I am happy to report that for the most part, our suspicions and comments were accurate. Windows 8, in our opinion is essentially Windows 7 but with changes to the user interface which is where the biggest complaints, confusion and discussion has been.
Several clients have recently made the jump from XP right into 8 and with some complaining about metro and the charm bar and the corner screen access, we were asked to “Revert” the interface to Xp/Win 7 style if possible.
Now before I give you specifics of things we did to help these users, I want to point out a video made by Brian Boyko. He went through the process of comparing 8 to previous versions and explains why it is actually worse than Windows 7. Keep in mind a few things if you are going to watch it:
1)it is 23 minutes long but worth it if you want to understand the details
2)there is some “language” as he tries to express his frustration.
However, I watched it and the basic gist of the video is that Microsoft changed the interface (to METRO) in order to accommodate tablets and smartphones and didn’t really think about how they were taking away basic user interface concepts away from the pc users. This includes simple things like taking away RED X boxes for close indicators and instead activating “swipe” controls without remembering that mice/trackballs work different than direct touchscreens.
Windows 8: The Animated Evaluation by Brian Boyko
So with that, here are 2 free opensource tools that we discovered in order to help with the transition or at least with interface issues.
The first tool is probably the most important as with W8 there is not START button. Instead, you get the Metro console which is a montages of thumbnails for all your apps. This works great for a tablet with touchscreen, but makes things confusing and more difficult to navigate with a keyboard and mouse.
On top of that, finding things like your control panel, or programs list can be daunting and time consuming since they have moved the locations out of the areas we are previously used to.
Classic Shell (Classic Shell)
Classic Shell is a small program that recreates the start button and programs listing and also restores the traditional windows file manager at your discreation. You can choose from an XP or Win 7 skin depending on what you like. This is a great tool to give the feel of previous versions without losing or disabling the W8 options.
You can customized it as well which will give you lots of choice as how your W8 pc will operate on bootup, which skins to use and what features are on by default or not.
UBit Menu (Ubit Menu)
UBitMenu is an older tool that has been around since Office 2007 was released. However a lot of users who are converting from XP are taking a double hit with moving to the new OS AND potentially the new office suite with Ribbon features instead of menus. The good news is, this addin allow you to use the traditional menus while still keeping the ribbon features.
So with those 2 tools, much of the Windows 7 “Feel” is restored but with the updated engine of Windows 8.
I do want to make 1 thing clear despite these tools. I personally feel that moving forward the Start button paradigm may have to shift in order for PC technology to move forward. That means eventually moving away from start button model and moving to way the more intuitive interfaces work however I feel that Microsoft missed the boat when trying to force it through W8 and it all comes down to 1 mistake. Had they made Windows 8 available ONLY for touch screen enabled devices, then the whole start button argument would be minor and the majority of users wouldn’t notice.
After all, how many PC users at work also have an iPad or Android tablet or Smartphone of some sort that has no START button and have no problems manoeuvring around those devices?
If you have any questions about this article, feel free to contact me anytime.