Funny things happen when you're bored and you happen to be at a Best Buy. Needing some time to kill (friend was looking for something), I went over to their laptops to try out everyone's favorite OS to hate: Windows 8. And it was mostly to play around with the one aspect the haters point at, the Start Screen. So most of my time playing around with Windows 8 was centric to the Start Screen and how it could affect me.
Well, my initial reactions were positive. And seeing how Microsoft still has an upgrade deal on Windows 8 Pro for $40 until the end of next month, I figured why the hell not and install it on my laptop. I haven't exactly played around with it all the way, since my laptop is my secondary computer and it was yesterday I did this, but so far, I have no feelings of either changing it or going back. And since it's always the sore spot, let's talk about the Start Screen and what it did.
Now before I made any real decision on if it would be the worst thing Microsoft's ever did, I sat down and thought about my usage pattern of the Start Screen:
- I like to keep shortcuts of programs I will use in there.
- 99% of the time that I do use it, it's Hit Windows Key, then type in something to search for the program. I only go into the actual Programs Menu if I can't remember what I'm looking for is called.
- Most programs that are in there are those that are usually in my Program Files folder. Programs that aren't in there tend to be in another applications folder that I keep tidy.
With that in mind, I first tested to see if I would lose the first two points. I didn't. So right away, the Start Screen is not going to be a problem for me functionally. So what about the hot corners? I didn't find them annoying and if I'm going to spend most of my time running the desktop instead of Metro apps, the top left corner (which I thought I may use once in a while) won't trigger anything. The right side I'm finding handy, though I do have to remember it's there from time to time. I'm also finding some of the Live Tiles handy. It's like having those gadgets that Microsoft seemed to be tossing before Metro became a staple.
After playing around some more, I began to think about why Microsoft did some of these things. Or rather, what's the most logical reason why the Start Screen is what it is. I came up with these thoughts:
- The Start Screen works like an extension of the desktop. Go look at someone's cluttered desktop (pretend Windows Gadgets are on there too). Now go look at the Start Screen. On the high level, they're not really that much different. Though the lack of folders is kind of jarring.
- Text menus are annoying to navigate by mouse. It's easier to hit a 32x32 icon than it is a 16x64+ item. Not to mention humans are patterned oriented creatures. Sure, text is still a pattern, but when you add distinct icons to the mix, icons will probably pop up much quicker in your eyes than a bunch of text.
- If you lose Start Menu context (by another program or because you accidentally click somewhere else), you lose the Start Menu. You can't, as far as I know, lose Start Screen context until you've launched something or quit the Start Screen.
One other thing on my mind was losing Aero. After thinking about it, Aero didn't really add any functionality other than eye candy. Some elements were useful, like live thumbnails, but the transparency eats into my VRAM budget (1GB is easy to eat up, apparently) and there's no more switching to Aero Basic. It's also easier to tell what's not in focus.
So I'm keeping my Windows 8, as is, no mods. I see no need to change it. And I'm only seeing the hate because nobody wants change and they keep throwing the mantra "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." If we followed that to a T, we'd still be using CLI.