Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 14th Sep 2011 22:20 UTC
Windows This is mandatory listening and watching material for understanding the design methodology and ideas behind the Metro interface in Windows 8 (and thus, Windows Phone 7). All this sounds great in theory, and Jensen Harris, one of the minds behind Metro, is clearly passionate about it - and I love people who are passionate about their work. It's just that to me, the Metro UI doesn't seem to work very well for actual work. I want window management! I'm taking all this into account for an article on Metro in the Developer Preview. Stay tuned.
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My problem with this philosophy is that it segregates users into two relatively large groups : those who do "complex" content creation (which can be something as commonplace as writing a CV in Word), and those who just use their computer as a consumer device.


Even if OSs try to do both, it will always feel schizophrenic and uncomfortable and be harder to learn.

Kind of like desktop Linux : you have pretty nice GUIs for some common functionality, but must dive in an unrelated interface based on CLI and text config files for anything advanced.

It depends... Again, I'm not completely sold on Metro - I think it is a good start and this is the right direction and all, but it is lacking in some ways. That said, Windows still has a CLI. When you buy a book on how to use Windows you probably won't find much if any coverage of the command line or its usage. Same with OSX. But it is still there, because it is sometimes really, really useful. Its mere existence is not a barrier to learning the basic (even advanced) usage of either OS (unlike Linux), but there can be many benefits if you want to delve into it and some people do. It was not always like this though - back during the Windows 3.1/95 days saying "you don't need to know DOS at all" was simply not true. Things evolve...

I see the relationship between Metro and the traditional GUI the same way. It will be a long while until anyone can say "you really don't need to mess with the classic desktop", but it will get there eventually. People using Windows say "you really don't need to know the command line" all the time - its mostly true... but its still there and some people cannot live without it.

Do we need a different mode of operation ? Can't we clean up the classic desktop until it becomes friendly enough for everyone? Not a pure content consumption interface, not a mess of power-user features either, just a well-organized and clean generic information processing, I/O, and storage tool, mirroring the genericity of computer hardware.

Well we have been trying for 25 years... And almost every operating system in existence has had to give way to having at least 2 interface modes (GUI + CLI) - even Apple gave up on GUI only... Its not ideal, but it is practical.

The beauty of computers are that they can be programmed to do everything. Why equip them with specialized interfaces that restrict this power, even though stacking up enough interfaces side by side would result in something relatively general purpose ?

I have yet to see a UI that is simple enough for consumer use and powerful enough for expert use... If someone builds one Ill be the first to applaud it - but until then we have to make do.

Well, a pure CLI interface like bash feels, in my debatable opinion, quite out of place in a GUI environment, and the CLI/GUI synergy is one of the main reasons why desktop Linux is not for everyone.

See my previous commment... Windows and OSX and virtually everything else still has CLIs too. If you don't need it and never use it then it amounts to one icon (which you can delete) buried in your start menu - ironically much the same way that the classic desktop is buried in Metro.

It is not generally bad, but I believe that like iOS it is limited in purpose and range of applications. That could prove to be a significant problem for something like desktop Windows, which aims at being a general-purpose OS.

No doubt. I think it has legs though, but I'm just a guy with an opinion. Well see I guess.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Neolander Member since:

About current OSs combining GUI and CLI : I think this is different. I haven't ever needed to touch the Windows CLI for anything but extremely geeky stuff as far as I can remember. Today, the only thing I'd need a CLI for on Windows is OS development. Same for OS X. On those OSs, CLI has become a very specialized interface, which most people can live without.

My gripe with Windows 8 is that, like on desktop Linux, most people will have to use the secondary interface at some point, to learn two different UI paradigms over the course of their lives. This is what looks suboptimal for me.

I have yet to see a UI that is simple enough for consumer use and powerful enough for expert use... If someone builds one Ill be the first to applaud it - but until then we have to make do.

Depends what you call expert, I guess. If it means "people who use a computer at work" in a general sense (experienced users of Office, Photoshop, AutoCAD, ...), I think it is doable, but we just haven't tried hard enough yet ;)

Reply Parent Score: 1

Alfman Member since:


I agree with your points.

The CLI (command prompt) really doesn't confuse real users because they never really need to use it. That's not to say it's not useful, but anyone who has a use for it will be computer savvy enough to know how to use it, so there's no negative in having it.

BTW I use CLI all the time for ping/traceroute. Also net /delete when I need to switch SMB logins, it's a pity there's no easy way to change network authentication.

The metro + desktop interface, as implemented in the preview, is terrible because the combination of the two interfaces is far more complex and confusing than either of the interfaces are alone. I don't see how anyone can say that they work well together, it's as though they deliberately avoided integrating them for some ulterior motive.

Now I can appreciate that a multiwindow interface can be confusing. But even if we accept a windowless interface, I find metro to be a rather poor design. Metro's lack of feedback is counter-productive and confusing.

How will I tech support my parents over the phone with metro? Everything in the metro interface lacks context. It would be difficult even to communicate which application they are looking at or if they are in desktop or metro mode.

Now on a tablet, I can at least understand the merit in this tradeoff, it has less screen space, dedicated buttons, etc. However in the Desktop setting, context is extremely reassuring, and there is absolutely nothing to be gained by eliminating it. This preview of metro is much more difficult to use than a single window interface should be.

Reply Parent Score: 3