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Windows 8: Embrace the Interface

By Ken Hess

Admittedly, when I first saw Windows 95 (95), I was intrigued by the new look and feel. I converted my Windows 3.11 desktop to 95 as soon I could lay my hands on a production copy. After a couple of days, I switched back. My Windows 3.11 to Windows 95 conversions and unconversions went on for more than two months, until one day I decided to make the switch for good. I never went back to Windows 3.11 again. I embraced the interface and have never looked back.

By the time Windows NT 4.0 arrived with the slick new interface, I was hooked. I became an evangelist for the new look. "It's more efficient. It's faster. It's the future." And, I said it with conviction and authority. It didn't hurt that I was a Windows NT Domain Administrator at the time. Each week, I converted dozens of workstations and users to the revolutionary new interface.

Some of the people were ready, but many were not. I felt bad for those who weren't. I felt their pain. However, as I told them, "You can't go backwards. This is the new Windows. You either have to use it or quit using technology." Yes, a bit harsh, even for me. But, I was right, though my delivery could have used some tweaking.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago and the Windows Server 8 Beta release. Although I had already seen the Windows 8 desktop preview, I had to look at what Server had to offer anyway. After a quick and easy installation, there it was, staring back at me: Metro – those giant, almost childish icon pictures and that horizontal slidey "let me see more" action. I had that same Windows 95 flush washing over me. I hated Metro. It just looked silly. I had used the new Windows interface for more than 15 years, and I liked it. It worked.

Then my own words came back to haunt me. My harsh words of "wisdom" that I'd so readily imparted to the innocent people of my Windows NT Domain all those years ago. There's nothing as bitter as the taste of your own words.

I powered off my Windows Server 8 Beta system for a couple of days to allow this new paradigm to sink in. When I powered it back on, I told myself that I'd give it a chance. I did give it a chance. I worked in all of the regular applications. I clicked the desktop's giant icon picture things. I navigated the filesystem using Explorer. I opened a command prompt. I explored PowerShell 3.0. I attempted to create the look and feel of the now "classic" desktop.

After hours of sliding, clicking, and tweaking, I decided that Metro had some advantages over the earlier Windows incarnations. It feels lighter. It feels like the graphical interface is out of the way of your actual work. It's now less about the operating system and more about using applications. It's an application-oriented interface. It's more user-centric than the "Chicago" interface. It's a new way of working; it requires you to put the operating system out of your mind and to focus on work.

With a single click, you have access to Server Manager, Task Manager, Control Panel, PowerShell, Active Directory, IIS Manager, and more. No more fumbling through Start | Programs | Administrative Tools or keeping the icons on your desktop. The icons are already there. The reason you saved all of those shortcuts on your desktop is that the old interface was actually inefficient. There, I said it – it was inefficient. What Microsoft has done with Metro is to give you what you wanted in a better package.

Metro, like any new thing, takes getting used to. You'll find that it's more efficient. It's faster. It's the future. Approach Metro with an open mind. Microsoft spent years observing work habits, system usage, and how many clicks it took to do ordinary tasks. Embrace the new interface because you can't go backwards. This is the new Windows. You either have to use it or quit using technology. My own harsh words reflected back to me and my own lesson. Learned.

Ken Hess * ADMIN Senior Editor