Win8: A beginner's guide to FondleWindows
Tiles for fat fingers, drag 'n' snap, but no meta-widget ambitions...
Microsoft has unveiled the biggest design changes to Windows in the past 15 years, and probably the biggest redesign in its 26-year life. There are also implications for Windows developers – many of you will soon be obliged to learn the Ways of the Script Kiddie. These are huge changes and you should have a look yourself.
What follows is an opinionated summary of the most important bits. Microsoft's codename for Windows 8 is er ... "Windows 8", which gives Redmond the option of calling it "Windows Mayan Apocalypse Edition", or some other brainstorm from their strategy boutique. But it's unavoidably going to be called, now and forever, FondleWindows.
The new start screen is exactly what you'd expect: a Windows Phone7-style finger UI, with more tiles, as befits a slate or laptop with a touch screen. And extensive use of that OVERLARGESegoe font.
Once you have a decided to create a direct manipulation UI, there just aren't a lot of different ways of do things. You can have different gestures, and put the buttons in different places – but they're going to look 'n' feel pretty similar – just as what were once called WIMP (Windows Icons Pull-down Menus) user interfaces were all really fairly similar.
"Tiles are better than icons," insists Microsoft's Jensen Harris in the introductory video, which you can skip to below. But that's only true for some things some of the time. It's true for things you need to monitor. But there are many other times, for example when you just want to import and review some photos, or crank up a music program, where this information is superfluous. All you want is a nice big icon to slap. The rest is superfluous, information-for-the-sake-of-it stuff that's a sign of social-media-itis.
Task switching is achieved by dragging from the edge to the middle of the screen, which is nice and simple. An equally simple gesture snaps windows next to each other.
What world+dog currently recognises as a Windows app effectively becomes a "WINOLDAP" – which if you remember, was Microsoft's cute term for DOS apps running under Windows. It runs alongside the new style apps and can share screen space with them, as we see here.
This immediately raises some questions. While Microsoft insisted this week that "it's not two shells", it is still two radically different input methods and designs. Input methods and applications are still things that come between you and your data.
Next page: Two thumbs are better than...
Touch is not the best interface for everything.
I just don't get it. Has the entire industry lost their minds here. Sure touch is a hand interface in certain specific instances, but to be honest surfing the web on a phone was easier with the old touchscreen & stylus setup. On an office desktop is ridiculous and exactly who wants to interact with their tv by getting thumbprints everywhere.
I really can't think of anything I do with my PC, squeezebox, laptop netbook that would be helped by interacting with my thumb. Hell I don't even rate it on the phone, you obscure half the screen with your thumb and half the time end up hitting the wrong thing. Perhaps it's viable if you dumb down the UI/webpage and have a girlie hands. Sure its handy when you're on the tube or walking somewhere and of course if great for a Epos system and so on but for doing anything more complex - such as writing this reply it is just a pain in the rear.
I don't get it
I might just be being dense, and feel free to call me on it if I am, but...
There's all this showcase of FondleWindows' touch screen interface, but 98% of the world don't have touchscreen computers. 98% of the world sit at a desk using a keyboard and a mouse on a monitor that's a couple of feet away. Any chance of seeing what the UI that, almost everybody, is going to be using?
WinFS looked great - was disappointed when it was dropped from Vista and then just killed off...
... And didn't Lord Saviour Jobs say t'other day that he wanted to kill off the idea of the filesystem?
Windows 8 looks fine for Fondleslabs - but I'll stick with the Win 7 UI for desk/laptop machines with keyboards and meeces... Maybe I'm just getting old...