Windows 8: Full Time Use Evaluation
With well over a month plus of full time use in Windows 8 by not just myself but my entire family I felt we would end the year with a look at our impressions. This was not a review sampling like most Windows 8 articles where the reviewer spent time in a controlled use to evaluate. This is letting a geek, a non geek and an 8 year old as well as my two very non-geek 20+ year old kids spend time using their computers with nothing but Windows 8 and talking to them about their experiences. Microsoft is claiming with their statistics and focus groups that people are getting use to it, lets see how that is working in the real world.
We begin with my wife Lisa, a computer user, even a pretty serious computer gamer but not a geek by any stretch of the imagination. In fact I would say with the exception of her gaming she is pretty close to a typical user. She uses the computer to check email, look at news, spends time of Facebook, does her banking and listens to music.
When we talked about her experiences with Windows 8, she told me how at first glance it looked like a better way to use Windows. She likes the fact that the programs she wants to use is easy to find, right in front of here, not a small icon that gets lost in a cluttered desktop or the start menu. She then explained that while it looked easier to her it did not feel that way. You see almost everything she does on her computer makes use of programs that drop her back to the desktop, she told me it feels like the computer has to take an extra step to function. Then of course when she closes the program she has to take the extra step to get the computer back to the Start screen.
Since one of her primary uses is the Internet, I asked why she was not using IE in the new interface. She explained to me that it felt odd, it was harder for her to access her bookmarks or even just make quick choices in internet browsing, she did however like IE10 in it’s desktop version and that is her browser of choice. In fact of the two apps for the new interface that she does use she has issues. The first is the mail app which she has all but abandon. She feels it is just a crappy program that is hard for her to use, she finds just going to the new Outlook.com site is much easier for her. She also makes use of the news app which she likes the idea behind but hates the way it works. She told me it feels to closed since it lacks the ability for you to add your own news sources, limited to just what MS choice for you. She also hated the fact it is hard to share what you find. The app kind of “pens you in to what they want you to see” we her words. She hates that she cannot print an article or easily email it to someone.
We talked a little about SkyDrive and she does like the new system. She loves how easy it is for her to share pictures with family. No more mailing out the same think 10 times or hoping the people you want to see them uses Facebook. She just shares a folder and emails everyone the linking letting them pic what they want to download. Again however she saw no need for the app, saying it seemed easier for her to work with through the browser right at the site.
I then asked if she wanted me to put her back on Windows 7. “No, I am finally getting used to this and can work with it as it is. Overall it does the job and I do like the new look better.”
Next up is my 8 year old Raymond. Raymond does not care about how a computer works or what an OS does, he wants one thing, to play his games. He loves some of the game apps we have found like Jetpack Joyride, ARMED! and Pinball FX2. However, like his mom he does not like the fact that his favorite games such as Minecraft, Pirates 101 and Age of Empires Online require him to figure out how to get back to start when he is done playing. Even after more than a month of use he gets lost sometimes at the desktop.
My two older girls are also making use of Windows 8 when they come over and have mixed feelings. My oldest daughter uses IE in the new interface and likes it but then again she only goes to Facebook and that is it. She also likes the mail and people apps that show her updates without her having to go look for them. Another feature she likes is the profile sharing system used in Windows 8. She can use her computer at home or the system at my house and her basic information, the stuff she really needs follows her.
The younger of the two girls is a photo buff and she is not thrilled with Windows 8. Again as we have heard from others she likes the new look but she hates the default photo viewer. She does like the fact it ties in her various photo storage locations and accounts but for her the default viewer is to limited and just not easy to make use of beyond seeing a picture. She would have preferred they take the work they did with the photo viewer in Live Essentials and used it here instead. As for her web use, like her sister she is content with using the new interface version of IE 10 but again she really goes to Facebook and maybe some YouTube but that is about it.
