Microsoft promises to improve Windows 8 Start Screen following Metro desktop concerns

By Tom Warren, on 4th Oct 11 10:15 am with 39 Comments

Windows 8 Start Screen

Microsoft has promised to unveil changes that will improve the mouse and keyboard experience in Windows 8.

The company detailed some feedback on Monday from users concerned about the Windows 8 Metro Start Screen. “We’ve been watching the comments closely and have seen the full spectrum of reactions as one would expect when the core interface changes,” wrote Windows chief Steven Sinofsky in a blog post on Monday. Microsoft’s core experience evolved team member Chaitanya Sareen breaks down the feedback into the following common trends:

  • Will there be a way to close Metro style apps without going to Task Manager? Yes there will be but Microsoft claims you probably won’t need to use it
  • Is Microsoft to do anything to make the mouse more efficient in scrolling through your programs in Start? Yes Microsoft plans to improve the experience in the beta of Windows 8
  • Why does it feel less efficient to cycle through recent apps rather than using the taskbar? Microsoft plans to detail this in future posts

Sareen believes that the current debate on touch technology on the desktop is similar to the debate in the 1980s when people claimed the mouse was a waste of time. “Today we are surrounded by touch screens,” said Sareen. “The one place touch has not yet become mainstream is on the most capable of all the devices you use.” Microsoft wants to see touch support augmenting the PC experience but not replacing the mouse. Despite the vision, there has been a lot of discussions on the usability of Metro style apps on desktop PCs with large displays. “We are aware of the questions,” says Sareen. “The Start menu is one of the most visible parts of Windows, and so we don’t take any changes we make to it lightly.”

It’s not clear how Microsoft plans to improve the Start Screen but it’s inevitable that the company will need to make some tweaks along the way. Microsoft’s Windows Developer Preview is a very early version of the Start Screen and the company has already made several improvements in recent builds shown at BUILD. One Windows 8 fan created a video of potential Metro improvements for the desktop. Some of the suggestions include:

  • Remove the cursor and replace it with a finger since Microsoft’s new Metro style interface is “touch first”
  • Allow users to scroll through tiles by dragging the blank spaces between them
  • Hold the Windows key and move the mouse to reveal the charms
  • Build a Metro task bar that shows all apps minimised/suspended
  • Include a Metro Windows Explorer to handle file management
  • Keep legacy apps Metro style
  • Use Windows key + left to snap a window to the left and Windows key + up to maximise a window
  • Move the App Bar to the left, inspired by toolbox in apps like Photoshop
  • Make all backgrounds and colors customizable

If you’re looking for some Windows 8 tips and tricks on using a keyboard and mouse in Windows 8 then check out our top tips article.

  • McAkins Online

    What people haven’t seen yet is the Semantic Zoom view of the Start Screen, I can imagine this being extended to the Active Appliations to facilitate easy switching. Remember people, Windows 8 is not done yet.

  • Sriram Sarma

    Well… the problem with feedback is MSFT might remove a few features based on feedback and later someone else will come with the same features and MSFT will have to catch up. Remember when BillG’s demo of the tablet and later it is Apple that gets all the credit for its iPad!!!

  • GP007

    The idea of a taskbar for the start screen should be doable but in that one concept video it’s fricking huge.   Right now when you point your mouse in the lower left corner to bring up the charms menu you also get the clock+date tot he right.  There is space between the two for a more metro version of the win7 taskbar using tile perviews like what you get now when you hover your mouse over a running app in win7.    As long as they’re not huge though, for example the tab previews in IE10 are zomg huge, should be a way to make them smaller, or auto scale them down when people open more and more tabs.

  • Anonymous

    this might seem like a silly complaint but Microsoft at BUILD was preaching to devs to not build “Pop ups” in their apps because pop ups in Metro (a 2d design language) just don’t look good at all.this is my one big complaint with where the time/battery life/network info pop up. If you have an app bar open, the time “box” pops up over it. It is quite ugly. I understand their desire to put that information front and center but why disobey their own rules? Also why not have it drop down from the top (much like windows phone or an ipad would).

