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back to article Microsoft video preview shows Windows 8.1 tablet UI options

Microsoft has had a lot to say about the forthcoming Windows 8.1 update, both in its blogs and at conferences like TechEd and Computex, and now it's gone ahead and posted a five-minute video tour so that we can see some of the new features in action. The video, which we've embedded below, is hosted by Jensen Harris of Microsoft' …

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Coat

Not to get in the way of the 2 Minutes Hate here...

... but I actually quite like it. If it wasn't for the fact that I made the shift across to Mac a couple of years ago (and how have significant investment in OSX as a platform) I would be quite enthusiastic about this update.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not to get in the way of the 2 Minutes Hate here...

I changed over to OSX this year, I liked Win 7 but absolutely detest Win 8 especially spending two days coaching my in laws through the intricacies of the new OS that came with their new Dell laptop two weeks ago.

It is not easy to navigate and it is as not intuitive. It is hell for older people to have relearn a whole new way of using the system, though I concede there maybe benefits for them later on.

Win 8 is a touch screen OS, and if used purely as a touch screen OS it is adequate and useful. However it does not translate to mouse an keyboard as readily as some might think, overly complicated and designed by a committee that inhabit offices at either end of the world.

A near perfect Win 8 would be an OS that let's you choose between tiles and the old start screen, remembers your choice so that you never have to see a tile again.

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Happy

Re: Not to get in the way of the 2 Minutes Hate here...

You're making things harder on yourself by looking at the new interface as some insurmountable foreign wall. The Start Screen is just a customizable full-screen Start Menu. Saying that it's harder to use than the old list-style menu basically amounts to saying that you somehow find it harder to click on big icons than you do small ones. The real significant difference between Windows 7 and 8 is the new addition of apps, which are controlled differently that legacy programs and are what confuse most people.

I sell computers for a living and help people with Windows 8 constantly, and other than a few who are completely unwilling to try and learn something just because it looks different, I have a generally high success rate of at least getting folks started and confident enough to feel that they can figure it out on their own.

I mean, it boils down to this... in Windows 8, all of your traditional desktop apps still open in the desktop automatically, regardless of whether you click the icon on the taskbar or on the Start Screen (with the single exception of IE10) which means everything you used to do in Windows 7 works exactly the same way. Instead of having a list of programs you have a screen you customize, but if you want a full list of apps it's still there, literally one click away from anywhere in the OS. Just open charms and click Search... there they all are. Why is that so hard?

When you use a full-screen app, there are a couple of shortcuts for closing/cycling between them that are a little different from what you're used to. I absolutely concede that controlling apps with a laptop's trackpad can be cumbersome and frustrating, but think about it like this... using a trackpad is ALWAYS cumbersome and frustrating and has never felt as natural as a real mouse anyway, so what's the big deal? Using apps with a touch screen or a standard mouse is very easy... takes about 2 minutes to learn or teach. If you can't figure it out, I seriously question whether you're actually trying or if you're just complaining because you like to. You can claim it isn't efficient, but my own experience proves you wrong. I use 8 (on my Surface Pro) every bit as efficiently as I use 7 (on my custom-built desktop PC).

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Bronze badge
Childcatcher

Dragon Animation

Maybe users will be distracted by the cool background effects so that they don't realize what is going on in the foreground. Not to be negative about something that I haven't really worked with, but the bit about how many apps you can have on one screen at the same time was just a bit too condescending for me.

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MIc

Re: Dragon Animation

how many apps can you actually use at one time? I can a hundred apps on one screen with the classic desktop but I can't actually use all 100.

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Bronze badge

Re: Dragon Animation

I have two apps running at the moment purely for updates, one is showing the cricket score and one is checking for an email I am expecting. That's at least half of what the new 'enhanced' Win8 'might' be capable of....doesn't leave much room for work apps.

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Meh

Re: Dragon Animation

Three browsers, mail app, remote desktop app, database client, music, text editor for note taking.

OS X and Linux and older versions of Windows can handle this fine (well, Windows has a problem with lacking multiple workspaces, but it's doable)

To do it in Windows 8 I have to ensure that the TIFKAM apps are explicitly exluded from default launching anything - otherwise the whole thing becomes schizophrenic as fuck.

Not the end of the world, and TIFKAM is fine for content consumption, but it's a proper PITA if you actually want to *do* stuff.

