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View Full Version : [mobile OSs] An argument for the Start Screen in Windows 8




DerfBWH
Oct 16, 2012, 03:17 PM
Preface: With Microsoft Surface pricing and pre-orders starting today and Windows 8 being literally right around the corner, I figured the time was right to write this. Note that no matter what I'm suggesting I certainly don't pretend that the Start Screen, and certainly not Windows 8, is absolutely perfect. This is primarily a response to all those who endlessly bash the Start Screen as unnecessary and grab a Start Menu replacement as soon as they have Windows 8 installed, so take this as you may.
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Windows 8 is right around the corner, and third party developers are scrambling to come up with ways to fill in any gaps and issues that Microsoft may have arguably left in Windows 8 since finalizing the code this summer. One big area where many developers are competing on improving are with the Start Menu. The “issue” with the Start Menu in Windows 8 to many is, well, that Windows 8 doesn’t have one.

Today San Francisco based startup “Sweet Labs” has announced Pokki, a full featured Start Menu replacement for Windows 8 that allows users to enjoy an experience more similar to Windows 7 while also giving them the ability to ignore the new “Modern” (previously known as Metro) user interface all together. Pokki certainly looks nice and functional, a great replacement for an aging, but traditional and loved, part of the Windows user interface. Other developers trying to get in on this space is Samsung with their “S Launcher” application, which is essentially a floating Start Menu replacement that is a virtual pixel-for-pixel reproduction of the Windows 7 start menu, and Stardock, developers of the popular Windowblinds application, with their already popular Start8 application.

Now, I have no problem with a user missing the security that the old Start Menu used to provide. It has been an incredibly convenient way to access applications since its first appearance in Windows 95, and became all the more powerful in Windows Vista when the it became an index based, search powered application launcher a la Spotlight on OS X. But there are just some things that the Start Menu isn’t good at, and some of those things just so happen to be things that Windows needed to start doing better if it were to continue to survive.

The biggie here is, of course, touch. Like it or not, touchscreen computers have arrived – and in a big way. Millions of tablets have been sold between manufacturers such as HP, Motorola, ASUS, Samsung, and of course Apple. Microsoft had to start playing this game, they had to get in on this space. And what better way to do it, in their minds, than by turning the Windows that’s been dominant for years now into a first-in-class touchscreen OS?

Hence the “Modern” Start Screen. Completely designed from the ground up to be a full blown touch interface for Windows with gorgeous, animated live tiles, it must have been clear to the Windows 8 team from the get go that this new UI immediately displaced the need for the old Start Menu. All the basic functionality is there – the advanced search based application launcher, the one stop directory of shortcuts, file navigation – plus the promise of being the potential home to hundreds to thousands to beyond of entirely new types of Windows 8 touchscreen applications. The Start Screen, it is evident, is the best of both worlds.

Of course many consumers will cry foul and be abhorrent to change. That’s fine. That’s why these applications exist. But I implore all you future Windows 8 users, please, whatever you do – give the Start Screen a chance. Use it as your day to day application launcher. Try out some “Modern” applications. And, if you get a chance, give it a shot on a touchscreen device, such as the Microsoft Slate. I think you’ll find that while it’s a little hard to get used to at first, you’ll grow to not only become comfortable enough with it to not seek that old school vestige of the past, but you’ll grow to love it. And if not, you can always install Pokki tomorrow.

Windows 8 is right around the corner, and third party developers are scrambling to come up with ways to fill in any gaps and issues that Microsoft may have arguably left in Windows 8 since finalizing the code this summer. One big area where many developers are competing on improving are with the Start Menu. The “issue” with the Start Menu in Windows 8 to many is, well, that Windows 8 doesn’t have one.

Today San Francisco based startup “Sweet Labs” has announced Pokki, a full featured Start Menu replacement for Windows 8 that allows users to enjoy an experience more similar to Windows 7 while also giving them the ability to ignore the new “Modern” (previously known as Metro) user interface all together. Pokki certainly looks nice and functional, a great replacement for an aging, but traditional and loved, part of the Windows user interface. Other developers trying to get in on this space is Samsung with their “S Launcher” application, which is essentially a floating Start Menu replacement that is a virtual pixel-for-pixel reproduction of the Windows 7 start menu, and Stardock, developers of the popular Windowblinds application, with their already popular Start8 application.

Now, I have no problem with a user missing the security that the old Start Menu used to provide. It has been an incredibly convenient way to access applications since its first appearance in Windows 95, and became all the more powerful in Windows Vista when the it became an index based, search powered application launcher a la Spotlight on OS X. But there are just some things that the Start Menu isn’t good at, and some of those things just so happen to be things that Windows needed to start doing better if it were to continue to survive.

The biggie here is, of course, touch. Like it or not, touchscreen computers have arrived – and in a big way. Millions of tablets have been sold between manufacturers such as HP, Motorola, ASUS, Samsung, and of course Apple. Microsoft had to start playing this game, they had to get in on this space. And what better way to do it, in their minds, than by turning the Windows that’s been dominant for years now into a first-in-class touchscreen OS?

Hence the “Modern” Start Screen. Completely designed from the ground up to be a full blown touch interface for Windows with gorgeous, animated live tiles, it must have been clear to the Windows 8 team from the get go that this new UI immediately displaced the need for the old Start Menu. All the basic functionality is there – the advanced search based application launcher, the one stop directory of shortcuts, file navigation – plus the promise of being the potential home to hundreds to thousands to beyond of entirely new types of Windows 8 touchscreen applications. The Start Screen, it is evident, is the best of both worlds.

