Touch Hate

There is a lot of hate for “touch” out there and I thought I’d talk about it a bit.  I can tell when I’m reading an unreasonable discussion because there is always something about having to stand there all day with your arms stretched out to touch the screen.  I stop reading when this is mentioned.  Why would anyone stand there with their arms stretched out constantly?  Microsoft certainly doesn’t require this, so anyone who makes that comment just isn’t paying attention.  Or rather, is just trying to be difficult.  Windows 8 was designed for multi-mode input.  While the priority for the first release may indeed have been to get something truly touch-friendly out there, and make Windows viable in the tablet market, that’s the beginning not the end.

I am using Windows 8 on numerous machines, most of which don’t have touch screens!  My Surface RT has a touch screen and I use the keyboard, track pad, and short-cut keys whenever the situation allows.  But even when my Surface is being used more as a notebook than a tablet, I still reach up and touch the screen from time to time.  Launching an app?  I usually touch the screen.  Need to share something?  I usually touch the screen to bring up the Share Charm.  Scroll through pages in an article?  Yup, I usually touch the screen.  Even touching links on a web page is often easier with the finger than with a touchpad-controlled mouse pointer (though this is not the case with a real mouse).  But a lot of the time, such as when I’m writing blog entries or doing email, my fingers never leave the Type Cover.  I find this mixed mode usage extremely natural.

My frustration with Windows 8 on most of the PCs I use is that they don’t have touch.  And worse, they don’t have multi-touch and gesture-enabled pointing devices.  I’ve played with the Logitech T650 touchpad and it makes the Windows 8 UI design much more palatable.  I’ve noted the same thing when playing with newer non-touch notebooks in stores.  If their touchpad supports the edge-swipe gestures and multi-touch then the Windows 8 UI is a pleasure to use.  If they are just old-fashioned mouse simulators than you really notice the seams between the UI and your hardware.    Microsoft did not optimize Windows 8’s user experience for older hardware, it supports them as a convenience to users.  Microsoft optimized Windows 8 for new hardware, including things that haven’t yet come to market.

Even if you don’t like the idea of reaching out and touching your screen there are a lot of new things coming in terms of Natural UI that Windows 8 is simply a prep for.  I’m surprised that Microsoft hasn’t yet released a next-generation Kinect specifically for controlling Windows devices, with native support in the OS and first-party apps as well (of course) with Windows RunTime support.  But that will come.  And then there is the Tobii REX, which I’d love to add to my existing non-touch PCs!  In both cases we’re looking at new ways to control your PC.  Ways that would be impractical with Windows XP, Windows 7, or WIMP in general.  Why do I say that?  Because they don’t have the precision that WIMP-based interfaces require.  While Kinect enables completely new scenarios, both it and REX can be used to supplement (rather than replace) traditional keyboards and mice in classic “Desktop PC” scenarios.

Still looking for options?  In the past we’ve seen examples of projection keyboards.  Imagine a version that when you “touched” a function key it switched from projection of the keyboard to projection of the screen on the horizontal surface in front of you.  And then let you manipulate the UI using touch and gestures on the projection.  Once again this is far more feasible with Windows 8’s “Modern” or “Metro” than with classic WIMP.

Something less dramatic?  Logitech almost has it right, almost.  I want a mode where the touchpad functions more as a virtual overlay on the touchscreen and lets me touch things rather than mouse over them.  I’d switch to “mouse” mode when editing documents or other higher-precision pointing activities, but stay in “touch” mode for most UI manipulation.

Microsoft is not saying that touch is the “be-all and end-all” of user interface, it is just making it and similar technologies first-class citizens.  Are there tradeoffs involved in such a move?  Of course.  Some are short-term (e.g., one main window with one snapped window in Windows 8), some are long-term.  But they aren’t abandoning the mouse and the need for precision pointing.  Or the physical keyboard.  And they aren’t insisting on a future where you have to stand there for hours with your arms stretched out in front of you.

 

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68 Responses to Touch Hate

  1. Find another device in your life with a screen you don’t touch. Apart from your TV, it’s a challenge. And TV is hardly interactive.

    • halberenson says:

      One could counter with “Find another device in your life that you create microchip layouts on”, which is the kind of thing that generates the heat over touch. But even there it makes enormous sense to use touch to locate and zoom in on the area of the chip you want to edit before switching to a precision pointing device for actual manipulation. Or the blueprint case. One person needs high-precision input to create the blueprint while dozens will use touch to navigate and view it.

      BTW, lately I’ve been reaching out and touching my TV a lot with either Kinect or Smartglass. And I project that over the next few years most TV interaction will be via some form of “touch”.

      • Kellen says:

        If you’re designing microchip layouts in the Windows 8 start page, that’s a whole other issue. Any program that has specific interactive needs is still supported in Windows 8. I’m not doing CAD, but my day to day in Visual Studio still runs perfectly fine in Windows 8. On my desktop, there is no change, and on my laptop (XPS12 convertible) I find myself touching the screen to accelerate how I interact, it’s augmenting, it doesn’t slow me down and in some cases it speeds me up.

        Most complaints about the Windows 8 UI seem to be coming from people who formed their opinion before giving it an earnest chance.

