II. Using Windows 8 CP
Concerning the installation of new programs, and how they are listed on the Metro Start Screen
Program compatibillity is of course one of the most important factors in deciding whether to switch to a new OS. I was also curious to see how the Metro interface would handle newly installed programs. So I downloaded and installed current versions of Firefox (9), HandBrake, and Spybot Search & Destroy (1.6.2). These three programs have worked flawlessly so far.
If the program goes through an installation process, a new plain tile with the program's name will appear at the far end of the Metro start screen. If you expect to use the program often, you can drag the tile over to the left end, although that process is somewhat clunky.
One interesting (not sure if good) outcome is that the individual subprograms within a main program get their own tiles. For instance, after installing Spybot I ended up with tiles for main Spybot, the file shredder, the update function, and uninstall. I wonder if it's possible to merge these back into one tile -- install enough applications, and you could end up with hundreds of tiles and tons of Start screen pages to scroll through. The current, "classic" All Programs menu makes for a much more compact lookup experience.
The same three programs (except that it's now Firefox 10) installed and operated just as well in the CP as in the DP. As a bonus, only three Spybot tiles showed up in the Start Screen (the uninstall executable didn't get a tile this time).
Of course, avoiding the need to wade through a proliferation of icons/links in a list of programs is the point of the tree/folder structure in the classic/legacy/stale/outdated/tired/old-hat Start Menu. In this respect, the Start Menu is still clearly superior to the Metro Start Screen.
Some notes on miscellaneous functions
1. In the Win8 preview, putting a CD or DVD in the optical drive has zero effect for me -- that is, not only does the autoplay window not pop up, but the disc isn't even listed in Windows Explorer. (The same discs show up fine in the same PC if I boot into Windows 7.)
2. On the other hand, USB flash drives are found right away. Playing a movie in Windows Media Player (again in Win8) gave me audio that was quite a bit behind the video. (The same file, when played on our TV -- the TV has a USB port -- was much better synchronized, though not perfectly.)
3. There is no Word or Microsoft Works installed, so out of curiosity I tried to open some DOC files off the flash drive. Though I was in the Desktop, a Metro-style popup appeared, inviting me to visit the app store for a program that could open the file. This is in contrast to Windows behavior up till now, which is to ask, in a neutral way, which program I'd like to use to open the file.
#1 is unchanged -- Win8 CP is still not detecting an optical disc in my drive, unless a CD or DVD happens to be sitting there already at bootup.
As for #2, in the CP when you insert a flash drive you hear a little tinkle sound, and a box pops up in the upper right, asking what you want to do with the USB drive. A clear improvement. However, the same movie file (which plays almost fine in Vista and on our TV) still has the audio way behind in Windows Media Player for the Consumer Preview.
I also tried playing an MP3 and an MP4 file. When you double-click on an MP3 in Windows Explorer (therefore, in the Desktop), you're dragged over to Metro for a music app, which invites you to agree to a nebulous "music beta program agreement." And if you click on an MP4, likewise you get yanked over to Metro for a "video beta program agreement." Presumably, this is for a license to use some unspecified music or video app. Happily, in either case you also get the little blue box offering to play the file in Windows Media Player.
Regarding #3 above, when I opened a .DOC file, now Windows 8 (in addition to suggesting the app store) offers to look for apps on the Web and in your PC. Significantly, it also gives a list of possible applications to open the file with (including Notepad), as has traditionally been the case when Windows doesn't know what to do with a file you want to open. More definite progress. But I don't believe for a minute the official
MS line that all of these improvements had been planned for the CP already when the DP came out. If the original intent were not to push the app store hard, why then would the DP have given an app store as the only choice to look for applications to open a file that it couldn't figure out? Somebody with a brain at MS must have come to realize that customers would rebel at being herded into an app store like this.
With respect to the Windows Updates
Tonight I downloaded and installed a bunch of Windows Updates. When the process was finished, I wanted to check the details for each update, knowing that that would take me to the relevant Microsoft page.
Even though I was on the Desktop, IE10 went into what I've learned is called "immersive" mode
Now, in the CP, if you view the Update History and click on the info for a particular update, the browser window opens in the full-eatured Desktop IE10.
Getting Windows Update information
prior to downloading:
Clicking on the Metro tile for Control Panel to check for updates takes you to a screen that merely tells you that there is an update available -- there is no useful information about the update (other than the file size -- not even the name!) to help you decide whether you want to download it right away. Looks like another attempt to get users to unquestioningly download whatever comes down the pike.
If you want actual information on the update, you have to go to the "classic" Windows Update window. To get there from the Desktop takes six actions: click on Start --> Control Panel --> scroll down to "More Settings" --> click on it --> click on System and Security --> click on "Check for updates" under Windows Update. In my Vista Desktop, it takes three actions: Start --> click on Control Panel --> click on "Check for updates" under Security.
There is no longer a Control Panel tile in the Start Screen. Instead, in Metro you reach the Windows Update by hovering the cursor in the lower right screen to bring up the charms, then click on Settings --> More Settings. Now that page contains a button which provides some more details about the Update.
From the CP Desktop, you can get "classic" update info by putting the cursor in the lower-left corner of the screen, then right-clicking to bring up the context menu, followed by clicking on Control Panel, then System and Security, and finally Check for Updates. If you don't count moving the mouse to the corner as an action, that's four steps, or one more than in Vista/Win7.
Now to the most controversial aspect of Windows 8, the (Metro) Start Screen.
Apparently there are tools to disable Metro, and registry hacks to retrieve the Start Menu. It remains to be seen, though, whether these methods will still work in the Windows 8 beta and then the official release. Maybe MS will make it easier to disable Metro and/or to work in the Desktop exclusively.
These did work in the DP, but not in the CP. MS has not (yet) assented to the widespread market demand for user choice in this important respect.
However, they did introduce a context menu containing a variety of useful administrative tools, which you can reach by hitting the hot corner in the lower left and then right-clicking. Now you can reach the desktop Control Panel, for example, with that action. The choices include (among others) Network Connections, Event Viewer, Device Manager, and an administrative-rights Command Prompt. It even works if you're in the Start Screen. IMO this is the biggest single usability improvement in the Consumer Preview.
Lastly, MS has given the user a way to actually close a Metro app
Eventually I figured out that I could get back to Metro by hitting the Windows key, and then back to the desktop by clicking on its Metro tile... so that THEN I could click on the IE icon in the taskbar and THEN at long last click on the red X to close it.
The Metro UI now has a neat feature enabling the user to close out the app: If you move the mouse cursor to the top edge of the screen, the arrow changes to a hand; you can then drag this hand down to the bottom edge and then out to the left edge, and the app image will first get small and then disappear off the edge.
There was one disturbing incident during my trials. After downloading and then running and closing the F-Secure Easy Clean on-demand malware scanner, next time I went to switch from the Desktop to the Metro Start Screen, the "hot corner" at the lower left no longer brought out the Start Screen thumbnail, nor did right-clicking there bring out the new context menu; hovering in the lower-right corner no longer made the charms appear; and after hitting the Windows key and launching a Metro app, trying to close the app by dragging it down from the top edge no longer did anything. All of a sudden, the only way to shut down the computer was to hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete. Hmm.
The next time I tried running this tool (after a reboot), it just kept scanning endlessly. I closed the program after half an hour (in my Vista system, which contains a lot more stuff to scan, it takes less than ten minutes). Fortunately, this time there was no loss of functionality, but there is evidently some incompatibility issue with this tool and Windows 8.
This post has been edited by JorgeA: 07 March 2012 - 12:56 PM