Of course many consumers will cry foul and be abhorrent to change. That’s fine. That’s why these applications exist. But I implore all you future Windows 8 users, please, whatever you do – give the Start Screen a chance. Use it as your day to day application launcher. Try out some “Modern” applications. And, if you get a chance, give it a shot on a touchscreen device, such as the Microsoft Slate. I think you’ll find that while it’s a little hard to get used to at first, you’ll grow to not only become comfortable enough with it to not seek that old school vestige of the past, but you’ll grow to love it. And if not, you can always install Pokki tomorrow.



zbarvian
Oct 16, 2012, 03:42 PM
I'd like to read this, but can I get a TL;DR version?

Renzatic
Oct 16, 2012, 03:53 PM
TL;DR version.

New Start screen. Ain't nearly as bad as everyone makes it out to be.

zbarvian
Oct 16, 2012, 04:28 PM
TL;DR version.

New Start screen. Ain't nearly as bad as everyone makes it out to be.

Oh. Agreed. I've always like it, though I wish the tiles had a little more pizazz, they're just colored squares with white icons. I wish Windows 8 as a whole had a little more visual flair, actually. It looks super clean and elegant, but I'm already bored of it (after 10 or so viewings).

MacRumorUser
Oct 16, 2012, 04:47 PM
Using finished version for while now as its been part of my msdn sub for good bit of time.

I like the start screen, but there should be a way to disable it, especially in the pro version and for businesses and offices the flashy live tiles screen consumer, not business.

Also as wonderfully tailored to touchscreen it clearly is, the majority of users upgrading are going to do o on regular desktops and laptops. These count for 99% of pcs put there at the moment, and for that huge audience there is no masquerading the fact that with a mouse and with a standard trackpad it's just feels hideously clunky.

Even the way some basic things like power button is tucked away and such. (Until you learn shortcut for it), but its certainly not as quick as the old power button / start menu.

I expect Microsoft to release a patch in Windows 8 SP1 that will give users the option to use old style start menu.

Renzatic
Oct 16, 2012, 06:28 PM
Oh. Agreed. I've always like it, though I wish the tiles had a little more pizazz, they're just colored squares with white icons.

Well, the release version of Windows 8 does have more backgrounds to choose from. Guess that's a consolation. :P

I wish Windows 8 as a whole had a little more visual flair, actually. It looks super clean and elegant, but I'm already bored of it (after 10 or so viewings).

Yeah, I kindasorta agree. Metro, done well, is really nice to look at. But the Start screen? It does get a little old a little quick. There's not nearly enough customization to it. You can organize your squares, choose the base color, and background design. That's it.

...then again, it doesn't have to be super snazzy. It is just a application launcher/search menu after all. I say the same thing about iOS. A grid of icons is sorta boring, and it would be nice to have a few extra features here and there, but it doesn't have to be all in your face exciting. If Apple reinvented it every other iOS revision, people would start complaining they're changing it way too much. All it needs to be is an application launcher/search menu.

DerfBWH
Oct 17, 2012, 01:00 PM
Honestly I love the simple appeal of the Windows 8 Start Screen. I find it to be a beautiful, different take on a touchscreen operating system quite different from anything else out there. Whereas Android is a blatant copy of iOS in some aspects (whether the Android fans like to admit it or not), Microsoft has really taken their own approach and flown with it in a great direction with "Metro". I have to commend them for that.

Agent-P
Oct 17, 2012, 01:06 PM
I agree that people need to give the start screen a chance before completely dismissing it. I've been trying out the Win8 preview on my old Sony Vaio and the start screen works beautifully when left up on an external monitor and my regular desktop open on the laptop screen. I wish my Mac could leave something similar (like Dashboard) up on my external while I use it.

ChazUK
Oct 17, 2012, 01:10 PM
I personally find it jarring and inconsistent to be thrown from a dssktop environment into the Windows 8 start menu then back to the desktop mode when launching any non pinned, non "metro" applications.

I have feelings that Windows 8 will be fantastic on a tablet though.

I'll be sticking to a dual boot Linux (primary OS) and Windows 7 solution on the desktop. Works best for me.

Technarchy
Nov 22, 2012, 04:43 AM
As long as there is a desktop mode, Windows 8 will not be a great tablet OS.

MSFT should have built everything in metro for tablets, including office. The instant you get thrown into desktop mode the entire touch tablet experience falls apart, and ruins an experience that is otherwise mostly done right.

b166er
Nov 22, 2012, 07:37 AM
A lot of new pcs are going to be sold running windows 8 and won't have a touch screen. Blah.

iEvolution
Nov 22, 2012, 07:57 AM
The interfaces should have been separated period. The 'metro' UI is a terrible solution for mouse/keyboard users.

The hybrid interface is ridiculous as well, I mean talk about an operating system that doesn't know what it is. One minute you're in metro, the next minute you're back at the old desktop.

I don't have a problem with change but I do have a problem with it when it doesn't hold any benefit to the end user and further, no ability to customize it.

Windows 8 is better suited for touch screens and its like Microsoft forgot about the other 99% that use mice/keyboards as primary input devices. Windows 8 might be ok for tablets but there is no reason anyone should upgrade from Windows 7 for desktop users.