Feature: Windows 8 on the desktop—an awkward hybrid



Windows 8’s new user interface has proven nothing short of polarizing. The hybrid operating system pairs a new GUI concept, the touch-friendly Metro interface, to the traditional windows, icons, menus, and pointer concept that Windows users have depended on for decades. In so doing, it removes Windows mainstays such as the Start button and Start menu.

While few are concerned about Windows 8’s usability as a tablet operating system, desktop users remain wary. Will the new operating system take a huge step back in terms of both productivity and usability? Specific concerns voiced in our forums have included the mandated fullscreen view and a lack of resizable windows, the tight restrictions on what applications are permitted to do, and the automatic termination of background applications.

The good news is that these specific criticisms are largely off-base. Windows 8 includes a full desktop with all the applications and behavior that you expect a Windows desktop to include. This means full multitasking (no background suspension or termination), full system access (to the extent that your user permissions allow), resizable non-maximized windows, Aero snap, pinned taskbar icons, alt-tab—it’s all still there and it all still works

The bad news is that the various pieces of the operating system do not in fact mesh together smoothly; the seams, especially between the Metro and legacy interfaces, remain obvious and jarring. For desktop users, the experience remains decidedly mixed.

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