I’ve been a Microsoft Windows user since Windows 3.1 (and I briefly tried out Windows 2). In the evolution of Windows from 3.1 to Windows 7 we’ve seen a few things. First, Windows has become more powerful and it has become much easier to set up and maintain. It’s much more reliable too. (And if you don’t know what Trumpet Winsock is, you can’t appreciate how much better things are today). At the same time, Microsoft has come up with more and more innovative ways of hiding things you used to know how to find in out-of-the-way places (both in Windows and in Office), and there are obscure settings that can ruin your day, settings you never dreamed existed. (Search your Control Panel for the word “policy’).
A few months back, my wife got a Nokia 920 phone running Windows. It’s really pretty nice, and the user interface (which is Windows 8) works well for the phone, an on-the-go device, keeping the current status of things up front. It’s convenient and well-suited to a portable device.
I installed Windows 8 as an upgrade on my laptop and it became immediately obvious that the Windows 8 “Start” page, while suited for casual use, is wholly useless for a power user. It’s nothing but a toy compared to the standard Windows desktop. Of course the desktop is still there in Windows 8, just tap the Desktop “app” on the Start page. But the desktop lacks the start button, and that really messes up productivity on the desktop.
I am in the process of exploring (and usually deleting) the apps that come with Windows 8. The stupid calendar won’t work with Google Calendar, for example. Chances are 1 in 100 that what Bing says is trending will interest me. The Sports app is now deleted. There may be some good apps out there, but the built-in ones are more demos and toys.
It’s great that Microsoft has developed one user interface that works across desktop computers, tablets and phones. What is not great is that they messed up something that was working well, and with which lots of folks are familiar.
So, there are two things I would suggest for desktop users of Windows 8:
1. Remember that the hot keys that work under Windows 7 generally work under Windows 8. So you can get to the desktop with Win-D. You can close an application with alt-F4. A new hot key, Win-C brings up the “charms,” the little icons on the right that provide access to settings and search, etc. so you don’t have to try to get your mouse way over into the corner. Just pressing the Win key will get to your start page.
2. Get your start button back on the desktop with one of the start button replacement applications. There are several such solutions, but I chose StartIsBack, which costs $3 for a two-PC license. (I hope they guy sells millions of them.) It’s an exact replacement. It has many options, the best of which is to start the desktop when you start the computer (the default after installing). You never need to look at the start screen again. There is a 30-day free trial, but you probably only need 30 seconds to see that it does exactly what it’s supposed to do, bring your old Start Button back.