I don't see why Microsoft have taken so long to work this out, and have only partially resolved it by all accounts despite extremely heavy criticism and insinuations that they may actually be a causative part of the recent slump in desktop and laptop sales.

Steven R

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@MIc

I currently have windows media center showing channel 4 on my big screen (TV)

on screen 2 I have a browser with my webmail , along with my VPN connection window and the volume control for the midi keyboard.

On screen 1, I have this browser window, another browser window, some sticky notes and explorer open.

since I am watching TV, but occasionally playing the keyboard or reading webpages at the same time I am definitely suing more than one of those at exactly the same time.

but on top of that it is a hell of a lot easier to switch tasks with three screens and no limitation on how many windows I can have open, or where I can place them.

When I am working it is not uncommon to have 16 - 20 individual applications open at once, including VM's and remote desktop sessions & to be referencing, comparing or duplicating content between those windows & applications.

How does win8 handle three large screens? Personally I'm not willing to risk my current well honed workflow to find out.

I think Bob O'Donnell had it right at the end of this article http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/06/05/microsoft_windows_81_demo_computex/

“I think Microsoft and Intel need to come together and focus on the core productivity benefits of PCs and not let them get distracted with trying to be all things to everyone,” he added.

“PCs are still better at many things than tablets and smartphones, but I think that message has been lost and needs to be revived in order to get people focused on the benefits that PCs offer.” ®

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dragon Animation

With Windows Vista I can fit at least eight (8) pr0n video on my screen at once (with some overlap blocking the less interesting bits). To be clear, this example is just for evaluating multiple codecs.

A new-and-worse "Windows" OS GUI that doesn't do windows is just plain silly.

If Microsoft were in the car business, we'd be patiently waiting for the announcement of our long-delayed Flying Car while Balmer proudly wheels out the latest 2013 Microsoft Amish-style horse and buggy.

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Bronze badge

Re: @MIc

When I am working it is not uncommon to have 16 - 20 individual applications open at once, including VM's and remote desktop sessions & to be referencing, comparing or duplicating content between those windows & applications.

How does win8 handle three large screens? Personally I'm not willing to risk my current well honed workflow to find out.

It handles it the same as any other desktop, you start the desktop (as you are in TIFKAM by default), open the application or program (depending on your terminology) and use them as you do now.

The bit here is showing TIFKAM running the apps side by side. Note you could swipe from the side to return them before or alt-tab but they would not be visible together.

I am not sure why but for some reason people think the desktop is for running the Metro applications and it is not. It is just harder to launch applications from there because they removed the start menu. You can launch desktop programs from the start screen but it is easier to install a start menu substitute or create shortcuts on the desktop (Ahhh the days of Win 3.)

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Re: @MIc

Except without configuration certain programs throw you back into TIFKAM

In addition - I really like having a start menu. In fact I prefer the XP start menu, because I could organise all my applications by in various ways. That way I could find rarely used utilities which I don't remember the name of by function or domain.

Win7 start menu is pretty shit (for me personally) because just typing often fails to find the item i am looking for, and then I have to scroll through a ridiculously massive flat list.

The point is not everyone's most productive workflow is the same. The way for MS to actually please their customers is to allow maximum configurability without letting the marketing department try and force people down one road.

Can anyone tell me what would be the problem of having a setting that allowed you to choose between the start screen, flat start menu, or hierarchical menu as the primary interaction point of the OS?

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Meh

Re: Dragon Animation

That's only for full-screen (read: tablet-style) apps from the Microsoft Store. Regular desktop programs open and function identically to the way they always have. You can have as many open as your memory can handle and you can span them across as many monitors as your video card supports.

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4 apps at the same time?

Wow! 4 whole windows, they are spoiling us.

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JDX
Gold badge

Re: 4 apps at the same time?

Yeah, because iOS and Android let you do far more. Oh no wait, they let you use one app at once, or a couple on limited numbers of Android with specialist customisations.

As a tablet OS, which is what WinRT is, 4 apps at once is actually AHEAD of the competition.

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Unhappy

Ouch!

Downvoted for being able to count. Nasty...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 4 apps at the same time?

Since when was this article about Windows RT, JDX?

You're making the same mistakes as Microsoft are, mistaking Windows 8 as some kind of tablet OS that has main competition with iOS and Android. Windows 8 is a Desktop OS, it's just Microsoft are trying so very hard to make it not. Which is why Windows 8.1 has addressed exactly none of the problems of the first... even though I will get this update free there is absolutely no reason to go to it because all the changes are to an element I've removed via customisation.

