By Andrew Hendricks
Microsoft’s new Operating System Windows 8 has been met with a flurry of confusion and condemnation. Between the “lack of a start button” and unusual Metro, touch-oriented start display, critics from computer novices to tech junkies have lined up to trash Windows 8 as inferior to its predecessor, Windows 7.
Windows 7 is a good OS, don’t get me wrong. It’s easy to see why people like it. It’s Windows XP (everyone’s favorite OS) updated, without a lot of the crap that came with using the notoriously buggy Windows Vista. I’m not criticizing Windows 7. It was the last, best OS that used the style Microsoft is so well known for and has been since it forsook DOS for desktop computing. Even then, many die-hard programmers hated the watered down use of a graphical interface in place of the raw power of command line inputs—for anything other than games of course. But we know who won that battle, and now every OS must have a desktop.
”Yeah, and where’s my desktop!” you say. “Where’s my friggin’ start button?” Apparently Microsoft had no idea the horrible sin they were committing by messing with the almighty start button. The current version of Windows 8 uses a “Metro” style with a “start bar” of icons rather than immediately loading a desktop. You can, however use the desktop with your regular view by toggling between it with the windows key.
The start screen may seem a bit useless to PC users at first, and may remind some gamers of the Xbox’s load screen. Window’s phone users will be even more familiar with the style. While I admit I didn’t use it much at first, I have learned you can save a lot of time by deleting the apps you don’t want from the start bar and pin your favorites. Customization is a key feature in Windows 8, and a feature I found fun to play around with. It is understandable why less computer-savvy users would freak out from the loss of their go-to start button, however it is not even gone. It is in the exact same place, it’s just hidden until you mouse-over the bottom left corner.
Some more tech-oriented friends of mine have pointed out their hatred for it is simply because it takes more clicks or more time to do simple tasks than Windows 7. In some cases, similar movements might take one or two extra clicks, however I’ve found that most of the complaints come from people trying to figure out how to do a task, rather than complaining about how difficult performing a task actually is on Windows 8. Taking ten seconds to just Google any question I had about the OS, I found myself not once frustrated or unable to do what I wanted. I prefer an OS has the most streamlined functionality and performance. I don’t require it to read my mind. My only main complaint is the default full-screen nature of apps like photo-viewing and PDFs that you cannot change by default.
What impressed me most was that Windows 8 doesn’t treat me like an idiot. My most hated “feature” of Windows 7 was that administrator rights were hidden from you. I don’t like it being assumed that my system needs to be protected from me, especially when the system doing so prevents me from doing maintenance. Some viruses can’t be removed with some modern spyware without administrator rights. To activate the administration account in Windows 7, you actually had to go into the command prompt box and type in a string that unlocked it upon login. While it’s cool to occasionally get to feel like a programmer, a good OS should never force the user to go into the command prompt to do something absolutely reasonable like wanting to be the admin on their own system. Windows 8 tries to be noob-friendly with frequent-use apps in bold start bar display, however they don’t try to hide utility from users who have some idea of what they are doing. When trying more advanced tasks, a good rule of thumb with Windows 8 is, when it doubt, right click. You’ll find the options you are looking for.
Windows Defender is also a built-in function (which is 8’s version of the popular, free Microsoft Security Essentials), and under-the-hood utility is easily attained by simply right clicking the bottom left of the screen (invisible start bar) while on the desktop. Right-clicking any blank space while in the start menu gives you an option to view all your apps. You can still access your files, doc, computer, and control panel as normal. Windows 8 doesn’t get rid of all the good stuff that works, it merely streamlines its style and utility that, quite frankly, we’ve all been criticizing Microsoft for not doing sooner.
We all love Mac OS for its simplicity in its filesystem while still being easy-on-the-eyes. Microsoft is stepping into a world with their new OS where potentially half of their users are going to be on touchscreens. The clunky, start-button oriented OS of Windows past is simply not a feasible option on phones and tablets, and I frankly wouldn’t enjoy trying to use it as one. Yet, still using Windows 8 on a PC with a mouse, I am blown away by how useful it is. There will always be those who criticize anything new that changes what they are used to, and this too I understand. Windows 7 is still a great system, and if it works for you, you probably won’t need to change for a while (hell, people are still using XP). But from a technical and utilitarian standpoint, Windows 8 is simply much better than the press it has gotten. This OS will be the model for Windows operating systems for years to come. And we should be happy that’s the case.