  2. “Microsoft did not optimize Windows 8′s user experience for older hardware”

    I am one of the great defenders of Win 8, but they SHOULD have optimized Win 8 for mouse and keyboard even more. I will only highlight the one issue that drives me the most crazy, which is closing apps. Using a mouse pointer to swipe from top to bottom to close a metro app is ridiculous, why not right click and click an X to close, and why not swipe down and tap an X to close. And don’t tell me I don’t need to close apps, that is just messy when it comes to multi-tasking. MS could have done more to make this all easier, so many tiny, easy little things could have been done, but I concur, reaching out to touch the laptop screen does not make me sweat, it makes me happy.

    • halberenson says:

      The general answer is that the entire effort is driven by scenarios, and if they had any extra resources it would be applied in priority for things they couldn’t get done to flesh out those specific scenarios. Your particular example though may have more to do with philosophy than resources. If one philosophy was to eliminate the need to kill apps, and a second was that Modern was touch-first, then making it really easy for someone to kill a Modern app with a mouse was definitely not going to be a priority! Of course if telemetry and other input suggests users are killing apps a lot more than expected then Microsoft could reconsider this.

      • Tom says:

        I am in general a fan of telemetry, *BUT* Microsoft needs to take into account the needs of subpopulations into view at some point. Version 2? Version 3?

        I’ve heard that word count was the critical feature in the word processing wars, even though it was used *very* infrequently. Why? Because it was useful to precisely two demographics: students and journalists. And journalists included reviewers for computer publications.

        Now, lots of people seems to think these days that the saga of copy-and-paste on the iPhone indicates that you no longer need to appeal to the tech demographic. But that’s Apple, and the rules are different for Apple. Microsoft can’t.

    • Craig Snively says:

      JimmyFal, you can close metro apps with Alt-F4, just like in Desktop apps, you can use Alt-Tab to move from metro app to any other app, desktop or metro, so you have the same keyboard features available to you. They tried to use as many of the desktop keyboard shortcuts as made sense. In fact, they have added many more shortcuts to the mix. See this link for most, if not all, of them. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/keyboard-shortcuts

      • John says:

        How is that discoverable? If I don’t have touch or don’t want to use it, how am I ever supposed to know about these various keyboard shortcuts unless I am lucky enough to have somebody point it out? Discoverability has been a real annoyance to me in Windows 8 that I wish MS had put some more energy into.

        • halberenson says:

          Discoverability sucks indeed

        • Craig Snively says:

          I agree with you that it isn’t discoverable, but also that it is no different than what Windows has been since 3.0. You had to have someone tell you, or you read, or you by happenstance discovered the keyboard shortcuts. So in this instance, I see no difference with Windows 8.

          • Rob G says:

            That’s quite simply wrong. If I go to the system menu, it says “Close Alt + F4”. Most menus work that way.

            • Brian says:

              I don’t think I’ve ever closed a window with [Alt]+[F4] in my life (in my first job, I wrote C code for CP/M systems – it’s been a long life so far). I also nearly never use the System Menu for anything (prefering the app’s “File” menu, and [Alt]+F+(something) to invoke it from the keyboard).

              I would never think to close a window with [Alt]+[F4].

              • No one cares what you personally have or haven’t done, and your self-centered comment has nothing to do with the point of the previous comments.

                About Windows 8: in some ways it’s much like the early days of Windows; MS is focused on the future and is taking the long view. It’s wise.

                • John says:

                  No need to be rude.

                • Erik says:

                  But it does say something about the fact that there are always multiple ways to do things in windows, and different people will prefer each way. To a non-touch-typist, taking your hands from the keyboard to click a mouse or touch the screen is easy; to a touch typist it is a bloody nuisance and the keyboard wins hands down. The hardest part is “discovering” – it’s only once you know the answer that you know which question you should have asked!

        • Tom says:

          That’s a really interesting question. How *would* you make keyboard shortcuts discoverable on a tablet interface? Tooltips?

          • waldtaube says:

            Win8 guidelines recommend that keyboard shortcuts for commands be included in their tooltips, though in practice apps and the system are very inconsistent about actually implementing this.

            Myself, I don’t really see why you can’t just use a similar approach to menus and the ribbon. Have a key like Alt that’s designated to display available keyboard shortcuts.

        • pandafs2@twitter says:

          Don’t remember about closing apps, but we’ve had a lot less stupid questions about discovreability if people just sat down and really watched OOBE intro at first launch of fresh Win 8 install. Also, every new PC from HP, which I bought recently, had “Introducing Windows 8” brochure included.
          So its pretty discoverable, to the folks who WANTS to discover.

          • Erik says:

            Cute. Haven’t seen a w8 brochure yet. What’s OOBE? I just got landed with 8 machines to get up and running in an office over a weekend. It took a fortnight. An “introducing w8” brochure would have been nice. Probably a few hours surfing the net would have been good too. However, when you are hit with these things with no warning (we ordered w7 and were landed with w8) and don’t expect brobdignagian changes, the ancient Chinese curse of “May you live in interesting times” comes into play.

            • deminthon says:

              ” What’s OOBE?”

              What’s Google?

              • John says:

                What’s the purpose of being rude like that? He asked an honest question. If you don’t feel like answering for one reason or another just don’t answer. You make yourself look really small by responding rudely like that.

              • Erik says:

                Google said: out of body experience, out of box experience; an IT company in Canberra, on a company which makes uniforms. Fair comment that I could have looked it up. The machines did not offer me a guided tour, nor was there a booklet. Such is life.

