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Start Me Up (Again)

May 30th, 2013 - 1:39 pm

Good news, suffering Windows 8 users — the Start button makes its triumphant return to Windows 8.1. Well, sort of:

Desktop diehards will find a present waiting for them in Windows 8.1, the impending upgrade colloquially dubbed “Windows Blue.” A wonderful, horrible, oh-so-teasing present.

The Start button is back—but the Start menu isn’t.

Instead, clicking the old familar button will dump you into the modern UI Start screen. While the new feature is notable for adding a helpful visual cue to an operating system rife with hidden menus, it isn’t exactly what people begging for the return of the Start button were looking for.

Oy.

Here’s the problem. The Start Menu gets too crowded, too quickly. A modern PC just does so many things, runs so many apps, handles so many different types of files, that it just becomes a great big mess after a very short while. Apple has tried its own solution, with the Dock and Launch Pad, but they have problems of their own. I find its usually easier just to keep my hands on the keyboard and use Spotlight to quickly type the name of the app or document I need. But many users, and certainly most non-power users, prefer to mouse around.

OK, fine — so what’s the solution?

I don’t have one. And Microsoft (and Apple, too) with all the people and resources it can throw at a problem, doesn’t have a good solution, either. Touch was supposed to simplify everything with Windows 8, but touch sucks on a desktop machine and isn’t all that much better on a laptop.

It’s no wonder tablets are expected to eclipse desktop sales in the next couple of years, and overtake all traditional computer sales a couple years after that. Because until someone figures out a smart and workable way to reduce the complexity of navigating PCs, people won’t be returning to them.

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Top Rated Comments   
I'll admit to being a power user, but I find the Win7 Start menu to be absurdly easy. It's got a bunch of the programs you've used most recently, plus any you want to pin, and if the one you want isn't on that list, you type its name in and it goes through all the stupid submenus and finds it for you. None of the other crap needs to be used more than once a year. By far the best menu solution I've ever seen.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (6)
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"so what’s the solution?"

The solution is to offer choices, while not removing old choices. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to have removed the start menu. Anyone not wanting to use it could ignore it.

Forcing me to learn their putative "improved way" or flounder helplessly is utterly stupid.

I recently installed 8 on a new build for a relative. Inside of 10 minutes I was as frustrated as I've ever been using a PC. I've been in PC tech support for a long, long time, and know my way around a PC.

Windows 8 is a bigger disgrace than Vista.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Windows 7 search function is all you really need...oh, what's that? You say that's the same thing as memorizing command line prompts? Well yes, I suppose you're right.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'll admit to being a power user, but I find the Win7 Start menu to be absurdly easy. It's got a bunch of the programs you've used most recently, plus any you want to pin, and if the one you want isn't on that list, you type its name in and it goes through all the stupid submenus and finds it for you. None of the other crap needs to be used more than once a year. By far the best menu solution I've ever seen.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
To paraphrase a Buddy Hackett joke, Windows Blue. Hey, he needed the money.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Because until someone figures out a smart and workable way to reduce the complexity of navigating PCs, people won’t be returning to them."

Most people probably don't need a PC anyway - and by that I mean they are finding they can do everything they want without one. That's why tablet sales are overtaking desktop. Meanwhile, people who need PCs will turn out to be - probably by definition - power users and will be more capable of navigating an increasingly complex environment (Start menu or Stoplight).

Maybe the distinction between power users and non-power users will become distinct enough that Microsoft will realize it needs to design for each group separately. Maybe.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The overwhelming majority of things people want to do may not require a desktop, but I know that I frequently have to give up on doing frustratingly simple things on my Nexus 7 because Google simply never contemplated that a mobile device user might want to be able to do this -- or because no matter how I configure my web browser on the tablet, some websites absolutely refuse to serve a desktop version to a mobile device.

Then there's the oppoosite problem -- I found that Flickr's allegedly mobile-friendly new website was unusable on a touchscreen, and there was no touchscreen-optimized alternative version of the site to use instead -- an the app for Android simply had no way to do what I was trying to do.

So, it isn't just Microsoft that has fumbled miserably in trying to bridge the gap between tablets and desktops. They're all making astonishingly bad UI choices, it's just that Windows 8's fail is more obviously epic.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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