Microsoft details Search improvements in Windows 8 Start Screen

By Tom Warren, on 18th Oct 11 7:20 pm with 68 Comments

Windows 8 search results

Microsoft took the opportunity to detail its search improvements in Windows 8 on Tuesday.

The software maker revealed the results of its telemetry data that shows 67% of all searches under Windows 7 are used to launch apps. Searching for files is just 22% of all start menu searches and control panel items consist of around 9%. “The Windows 8 Start search experience builds on top of search features available in Windows 7 and provides a unique view for each of the three system groups – Apps, Settings and Files,” explained Brian Uphoff, a program manager on our Search, View, and Command user experience team, in a blog post on Tuesday.

Microsoft expects users will be installing more apps than in previous Windows versions. The new design approach allows users to better search for apps within Windows 8. “In Windows 7, the total number of results that could be shown in the Start menu was limited,” says Uphoff. “With Windows 8, on the other hand, we’re following an app-first model, where each app developer understands their data and users best, and knows the best way to present the information to them.”

Microsoft is also working to improve its search experience in Windows 8 for beta. “Based in part on the feedback here, we are working on a change that we hope to have available in our beta release,” explains Uphoff. The change will take users directly to app search results when they select the search charm in the desktop. See the video below for more of Microsoft’s search improvements in Windows 8.

  • John Larson

    that’s a lot of going back and forth between metro and classic desktop

    • McAkins Online

      For now yes, the future is Metro Apps, and most especially on tablet devices, you’ll be using a lot of Metro Apps, so you will need the traditional desktop less and less. Its WindowsNT all over again.

    • Guest

      What if developers don’t bother with Metro apps? Then what? MS is risking its main advantage – decades of legacy apps, in favor of Metro apps that may or may not even be written.

    • Anonymous

      Why would a developer be so naive to not support metro?  Seems like they would be shooting themselves in the foot when the switch to metro is the single biggest reasons for consumers to re-purchase apps that windows has had since win32 came out!

    • Fotisteipir

      That’s why now you have both, metro and desktop. In future versions of windows there will be more metro style apps to replace the desktop ones and the desktop will be replaced by the start screen.

    • Guest


      Lots of reasons. 1) They’re not convinced MS will stick with it and not abandon as they have many others. 2) They think customers will reject it and therefore its not worth investing in.  3) They think customers will be just as happy to by their W32 app, so why bother? 4) They see bigger opportunity in writing apps for Android or iOS.

    • PG

      We develop for Windows and are looking to move from Delphi to C# specfiically so we can target Metro.  Thats a huge undertaking moving from one development tool to another with an entirely different programming language; we plan to deploy our current applications once we convert them over into metro style using c#.  So I think developers will be moving in mass to support metro on desktop/notebook/tablet.  It’s the future Microsoft has invisioned and if you want to make applications you pretty much follow MS’s path or you move to another platform with smaller number of users.

    • PG

      There is no money to be made on Android, that platform is entirely ad-revenue supported; yuk no thank you; if you want banners all on your apps and your privacy eroded then go to android.  iOS is a flee-market where every developer undercuts the other to sell their apps for 99 cents with 30 cents going to apple – its near impossible to make any money on iOS.  Look at the actual stats over 80% of developers on iOS make 10% of the revenue whereas only the top 1% of developers make the majority of money, and the rest make nothing or are free apps - you are looking at under $600 or so total revenue being made from an application on iOS and that is if your application is any good and gets some basic buzz. 

      We’ve tried selling games on iOS and its useless; plus Objective-C is a total clusterf**k of a programming language that has Next Step legacy code and objects all inside of it with xcode being an ide from 1995.  Any developer that tries xcode or visual studio will clearly see which is the better tool, then try c# or objective-c and again will see which is clearly better.  Microsoft makes better tools to allow developers to make better apps.

    • Seth_p

      In the video it’s no different than hitting the Start key to search. It’s just a chromeless experience. When he finds what he’s looking for, the legacy app goes to the forefront.

      I’d really like to see better multitasking though – otherwise you’ll have a lot of flicking from the left edge till you find your app OR you’d have to hunt in your live tiles to relaunch. A metro taskbar with some gesture could really be useful.

    • Guest

      It is different from hitting the Start key because it goes full screen, thereby taking your focus completely off the desktop.

      Yeah, multitasking definitely needs to be easier and more powerful that the DP.

    • WixosTrix

      When I’m searching for something, that is usually my focus until I find what I want.  I’m sure this is the same for most people. 

