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All posts tagged Metro UI

Windows 8.1

Now that all the hullabaloo has died down over the update from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 I thought it time to weigh in on my overall impressions and a couple of specifics.

As you know Windows 8.1 is the first major update of the OS and ground breaking at that for those with Windows 8; you simply open the Windows Store and run the update from there.

Windows 8.1 - StoreWindows 8.1 Instore UpgradeWindows 8.1 Instore Installing

The install was seamless and I optimized the download speed by running it hardwired to the router and not over WiFi.

Windows 8.1 gave us The Return of A Start Button, integrated search from the Search charm and a slew of improvements to include several Apps.

Was it Worth It?

In a nutshell… yes. As good as Windows 8 was, the UX is improved and performance seems to be too. Windows 8.1 is even better.

For all of you who enjoy the recurring jokes and memes about Internet Explorer online I have this to say,

Internet Explorer 11 is not your Dad’s IE.

This is a geometric improvement that leaves its competitors in the dust. It provided a robust browsing experience (mostly) coupled with speed that makes browsing the pleasure it should be. IE11 doesn’t seem to have the thirst for CPU / RAM that some if it’s greedy competitors do, nor does there seem to be the necessity for update du jour (you know who I mean).

The only two web applications I have seen issue with are Tweetdeck for the Web which occasionally needs recovery when returning to the App from another tab and the great social music App Serendip where a scripting bug prevents music videos from playing but only in one’s own music library. Obviously, I reported the bug on discovery and got a nice response from the team at Serendip.

IE11 is also available for Windows 7 (different language and 32/64 bit versions can be found here) and I give it a strong recommend.

Bugs Or Features? Workarounds Too.

  • After installing Windows 8.1 I was pleased (yes pleased) to discover the onboard WiFi card was not supported. This forced me to choose between waiting for a driver update (who knew when) or upgrading to a faster WiFi USB dongle. Obviously I opted for the latter and received a smoother, faster wireless internet connection in the process. Since then the issue has been resolved but I’m too happy with the Edimax USB dongle to test the fix.
  • Those who have used the Metro / New Windows UI Apps in Windows 8 will be familiar with minimize > right-click > close to exit the App. In Windows 8.1 the App does not close until you go to the Task Manager and terminate the App from there. These Apps do not have a noticeable footprint or performance impact but nonetheless this is a bug that needs fixing.
  • The User Libraries (Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos, Downloads etc.) have an interesting bug; any folder containing media generates a Thumbs.db system file and by default these Libraries seem to be set to Read Only. The user cannot delete these folders but can delete their content, leaving a mess of empty folders.

There are several workarounds for this bug: –

  1. Select the folders from the Library and cut them (CTRL-X) then paste them (CTRL-V) in a non-Library folder e.g. C:/Temp. You can select and delete the folders from there and will receive the same warning about the folder containing Thumbs.db. In a non-Library folder you can select the checkbox in this dialog “Do this for all current items” and it will delete as expected.

Windows 8.1 Thumbs.db Delete Bug

  1. Using a ZIP tool like WinRAR select the empty folders in the Library and select the option to delete all folders after compression. Once they are save to the ZIP file they are successfully deleted and you can easily delete the ZIP file; goodbye empty folders.
  2. Unlocker is a neat app that allows you to select files or folders that Windows locks, preventing deletion and with a right-click you can unlock and delete them. The only restriction I’ve found is that I could only unlock one folder at a time.

The Warptest POV

To keep things in context these are the only bugs I’ve seen since I upgraded. By and large the Windows 8.1 experience is good and I am simply able to get on with my work without excessive tweaks or clicks.

The OS performs well and everyone I have shown Windows 8.1 gets it and even finds it intuitive. Microsoft made a huge effort to absorb the users’ comments from Windows 8 and continue to deliver a great UX.

For those who do need the extra help the boffins at Redmond provided the Help and Tips app with Windows 8.1, sadly not Ms Dewey or Cortana but let’s see what the near future brings us. This App will certainly get you up and running.

Windows 8.1 Help and Tips App

Windows 8.1 is here to stay and it’s impressive and easy to work with as long as you hit the power on button with an open mind. If you have only read negative reviews and are surprised by what you read here then get in touch for more details why the trolls are wrong about Windows 8.1

In the meanwhile I’ll report these bugs and see if they are known issues and or if there is an ETA for anticipated fixes.

Windows Phone Is Different…

The flat, Metro New Windows UI is often awe-inspiring to those who see and experience it for the first time. I even referred to this revelatory experience in a recent post.

No one can deny that the unique UX sets Windows Phone apart from the other Smartphone platforms.

