Windows 8 Divides – Part One

Windows 8.1 start screenMicrosoft has turned its face away from the enterprise and the stalwart ‘home’ user in an all-out bid for the hearts and minds of a new generation. And it’s not working. Did someone say ‘convergence?’

The battle lines are firmly drawn over Windows 8. On one side is the (dying) breed of PC professional who manages and maintains PCs. For them, the operating system is only a tool for getting the job done and the Not-Metro-Modern-UI interface gets in their way.

On the other side, casual user who uses their commodity PC to surf the Internet, send email, self-obsess on social media and play a few games. These folks don’t give a hoot about operating systems as long as the interface serves up some colourful, fat icons to click to get to an app. Everything these days is an ‘app.’

These folks don’t know the difference between Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer; to them Internet Explorer IS the Internet. Microsoft Office IS Microsoft Windows and file management is a pain. Continue reading

Opinion: Windows XP – Not Dead By a Long Way [Guest Post]

Windows XP desktopPost originally appeared at The Catling MindswipeOpinion: Windows XP – Not Dead By a Long Way by Robin Catling.

Updates for Windows XP will end in April 2014. Yet the venerable operating system that first appeared in 2001 still has a user base counted in the millions, thanks to Microsoft’s own ineptitude and miscalculation. After Vista’s spectacular failure cost credibility with enterprise customers and retail consumers alike, even Windows 7 couldn’t overcome the resistance to upgrade.

With the legacy of all those stable and mission-critical enterprise applications demanding compatibility, stability, and low cost maintenance, corporate customers refused to budge. Meanwhile in economic hard times, home users took one look at Windows 7 (and 8), found no compelling reason to shell out for another expensive software license and said ‘meh.’

So what happens next? Continue reading

How-to: Text-speak

Texting By Alton (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-3.0, via Wikimedia CommonsThe pollution of the English language continues apace (‘OMG, I sound like a member of the Academie Francais!’).

Text-speak and the Internet are driving the latest short-hand in verbal and written communication. Literal short-hand, I mean thumb-typing. You don’t get shorter hands than that.

You may think this is the End of th World as We Know It. Or you may marvel at the ingenuity with which we pack meaningful information, courtesy and etiquette into our messages.

Here follows a few examples. Feel free to use them in front of your kids for maximum embarassment. AJS Continue reading

Opinion: The Whole SEO Industry is…

Vintage Magician Set“Hello Web Admin, I noticed that your On-Page SEO is is missing a few factors… On-Page SEO means more now than ever… wait there’s even more Now what if i told you there was a simple WordPress plugin that does all the On-Page SEO, and automatically for you? That’s right AUTOMATICALLY, just watch this 4minute video for more information at…”

We get a lot of this. If you do, too, try this: put the name of the SEO company into a search engine. See how far down it comes in the results. If it comes up at all. Continue reading

Opinion: New Explorer Ribbon in Windows 8

Windows Explorer 10 Ribbon interface“Once you get used to it, you’ll love it” (Microsoft)

Time for another unpalatable truth. It has been quite a few years, we’re used to it and still don’t love it. How many users do you know who find the ribbon on MS Office a confusing quagmire? Are you one of them? It’s a terrible waste of screen real-estate, with or without the collapse button.  Toolbars were stackable and small enough that you could have all of your common commands available on screen at once. Somehow I’m constantly tabbing around bits of the Ribbon.

It has no logical hierarchy by which to find infrequently used commands. At least in a menu, there’s a parent list of options, followed by progressively more specialized sub-menus; there is a visual flow from top to bottom. Yes, the Ribbon has a top level, but the sub-levels are progressively more random and difficult to scan for commands. The location of commands within the Ribbon issue is hard-coded. You can’t reconfigure it like Toolbars.

This is almost exactly how the Ribbon worked in Office 2007. And is the Ribbon really touch friendly? What about commands with the small icons inline with text? The Ribbon is so not-Metro and yet the concept is the same: a single UI for touch and non-touch users. You either make the buttons too small for touch, or waste massive screen real-estate for non-touch. Continue reading

Opinion: Metro-hating in Windows 8

Windows 8 Metro UII found an illuminating post by journalist Ed Bott recently. Under the title The Metro hater’s guide to customizing Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Bott was scathing not about Microsoft’s latest wunderkind, but of us, the users;

“For me, being productive with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview means accepting a few realities:

You need to learn new ways to accomplish some tasks. In most cases, I think your productivity will increase. Some specific tasks take more steps but are easier once you learn them. I really can’t think of a single common task that is significantly more difficult than using the Start menu in Windows 7.
Keyboard shortcuts really make things simpler. That’s been true of Windows for as long as I can remember, but Windows 8 really takes it to another level.
It’s OK to ruthlessly clear unwanted tiles from Start. If you expect your primary usage to be Windows desktop apps, you can safely remove just about all of those.
The search box is your friend. Seriously.”

Learning new ways goes without saying, Metro is a new interface. However specific taks taking more steps, for me marks the decline in usability of some of these interfaces. More keyboard shortcuts? Seriously? The power user needs to learn a stack more of these? And the search box is your friend? Really? So I have to do even more typing and guessing what things are called in order just to find where things live in this new world.

My issue with this is just how does a user graduate from novice to experienced? I’m still not convinced that the Metro UI is any improvement over a Start Menu. If it’s not on an existing tile, where are the visual cues to get you going? Does this mean for the last twenty-five years everyone who developed WIMPS (Windows, Icons, Mouse, Pulldown Menus) got it wrong? Deride it as much as you like, the big button labelled Start got a lot pf people out of trouble. I don’t like to mention babies and bathwater, but maybe this new generation at Microsoft is a little too keen on re-invention. AJS

For the step-by-step instructions, see The Metro hater’s guide to customizing Windows 8 Consumer Preview.