      My concern is, if you’re in the Metro UI already and want to launch the calculator, will there be a Metro version or will it pop you to the desktop?

    • Anonymous

      What on the desktop need your focus. You are searching for an app because the tool you need to accomplish you goal is absent from the desktop. Since the human mind can only focus on one task at a time, your focus will be on finding the app you need.

    • GP007

      A simple gesture to bring up Alt+tab works.  Alt+tab is still there in Win8 and works so I expect some sort of direct touch support to bring it up.  

    • Jeff Kibuule

      True, but I think when there are more Metro apps to use, the classic desktop will matter less and less.

    • GP007

      Only because you’re opening what is still classic desktop apps.   Over time as more apps become metro style then the going back and forth will be a none issue.

      Hell I expect the “desktop” will change more when we get into Win9 and turn into something that just holds multiple “non-immersive” apps but will match better with the start screen in the end. 

    • Anonymous

      I seriously don’t think apps are going to move exculsively to metro immersive apps.  A lot of apps will be created for it, but I think applications like photoshop and office will most likely always have both.  One application per screen just don’t work for stuff like Visual Studio, SQL Server, IIS, and Lync.

    • Mahmood

      What would be nice if these applications came with 2 UIs, one for desktops and the other for tablets (immersive), and it opens in immersive mode unless you ask for the full desktop experience.

      So, when I call Office (from the new start screen) to view a presentation or do a simple document editing, I’ll get the the immersive UI. And I don’t need to switch unless I wanted to sit down for the hardcore stuff.

      Immersive will be enough for most people, and the other option will always be there.

    • Anonymous

      And it takes a second for it to pop up. It takes the same amount of time for the start menu to pop. What is your issue with this?

  • Guest

    Still don’t like  the desktop to metro and back transition. Would much prefer if they just made the classic orb start panel = the metro menu instead. At least that way I wouldn’t be jerked out of my desktop and into metro, then jerked out of Metro and back to desktop.

    • GP007

      You’ll only have to put up with that for a few years, I’m betting come Windows 9 the “desktop” as you see it now will be gone fully.  After that any transition in and out of apps won’t seem weird.

    • Jonathan

      It’ll be here for a long time yet – maybe always! But it’ll become less and less important as more metro apps are built.

      I think of it a lot like the DOS command prompt. That’s still in Windows, but overtime DOS programs have disappeared.

      I do wish though that they make the transition to metro/desktop a bit smoother – i.e. show metro apps on the desktop taskbar, and desktop apps in the slidey app switching. It’s very jarring as it is now.

    • Guest

      Exactly. People said mainframe apps wouldn’t be around any more. But many large companies still have tons that are decades old. Enterprise will be very slow to move away from decades of w32 investments.

    • Anonymous

      I hear the jerked out of metro argument alot. The video clearly shows that it takes a second for you to get into the search window. It’s not like it takes minutes for the metro interface to load. What are losing out on not seeing your desktop for a few seconds? You need to constantly see your desktop wallpaper?

    • Anonymous

      Its not the time it takes. Its the feeling it creates. With two disparate UIs the switching back and forth between the two (especially the way he was in the video) is like like watching someone channel surf.  

      It creates an uncomfortable feeling. Though it’s not true, it feels like you are quitting your current task.
      I can see this causing confusion in non-power users when they are taken away from their desktop just to launch another app that takes them back to the classic desktop.

      I’ve been designing UI/UX for more than 15 years, and all my experience has taught me that the average user is interested in one thing only.  ”Did I do the right thing?” 

      Whisking one away from the current UI to launch a program is the wrong answer to that question. It would be akin to Explorer opening full-screen when you click File>Open. That would be jarring and counter-intuitive. The open file dialog appears as an overlay for a reason. 

      I have no problem with the new look or functionality of the start screen. I love it actually. 

      That said, Microsoft needs to fix the transition between the two UIs they’re offering in W8.

  • McAkins Online

    I have said in the my blog, the time you have folders keeping your apps in the Start Menu has officially come to an end with the introduction of the Windows 8 Marketplace and the new Metro Apps. Its so easy now to install and de-install apps that you’ll be looking at people having hundreds of apps in their start menu. You can’t manage that anymore with folders. That is where Search comes in. Nothing beats search in a jungle of Apps.

    • Guest

      Nice blog. Subscribed.

  • Chuck

    A lot of people like to use the mouse.   They need to make it mouse friendly.

    • Anonymous

      For power users, W8 Metro start screen is freaking awesome. But yeah, not everyone will be smart or patient enough to learn a few new keyboard tricks regardless of how easy and useful they are.

