apps in Metro so that the most often used ones appear right away on the Start screen (that’s right – it’s a screen with useful stuff and not just a button anymore). If I want to start an app while in Metro, I can click on it, or scroll to locate it (like I used to do before in Windows 7 after clicking on the “Start” button), or just start typing the name and a Search window pops up with a list of apps that match what I’m typing, like when I’m looking for Windows Live Writer and I start typing "live”.
One really cool thing is that I can also try out apps from the Store and find out what others have developed. My kids love this since all of the apps are free to try right now and there are some really cool games out there. I’m hoping to see more over the next little while and so are my kids.
So, what’s my verdict? I have to admit it took a little getting used to. I kind of felt like my wife when I handed her the new remote after I converted a single TV in our living room to a home theater with several components all working from a unified remote. She (and others in the family) were challenged by my instruction to keep the remote pointed at the TV until it stopped sending a signal and were constantly wondering why they had a picture but no sound (receiver not turned on) or the XBox came on when they expected the PVR to (hit wrong button) and so on. It took them a while but now everyone is now enjoying a much richer experience than before. They wouldn’t go back to the way things were.
I wouldn’t either – I’m sold on Metro and Windows 8! Funny enough, the machine I use most often is not touch-based and my Metro experience with a keyboard and mouse is a good one.