            • pandafs2@twitter says:

              Out of the box experience, shows on first logon.

          • John says:

            Yeah, but having to have somebody watch an intro movie, etc. is not what I consider “discoverable” or intuitive.

            • Stu Fox says:

              How is moving apps into folders on iOS “discoverable” or intuitive? How is properly terminating an app on iOS discoverable? Point being, there is a bunch of stuff which is intuitive (like touching to start an app) and there is stuff that isn’t. For the stuff that isn’t it’s perfectly reasonable to expect some learning curve.

              • John says:

                Totally agree with you that a some learning curve is expected. I regularly explore various operating systems so I’m used to learning new things and new ways of doing things. I’m not really familiar with iOS so I can’t give any useful examples, but there are some not so intuitive things in Android 4.2 which are similar. Most of those things are trivial things like the ability to drag and group shortcuts together or how to swipe close an app from the back stack. If I never discovered how to do that, it wouldn’t really be a big deal. I’m referring to things like having to drag an app down to the bottom of the screen to close it or finding out how to shut down a computer or finding out how to switch back to the start screen or finding out how to switch between apps or the various keyboard shortcuts for any of the previously mentioned actions. Those things are neither discoverable nor intuitive and I had to actively search on the internet for how to do those (what I consider to be) basic things on my non-touch computer. I don’t know if it’s more discoverable or intuitive on a touch computer but my original point was about wishing that MS had put some more energy into discoverability rather than unintuitive keyboard shortcuts like alt-F4 that people would have to research on the internet.

    • anoncommenter says:

      There’s another way to close Win8 Store apps – nike-swoosh the top left corner (I.e. move the mouse straight to the corner then *directly* down (or down-left, the screen border protects you) – learning this mouse gesture was what “turned” the win8 experience for me, in a good way, works in both corners), then you’ll be presented with a list of metro apps. Right-click any of them, and you can close them from that list.

    • Eolirin says:

      You can open the App bar on the left side of the screen, by going to the top left corner and swiping down, or the bottom left and swiping up, and then you can right click on any app that’s open and snap or close via menu. Discoverability sucks, but it’s there.

    • Rob says:

      Why not just have a close X at the top of the metro app window?

    • Emmanuel says:

      You know you still the keyboard’s ALT+F4 don’t you? And I think that’s even more convenient that using the mouse even in the traditional desktop.

  3. waldtaube says:

    This kind of brings to mind a remark you made on another post, to the effect that maybe in the future for more advanced apps like CAD or whatever could be designed with a separate “mouse mode” with more precise/denser controls etc. I don’t think this would be necessary and here’s why …

    the new Windows UI is designed as a multimodal interface, not exclusively a touch interface, and also not a modal interface (i.e. there is not a separate Touch Mode and Mouse Mode, just as Windows desktop apps don’t have separate Mouse and Keyboard Modes; contrary to what you sometimes see written there is also not a “desktop mode” for the whole system, but rather the desktop is presented like another app).

    Especially as the number of input modalities keeps increasing (yesterday mouse and keyboard; today touch, mouse, keyboard and to some extent pen; tomorrow who knows? speech, pen, gestures, eye tracking etc etc are waiting in the wings) it’s important to allow the user to fluidly switch, interleave or combine multiple modalities arbitrarily as fits tasks, context, posture, hardware, personal preference or aptitude etc. That means being careful to optimize the interface for each modality but without creating entirely separate interfaces or modes (which would make it harder / less fluid to switch/interleave/combine).

    The model for this is how keyboard and mouse already work in desktop apps like Excel today, there’s not a separate UI or separate modes for keyboard and mouse, but at the same time it avoids “lowest common denominator”, it’s optimized for both keyboard and mouse allowing you to use the strengths of each one (i.e. you can type formulas and use keyboard shortcuts, not just arrow/tab through the mouse UI; conversely the mouse UI isn’t some kind of virtual keyboard). And then there are special affordances for using mouse and keyboard interleaved (e.g., reference a cell in a formula by clicking it, then continue editing the formula with the keyboard) or combined (e.g., Shift-/Ctrl-click).

    So for better mouse usage in productivity / advanced / etc scenarios I think it would be better to think in terms of “mouse shortcuts” rather than “mouse mode”. By analogy, e.g. Metro IE (and OneNote) preserve many of the keyboard shortcuts from the desktop version … well, things like the Office floating toolbar or even Outlook’s flag/delete buttons are mouse shortcuts. Even in the desktop UI, these things are already “on-demand”, much like scrollbars in the new Windows UI. At least in principle they (or something similar) could be ported, purely for mouse, without compromising the touch UI at all – or requiring a big modal switch. (i.e. rather than having to switch the whole app into “mouse mode” and perhaps back out, those UI controls would simply only appear in response to a mouse action).