      I think MS said they are trying ot making it easier for mouse though.

  • Anonymous

    This is such bull $#!(

    I love metro and am going to love it on a tablet, but this does not replace our start menu.  Seriously, that is how we’re going to find the control panel?  Windows 8 has to be 100% Mouse/touch friendly.  No freaking typing to find stuff that used to be two clicks away.

    Typing is great as an addition, but terrible as a replacement for the Mouse and Start Menu.  Typing is definately not intutive.

    • Anonymous

      Type “Control panel” or “Settings”. Not difficult. Also you can pin Settings to the Start Screen.

    • phil jay

      That’s how they convince power users. You’ll get there in 2 clicks also I’m pretty sure.

    • Anonymous

      That’s how I’ve been finding items in the control panel under W7. If I need remove programs, I type remove p and at this poit remove programs is at the top of the list. Can’t get much easier. Better than searching through rows of icons or flipping through menus.

    • Guest

      > Seriously, that is how we’re going to find the control panel?

      Don’t like typing? Maybe that “gear” tile with “Control Panel” title on it could help? Hm, who would expect?

    • Anonymous

      I take it you haven’t actually clicked on the “Gear” tile.  It is an immersive style application, which is great for touch, but not so great for Desktop mode.  You’ve got to be able to get to the actual control panel easily.

  • Shazam

    Instead of switching to a different window, why don’t they just dim the background and have a 
    semi-transparent listing / search capabilities.  I get the feeling that developer are making the UI decisions which is not a good thing at all.  How is an avg user going to like this experience.  This is not clean or streamlined in any way.Sigghhhh…MS, when will you learn.

    • Guest

      “why don’t they just dim the background and have a semi-transparent listing / search capabilities”
      ———because they are mad about “immersive” – which means all apps are full screen and you can see only one app a time.

    • Anonymous

      You can also have two apps side by side on the screen. I don’t think I’ve ever had a task where I needed to move information to more than two apps. However, since a lot of people have 2 monitor setup, you can have four apps on the screen at a time which showed be enough for most users. 

    • guest

      I agree, the transition is too jerky, a fade in/out would be nicer a transparent start screen showing the background as the desktop. I use the windows key and type to search my stuff alot. Doing this on a 24 inch monitor having the whole screen moving around would be nauseating. I like the look of the full screen search though, if it works that fast in reality I would be impressed.  Although when in desktop mode maybe it would be nice to have the option of a smaller (start menu sized) search box providing similar features, then a button to get the full screen version?

      I do alot of scientific work, I use many programs at once with different windows organised the way I want to organise them, it’s just not a Metro workflow. I hope Microsoft don’t start forcing people to work ways they don’t want to, otherwise I’ll finally have to make the jump to Linux!

  • Johnedwards

    Fifteeee Fiiiive points by Michael Jordan!

  • Sebastian Gorgon

    Its not an improvement over Windows 7… I’m VERY unhappy about this… I start to doubt if i will actually get windows 8, because i don’t want or have a touchscreen monitor, and i don’t want a touch UI, i want Metro UI, but not like this. 

    • Adriel Dennis Mingo

      Didn’t you see how easily he operated Win 8 with the keyboard???

    • Sebastian Gorgon

      I don’t want to switch between metro and classic constantly… in Windows 7 i press Start > Type name of the program i want to open > enter, and that’s it…

    • Anonymous

      Exactly, switching back and forth between Metro & Desktop = horrible UX. If MSFT doesn’t fix that by the time RTM arrives, Windows 8 will massively FAIL.

    • Anonymous

      Isn’t that what happened in the video? He hit Start>type name of program>enter. The difference is with the old start button, the start menu pops up. Here the metro UI menu pop up. Both take a second to open. The dislike of W8 seems to be that you will see the metro tiles for a few seconds while you open the app from the search. 

  • Anonymous

    What I want – is the ability for Windows 8 to remember I was last in the “Desktop” app and to come there automatically on log-in. Also, I should be able to do all the searches and everything w/o ever having to go to Metro.

    This should be a special use-case implemented by Microsoft for those that want to keep the “classic” Windows experience but want the “under the hood” improvement from Windows 8.

    • Anonymous

      Since Desktop is just another app, I would think you can put it in your startup folder and it should take you straight to Desktop.

      Metro is the new and better Start menu. Get over it.  You will get used to it fast and probably like it over time.

    • Guest

      “You will get used to it fast and probably like it over time”

      That is what they said to your dad about your mom, but it never really happened…

    • Anonymous

      That was really lame. try harder.

