Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 31st Oct 2008 14:47 UTC
Windows Yes, we're still on the subject of Windows 7's user interface overhaul. We know what's going to change, we know what it looks like, but there's one important question that has not really been given much stage time: why? At PDC, one session was dedicated to just that question. Speaking is Chaitanya Sareen [.wmv], part of the windows user interface team. He'll place the changes in Windows 7 into context, talk about Windows' user interface history, and he'll explain why certain changes were made. An interesting insight into the goals of the Windows 7 interface.
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Forcing Change
by High Plains Drifter on Sun 2nd Nov 2008 18:48 UTC
High Plains Drifter
Member since:
2008-11-02

With Office 2007, Microsoft started doing something very different: there was no way to restore the Menu Bar... you were forced to use the new ribbon.

That's very uncharacteristic of Microsoft, which almost always features a "classic" setting when introducing a UI change, I would assume because institutional customers on which Microsoft depends will avoid an upgrade rather than go through the expense of re-training their staff.

But with Vista, Microsoft is continuing the Office 2007 thing saying "this way or nothing," or "this way is better so get used to it".

I find that, well, kinda Apple-ish of them. It's usually Steve Jobs who is trying to teach the world to do things his way.

I still remember the first Mac keyboard in 1984-5 that lacked arrow-keys to force users to use the mouse. Windows, in contrast, went to pains to make sure there was always a keyboard equivalent, although perhaps because early Microsoft (serial-port) Mice were pretty flaky.

Anyway, Microsoft products were always very accommodating for the way people wanted to work. Word, for years, had settings to accommodate people accustomed to WordPerfect.

So, with Vista and Office 2007, I see Microsoft getting cocky. They don't need to accommodate users anymore... let the users accommodate Microsoft.

Well, I've acclimated to Windows XP pretty well, once SP1 and 100+ patches weaned me away from what was a dependable and useful Win2K. What's more, Intel and AMD have advanced enough to make XP a pleasant experience.

So things like even a moderate performance hit, memory requirements, and a bulkier GUI that takes away what helps me work faster but adds junk that I don't need is plenty enough to keep me from upgrading to Vista. And let's not talk the price tag across 6 Vista variations.

Yes, the dropping of the "up folder" button is stupid, even though there is an alternative, even an interesting alternative with the bread-crumbs. There should be a way to put the "up folder" back for those who want it. This does not make for bulky, legacy code that needs to be shed for the OS to move on.

And, frankly, I find Aero ugly. At least Microsoft's current implementation of it. That's my taste I guess, but where's the customization options? People say Vista should shed the legacy Win2K classic interface, and I agree it looks pretty dated, but Windows offered a way to modify just about every aspect of that interface. There's no way I know of to do that to Aero... you get just a handful of color schemes, and, sorry, I don't like any of them.

Microsoft did that to XP, too, BTW. The XP interface came in silver, blue, and olive drab. Hardly any of the Win2K "advanced" settings did anything to the XP skin. There are hacks around it, but again, they're hacks.

This is extremely Apple-ish of Microsoft. I expect Mac OS X to give me very little to change or customize in Aqua. That's how Apple has always been. Fortunately, they usually make good choices, although Jaguar's mirror-dock and a brief flirt with too much transparency remind us they aren't perfect either.

But Microsoft is doing nothing for goodwill toward its customers by following suit. For better or worse, the 85% or more of the marketplace who use Windows have gotten used to Windows XP. We've coaxed out all the customizations there are, hiding somewhere in a menu or a toolbox, to give us the tools, buttons, and key-mappings we need to get our work done. Where Microsoft falls short, we've found a free or shareware hack out there that filled the gap (e.g., tclock2, bxNewFolder, Y'z shadow, Winroll, IE7pro, to plug a few).

Vista, and Windows 7 as best I can tell, yanks most of this away in favor of eye-candy and un-proven UI devices... that is UI devices that are not known to actually make getting one's work done faster.

One way or another, it's wasted time re-learning how best to get things done. And for what? Why should I have to use an Apple-Searchlight clone to find my files when I'm now lightning fast browsing File Explorer? So Windows 7 can be faster, smaller, more efficient from dumping legacy code?

Newsflash: this UI stuff is NOT the bloat legacy code that Vista and Windows 7 needs to lose... it's the compatibility code, some of which has to run every time you launch an app, that accommodates for old, old or poorly written software.

The promise of Windows 7 is to dump all that into a virtual machine. Kudos. So why butcher the lean, efficient Start menu and Task bar to make it look more like KDE and Apple? Why arbitrarily remove UI elements here and there? Why lock Aero into a virtually uncustomizable look? Why keep the Win2K interface as "classic" but dump the XP interface entirely?

And most especially, why put all this effort into these arguably superficial features, when they could be putting that effort into fixing all the bugs and annoyances of XP, which all of us are have had to grow used to and work around?

I would happily pay $$$ for a Windows XP version 2: that is, XP that is lighter, faster, more bug free and more fundamentally virus/malware proof, more customizable (officially supported skinning!), and sure! uses DirectX acceleration for the desktop.

Does that sound like Vista or Windows 7? but it's not. They fall short of being an improvement to the XP experience as much as a departure from it. The under-the-hood improvements introduced with Vista and 7 also introduce lots of unwanted changes to the experience itself. More bloat, unwelcome and arbitrary user-interface changes, and higher hardware requirements with a take-it or leave-it appearance: if you don't like Aero, 'cause it's too slow or just ugly, well, you can look like Win2K.

Rather than fixing and improving what Microsoft's dominant market share actually use, Microsoft chose to look sexy. With Vista, and I fear, with Windows 7, they are failing at both.

Perhaps Microsoft thinks consumers are dumb and need sexy eye-candy rather than bug-fixes to cough-up $$$ for an operating system upgrade. They're wrong. Consumers are already sold on XP, having learned to work with it for years. Consumers have learned its shortcomings, too, and would appreciate an improved XP that addresses them in a way that does not intrude too much in their every day use.

Give consumers a product like that, in two price points for Home and Professional, and they would pay to upgrade. I sure would.

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