Tag Archives: Windows 7

Microsoft should split Windows into two separate OSes

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This is Windows 8’s Metro mode. It literally doesn’t have windows anymore.

Microsoft is trying to walk back some of the polarizing aspects of Windows 8 with updates to the OS, but the real issue is the fundamental mistake of trying to make one OS that can run on traditional desktops and laptops, while also running on tablets and smartphones.

Microsoft needs to split Windows into two separate OSes. Windows 9 should look and feel like Windows 7 with new features and refinements. Forget Windows 8 and 8.1 entirely.

The Metro mode (the entire look on Windows smartphones) should be spun off into its own OS without the Windows name. It doesn’t have to be called Metro, but Microsoft needs to come up with a fresh name for its mobile OS.

I use Windows 8 every day at work. It’s not that bad as some would have you believe, but I like it less than Windows 7. Shouldn’t every release be more enjoyable and better? I consider Windows 7 to be the best version of Windows ever. It has a pretty clean windowing UI, it’s stable and secure and generally just works.

Windows 7 is an OS that really appeals to Microsoft’s core audience. Why mess with it?

I have my Windows 8 machine set to boot straight to desktop mode, and I have the start menu back; so it’s pretty similar to using Windows 7. But every now and then you accidentally open up an app or file in Metro mode, and it’s a really disorienting experience when one of my monitors is in metro mode and the other is in desktop mode. It really is one of the worst and most inexcusable computing experiences you can have today.

The core issue of Windows 8 is that it tries to merge two pretty good UI concepts together, and in the process makes both worse. I like Metro as a tablet and phone UI. I like the Windows 7 UI for desktop computing. It’s when you have to use Metro on a desktop or Windows 7 windowing on a tablet that it all goes to hell.

This is a pretty nice phone UI. I would not want to use this on my dual-monitor desktop in my office.

This is a pretty nice phone UI. I would not want to use this on my dual-monitor desktop in my office.

Microsoft has a new CEO. He doesn’t have to save face like Steve Ballmer might have tried to. He can simply say that Windows 8 was a mistake , and we’re going in a different direction.

The time is now to end this failed experiment to create one OS to rule them all.  Make Windows 9 the best traditional Windows it can be. Aim it at businesses and people who want to use the same OS they use at work at home. Focus on networking and cloud support (integrate OneDrive even further into the OS as a major selling point), improving multithreaded support (make it easier for developers to harness 4-12 and more core computers) and improving the file system.

The UI concepts of Windows 7 are pretty good. You can iterate on the UI and add new features like Apple does with OS X, but there is no reason to get away from windowing for desktop computing. It’s a conceptual model that works well, particularly for power users and work that benefits from multiple-monitors and multitasking.

Microsoft should then spin off Metro into its own OS without the Windows name, while still using the Windows kernel. This is what Apple does with iOS, and it works very well. Apple executives have recently come out and said that merging iOS and OS X into one OS would be a waste of time.

The needs of a user vary drastically by context. When someone is trying to edit two spreadsheets side by side his needs are very different then when they are trying to get directions while walking around a city. There is no reason to believe that tablets will replace laptops, so why not an OS that assumes that?

I use OS X at home, and think Mavericks is what Microsoft should be aiming for, not Windows 8. Mavericks is the best desktop OS I’ve ever used, and, while I really like iOS, I wouldn’t want to use iOS on my desktop computer.

Apple has shown Microsoft the path forward. Make the best desktop OS with windows you can. Make the best mobile OS without windows you can.

It’s that simple.

On discoverability and power users

Rands in Repose has a post comparing learning how to play the popular game Portal to learning how to use Photoshop.

One of them requires no manual and the other a lifetime to master (or a lifetime of looking up how to do things again):

The plethora of online Photoshop tutorials demonstrate its power and its flexibility, but I believe they also demonstrate its poor design. Think about it like this: what if each time you plunked down in front of World of Warcraft, you had to spend an hour trying to remember, wait, how do I play this?

Great design makes learning frictionless. The brilliance of the iPhone and iPad is how little time you spend learning. Designers’ livelihood is based on how quickly and cleverly they can introduce to and teach a user how a particular tool works in a particular universe. In one universe, you sport a handheld Portal gun that cleverly allows you to interrupt physics. In a slightly different universe, you have this tool called a cloning stamp that empowers you to sample and copy any part of a photo.

Computers and software aren’t new. There should be a certain amount of intuitiveness and discoverability to software. If experienced computer users constantly find themselves frustrated with your software, the issue probably lies with you.

However, sometimes non-discoverable gestures and commands make us more productive. I don’t think the mark of great design is always how little time it takes to learn how to use something. Some things inherently take time to master and learn.

Anyone who knows how to drive a manual transmission can tell you that driving an automatic is certainly easier to do and more discoverable. Any idiot can figure out to put the transmission into the D for drive position.

A manual transmission offers a much higher level of control over a car. It gives the driver more feedback, and is more pleasurable to use.  But the learning curve is much steeper.

I would never say, however, that driving an automatic transmission is a superior experience. It’s simply the easier route. The thing is, eventually you figure out how to drive a manual transmission really well and you start to do things that you simply can’t do with an automatic transmission.