    Not saying those particular ideas are necessarily good ones, just that you can think about this in a more flexible and nuanced way than people generally seem to be thinking …

  4. compiler says:


    Even if you don’t like the idea of reaching out and touching your screen there are a lot of new things coming in terms of Natural UI that Windows 8 is simply a prep for. I’m surprised that Microsoft hasn’t yet released a next-generation Kinect specifically for controlling Windows devices, with native support in the OS and first-party apps as well (of course) with Windows RunTime support. But that will come. And then there is the Tobii REX, which I’d love to add to my existing non-touch PCs! In both cases we’re looking at new ways to control your PC. Ways that would be impractical with Windows XP, Windows 7, or WIMP in general. Why do I say that? Because they don’t have the precision that WIMP-based interfaces require. While Kinect enables completely new scenarios, both it and REX can be used to supplement (rather than replace) traditional keyboards and mice in classic “Desktop PC” scenarios.

    Still looking for options? In the past we’ve seen examples of projection keyboards. Imagine a version that when you “touched” a function key it switched from projection of the keyboard to projection of the screen on the horizontal surface in front of you. And then let you manipulate the UI using touch and gestures on the projection. Once again this is far more feasible with Windows 8′s “Modern” or “Metro” than with classic WIMP.

    And why is all this crap better than keyboard + mouse? Instead of touching the screen like a retard I have to gesture around a Kinect camera like a retard. Impressed.

    This all has the aura of this:

    • halberenson says:

      Ya know, that’s exactly what most people said about WIMP back when it came out. They all couldn’t figure out why mice, windows, etc. were better than command lines and text. THEY BITCHED LIKE HELL ABOUT HAVING TO TAKE THEIR HANDS OFF THE KEYBOARD TO USE THE MOUSE. Sounds awfully familiar.

      • compiler says:

        There is one crucial counterpoint Hal: No force involved.

        All this talk about comparing this garbage to the transition from command line interface to GUI? All those past revolutions were additive, nothing got replaced or
        removed, CLI is still with us and the only non-CLI automation solution is Apple’s Automator, even then, CLI is still there on the Mac and so is Apple
        script. On Windows we not only have the full CMD CLI, but we also have DOS BOX, the emulator, Power Shell, the new and improved CLI for Windows and even UNIX CLI options made for Windows.

        All those Command lines can be made to serve as the primary UI if anyone choses to do so, almost all of them can be made to autostart and go to fullscreen, completely removing/replacing the desktop. Full MS-DOS experience is available today, nearly twenty years after it was replaced by Windows. The experience has not drastically changed, if you liked old MS-DOS CLI you will like today’s solutions. And let’s not forget that lots of MS DOS applications are still in use. Look what lots of doctors are still using for example.

        Windows 95 came with uncrippled winfile.exe and progman.exe (the win 3.1 GUI), and you were able to boot directly into it without even seeing 95′s explorer.exe at all (“shell=progman.exe” in system.ini). (works in win 98 too) There was even an official option at the Windows 95 setup for that if you upgraded from Win3.1.

        You also were able to directly boot into DOS with ease (just set bootgui=0 in msdos.sys, that also worked in Win 98).

        Now let’s look at Metro; it replaces significant parts of Windows’ desktop, it cannot be sanely avoided (“Blue” already trashes several of these start menu replacements, so it’s not reliable), the remaining desktop presents a drastic change in usability, there are no official (or trivial) solutions that would allow for a WinXP or Win7-like experience, no matter how advantageous that would be (for MS!).

        Why the forceful addition of Metro this time? Because The old paradigm is BETTER for the vast majority of Windows users and Microsoft seems to know it, otherwise they wouldn’t FORCE their “vision” on them.

        W8 is only “strategic” for MS, no one else. The benefits of the GUI were obvious on the get-go: No more remembering of arcane commands, all the possibilities of the program visible from the start. Yet no one is able to sell such benefits of metro to the PC users. NO ONE. It all only comes to “tablets are currently selling”, that’s pretty much it. That’s no argument.

        By the way, your mentioning of the text interface: metro has actually lots in common with that. apps are full screen, just like DOS programs. Commands and navigation are hidden, just like on CLI.

        Metro doesn’t present information in a clear way, sure it does present it in a barren, UI-less, way, but so did MS-DOS, or BASH, or Power Shell, stripping UI elements doesn’t make anything clearer.

        GUIs, with all their “chrome” make navigating through program output much easier, since you know what is what, the window area is clearly marked (blue outline in Luna) the menu (words at the top of the window) and toolbar (icons below the words) area is clear (beige in Luna), the content area is recognisable instantly (recessed white area below the command UI), elements in the content area are instantly recognisable as they are represented by “skeuomorphic” 3D icons that look like objects.

        Contrast that with Metro, where everything has the same height, where no button can be recognised, since it has no “physical” outline where content text and command text are meshed together, with ridiculous changes in text that are supposed to signify some mysterious meaning to us.

        No one can tell how to use Metro programs from the get-go (start screen included) and outside of simple data displays they don’t seem to have any potential usability, since they would turn into a quagmire of unrecognisable elements without any structure or logic and no one could make any sense of them.

        None of these issues existed in modern desktop GUIs since at least Win95, Metro is a major regression, as mentioned by nearly everyone, since it forces a removal of UI elements that are needed for proper functioning of a GUI and proper visual presentation of data.

        No big surprise then that it does not work as a UI, no big surprise it doesn’t sell.

        First, everyone is entitled to their own visual preferences, it’s up to the manufacturers to provide appealing products, not whine about customer preferences being wrong, this is especially true when it comes to manufacturers who cover over 90% of the market and will have to service clients with wildly different requirements.

