Windows 8

I’m a Mac user. I tested the public preview of Windows 8. On a virtual machine. Without any internet connection. To make it short: I’m shocked. For the full story …

First things first: Take a look at the login screen of Windows 8. There is no hint how to log in. I’m not sure what the icon in the lower left corner is about (maybe a hint that there is no network connection available?). It is not clickable. When you click, the whole screen moves upward a bit and drops down once you release the mouse button. No login.

There are two ways to get to the login screen:

Microsoft, this is broken! One of the key usability design rules is to give the user feedback about what he or she can do at any given moment.

Once you are logged in, things do not get better. There are still lots of hidden features and strange things:

In the Metro user interface, you get a dock like bar at the right if you move your mouse cursor in the lower or upper right corner. The bar does not show if you move to the right screen border - it has to be one of the corners.

The lower left corner shows a preview of your last running app (or something like that, I did not understand why some apps appear here while others don’t). Oh, and you must not click on the preview to activate it because the preview disappears when your cursor leaves the corner. Just click in the corner.

In the “General” section of the PC settings (how to get there: Lower/Upper right corner, Settings icon, More Settings, General) there is an option “Reset your PC and start over” that deletes all you user data and basicly reinstalls windows. That’s a task I’m generally doing every week or so. So it’s good that Microsoft moved it to a easily available position.

The biggest bummer in my opinion: People (address book), Calendar (time planer) and Mail can not be used unless you have an Windows Live account. No shit, bro! You have to have an Windows Live account to use the address book in Windows 8. Or the Calendar. OR MAIL! (For obvious reasons, when you click on “Flickr photos” in the Photos app, you are asked for your Windows Live account, too.)

I installed some legacy (read: any current) applications and some of them did not appear in the Metro interface, for one of them Windows 8 added a tile automatically. Unfortunately, Windows choose the uninstaller instead of the real application.

To remove a tile, you right click it an select “unpin”, to add a new app, you right click on an empty space and right click, then choose “All apps”, right click the app you want to add, choose “pin to start”. Again, no visual help on that in the interface. And bad wording: You probably want to “add/remove” items, not “pin/unpin” them.

In the non-Metro world (called “Desktop” or “Windows Explorer”), there are at least 3 different types of menu titles:

That’s where I stopped my Windows 8 test drive. I wanted to get a first impression on how well Microsoft did with Windows 8 and wether the bold move to the Metro user interface on their phones works on desktop PCs. My preliminary conclusion is that Metro does not work on a desktop PC at all.

The slide to do something does not work when using a mouse. While I accept to have to “discover” things on a small phone, I want clear visual guidance on the desktop machine. For me, it’s a work horse, not a toy.

Probably the worst thing about the Windows 8 experience is that there are at least three ways to do it for everything: menus, settings, starting programs, … While choice might be good, the several ways are mixed in Windows 8. It’s like simple/normal/expert mode but you never know what mode the next screen will be in. All too often, the option you need is not available in the current mode but when you intend to switch from simple to normal mode you end up in expert mode.

I’m a computer scientist but I can not evaluate the under the hood quality of Windows 8. I’m not a usability expert but I can tell that Windows 8 is of worst quality in this regard.