People who have installed the Windows 8 Consumer Preview praise its speed and the changes to Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer, but most readers who answered a PCWorld survey aren’t satisfied with the new Metro interface — and half indicate that they would be unlikely to recommend the new operating system to a friend.
Microsoft made the Consumer Preview available for a free download last week, and more than 2900 people who had installed the OS answered our survey.
By far the most divisive part of Windows 8 is the Metro interface, which replaces the traditional Start menu with a Start Screen filled with colorful, interactive tiles that show data and act as shortcuts to applications. Microsoft already uses the Metro UI in the Windows Phone 7 OS and on the Xbox 360 console.
Praise and Criticism
Some respondents praised the interface as fun and innovative.
“It takes some getting used to, but once you’ve learned it, it is easier to use, faster, more intuitive, and easy to customize,” one respondent said. “It’s shaping up to be not only the most radically different Windows ever, but also the best. We aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.”
“I am blown away. The PC just became fun to use again,” another fan said.
But Metro’s critics were sometimes scathing.
“I hate the new user interface and the lack of a Start button,” one said. “The OS feels like it was designed for the tablet, with the desktop PC as a complete afterthought. Windows 8 will be the new Windows Vista.”
“Windows 8 straddles the fence between being a touchscreen OS and a desktop OS, and anyone who’s straddled a fence before knows it’s rather uncomfortable,” another detractor said.
Asked whether they were satisfied with Metro, the largest block of respondents, 26.2 per cent, chose “extremely dissatisfied.” An almost equal number, 23.2 per cent, said they were extremely satisfied. All told, though, fewer than half of the respondents said they were satisfied with Metro.
Asked about their overall satisfaction with Windows 8, a majority, 52 per cent, said they were satisfied. But when we asked if they would recommend the OS to a friend, 21.2 per cent of respondents said they were highly unlikely to recommend it, and a little more than 50 per cent chose responses on the bottom half of our 10-point scale.
Some of the most common complaints about Metro:
* The transition from the new interface to the traditional desktop environment is awkward.
* Metro apps mostly display full-screen, wasting valuable screen real estate.
* There’s no simple and obvious way to shut down Metro apps.
* Even a task as basic as shutting down your PC is obscure and takes too many steps.
“It’s like working on two different systems, like one native OS and a virtual PC, ” one respondent said. “If Microsoft had tried to adapt the Metro interface to the desktop and Explorer, it would have been great.”
“It took me 10 minutes just to figure out how to turn the damn computer off,” one preview user groused.
“The disconnect between Desktop and Metro is … awkward. It’s odd having to deal with two window and task management metaphors,” another preview user said.
Survey respondents were generally positive about the speed of Windows 8. We asked them to compare the speed of Windows 8 with that of the previous operating system they were using on the same device. About 45 per cent said the speed was the same, but another 40 per cent reported that their device felt faster with Windows 8. Only 9.4 per cent said the new OS seemed slower.
“I love the speed of startup and shutdown,” one survey respondent said. “It also uses less RAM than Windows 7.”
A majority of survey respondents were positive about Internet Explorer 10, and the new version of Windows Explorer. The latter includes the controversial Ribbon interface from recent versions of Microsoft Office–but unlike in Office apps, the Ribbon in Explorer tends to hide itself when it’s not needed.
“The Ribbon on the top of folders is awesome,” one respondent said.