        And second, the market has spoken, “flat” and “anti-skeuomorphic” design fad has, just like modernism before it, failed to gained traction and any sort of acceptance (no, a couple of loud metro-tards do not count).

        Luna, Aero and iOS, remain the most popular styles used in computing; it would be wise to follow trends that have proven itself and not stubbornly insist on using a modernist fad that has been revealed as completely undesirable by nearly everyone.

        Windows 8 breaks the rule no.1 in the GUI-rulebook: available actions do not have a clearly labeled and noticeable/discoverable buttons, it will leave users stranded in a mode they cannot exit, or, will not allow them to access previously visited screens, since there is no button to click, to get to many places or out of them.

        But it doesn’t end there, even the buttons that do exist are either labeled poorly, or not presented as buttons at all, a cretinism MS copied from the most appalling platforms of all – the web. This makes W8’s GUI hard to use and deeply annoying at guttural level, it’s simply wrong.

        And last but not least, there’s the annoying element placement, which presupposes you are using a tablet and your hand/finger; with the mouse, the elements are hard to reach, or are in the way, or simply don’t exist – I would be lying if I said it’s “not an optimal” solution, because it’s a freaking nightmare.

        • WorkWorkWork says:

          Amen.
          I have to admit that I have become addicted to the “chrome”; the now evil chrome of easy to see windows and elements, shading, edge differentiation, easy to understand menus, buttons, icons, even the frosted glass of aero. I like it and am willing to spend a little extra on my desk top system to get it. Now Microsoft comes along and says “chrome is bad for you”, designs a UI that is appropriate to under powered, cheap tablets and punishes everyone else mainly because they can. They OWN the marketplace. I know, I know, the cry is “If you don’t love the new Windows 8 then get out of town and get Linux”. Or the equally hurtful argument that you are stuck in the “old way” of doing things in the “Legacy Windows Environment” (wow I actually lived long enough to hear that). A dinosaur ready for the tar pits. Sigh… Maybe I am. But Microsoft made me this way. They gave me easy to use, easy to understand and generally useful applications. They created the largest 3rd party application environment that the world has ever known. I like many things in the new Windows 8, I do not like the Spartan, empty, hard-edged, down right ugly and obscure, UI. I do not like the fact that they have engineered their OS for underpowered, graphically crippled and limited tablets. I do not believe that I will be more productive in the new Win 8 environment, However, that is immaterial as at this point in time, Microsoft is the only game in town. Less is more, obscurity breeds higher intelligence because you have to figure it out rather be shown, shut up and take your medicine, it is good for you.

        • Timothy says:

          I largely agree with your post, insofar as discoverability in “Metro” is concerned. Even as I get more and more used to Metro and even start to really like certain elements of it, overall it’s just a mess. My biggest pet peeve is right clicking in the start screen. In all previous versions of Windows, you get a context menu and it appears right next to the mouse cursor. This is NO ACCIDENT. The menu options are then the shortest travel distance possible with respect to where your mouse already lays. This is good UI design. In the start screen, it opens the action bar at the bottom. So if you want to pin an app with a mouse, you right click on the app, mouse your mouse to the bottom of the screen and select “pin” and then repeat for each application. There is no multiselect, so you lurch back and forth. After five or six, your hand is exhausted. This is worse than gorilla arms! Even in a touch modality, this is not great. While the hand movements are less tiring, it’s still a big stretch back and forth. A context menu next to the icon would be superior in both modalities. It’s just bad design in the name of the art project that is Metro. And the “artist” that is Microsoft cannot take criticism about these problems at all. At every step in the beta and now I suppose continuing into Blue, they are no improving things. It’s like they want to lose market share to Apple.

          This is not complicated to fix! Continue to develop Metro. Yes, do it because despite it’s flaws, it’s a great first effort for touch. But make it optional without third party nonsense!

          I will point out that the desktop mode of Windows 8 I think is a vast improvement over Windows 7’s desktop. IMHO, Aero went too far into visual effects at the expense of discoverability in the opposite direction. Since everything was glossy and shadowy and blurry, on a crowded desktop with a lot of windows open, it was a muddy mess with a lot of distracting elements. Windows 8’s desktop looks just as modern, but with a drastic reduction in shadows and blurs. With the high contrast element borders, and an elimination of the see-through window frames, it’s probably the best looking desktop I’ve seen yet.

          • waldtaube says:

            I somewhat agree re: mouse context menus, but it does have an advantage in that it makes it easier/simpler to multiselect by right-clicking (which would be too annoying if a context menu popped up every time you did it), instead of having to Ctrl-Click. It also simplifies learning the UI in that you have one single consistent concept/mechanism – “right click for app commands” – which takes the place of

            1. menu bars
            2. context menus
            3. single selection
            4. multi selection
            5. having show/reveal UI modes/commands which many desktop apps have in different ways that you have to figure out for each app (double click ribbon tab? hit Alt? hit F11 for fullscreen? find a button somewhere? who knows?)

            This is in keeping with the Win7/8 design principle of “reduce concepts to increase confidence” which tries to simplify the UI by combining multiple mechanisms/concepts into one as much as possible (another example is how the Start screen, or the Win7 taskbar is both a launcher and a switcher, and a place for notifications).

