Wishlist: Windows 8 Desktop Modes

I’ve been using the Windows 8 Developer Preview for a little over two weeks now, and I’m pretty pleased with it overall. I’ve managed to load up Netbeans, WAMP Server, Opera and several other niceties that I use on a daily basis and everything is chugging alone nicely without complaint. The only thing about Windows 8 that is a bit awkward is launching applications whiles in the Windows 7 Environment.

Classic + Metro UI
Newgen (http://newgen.codeplex.com/)

My Experience

To launch an application, you either need to go to your desktop (in case the icon is present there), or hit the Windows Key (or click the Windows Logo in the bottom left) to get back to the Start Screen and then either type to locate the application, or scroll until you find it. It all works fluidly but not necessarily efficiently. When working and I need to launch another application, I always need to stop for a second, think of my next action and then hit the Windows Key. Most often, this is because I still have a mouse in hand, and the UI Element (Windows Logo in the bottom left) is not familiar (and does not blend well with the taskbar), so I find it annoying to use.

My Wish

What I would like for Microsoft to do would be to offer three modes for the Windows User Experience. That is

  1. Classic Only Mode
  2. Metro Only Mode
  3. Metro + Classic Mode (Current Default)

The current default is Metro + Classic Mode and is a good blend if you really want to get the fully Windows 8 experience, but I think there are a host of users who would appreciate the ability to stick to the old way of doing thing in the short term or for running more complex applications like Photoshop or After Effects, which are not Metro Mode friendly due to the numerous controls. Making it possible to stay in Classic Mode would keep the familiarity with Windows as many know it, and enable users who are not yet ready to make the big switch more comfortable. The old Start Menu and Explorer will still be maintained and life goes on as usual. This would not be too difficult to achieve since all the functionality is still present, just hidden.

Metro Mode however would be the bold, new, fresh, fast and fluid Windows Experience which users can switch to if desired to run Metro Apps primarily or use Metro + Classic when needed.  This could be the default UI for the smaller form factors like the tablets and phones, and users can experience the Metro Apps in all their full screen glory. I also foresee offices that will have Metro Style applications built for their daily tasks, sticking to this mode to get their work done as necessary, e.g. Point of Sale systems optimized for touch, Reception Desks for Hotels, and other functions that are simple yet repetitive and can benefit from a fresh and fluid UI without bothering with “complicated” looking Windows Explorer menus.

Mentioning this to a colleague at work, he made a nice suggestion of probably having this UI choice at the login screen so you can choose switch mode to login in to, instead of always going to the Metro Start Screen, and then there can be the Control Panel option for making the switch as well. I personally don’t know the challenges involved in making this work, but I certainly believe Microsoft may already be thinking about the possibility of this.

All in all, I love Windows 8, and even if Microsoft don’t implement the multi-modes option and stick primarily to the Classic + Metro mix, I will still get a Windows 8 system when I make my next PC purchase, but implementing it will make my reasons for purchasing extremely great.

3 thoughts on “Wishlist: Windows 8 Desktop Modes

  1. I wish they had just done an update to Win 7 with all the improvements without changing the way it looks. Desktop mode is what I want, and it is useless. “Shortcuts to Desktop” do not go to desktop mode, I cant change my wallpaper in Desktop mode or Metro. I cant “Make a New Folder” on the Metro side to group shortcuts in.

    1. I wrote this article early on in the Windows 8 development cycle, and currently at release, I don’t think it is as bad as you make it sound. I believe I can change the desktop background easily when in Desktop mode as we have always done.

      For the Metro UI side of things I believe there are tonnes of updates to that UI that should be expected in the future. One thing that would be interesting would be folders as you said, as well as ability to choose picture backgrounds for your start screen, or perhaps have a transparent start screen so you can see the running application behind it. All in all, I think MS would figure it out and get a balance between consumers and the enterprise (older generation with bigger cheque books).

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