I’ve been optimistic about Windows 8 ever since Microsoft revealed a glimpse of the operating system in June, and that hasn’t changed now that I’ve played around with the developer build on a prototype tablet.
But not everything’s peachy with Windows 8. With the caveat that the software I’ve seen is an early build that’s subject to change, and the hardware may never see store shelves in its current form, here are a few nitpicks and concerns I have with the operating system:
(MORE: Windows 8: What You Need to Know)
Juggling Apps Is a Chore
Switching between two apps in the Metro interface on a Windows 8 tablet is as simple as dragging a finger out from the left bezel. But the process gets messy when you’ve got more than two apps open. At present, there’s no way to select from multiple open apps, so all you can do is keep dragging out apps from the bezel until you find the one you want, or exit out to the Start screen and select your app from there. Windows 8 needs a way to sort through all your open apps — and ideally, close them if they’re no longer necessary.
Desktop Touch Needs Improvement
I understand that the Windows desktop isn’t really designed for tablets, and that’s never going to change. But a few adjustments could make desktop touch a lot more usable. How about automatically surfacing the keyboard when tapping a text field, or making navigation buttons larger when no other input devices are present?
The Desktop Needs Its Programs List Back
In Windows 7, tapping the “Start” button opens a list of recent and favorite apps, along with a master list of installed programs. In Windows 8, when using a mouse, this button opens a list of options that take you back to the new Metro interface. It’s a jarring shift, and one that desktop users won’t want to confront when all they want to do is open a desktop app. Which brings me to the next point …
Some users simply will not want to use the Metro interface. Or at the very least, they won’t want to be switching back and forth between the desktop and Metro just to run legacy software. Microsoft should create a way for users to ignore Metro and boot straight to the desktop, or else power users will scream bloody murder.
The Hardware Ran Hot and Loud
The developer preview tablet I tried would routinely get warm to the touch, and the noise from its fan was ever-present. Microsoft and Intel still have a lot of work to do if they want x86-based Windows tablets to keep up with the iPad.
Split-Screen Apps Can’t Share Data
Less of a nitpick and more of a missed opportunity, the cool side-by-side app feature in Windows 8 doesn’t let users drag information back and forth between the two apps. That kind of sharing is all handled through the “Share” button, which is still pretty cool, but I was hoping to see some ideas from the Courier to carry over to Windows 8.
What’s With the Old Windows Sounds?
The little chime tone that plays when you wake a Windows laptop from sleep? Still in there. If you thought the transition from Metro to desktop interfaces was jarring in Windows 8, wait’ll you see the Windows 8 Start screen pop up with a sound effect that’s associated with the pre-iPad era. All we need now is the AOL “You’ve Got Mail!” guy to alert us to incoming messages.
(PICTURES: The First Windows 8 Tablet)