“Why do the Windows developers feel this new way is an advantage?”

The collective uproar over Microsoft’s decision to kill the Start menu in Windows 8 reminds me of this discussion I found in microsoft.public.win95.shellui.

It’s from May 27, 1997:

I know it’s almost 2 years since Win95 was released, but even after a
year of almost daily use I’m still trying to get used to it and I hope
someone can offer words of wisdom: I still prefer the Win3.x way of
finding and then launching programs from pretty icons in group windows
in Program Manager rather than, as we do now, with multiple layers of
pure text menus (Start | Programs | many submenus, etc.)  I don’t like
the length of time it takes to wade through these submenus, and I
particularly don’t like the excessive hand/mouse activity it involves.
I especially don’t like not having a Program Manager which I can easily
Alt-Tab to in order to get to these icons.

I know I can minimize my open apps to get to my desktop icons, and I
know there’s Power Toys which will allow you to access your desktop via
a text menu, and I know there are other workarounds for this issue.

What I don’t understand is why the developers felt that this new way is
an advantage.  Can someone please help me see this?

The responses are downright poignant.

(Tip: You could replace that hideous newfangled Windows 95 Start menu with the time-tested Windows 3.x Program Manager by setting shell=progman.exe in System.ini.)

See also: Competing visions of the future of personal computing

15 thoughts on ““Why do the Windows developers feel this new way is an advantage?”

  1. As a developer, I can say it’s kind of a pain not to have the start menu when you’re working in desktop mode. I keep flipping back to metro view and typing in what I’m looking for (like Control panel or SQLServer Management Studio, both of which take me right back to desktop mode). Ok, I can deal. But people like my mom will never know what to search for. You might argue that most consumers will treat Windows 8 on a tablet like an iPad and never use the desktop mode, but then why would they pay what is essentially more than an iPad for a Windows slate? Oh yeah, so they can print documents.

  2. I don’t see what relevance this has or how it adds to the debate.

    You could find people in the past who argued for and against various issues from the past, some of which turned out to be good ideas and some which didn’t. So what?

    If the best defence of the changes is that “some people were wrong about other changes in the past,” and with it the implication that “any change is good, no matter what, and anyone who doesn’t like it just hates change,” then I’ll pass on that logic, thanks.


  3. There’s nothing inherently good about change for the sake of it.

    Windows 95 was a vast leap forward from Windows 3.1.

    Windows 8 (the Metro side, on the desktop) seems like a step backwards. It’s as if the last 17 years of UI design and improvement has all been a waste of time. So far I’m yet to see any conclusive arguments for why the changes in Windows 8 are BETTER for desktop users. That’s what’s important when it comes to evaluating whether change is worthwhile or not.

    Of course any sort of change is always good for people who write books for a living 😉

  4. I’m certainly not sure if MSFT has succeeded here, but they have to start adapting the computer to the human user rather than what we’ve been doing for the last twenty years… teaching humans to adapt to the computer. We solve problems with training and teaching and then we say “well users finally learned to use this”.

    Only it’s not true. Users everyday get frustrated with Windows and don’t know how to do anything but the most basic tasks. Sure, those of us who adapted can manage our systems fine, but the reason tablets are flying out the door is that they don’t ask you to manage them. They don’t offer advanced mode. They do simple jobs that people actually want to do.

    Microsoft is in the tough spot of not wanting to cede the home/consumer market (because it will eventually erode their business advantages) or to displace the business consumer or worker who just wants to use Word and Excel.

    I don’t know if this is the way forward, but there’s no question MSFT has to adapt somehow.

  5. Windows Vista Inside Out wasn’t a bestseller because Windows Vista wasn’t a bestseller. And with good reason, too. Windows 8 CP has not yet shown a compelling reason to upgrade from Windows 7. Whereas Windows 7 was a compelling upgrade from Windows XP (and certainly Vista).

  6. So, Ed, it “reminds” you of it, but surely you’re not equating the two, right? Because if you were, then that would be a false equivalence. The W95 Start menu offered you a completely different way of doing things, but as you remind us, you could revert to the old way. Plus, even if you didn’t, the new way was a superset of the old way. You didn’t lose anything.

    In W8, for Desktop users, you do. For example, the lack of niceties on the classic Start menu, particularly Recent Documents, is killing me. I also appreciated simple things like being able to see search results for both apps and settings in one view (categorically separated, but all visible at a glance); now I usually have to click between apps and settings because often I guess wrong as to which one will have the results I want. I could go on.

  7. Rick, you’re inadvertently making the case for change.

    “For example, the lack of niceties on the classic Start menu, particularly Recent Documents, is killing me.”

    You know, Recent Items isn’t on the default Windows 7 Start menu. You had to go in there and add it. It’s just one of dozens of customization options on the Start Menu Properties dialog box. I suspect the percentage of people who touch that dialog box is less than 1% of all users. I think the last time I changed anything there was while I was researching Windows 7 Inside Out.

  8. @robin…. Have a look at all apps…. Find the app, ie that SQL Management Studio, right click it, a command bar will appear at the bottom of your screen, an action ‘Add to Start’ will be on the command bar, click it…

    A tile will as if by magic appear on the Start screen…. You can even drag the tile to a recognisable place… Even create a group just for…

    Hey presto no more typing and searching… Simples

  9. Ed, OK, so one of the two examples I chose isn’t a default, but eliminating the entire Start menu from the Desktop has taken this and many other things away with no way to add them back. If MS is going to tip over the apple cart, the least they should do is let us pick up the apples that we want. I don’t know why they’re SO keen on wanting desktop users to be flipping back and forth from the Start screen, but to add insult to injury, it’s not even a superset of what we had.

  10. This video of Chris Pirillo’s dad getting lost on the desktop with no Start menu is indicative of the problem with Windows 8. The interface as designed is GREAT for touch and DOES NOT WORK with a keyboard and mouse. It’s even worse on a large monitor. We need the ability to put the SWtart button back in the desktop mode, and preferably the Start menu as well.

    YouTube video

  11. Clarifying – if Pirillo’s dad had been using a tablet, we would have had a physical home button that would simply and easily have gotten him back to Metro. The button for doing that in Windows 8 is one of 100 or so on thye keyboard, and is NOT one normal people use regularly. When you don’t surface UI elements, people don’t know they’re there, making your system hard to use.

  12. @Rick – there are actually two things you can do to get back a lot of Start menu functionality in Windows 8 CP.

    One – lower left corner hotspot right click for a 16 menu item context menu with links to typical power user type items.

    Two – add the Desktop toolbar to the taskbar. Cascading menu for user account items, control panel etc.

    Screenshots here – http://www.windowsobserver.com/2012/03/05/windows-8-consumer-preview-two-built-in-alternatives-to-the-start-menu/

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