In Defense of Windows 8

Some of you tech-savvy readers might have heard this week’s announcement from Microsoft that Windows 10 will be released on July 29. Windows releases never seem to get much more than a lukewarm reaction, so it’s hard to gauge exactly how the PC community feels about this yet. More easily measurable, however, is the generally visceral dissatisfaction with the current version of the operating system soon to be replaced—Windows 8.

From my experience, the vast majority of PC users who have tried Windows 8 seem to hate it, or have just avoided it entirely. I’ve been running it on my primary PC since the OS debuted in late 2012, and have grown to enjoy the experience—as unpopular as that opinion may be. It’s really not bad once you get to know your way around, so before it gets completely erased from memory (pun intended) by Windows 10, let’s take a last look at the OS many of you missed out on.

“There’s no (traditional) Start menu!”

Deal with it, Grandpa.

You’re absolutely right though, and it was weird getting used to the tiled Start screen interface at first. The 8.1 update did bring some improvements, but it never gave us the familiar pull-up menu that’s been part of the UI since Windows 95.

pd_windows8_start

But honestly? I got completely used to it. I have all of my common programs pinned to the Start screen and can access any of them from the Desktop in 2 clicks (or 1 click if you open Start by tapping the Windows key). If the program I need isn’t there, I can simply start typing and it will pull up a relevant search results list. It’s just as quick and easy as accessing your programs on an earlier version of Windows, so I’m not entirely sure why people never caught on to this.

Part of it may have been the implication that the Start screen was meant primarily to access the specialized Metro apps like Store, Music, Weather, etc. which I never ended up using. But you can hide those very easily and use that real estate for programs that are relevant to your own workflow.

“It’s probably not compatible with my games or other software!”

Actually, it should work just fine.

I’m not a hardcore gamer so I’m far from the expert on this, but I’ve played enough games and used enough other software (such as the Adobe suite on a daily basis) to form a pretty solid conclusion: there is no observable difference in compatibility or performance between Windows 7 and Windows 8. In over 2 years of using it, I haven’t come across a single issue of a program not working correctly—even with software that is several years old.

Now of course the exception here are the really old games and other programs that were made for versions of Windows long past, but generally these same ones won’t work on Windows 7 either, so I’d attribute that to the simple evolution of software rather than Windows 8 itself.

“I can’t find anything! Where is the Control Panel, etc.?”

They’re easily accessible, just not intuitive.

Admittedly this was an issue for me for a while. For the first day or so I couldn’t even figure out how to access the shutdown options. While there are many ways to do the same thing, the easiest route is through the Quick Access Menu—simply right-click the Windows icon in the bottom-left corner (or press Win+X).

pd_windows8_qam

This pulls up a basic menu of a dozen or so options including Control Panel, Programs and Features, Device Manager, Run, etc. For all practical purposes this gives you quick access to the administrative features of Windows. This makes some items more easily accessible than in previous versions of the OS, but again, the functionality isn’t clear unless you basically discover it by accident.

“It’s terrible because it’s different!”

Maybe you’re just terrible because you’re different!

You see where this logic takes us?

In all seriousness though, the small differences in Windows 8 do their part to make it more enjoyable. The file explorer provides easier access to functionality such as advanced viewing and sorting options. The Task Manager offers a much more cohesive and visually appealing look at memory/CPU breakdowns than in previous versions. Despite the arguable functionality of the Start menu, the general UI design of the OS looks pretty nice. The bootup time is pretty fast, too.

pd_windows8_taskmgr

I didn’t write this with the aim of converting anyone to Windows 8—it’s clearly a moot point anyway with Windows 10 around the corner. But as someone who’s used it for a long time without any major hiccups, I feel it deserves at least a semi-respectable sendoff.

Have you had any good or bad personal experiences with Windows 8? Will you be switching to 10 when it comes out?

4 Comments

  1. For me it’s very sad what happened with Windows 8, in my opinion it was the most advanced OS that Microsoft bring to life. The GUI is so modern, it finally get rid of Windows and desktop for something really fast and agile, panels are really more effective than windows. Why waste time dealing with windows if everybody just maximize it any way? The life tiles are just amazing, they are notification center, app launcher and widgets at same time, it’s genius. Windows Universal Applications finally bring to Windows secure and flexible application architecture, it with a great App Store, finally a PC that anyone can use without being afraid of mess with it. The 2 in 1 experience is amazing on it. For me the problem with Windows 8 was the way Microsoft introduced Windows 8, it should only come with 2 in 1 devices, in that way we would have a version similar to Windows 7 and a modern version without a desktop, in the same way that Apple has Mac OS and iPad OS, I think that would work really well. Now all I can do is cry and imagine what would have happened if Microsoft had gotten the strategy right and the PC industry had truly evolved into something that would have been on the same level as Apple’s products. Nowadays I think Windows pathetic, just evolved as a platform for games, very good by the way, nothing more. Everything in today’s Windows is obsolete, it’s more than a decade behind what Apple offers. Microsoft has been erratic lately, her products no longer excite me, no matter how hard Panos Panay tries, he is not able to perform miracles, Microsoft is a mess without direction. It seems that online services are going very well, but the rest is almost lost. While Microsoft does not align in one direction Google grows, Apple grows and even Linux grows. Valve is almost managing to turn Linux into a real alternative as a platform for games, I’m truly excited about it. Let’s see what will happen with the lost Windows.

  2. I’m 78 (6 grand kids) and have been using Windows 8 since the day it was released. As with any OS you have to add tools that make it work for you. The same will be true for Windows 10.

  3. Dude, I once spent an entire afternoon manually removing Windows 8 from a new computer. All hail Windows 9! Ah, I mean 10…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button