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Iconic Windows UI element makes a comeback -- but perhaps not how some hoped

In many ways, Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) new Start Screen -- originally codenamed Metro -- represents the old-fashioned start menu on steroids.  There's both good and bad to this; on the one hand it allows for rich animations, powerful sorting, and better support for touch.  On the other hand, many app developers make poor use of its extra space and many users feel it's uncomfortable and bloated on a traditional PC.

As it marches towards Windows 8.1, Microsoft is looking to show it's listening to criticism from its fans -- halfway listening at least.  The Verge is reporting that its sources are saying that the beloved Start Button will make a comeback in the upcoming release.

But this isn't your daddy's start button -- it will dump you right back into the Start Screen (Metro UI) similar to the Charm.

Windows Blue
A new Start Button is reportedly being added to Windows 8.1, but it doesn't work like the start button of yore. [Image Source: WindowsForum.eu]

The second report corroborates  ZDNet's chief Windows expert Mary Jo Foley, who last week said her sources were buzzing over a Start Button comeback, contradicting previous rumors that it would stay dead:



For those looking to stay on the desktop and navigate a more traditional start menu, you can always grab a third-party app like Pokki.  As of January Pokki had already recorded 1.5 million downloads and was used on average 10 times a day by customers, despite Microsoft's insistence that its own internal research showed customers were no longer using the Start Button.  (Pokki monetizes itself via a bundled third-party app store).

Microsoft sold 60 million Windows licenses as of January, but a significant portion of those are though not yet to have made their way to end users.  Regardless of the actual number of live Windows 8 users, it's clear a relatively large minority have opted to restore the Start Button via third party workarounds.

Windows 8.1 will also reportedly have the option to boot directly to desktop via a setting.  The new operating system is expected to launch sometime in the next few months.

Source: ZDNet



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RE: Figured as much
By UpSpin on 4/22/2013 10:34:41 AM , Rating: 1
Well said. I used the start button to have access to a few pinned programs (which I could pin to the Metro screen too), to shut down the computer, open the control panel and start a program search. Nothing really changed with Metro and the lack of the start button.
My most used programs are pinned to the task bar, so I barely use the start menu the way it was intended since Windows 95. So I wouldn't miss the traditional start button.

Still, I think that people don't really miss the start button and rather just get annoyed by Metro in its current form. Windows 8 has a split personality: classic vs. Metro.
And Metro, in its current form, adds nothing for desktops or laptops. It's not really customizable yet and doesn't make work easier yet !
Windows 8 has improvements compared to Win 7, but no must-have, thus Win 7 is, on a desktop/laptop, as good as Win 8, or even better, because you don't have to get used to the half intergrated Metro. On a tablet Windows 8 is still not more usable than Win 7, because the programs you use don't support Metro at all (Office for example)

Most probably with Windows 9 MS will replace everything with Metro, and integrate missing features (just as Win 8.1 already does), which makes it more productive than Win 7 currently is. But till then, Windows 8 is a test/beta version and I fully understand that people don't want to spend money to become a free beta tester for a new not fully integrated UI with little to no improvements for the average joe.


RE: Figured as much
By MrBungle123 on 4/22/2013 11:04:02 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Most probably with Windows 9 MS will replace everything with Metro, and integrate missing features (just as Win 8.1 already does), which makes it more productive than Win 7 currently is.


For productivity tasks moveable re-sizable overlapping windows are superior. No amount of tweaking to a UI design paradigm that insists on full screen low information density app(lications) is going to change that. IF Microsoft is stupid enough to force that then they are done. The business world will abandon them in droves because the ability to compare and create content efficiently is the primary reason that just about every desk in every office in the western world has a computer on it. Microsoft is playing with fire and if they don't figure this out they are going to get burned.


RE: Figured as much
By xti on 4/22/2013 12:30:39 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
IF Microsoft is stupid enough to force that then they are done.


its this stuff that everyone is tired of. Microsoft is not going to "be done" just because the start menu comes back.

business world is on win7 for the most part, it takes them years to switch over due to the obvious reasons... I didnt get win7 on my work laptop until almost 2 years after its debut.


RE: Figured as much
By MrBungle123 on 4/22/2013 1:37:31 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
its this stuff that everyone is tired of. Microsoft is not going to "be done" just because the start menu comes back.


I wasn't talking about the start menu I was talking about the assertion that the desktop functionality in windows would be completely replaced with metro/modern UI.


RE: Figured as much
By Belard on 4/22/13, Rating: 0
RE: Figured as much
By Pirks on 4/22/2013 5:12:38 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Crap, gotta go to the web screen to see it again, then back to
Crap, some lame idiot named Belard never learned about copy/paste shortcuts, like ctrl-c and ctrl-v. Learn the basics of using a modern computer, lamo, then we'll discuss Win8 with you uneducated one :P


RE: Figured as much
By bodar on 4/22/2013 10:05:24 PM , Rating: 2
Win8 has some major usability issues, but yeah, not a good example. Show me this "novice/business user" who can't use copy-paste but knows how to format the drive and reinstall Win7 or Linux. They don't exist.


RE: Figured as much
By inighthawki on 4/22/2013 3:32:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Most probably with Windows 9 MS will replace everything with Metro, and integrate missing features (just as Win 8.1 already does), which makes it more productive than Win 7 currently is. But till then, Windows 8 is a test/beta version and I fully understand that people don't want to spend money to become a free beta tester for a new not fully integrated UI with little to no improvements for the average joe.


I consider myself one of the people who enjoys metro (particularly on my tablet), but to think, for even a moment, that removing the desktop entirely is in any way productive is just laughably wrong. Not only do they lose 99% of their backwards compatibility, but it removes the most successful UI paradigm to date for content creation. I think together they can work well (especially if MS was smart and allowed metro apps in windows). But just metro? That's the day even I will stop upgrading windows.


RE: Figured as much
By epobirs on 4/23/2013 4:50:41 AM , Rating: 2
The desktop is not going away. The only place where Microsoft is going to push an all-Metro environment are highly power sensitive devices like tablets, where using the desktop is problematic away from a docking keyboard and touchpad anyway.

Battery driven devices are driving the industry, though. The primary reason for the new desktop style was that they found Aero was a real pig on power draw. It didn't matter for a desktop but the added GPU activity could make a significant difference in battery life. The desktop still uses hardware acceleration as that is actually more power efficient but it does it in such a way as to let the GPU go into a lower power state more frequently. (And it's only fairly recent that a typical GPU could do this well.)

They could have offered the use of Aero with a warning in the menu that this is not recommended for battery driven machines but that was the choice they made. Personally, someone who freaks over the desktop style is really grasping at straws.


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