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.

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