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Silver badge
FAIL

So we getto choose...

...the colour of UI vomit?

Nice.

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Silver badge

Might I suggest ...

... that Microsoft make a limited (say a week or 2) preview available to anyone even if they don't have Windows 8 already? The original preview did at least give me an opportunity to see if I liked it (but I didn't). From what I'm reading nothing much has changed to make me want to upgrade, but I'm prepared to be convinced by another preview.

If not, then I'll give it a miss, thanks.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Might I suggest ...

I won't even install it ( without preview) on top of existing Windows 8 setup - Metro has been properly taken care of using startisback and the "update" may break it (and drive me insane).

Any way to completely disable the parasite Metro sub-interface - these wasted CPU cycles bug me a lot

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FAIL

Loads of tweaks to TIFKAM, but no real change to the underlying OS. Windows 3.1 had more changes than 8.1. What a waste.

I use Win8, but hardly touch Metro. The only bit I touch is bit they nicked from Ubuntu, Unity. Typing in a cmd this way is slightly better than the Win7 run method.

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JDX
Gold badge

The underlying OS is an improved version of W7, why does it require changes when everyone says that's the bit which is good, and it's the UI that is the problem?

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Go

TIFKAM aside, just as a general feature, the curated view of search results actually looks quite interesting if it works as advertised.

Start button - meh, who cares. I have a physical Start button on my keyboard, which is where my hands are already. I can see how useful this could be for people who are primarily mouse users though and for whom the absence of the start button in Win8 was a major WTF.

Same disinterest in the personalization options and animated backgrounds, of no interest to those who use their PCs to work. Before any one says it, yes you can work on a Win8 PC, quite easily.

The All Apps view looks a lot better, the old start menu didn't have sorting of individual apps alphabetically ( you could sort folders, but that didn't help when you knew the name of the software but not the company that made it), although it seems like such an obvious feature that I always wondered why Microsoft never added it. However, anything would be an improvement over the current All Apps screen which is just eye-bleedingly appalling.

Some interesting features there. Just a shame they picked a guy who sounds so condescending, almost as if he were explaining this to a room of 4 year-olds - "Skydrive, that's the Cloud" - wtf?

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Silver badge

"the curated view of search results actually looks quite interesting if it works as advertised."

It looks interesting but bing works ok for famous people searches. I can't see it being that useful for general searches for subjects where pictures are not needed. And I expect it needs a very fast connection to look smooth.

More colours, small tiles (oh look almost like icons, hope you remember what they are all do), background animation, slide show... that's all just great but not at all what we want.

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Looks interesting

As a bit of a Microsoft fan, I am curious to see if any of this functionality is going to move over to the new Xbox and/or the Xbox 360 dashboard update coming out in the Autumn, creating a custom home screen with re-sizable tiles would be very nice and although obviously not going to be touch compatible, having something work with the new Kinect sensor might be interesting. I know I've gone off topic and I'm sure the down votes will come flooding in, but if they are after a unified look across desktop/phone/tablet and console I'm looking forward to it, although upgrades from Windows 7 and the purchase of a phone or tablet would be required from me first! Give me an Xbox One and tablet bundle Microsoft!

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Thumb Up

Desktop wallpaper on Start Screen ->

50% less jarring transition back and forth. Who would have thought? </sarcasm>

It still feels like something of a second desktop, but it's a definite if small improvement. Maybe for Windows 8.321 they will actually be able to integrate the two together, which will probably the time when I will consider upgrading.

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Happy

Re: Desktop wallpaper on Start Screen ->

I agree somewhat... a big problem with Win8 is just public perception. People don't realize their stuff still works basically the same way because all they see in advertisements and reviews are pictures of the Metro interface. In my opinion, to fix that issue, Windows 8 should boot to the desktop and the Start Screen should also default to mimic the Desktop background (with a Start Button on the desktop because apparently people can't handle not having there all the time), essentially making it look like an overlay. This is just how I think it should work by default, though... the option to boot the the Start Screen makes sense for Win8 tablets and I could see why some people would prefer it that way on touch-screen enabled laptops or all-in-ones.

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IT Angle

"Of particular interest are Harris' demos of the improved Apps view"

That's when I stopped reading the advert and skipped to the comments...