            Note, I overall agree that the app bar feels like a step backwards for mouse, I’m just pointing out that there are also some advantages too. (BTW, I think the problem with your particular scenario is mostly just that the Apps screen doesn’t support multiselect for app pinning. There is nothing in the interaction model that says it shouldn’t though, they just happened to have not implemented it (yet?) I’ve heard Win8.1 allows multi-application for more commands in Start and also allows multi-drag for Start tiles.)

            (With touch, putting a toolbar near the selection you just made does have an advantage in distance – assuming you’re using the same hand both for selection and commanding – but also has a problem with occlusion, i.e. the menu may be harder to see because your hand is covering it. The bottom corners are the most easily accessible parts of the screen and you can also use your other hand to do the commanding rather than moving one hand back and forth.)

        • deminthon says:

          “There is one crucial counterpoint Hal: No force involved.”

          I didn’t get past this nonsense to bother wasting my time on that very long post. Early Windows forced users to change their interaction habits.

          • John says:

            Why do you feel the need to be so rude and dismissive? If you don’t feel like reading the reply, then don’t read it. If you had something constructive to add to the conversation, that would be one thing, but it just seems like you’re dismissing anything that you don’t agree with. If you disagree, how about coming up with a well-reasoned response, rather than insults. If that’s all you’ve got, you’ve lost the debate.

  5. John says:

    I think that my “meta problem” with Windows 8 is that it seems to me that my “choice” is being removed. For example, rather than give me easier ways to use my computer, like Windows 7 did, I now have been forced into a specific workflow that, for me, is actually much less comfortable and which makes previously simple operations take much longer. My choice is not to continue using things in the way that I find most comfortable and efficient but to use an alternative which I find more cumbersome. I know that people say, “Well you can still use the desktop or mouse and keyboard…” or “Well, you can use these hard to remember and sometimes obscure key combinations to…” For me, most of those aren’t very good solutions because those don’t make me more efficient; they feel cumbersome in one way or another and get in my way. I like change. I always look at different OSs for cool things that they’re doing. I have tried the changes in Windows 8 and they haven’t made my computing experience any easier, quicker, better, etc. Maybe future versions will, but this current version is actually worse for me. Apart from that, there are several other things which Microsoft is doing and which I can see coming up on the horizon which remove my choices and push me into a certain way of doing things.

    The reason that this rubs me the wrong way is that I’ve always seen Microsoft as giving choices. They’ve always struck me as taking a middle road between the tight-fisted control of Apple and the wild west freedom of *nix and I’ve really loved that. It seems now, though, that Microsoft is hewing more towards the Apple side of the spectrum and I just can’t follow along with that. Thanks to Hal, I understand why they’re doing that and I see that that is the most prudent course of action for MS to take. I still don’t like it, though, and I suspect that this is what is at the root of many peoples’ Window 8 “hate” because Windows 8 is a proxy or a symbol of all of these things for them.

    So it’s not so much the touch optimizations that I dislike. I’m fine with the touch optimizations as long as they don’t make it more cumbersome for me to use my computer. For example, Microsoft made touch optimizations to Windows 7 that, in some ways (jump lists), made my computer experience much quicker and more efficient. The touch optimizations and improvements didn’t interfere with my current workflow like they do in Windows 8. I don’t feel like I’ll have to sit with my arms outstretched all day, but the touch centric UI of the Modern UI won’t be either productive or comfortable for me because the ideal distance (for me) of my monitors is just out of touch range. Not only that, I’m lazy (I’ll admit it) and I much prefer using my mouse with small movements to point and click rather than the swipe and drag required by Modern UI with either my fingers or my mouse. Hal, your explanations are great. They really help me to understand the thinking behind different decisions. I still don’t like these “improvements”, though, because, as far as my usage pattern goes, they haven’t improved anything for me.

    It’s too bad that Windows 8 doesn’t have a similar UI architecture to the X window system in *nix because then I could just swap out my UI for one that I preferred and still get some of the other improvements which have been made to Windows 8. For me, that would be great because then I could have some choice back.

    • Eolirin says:

      The only swiping you need to do with a mouse in the UI is to open the charm bar and the app list, everything else can be done with right clicking. And those are very small motions. You do need to do the counter-intuitive thing of swapping to another App if you want to use right click to close it, but of course Alt-F4 continues to function.

  6. Simply put all previous methods of input supported by recent Windows (Xp up) should have been natively supported with new features able to replace them (selectively) by a profile / mode choice of some straight forward sort.

    Letting people move smoothly from the known to the unknown at their own pace – would have been a winner from day one!

  7. BigJ says:

    I can summarize my hate this way. *They changed the mouse UI.* They could have simple added Touch but nope, now the mouse is frequently a replacement for fingers. The pointer now has to travel miles and miles and perform acrobatics to do something that was trivial on Windows 7.

    • Bob - former DECie says:

      You have hit on just about the only thing I dislike about Windows 8 on my desktop and non-touch laptop. I suspect it wouldn’t bother me at all on a tablet as I love WP8 on my Lumia 920.

  8. Jeff says:

    You have to wonder why Microsoft decided to force people into a new user interface, rather than enticing them. Advances in UI’s are inevitable and welcome, but the only productive way to get people to move out of their comfort zones is to demonstrate that you can provide an improved experience. Forcing them to move just builds resentment – which undermines sales. While the benefits and annoyances of Windows 8 can be discussed ad infinitum, it is clear that Microsoft’s implementation of Windows 8 is a textbook example of how not to introduce such improvements.