The Awesomeness of Live Tiles…

One of the things that plagued Windows Mobile the predecessor to Windows Phone was the failure to comprehend that you cannot port desktop UX onto a Smartphone screen (however big they are getting) and expect it to work. It was possibly the biggest reason why Windows Phone came late to market compared to Android or iPhone. Microsoft took a long hard look at what Smartphone UX should be.

One of the first things that someone notices is Live Tiles. The Start Screen of any Windows Phone is populated with Live Tiles, akin to animated, resizable icons both allowing the user to customize their phone desktop and receive information from the App via the Live Tile. For some like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn the Live Tile shows a count of new messages. Others may display actual content such as local temperature or a stock quote.

Windows Phone - Live Tiles

The Missing Link?

Whilst using my laptop recently I was using The Windows Phone Dev Center and decided it would be convenient to pin the shortcut to the Windows taskbar. The rationale for this feature is sound, web applications or sites that behave as applications make sense to have pinned alongside local applications in the taskbar.

I asked myself, wouldn’t it make sense for Windows Phone to allow a similar feature? The fact is they do.

Windows Phone - Pin To Start

With it, the pinned site becomes a Live Tile. In fact this feature can be used for most things on the Windows Phone including Contacts, favorite Songs, Documents and more. The official Windows Phone site explains it nicely here. In a nutshell the Live Tile created will display any update to the entity pinned and it becomes a speed-dial for whatever you pin.

The Warptest POV

This is both an incredibly useful and killer feature for Windows Phone that increases the ROI on selecting this phone platform over the competition. This is one step nearer to feature and UX convergence between Windows desktop and phone OS.

So, next time you meet me for coffee feel free to ask for a demo of my Windows Phone and prepare to be wowed. Who knows it might convince you that your next phone should be a Windows Phone.

The New Windows UI

The Windows 8 revolution has begun …

I don’t believe that it’s empty hyperbole to describe the launch of Windows 8 as a revolution. This is the Operating System as it should be.

Windows has evolved and as a result the most important preparation you can make before upgrading to Windows 8 is to prepare yourself.

It doesn’t really matter what OS you have used until now …

Whether it was Windows XP, Vista or 7, a flavor of Linux or Apple’s Mac OS X, the UI / UX for Windows 8 is something different; as is the seamless integration of Microsoft’s Cloud Services.

Your Windows Login can be set (opt-in) to use your Microsoft Account (formerly your Live ID) as your login and this brings with it a holistic sync of these services with the relevant apps:

You will find your Hotmail / Outlook.com, Contacts, Calendar and Skydrive all sync’d and accessible and if like me you are a Windows Phone user then the experience is even sweeter. You don’t have to have a Microsoft Account to use Windows 8 but the truth is, that is the way to maximize your investment in the OS.

Windows 8 is a cloud integrated OS at its very core and with this you are called on to embrace Apps versus Desktop Apps and perhaps more controversially the disappearance of the Start Menu.

Apps versus Desktop Apps …

Apps are Metro UI in design and the desktop for these utilizes Live Tile technology. We got our first taste of this in Windows Phone to a degree; Live Tiles are large, boldly designed icons that may display dynamic information regarding App related content e.g. Mail’s Live Tile may display the number of new / unread emails waiting for you, People’s Live Tile shows you the latest messages from your Contacts in the different connected Social Networks:

The New Windows 8 UI Desktop

This means that your Desktop is now a source of as much Real Time information as you see fit.

Desktop Apps are the classical Windows styled programs that will display in the Desktop. In some cases the

TIP: Your best friend in a non-touch enabled device is the Windows Key:

Used by itself it will toggle between Metro Desktop and Classical Windows Desktop.

Used in conjunction with the X key on your keyboard you get the Main Menu.

Windows 8 Desktop

Alternatively for the early adopter types, the power move is to use the Charms Menu. Swipe down from the top right with the mouse (if touch enabled with your finger)

The Windows 8 Charms Menu

The Warptest Perspective …

  • Prepare yourself: expect some degree of ramp up time in getting used to Windows 8. Revolutionary can be a bit hard to cope with if your mouse hand keeps straying towards the missing Start Menu.
  • I will deep dive the Charms Menu in a later post. This is a power feature that deserves more detail; Search alone is multifaceted, killer app.
  • The Metro UI Desktop: be aware that you can easily remove Live Tiles (right click the Tile you don’t need and a menu will open at the bottom of the screen)
  • Live Tiles and Cognitive Dissonance. Too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing. So if you find it distracting or confusing to have too many Live Tiles dynamically refreshing information then thin the herd.
  • I’ll say it one more time. Windows 8 is revolutionary and adjusting your mindset about how you are used to doing things will make for a stress free transition.

One thing is certain, the revolution is waiting for you too. Are you going to join?