Computers aren’t cars, however, and there has to be a balance between being able to pick up a piece of software and quickly use it and being able to do powerful things with it. Simple hotkeys like control-c and control-v aren’t discoverable, but they are invaluable to those of us who work with text for a living.

I could not imagine using a windowing operating system without hotkeys, which make us more productive and faster, while putting less strain on our bodies. The beauty of a modern windowing OS such as Windows 7 or OS X Lion is that there are multiple ways to get tasks done.

Anyone can move a mouse around, click on things and fumble there way through a computer. Others learn the hotkeys and install programs like Alfred that help get even more done with the keyboard.

The iPad has taken ease-of-use and discoverability to a whole new level. An iPad makes using a Mac feel like using an IBM PC from the 1980s. The big challenge for the iPad and other tablets is find ways to mix in power-user features that help make experienced computer users more productive.

The iPad supports gestures like the four-finger swipe to go between apps that is faster than the standard switching model. There is also the hand-close swipe to get back to the homescreen. I would expect to see more of these gestures that help power users move around faster. This video of a proposed way to highlight and select text on an iPad is the perfect example of a feature that shouldn’t replace the default text selection behavior but would really aid power users.

Getting back to the post in question, I find Photoshop too much for my needs. The program has too many features, costs too much money and feels too bloated to me (I can’t stand how long it takes to load compared to newer graphics editing programs). I’m perfectly happy using Pixelmator for my graphic design needs. It’s much cheaper, runs much faster and is easy to use for the tasks that I need to accomplish.

The biggest knock on Pixelmator and similar apps is that they try too much to be like Photoshop. The more they distance themselves from Photoshop and find ways to make graphic design easier, the better. If people want a Photoshop experience, they’ll for the real thing.

The tension between discoverability and powers users is not going away any time soon. With easier to use and more-locked down devices, that tension is only growing.

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 will automatically update (and why all browsers and OSes should too)

Funeral IE6

Many Web developers and designers still design websites with Internet Explorer 6 in mind, despite the browser being 10 years old and lacking standards support or support for semi-modern features, all while being saddled with massive security issues (I do not still design for IE 6 personally).

The Web was launched in 1991. That’s only 20 years ago, and the Web is rapidly moving space. Despite this, Microsoft sat on IE 6 for years, not releasing IE 7 until more than five years later. It wasn’t until IE 8, however, that Microsoft put out a fairly competent browser. IE 9 looks to be by far the best version yet, and the best feature is that once people get on IE 9, they’ll automatically get new versions. A more secure Web browsing experience should follow, and Web standards should be supported much quicker.

We can make all the advances we want with HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and other Web technologies, but as long as millions of computer users are using outdated Web browsers, often unknowingly, the Web will not advance quickly, affecting all of us. All Web browsers should support automatic updating by default (power users and system administrators should be able to turn this feature off).

Both Chrome and Firefox already support automatic updating, and this feature should help ensure that we don’t have a large percentage of Web users using an old browser. Geek.com has an article detailing some of the benefits:

Ryan Gavin, Microsoft’s senior director for Internet Explorer, pointed out several benefits. The overall security of the Windows user community will be improved as outdated browsers are replaced, developers can focus their attention on building sites using modern web code, and those who surf with IE will be able to enjoy the full Beauty of the Web.

Why don’t people update? Most people don’t know how to update, or they don’t know why they should update. If you’re in the middle of watching a video or writing a paper, do you really want to install updates and restart your computer? Of course not, and it’s silly that a pop-up message telling you that you have updates while you are in the middle of something important is considered a good idea from software companies.

While you’d be surprised at how many people click ignore when their computers or applications tell them that updates are available, it’s not that surprising when updating mechanisms have been so intrusive. In contrast, Chrome and Firefox update in the background. Users never know this is happening.

By making these updates automatic, these issues go away. This is more than just about getting more people with browsers that support the latest features; it’s really about making sure that people are surfing the Web securely. Your Web browser is by far the biggest vulnerability on your computer, and it’s much more important that you surf the Web with an up-to-date Web browser than it is for you to have the latest version of iPhoto.

If you’re computer, identity or bank accounts are comprised, there is a good possibility part of the reason was because you were using an old browser with security flaws that could be exploited or a browser that didn’t have automatic phishing detection or other security features.

My main browser is the latest version of Safari for Mac OS 10.7 without Flash installed (Flash is a major security vulnerability and performance decreaser). I wish Apple did automatic updating. Not for users like me who always update to the latest software immediately (sometimes too quickly) but for other people who never update their software.

While Mac OS 10.7 does download updates in the background, including to Safari, it doesn’t install them. This is a usability hurdle. If an update is critical, particularly for security and stability, it should automatically happen in the background. Windows 7 does support automatic updating, but it’s not on by default.

That’s backwards. The power users and system administrators who don’t want automatic updating know how to turn it off. The average computer user isn’t going to know to turn on this feature.

We’re making strides when it comes to usability with software updates. Mobile phones can update over the air, without needing to be tethered to a computer. More applications can updates themselves automatically. We’re getting there.