The screen shown at the start of this entry is my Start Screen. As you can see about half of the icons on the screen link back to programs that go to desktop mode. That half BTW is about 80% of my computer use. I have found I loathe the new interface version of IE, the icon is just there and never gets hit. I hate the new email program but because I have five different addresses I need to stay in constant contact with I use it. It gets the job done but that is the only good thing I can say about it.
Of the new interface apps I do like the news app is near the top of my list. I agree with my wife that I would like to add a few more sources that I have found over the years but overall I get a pretty good source selection from the defaults. It is easy to give me a customized news feed, even if I want something less worldly like the local high school news. I can tell you I use this app every day to look for news stories for the show and just to keep up on what is going on in the world. I wish it would allow me to easily print a story but that is the only shortcoming for my use.
I have found an app that I am putting a lot of use into and that is the My Plate app, which does a solid job of helping me track what I eat so I can eat smarter. While not a default app it is free and shows that there are some good app ideas out there for using this interface. The truth however is that I spend about 90% of my computer use time on the Desktop and as I said over a month ago I hate the kludgy feel of having to take the extra step to get back to the Start Screen.
Since I am a geek I also look at more than the interface. Windows 8 is leaning, meaner and faster as an OS than Windows 7 and it shows as you use the computer. Every task I do has more snap to it. I really love the changes to the file Explorer, especially the information you get when doing file moving and the ability to pause a big file move if you need to. The built in security software may not be winning awards or be the most powerful but I have found it solid enough for everyday use. Out of all the families computers there have been zero malware infections in about a month and a half and trust me, not everyone in this family is wise about what they install or the sites they visit.
At the beginning of this article I mentioned that Microsoft is saying their information tells them people are getting used to the new Windows, I think they are correct. However unlike them I think this is NOT a good thing. The entire family loves the look and idea behind the new interface, however all of us also hate the fact that using a Desktop app is not seamless and is actually clunky in the way it works. What they are really getting used to is not so much the new interface, that is actually pretty easy, but rather having their OS not work like it should. We are working around a problem, not liking what We have.
None of the kids nor my wife want to give up Windows 8 but not because it is awesome and super, but rather because they do not want the hassle of going back. They like some of Windows 8 and the stuff they do not like they can work around easier than having to redo the system. I know people from MS are probably not reading this but they should, THIS is what people are getting used too.
In the end I guess the question is, would I recommend Windows 8? The answer is not a simple yes or no. If you are a Facebook user, basically you go on Facebook, check emails and maybe listen to some music or watch a show then yes. I think Windows 8 offers for that type of user a very clean and easy to use interface and a great computing experience. If however you use your computer for more and often use programs that will require a drop to desktop then I would say no. The new interface is intriguing but if you are not going to use it then the cost of the upgrade is not justified. Even at the current low price it is now.
Microsoft wanted to do something new, to put some freshness back into Windows and I applaud them for their effort. However at the end of the day while they may have succeeded they did so at the bare minimum and that is just sad. With only a little tweaking Windows 8 could have been a solid if not marginally compelling upgrade, what they delivered fell short of that goal. What makes it even worse is Microsoft seems to know this. Look at the Windows 8 ads, they are all glitz and show but never give you anything that says I need to get Windows 8. Then look at the new Windows Phone ads, these have some substance and show us why Windows Phone is a good choice. It is pretty obvious from this that Microsoft is more comfortable telling us about the Phone than the PC OS.
You will notice I did not spend time talking about touch screens. The reason is simple, most of us do not have them on our PC and I do not think most want them. My conclusions have nothing to do with touch devices because the majority of you do not use a touch PC. You might have a tablet but lets be real that is a different beast.
Microsoft if you want us to move to Windows 8 on our PCs you need to get some perspective and stop listening to your own press and PR hype, look at the reality. I will not tell any PC user to stay away from Windows 8, there is some good stuff here. However I will not suggest to any PC user to move to Windows 8, there is not enough here to make it worth finding a way around the stuff that still needs to be tweaked.