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Windows 8: A Touch Too Far?
I’ve spent the weekend playing with a new Windows 8 computer as well as a Microsoft Surface tablet. My first impressions so far? Isn’t it a pity that Microsoft ruined Windows with all this touch stuff.
I’m going to keep playing with both and trying not to have a knee-jerk reaction. But Microsoft’s big picture with Windows seems to be that touch-capable devices are part of our future, so we’d better touchify everything.
The problem is, what works on a desktop computer doesn’t necessarily work on a tablet — or on a non-touchscreen computer.
With Windows 8, trying to open the important “charms” sidebar panel is consistently a challenge. I have to get my mouse in the right spot and hope that it opens up.
At first, I thought this was a problem unique to running Windows 8 virtually on my Mac. But I found it’s the same issue if I try to use my mouse to open the panel using a shiny new Acer touchscreen built for Windows 8.
In contrast, sliding that panel open when I touch the screen is super easy on the Acer. Problem solved. Just touch! Except, you know, I can’t touch when I’m using an external monitor.
Indeed, I run three external monitors normally as shown above, and that leads to another issue. The Metro / Modern tile-based interface that Microsoft is pushing for Windows 8 won’t let me run different tiles on different screens. Crazy. Windows, which for long had better multi-monitor support than the Mac, now takes a step backwards with its new interface (if you stay in Desktop mode, then it’s fine).
As a result, the entire tile interface that should be the future of Windows 8 is useless to me. But I’m still forced to go into a Start screen and do a lot of pinning to get back to the “old” Desktop-style of work I need. It’s like having one of those horrible layers that phone manufacturers sometimes want to shove on top of Android.
Another example — to close a program, I have to drag it off the screen. Why? Because that make sense if you’re on a touchscreen device. On a desktop, with a big external monitor, that’s instead a huge unnecessary swipe where a click on a close button would suffice.
As for Surface, as I’ve continued to use it, I find myself wishing that Microsoft had gone the Apple and Android route and decided that it would be a different OS than Windows 8. I know, Windows RT (the only version of Windows that you can get on Surface right now) is a different OS than Windows 8. But it feels like the same one, and it’s supposed to have some commonality.
But that leads to frustration. Windows RT doesn’t have many apps, so it’s off to working in the browser — which sometimes wants to interact with the “old school” desktop. Meanwhile, things like PowerPoint run in “tile mode” but when you’re done, they dump you again into a Desktop that can’t run anything. More of my first (and some second) day impressions can be found here: My First Day With Surface, In Tweets.
I just don’t know that we needed to have Windows 8 be pushed so much into this touch-and-tile world. So far, there’s little I’m finding to draw me back into Windows 8 after I left Windows 7 for the Mac three months ago. But we’ll see.
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