    In addition, the Metro design is simply a step backwards. Being a user of Visual Studio, the difference between 2010 and 2012 is stark. Flat design elements? Menu items in all caps by default? Depressing color schemes? The new development functionality in 2012 is offset by the necessity of using the UI. It takes extensive Googling to figure out how to change things (including registry settings, for Pete’s sake!) in order to get to the point where it’s bearable.

    Evidently Microsoft didn’t think that the lessons of Ubuntu’s Unity fiasco were worth paying attention to. It’s all about retaining choice. Build something better, and people will eventually come – but only if they’re not forced to.

    • Bob - former DECie says:

      I’m also a user of Visual Studio. When I first ran VS2012, it was very much a shock. After about a week of use, I didn’t even notice the differences anymore. I switch between VS2010 and VS2012 and don’t even think about it.

    • Timothy says:

      “Build something better, and people will eventually come – but only if they’re not forced to.”

      And, most importantly, only if it is actually better.

    • Tim says:

      The first couple times I saw VS 2012, I was surprised by its mostly monochrome look. But it didn’t take long to appreciate it…it feels like much of the clutter (of multi-colored icons everywhere) is gone. It just seems cleaner and less distracting.

  9. James C. says:

    Why design a mainstream product around a niche audience? You do realize how stupid this is from a business perspective, don’t you? Microsoft could have just as easily made touch first-class for touch devices and m/kb first class for everyone else. But I guess NuMicrosoft likes to ignore the majority and throw away money.

    Windows 8 is really just a stupid business plan that Sinofsky cooked up. It’s evidence that you can get a bunch of smart people in a room and yet they can still do something really stupid.

    P.S. You might want to quit defending this really stupid plan. Surface is a flop and adding touch to laptops increases their price and there is no indication that consumers even care. If anything it makes tablets more appealing by making the price differential more apparent.

  10. Gr8Win8 says:

    I really don’t understand all the conplaining about Windows 8. I have a touchscreen laptop and a old desktop that I upgraded from XP and Windows 8 works great on both. My 73 year old father figured out the new Win8 UI in no time… if he can figure it out and get comfortable with it then I really don’t understand all the complaining and the problems other people, included people who call themselves IT professionals are having. The only major tweek I made to my Win8 installs is to install Classic Shell which gives you the start menu in the desktop side in windows 8…. something I wish MS had given into, but something that is so easy for users to install on their own.

    I think its funny that people bash MS for not being inovative and not doing anything new…. and then when they do something new, people freak out and can’t handle it.

    • Timothy says:

      Your 73 year old father is not typical. I’m upgrading a doctor’s office (average age is 40-50) and they are just having the worst time getting used to the new start screen. The only reason it is working at all is because they believe the hype and are convinced that “this is the future” so they are forcing themselves to learn. I just which they would learn soon because I’m tired of fielding the support calls.

  11. Michael says:

    HP makes a touch monitor at a very reasonable price. It is so reasonable that I have seen it on Amazon marked up over $100. It is so reasonable that HP sort of hides it on its website. Searching there website even with the part number will not find it. Google will find it on the HP site. It is so reasonable that it is sometimes out of stock. HP Compaq L2206tm, $275.

    I have 2 on my system. With this large area I tend to forget where the mouse is. I often use them just to put the mouse in the general area I need and then use a regular mouse after it.

    Note the older model is the L2105tm so do not be confused by it.

  12. Lynne Jolitz says:

    I think the flaw is they tried to fold Windows into an earlier view of tablet computing and then recapitulated that flaw with “touch”.

    Yet it must look like Windows. A killer UI and API for the tablet is hence hobbled.

    Microsoft has to face facts – it can’t have the best in Windows and the best in touch. They must choose. Otherwise, it is a long goodbye strategy.

    The irony is Google is on the verge of self-destruction with Android because they’re bored with it and annoyed with all the flaws from its Linux / Intel roots. Yet they don’t want to invest in it, because it’s too “open” to control, even though “open” drives adoption. A classic Prisoner’s Dilemma.

    So while Microsoft is bound to the past no matter what while watching it’s PC revenue decline, Google is confounded. Google has the “new” market share, but doesn’t really “share” in the market revenue.

    Maybe it’s time for a new OS that is built from the bottom up to be 1) responsive and 2) modular for the “Internet of Things” world?

  13. We have Windows 8 Pro deployed to our CAD users, most all are absolutely fine with the interface and have grown like it, two of our users needed to have Start8 installed by http://www.stardock.com/ (they have several products for those unwillingly to leave the Windows 7 UI behind)

  14. Erik says:

    I recently had the unexpected experience of changing an 8 computer office from XP to W8, as the computers ordered with W7 came with W8. At the end of this time-consuming and unpleasant experience, I thought that if I had to do it again I would just shoot myself first to save the pain!

    Losing the XP programmes menu, where you could type P and follow through to your desired programme with a few keystrokes, to w7 where you have to click on things and spell out the name of your programme, wait for w7 to find it, select the one you want then double click or hit enter, to w8 where if you are lucky you can click on an overgrown mobile phone screen is no fun at all for competent touch typists! Some of you in this discussion don’t use keyboard options: some of us who type use them dozens of times a day (see F4 discussion above).

