Microsoft is preparing an update to Windows 8 for release later this
year. It says the changes are designed to address complaints and
confusion with the new operating system.
Windows 8 is the most
radical overhaul of Microsoft's operating system since Windows 95 came
out nearly two decades ago. It was revamped to embrace the types of
touch-screen controls popular on smartphones and tablet computers,
devices that are siphoning sales from the desktop and laptop PCs that
have been Microsoft's traditional stronghold. Windows 8 was released
with much fanfare in October, but got a lukewarm reception from
Part of the problem is that Windows 8 tries to be all
things to all people. It's designed to respond to touch-screen controls,
but it also works with traditional mouse and keyboard commands. It
offers a new layout that resembles tablet computers, but it also has a
desktop mode that looks like previous versions of Windows. What results
In addition, many of the controls to launch programs
and change settings have been tucked away. That gives Windows 8 a
cleaner look, but it also requires people to do more work finding all
Microsoft isn't saying much about what the new
Windows 8 will have. Nor will it say whether it will charge for the
upgrade. What the Redmond, Wash., company will say is that it's
responding to customer feedback in developing the update.
Here's a look at some of that feedback and possible solutions in the coming update:
1. There's no central place for launching programs and changing settings.
8 features a new start page that takes over the entire screen. The page
is filled with boxes, or tiles, for accessing your favorite programs.
But to get to programs you use less often, you need to slide up a menu
from the bottom, click on "All apps" and find the one you want. When
you're already using a program, such as a Web browser, you have to
switch back to this start page to launch a different one, even if it's
one of your favorites. To access settings, you need to slide over a set
of icons, known as charms, from the right of the screen.
contrast, past versions of Windows have a "start" button on the lower
left corner, which allowed quick access to programs and settings without
interrupting your workflow. That button is always there as you move
from program to program.
Restore the start button.
Don't make people figure out where everything is. Make it easy for them
to see where to "start."
2. Microsoft is
encouraging people to use the new tablet-style layout filled with tiles,
but many programs are designed for the older, desktop mode. That's the
case even with Microsoft's popular Office suite of business tools,
despite the fact that the latest version of Office came out months after
Windows 8 comes out.
As a result, using Windows 8 feels like
running two different computers on the same machine, as the tile and
desktop modes don't communicate well with each other. Consider
Microsoft's Internet Explorer 10 browser. Web pages you open in desktop
mode won't appear when you switch to the browser in the tile mode.
Because many popular programs run only in desktop mode, it would make
sense to do most of your computing there, but Windows 8 always forces
you into tile mode when you start the machine.
people to enter the desktop mode automatically when they start their
machines. Over time, people may get more comfortable with tile mode and
may want to switch, but don't force it on them and make them resent it
before they are ready.
3. Those charms on the
right are useful for restarting your machine, configuring your wireless
connection and changing other settings. But you're left to figure out
how to access them. On touch screens, you have to know to swipe a menu
from the right, like opening a sock drawer. If you're using a mouse, you
need to drag the cursor to the top or bottom right of the screen, then
drag it to the appropriate charm.
the "start" button and having those settings instantly accessible, offer
an option to have that sock drawer continually appear. It's similar to
how the Taskbar is always present on older versions of Windows, usually
at the bottom. It's also similar to how the Dock is always there on Mac
computers (though once you're used to it, you can hide the Dock until
you move your cursor there).
4. There's no
obvious way to close programs, the way you can by hitting an "x" at the
corner of the program in older versions of Windows. You need to figure
out how to drag the app to the bottom of the screen, and the way you do
it depends on whether you are using touch or a mouse. Stray too far to
the left or the right, and your computer will enter a multi-window mode
Restore the "x." Don't force people to do gestures that don't seem intuitive to the task at hand.
5. In making it easy for touch screens, mouse and keyboard commands are more complex to use and figure out.
Don't try to be a one-size-fits-all operating system. Apple
and Google have kept their systems separate for touch-screen mobile
devices and for traditional computers that use mouse or trackpad
Microsoft can improve usability by designing the
operating system for one or the other. Don't expect this to change in
the promised update, though.