    • Emi Cyberschreiber

      wow… at least if you are going to troll someone, do it right.

      that doesn’t even make so much sense. I D I O T. ;)

    • Anonymous

      Lame, lame lame! That’s the kind of thinking that reduces marketshare.

    • Anonymous


      can you do me a favor? Can you change your picture to something else? I don’t like being reminded of the mess he created every time I come to this site. Most appreciated.

    • Anonymous
    • Emi Cyberschreiber

      or you could just use a search program. you know, there are some alternatives to Windows 7 search, and they will work perfectly fine in win8 if you dont like metro Start Screen.

    • Anonymous

      Why should I have to EVER deal with Metro apart from the initial login? Once I’m in the desktop app, I should be able to stay there forever if I want to!

    • Anonymous

      Why should I have to EVER deal with [Progress] apart from the initial login? Once I’m in the [Past], I should be able to stay there forever if I want to!
      whatever gramps

    • Test1ngi23

      LOL dude. If Metro made the user significantly more efficient or productive, then it would be progress. Right now, Metro is just a different looking UI. Change for change’s sake is not progress. If you are primarily a mouse-and-keyboard user, Metro, in fact, hurts your productivity/efficiency! If you’re not giving the user REAL progress, then give them more choices.

    • Lewis McCrary

      I can relate to this.  In my job I often switch between 3-5 applications.  I like seeing them on my desktop taskbar and I alt-tab around or just click them.  I’d like to be able to ‘lock’ myself into the desktop when I’m doing my work.  It isn’t anything against metro its just that if I end up in on the start screen I’ll say “F***!” and click to go back to desktop.  I’ll use metro but I want a better way to jump to applications.

      I saw a great idea about having a “taskbar-esque” item on the bottom of the start screen so you can either swipe up or mouse over the bottom 1px and get all your current open apps.  I think that would be a nice addition. :)

    • Tuxplorer

      @e150a27e646961d5594b4ac9b6bd58f3:disqus Metro is FAR more efficient using a mouse and keyboard than the classic desktop. Tell me about a single task that takes more clicks/time using Metro. There is none.

    • Anonymous

      It already does, at least for me it does. Just log out from the desktop and when you come back on it will take you directly to the desktop.

    • Benjamin Ostanciaux

      Use Windows 8 with more than 1 screen (like me) and you will see the desktop is always present on each secondary screen. That’s usefull since you can see your metro and desktop apps running at the same time.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, but this looks like an absolute pain-in-the-ass to me. They’re making it more shortcut-intensive, which is never a good idea. Most people don’t even know the most common shortcuts like copy-and-paste. I mean, obviously pretty much anyone viewing WinRumors does, but seriously, ask your non-tech-savvy friends if they know.

    Plus taking the mouse out of the picture is a hassle. I do far more input with my mouse than anything else.

  • Miro

    or… i can click Start then calculator (since it’s in my most used list)


    • Tuxplorer

      OR you can pin Calculator in the beautiful Metro Start Screen if you use it frequently.

  • Emi Cyberschreiber

    Nice post!

    i use mouse almost always, but sometimes Im using my keyboard and in Windows 8 i use search.  yeah i hated Windows 7 search and i tried to use it but i rather do it with mouse. but now with Windows 8 im using whatever is easier, if im using keyboard, well keyboard, if im using mouse i use mouse. sometimes i only use search to show how in less than minute i got my program running. yeah i ont even see metro UI. i just hit start, type immediately and then enter. i dont get to see anything, but desktop within a second.

    anyway there will be people always complaining. but i really hope MS will get rid of start menu. and it will be only start screen.

  • MS123

    What ever, I have been using windows8  since the first day of its preview launch, I’m absolutely disliking switching between metro and desktop view. Now I’m afraid of windows 8. And the mouse integration in metro is also not very effective.  Truly, my eyes are straining faster with windows 8 than windows 7. 

    I don’t know if this is a good move by Microsoft. I have been a windows user all my life. 

    • Tuxplorer

      When Windows Store opens up, you will have Metro apps for almost everything. Then you wont’ need to use desktop apps too much. So, you won’t need to switch between the UIs.


    Yes I can do a lot of what is “new” here already on Windows 7…just without switching to  Metro and breaking some of Windows consitency.

  • Fabrizio Vidmar

    Searching for files is not working on my laptop: it works only for apps and settings. Troubleshoots reports the following error: “The Program SearchIndexer.exe has failed recently”. Any idea? Thanks