    Retraining an office full of busy staff was not appreciated. Turning off a w8 machine is difficult enough that a shortcut “shutdown /s /t 0” (that’s a zero!) with a hotkey F1 actually allows us to shut down without having to follow instructions in a manual.

    Having your programmes maximised is great – except when you don’t want it. A big screen is lovely for running multiple things on it, especially when you have to transfer data across programmes. Having to find the location of all the microsoft office programmes and manually construct desktop icons was a pain in the bum, but allows running several at once again.

    Hopefully w8 will be reliable etc etc. No, I won’t go for another operating system to cope with the modern era: by the time it’s bug free, it will be time for another OS! (YAHOOS – Yet another horribly obscure operating system . . . !) We’ll get used to w8 as we got used to its predecessors, but it was a thoroughly unpleasant experience which could have been made so much easier with a little more thoughtfulness by the designers.

    • halberenson says:

      Sorry, but you are clearly not very familiar with Windows 8. Press Windows key, start typing program name, hit enter. Or semantic zoom to get to the group you want, then tap on the desired program. The only time XP is conceivably faster is if something you are looking for is in the most recently used list. And if you don’t know the name of what you are looking for than Windows 8 is arguably the fastest of the three hands down.

      • Erik says:

        Many thanks, halberenson! That’s the most useful thing anybody has told me about w8 yet. Much appreciated. (I think that’s one form of “discoverability” . . . being told by those who know!) Thanks again. I would never have discovered it otherwise.

  15. Steve Tabler says:

    It is all well and good that Windows 8 is able to function efficiently for touch-based applications on touch-based equipment. However, a good program, especially if it is a complex program, is going to have some install options…..like being able to tell Windows 8 that it is being installed on a desktop, and to EXCLUDE the touch interface and to EXCLUDE the Metro/Modern UI and to INCLUDE (or exclude) the Start button, just like you tell it which hard drive you want it to be installed on and what printer you use. Until this is done, I don’t see Windows 8 as being a viable product.

    • halberenson says:

      Why not just stay on Win7?

      • Chris says:

        Why not give users a choice? Why is Microsoft intent on pissing off and crapping all over the only constituency it actually has – that of the “dinosaur” desktop?

        • halberenson says:

          Give users a choice in what? The only thing it seems they could have given users a choice of realistically is to retain the Start menu and allow boot into desktop. That’s almost certainly what I would have done if I’d been running Windows. But the rest? The clear move away from the desktop and Win32? That is something they have to do to survive.

          The other part of the equation remains what I’ve reiterated many times, that people just don’t upgrade. Businesses just won’t be ready for another upgrade cycle until 2015 or later. So, why focus Windows 8 on attracting users who are perfectly happy sticking with Windows 7?

      • Erik says:

        That was exactly what we wanted and ordered, but the suppliers provided machines with w8. And it was hundreds of money to send them all back again, so we made the best of it (with RetroUI).

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  17. Jim R says:

    I don’t hate touch. I hate touch done at the expense of usability and learnability.

    I have a Windows Phone and think it’s wonderful. I have a tablet (not Windows 8) and it’s great for browsing, media, reading email, and some games that work well with touch. So I like touch. And I really really like on the Windows Phone. And I *have* tried Windows 8 (several times so far). But it just isn’t doing it for me.

    I think the prior commenters that flagged the discoverability issue nailed it for me. In Windows 8, everything beyond launching apps from tiles is some sort of big secret that is hidden with absolutely no visual clues until after you find it. Actions have to be discovered by accident, learned from outside sources, or simply never known. It’s like Microsoft forgot half of what is good graphical user interface design. The whole reason I like a Start menu and drop down menus (or ribbons) is that if I forget what or where to find something that I use infrequently, I can rummage around until I find it. I don’t have to remember enough of a keyword to type in some search string. Or crack open a manual. If I wanted to work from memorized strings and incantations, I could just go back 20 years to command line interfaces. That’s what Windows 8 feels like to me.

    And then there are some utterly infuriating things in overall completeness and usability. Case in point: there is no clock anywhere on the start screen. Every phone, tablet, and computer OS I’ve used for at least the last decade has had a clock on the home screen. But not Windows 8. Ok, so surely there is a clock app with a live tile so I can get a clock? Umm..well, the clock app Microsoft included doesn’t have a live tile, even though that’s the big deal with this new UI. Ok, so I then go read on the web, then go to the app store. Bunches of clock apps. Most don’t have a live tile. The few that do cost money. And I have to research them to figure out which ones do (because most aren’t free, even though all they do is show a clock). So, right off the bat, I have to shell out $$ to get a friggin CLOCK on my home screen????! Oh yeah, that adventure in discovering clocks cost about an hour of my life. That’s productivity?

    Another case was trying to add a networked home printer. The obvious (?) Windows 8 method never even discovered my printer. Winding through an endless maze of help screens that took me to old style control panel and “devices and printers” screens eventually got the printer installed, but the process was so obtuse and clunky that I could not even begin to try to reproduce a description. There went another hour of my life. On Windows 7 the network discovery works so it takes me about 1 minute to get that same printer installed on a new or reimaged computer.

    I really would like to use Windows 8 and get all the nice improvements in the underlying operating system. But by this point I have found it to be nothing but a pain in the rear, and have not had the patience to invest more of my life into it, all for reasons that really have nothing to do with touch per se.

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