Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Windows 8: pretty interface, not very usable

It seems to me that Microsoft have always struggled with user interfaces. Compared to Apple's elegance, they've always looked clunky and functional at best: too much clutter, too many buttons and ways of doing the same thing.  You sometimes want to yell at them: simplify! I don't need 8 ways to do this, just one for each peripheral (a mouse click and a keyboard shortcut, usually).

I had great expectations of Windows 8, with its tiled interface. Such an elegant solution to the growing plethora of screen sizes and input devices: tiles can be tapped or clicked; tiles can be active (slidey photos) or passive (an icon); tiles can fit different displays, just as floor tiles can fit any shaped floor. Neat.  And Windows 8 tiles do look pretty, with their little sparkly updates and their bold, primary colour icons.

But I can't find anything. I'm supposed to move the mouse to this corner for this, and that corner for that, but how am I supposed to know that? There's nothing on the screen to indicate how I work it. When I first tried it Windows 8 it was in a virtual machine - in its own window.  Whenever I went to the edge of the screen to pull up a menu (which I googled to find out about), my main OS (Max OSX) would shift screens, because that's what I had configured the hot corners to do in OSX.  Note the phrasing there: I had configured.  OSX allows you to configure the hot corners to do what you like, rather than making them an integral, yet invisible part of the main navigation. 

As ever with Microsoft, some great ideas but poorly executed. Stop trying to be clever and trying to be all things to all people.  Now, how do I reconfigure these hot corners....?