Disclaimer: I am an independent Windows 8 developer who used to work for Microsoft. My family uses Windows PCs and iOS devices. When working on HTML5 projects I sometimes use a Mac to develop. Its crazy, I know.
There has been a lot of talk about the lack of a Start button in Windows 8. Or more accurately, a statically placed visual icon in the Desktop app which the user can click on to return to the Start screen.
What happens if the user is in the Desktop app and moves there mouse into the same area, perhaps even driven by muscle memory? A little thumbnail of the Start screen shows up and when clicked takes you to the Start screen.
For even faster travel back to the Start screen, just press the Windows key and you’re there. It’s stunning, really.
I do agree though, it’s not in your face and you have to learn how to do it. Should they put the Start button back in the task bar? Sure, just use the new Win8 logo and you’re done.
Do I think this is going to be a real issue for my mother, grandparent or my kids? No. At least I hope not. If so, something went terribly wrong.
Go to one of your non-techie Windows-using friend’s computers and hit the amazing start button. Take a look at the most commonly used programs. What do you see?
This is what I found:
- Web Browser
- Photos, Music, Video, Messaging, Twitter, Facebook, Reader
- Windows Explorer, Microsoft Office, Video Chat, Calculator, Snipping Tool
- QuickBooks, Family Tree Maker, Minecraft, League of Legends
Those are examples of commonly used Windows Programs. Now how does that compare to the new fandangled Metro style apps which run from the Windows 8 start screen and not the Desktop app? You know the one missing the Start button.
You can do just about everything in the browser, the web is amazing. You may even be able to build an OS on it. Is there a Metro-style browser in Windows 8? Yes, its IE10 and hey it has way better support for CSS3. Are there more coming? Yes, Firefox is confirmed.
Mail, Photos, Music, Video, Messaging, Twitter, Facebook, Reader
There are Metro-style apps already available in the Consumer Preview that perform these functions. Are they awesome? Almost, definitely promising, but I believe they will be better for release. And if not, there will be other options via the Store.
Windows Explorer, Microsoft Office, Video Chat, Calculator, Snipping Tool
These programs are not yet available as Metro-style apps. If Microsoft does not make them available then they’ve failed here. And the good news is, as far as the last three are concerned, there will be other options via the Store.
Quickbooks, Family Tree Maker, Minecraft, League of Legends
These are examples of programs that are likely not to be changed (ever or anytime soon) to Metro-style apps, for some reason or another – existing investment, technical philosophy, etc. This is where it hits the most and we might need that little Start button back. And if you don’t convert or get a hook in the Store somehow, less and less Windows users will adopt your program and instead use one of the other options via the Store.
My mom won’t care about the Windows 8 Start button
Because hopefully she will be too busy hanging it in Metro style land; not breaking her computer rather finally getting to it enjoy it. One of my first “ah-ha” moments with Windows 8 was looking at the Settings app. “My family could use this!” I thought. It’s way friendlier and less intimidating than the Control Panel. Thanks Metro design language.
…other options via the Store
You may have noticed this phrase come up more than once in this post. That’s because this is big clincher, the thing that makes everything work.
Quick, guess how many Windows programs my 10-year old daughter has installed? 0
Now how many apps has she installed on her iPod? At least 30 or 40.
What does the mean? She loves her iPod way more. I believe that once she sets up her Win8 PC in the same manner as well she’ll be hooked. When my wife customizes her Win8 PC she’ll be happier and more productive. When my mom customizes her Win8 PC (or I do it for her) she won’t be lost anymore.
As for those of us power users
I need my Visual Studio and Photoshop to pay for all of these apps and Windows 8 PCs, so I need to learn to be comfortable moving between the Start screen and the Desktop app. The good news is it’s not that hard. You really just need to know Win, Win+X and Win+C.
Try it out. Besides, your other hand needs something to do while you’re mousing around.