Please just close your eyes and ignore all the 8.1 plugs...

They will go away eventually...

Until the next great release codenamed: SQUARE WHEEL

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Anonymous Coward

Leo Apotheker you cnut

I know it's dead now, but I still love webOS which had;

'Universal Search' fetching back Contacts, Apps, Email and Docs, etc. just as shown

& 'Exhibition Mode' displaying pictures from both the cloud and local device

Plus the what is still the best notification system bar none!

And all this way back in 2006...

:'(

R.I.P. webOS

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Pint

"All user interfaces must be the same"

God help us if Microsoft starts selling flashlights next year. Else the MS Windows 9.0 GUI will have a switch (input) and a lightbulb (output) to ensure "a consistent user interface" across all product lines.

Idiots.

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Coat

So thats ...

... what EADON looks like

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Getting tired of repeating myself, but...

Win 8 is a perfectly usable desktop OS, it doesn't require touch, it's not 'awkward' on a non-touch machine (as one Reg hack recently wrote). Yes, TIFKAM is all new and scary but you don't have to use it; I don't. You can run just as many apps concurrently on the desktop as you can in Win 7, and if you don't look in the bottom left corner of the screen it looks virtually the same as Win 7. Yes, you do need to reset some file associations (mainly PDF and JPG) to use desktop apps in place of Metro, if that's what you want. Yes, you do need to set up some shortcuts / pin things to the taskbar, but who didn't do that on Win 7 anyway?

If you want to boot straight to the desktop in Win 8.0, follow these simple steps:

- Open a Windows Explorer window

- Choose View -> Options -> Change Folder and View Options

- Click the 'View' tab

- Check 'Restore Previous Folder Windows at Logon'

Leave the Explorer window open (minimised, if preferred) when you shut down; next time you start up, you'll go straight to the Desktop.

You're welcome.

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A little GEM

Anyone Remember GEM? Started with overlapping Windows back in the dim distant past. Apple threatened to sue them for using overlapping Windows, so they switched to a Tiled interface (GEM2) and hence disappeared from the planet? Is history going to repeat?

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True to form

Microsoft being true to form have come out with a product that very few customers want. Windows 7 was excellent and Microsoft should have evolved that further. This is a prime example of them telling everyone to shove it

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Thumb Up

Re: True to form

Dennis, Win 8 is an evolution of Win 7. As soon as you get to the normal Desktop (zero/one click from booting) it's virtually indistinguishable from 7, and the differences are pretty much all improvements (no Fisher-Price startup/shutdown sounds, no 'start navigation' clicking from IE, etc). If you don't like TIFKAM and/or don't want to use it because you're on a desktop machine, then don't use it. The video in this article is all about the touch/tablet experience, which is why the demo machine is a Surface... unless you've actually used Win 8 on a desktop, you really need to reserve judgement.

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Aimed at wrong market of users

I use Windows at work , I work in IT and manage and design systems, for this the old style start button works. I don't use a tablet as all the commands I type and documents I write are easier done on a keyboard I have no desire to touch the screen. MS seems to be aiming its windows operating system thats installed on 90% of company pcs at a niche marked of people using tablets, its already failed in this market with with its tablet devices that are poorly designed compared to apple. Windows 8.1 seems to be making the already pointless new start screen more pointless by putting pictures and folders on it.. This seems better suited to a smart phone not a business PC.

I have used Windows 8 and Server 2012 what strikes me is that when windows 95 came out there was many ways to achieve the same thing, now MS is removing these ways from the gui while leaving all the back end commands I regularly find my self using cmd or powershell to do things I used to be able to do in the GUI. To this end I can't see any need to continue using windows, I can get a much more productive day using either MacOS or Linux. The once killer apps that used to require running windows are now getting ported to either a web platform or *NIX based platforms. So I can see MS's days in the corporate world numbered if they fail to realise aiming there flag ship product at a market place they have already failed is floored.

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Linux

Still nothing for the working desktop....

Apparently (Getting tired of repeating etc.., above), Win 8 is fine because I can get to the productivity interface I need by following just 5 simple instructions. This is "acceptable"?

OsX, Win 7 and Linux Mint (my default OS on which I am writing this) all open at the interface I require without any need for special instructions. Namely a functional desktop. Which is where I WORK.

MS clearly cannot grasp this, which is why no-one likes Win 8.n and their brand value is falling like a stone.

Nuf said.

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