Windows 8 Consumer Preview annoyances

I have been running Windows 8 Consumer Preview on a dual-monitor desktop today. I encountered several annoyances. In no particular order:

The Start Menu

If you are working on the desktop, being dumped back in Metro every time you need the Start menu is disconcerting. It is not so bad on a touch slate, because the Metro Start menu is easier to use, but if you are using keyboard and mouse it is more annoying.

I am beginning to understand why this is. Conceptually, the Desktop is a Metro app, therefore it makes sense to start it from Metro. If Windows gets to the point where desktop apps are only used occasionally, this will work fine. Right now though, the desktop side is unavoidable. Explorer, full IE, Control Panel, even the Help app is a desktop app. This is a transitional thing that will be a long-lived annoyance.

This little issue also confirms Microsoft’s belief that touch and tablet really is the future of Windows. It is the big bet.

Horizontal scrolling

Windows 8 Metro has a lot of horizontal scrolling, the Start menu being one example. Swiping this with fingers feels natural, but using a scroll wheel on a mouse is odd because you expect that to give you a vertical scroll. There is a scroll bar as well, but the mouse wheel is easier.

App switching

App switching has been messed up in Windows 8. Long ago, users of Windows 3.1 used to complain that they lost the app they were working on. In reality, what used to happen was that Word would be running behind Excel, and they did not realise that Alt-Tab would bring it back, or forgot that Word was running. Sometimes users would open multiple instances of an app just to get it back. I wonder if we may see a return to this problem in Windows 8? The taskbar in Windows 95 was invented partly to solve it, but the taskbar no longer works because Metro apps do not appear there. If you are in Metro, you do not see the taskbar anyway, of course. Alt-Tab works fine, but users do not always think of that.

An interesting twist on this is that the desktop, from the Metro perspective, is a single app. Therefore, if you are in Metro and summon the column of running apps by moving the mouse to the top left corner and dragging down, only one desktop window shows even if you have several desktop apps running. Oddly, you can “close” the preview desktop app here, but it does not close the desktop or any desktop apps if you do, just removes it temporarily from the preview window list.

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App menus and context menus

In Metro on a tablet, you raise application menus by swiping from the top or bottom. That works well, but when using the mouse you are meant to right-click instead. The snag is that right-click isn’t ideal for bringing up app menus as it might need to show a context menu. For example, in the Metro browser right-clicking a link brings up a context menu:

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In this case then, the right-click does NOT bring up the app menus, such as the tabs and address bar in IE.

The Music app

The Music app looks great, but I have struggled to add any music to it.

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