    I hope they decide to move the charms over to the right side of the screen (even when you are using a mouse). I think having it split (to the right side for touch and to the bottom left for mouse) will not be helpful for people trying to learn something completely new.

    • Anonymous

      I believe you can move the charm over now to either side. If I remember correctly, the demo video of saving you profile to the cloud. The first thing she did was move the charms to the right. Then she shows that other devices she logs into would have the charm on the right by default.

    • Brad Bamford

      she moved the taskbar, not the charms. 

    • Emi Cyberschreiber

      well you dont know how the navigation will end up being in widnwos 8. its a dev preview and there is nothing written as final.

      and about the right charm you can use the right one in desktop move. not with mouse though. but with win + shift + c it will display that one.

      of course it has to be finished. they will have to fix alot of stuff. just like you move taskbar they should move charms around windows… maybe they will do that.
      but Sam Moreauexplained how corners are for mouse. because its faster. and the start button in right charm is in center. it would be slower to use that, because you dont want the center of the right side to active charm. and the start button isnt close to corner.

      you can make test and try and see Microsoft test and feedback is better than “just thinking” and what i mean by that, you think it would work in your mind, but when you use it, it wouldn’t work the same.

      But still there is a beta before RTM and also a RC and Im using a developer preview. so alot of stuff will be changed and tweaked in this developing time.

  • phil jay

    Some taskbar like in wp mango would be cool, just don’t know what gesture should lead you there.

  • Zikalify

    Proper shut down button maybe?

    • Chris

      just put in to sleep mode like the rest of the world. I have yet to shut down any device. LAst time I did that was like 2004. 

    • Paul Hill

      The battery on my laptop is ruined, last about 20 minutes, the source it is continually plugged into get switched off when I leave the house, if I put it to sleep there is the chance the battery will still die. How hard is it for them to include ‘shut down’ when I press my name on the home screen…

    • Emi Cyberschreiber

      do you shut down your computer 100 time a day?… answer no.
      only because you think you want that… why Microsoft has to have a button for something you and noone use much?

      its not like win + i. click on shutdown button and then shutdown. will kill you. or go to charm, settings and shutdown button and shutdown. will kill you as well.

      also you can use the old alt+f4 in desktop.

  • Sriram Sarma


  • Anonymous

    this is the microsoft that I like.

  • jyo208

    To me, it feels like there is a huge disconnect between the new Start screen and the classic Windows desktop. Going back and forth seems very odd since they are two completely different experiences. Hopefully, they can figure out a way to make the two integrate a bit more seamlessly. Right now, I find the new Start screen to be a bit annoying… I mean, does a whole new interface have to pop up when I just want to run a program? I don’t get it.

    • Jonathan Marston

      This is exactly what I’ve been thinking. They need to make the two feel more like one fluid experience.

      A couple ideas I’ve had that might help:
      * The ability “tear-off” Metro apps into resizeable desktop windows. They would then get task bar icons, etc
      * Don’t have the start menu fill the screen when on a hi-res display. Have it slide out from wherever the taskbar is docked and fill like a 2/3 of the screen. They could even do a cool transition/morphing of the taskbar to the start screen.

      Just as important though, I’m afraid Microsoft has made the divide between the new “Metro” apps and desktop apps too great on the development side as well. They really should expand WinRT to allow writing full desktop apps and Metro apps. Possibly even allowing one executable to power both experiences.

    • Anonymous

      The point of MS’s long post (which Tom somehow did not mention at all) is that, since W7, people are (and should be for W8) using the task bar, not the start menu, to launch frequently used apps in desktop mode.

    • Anonymous

      Why are you not pinning your programs to the taskbar instead?

    • jyo208

      Oh, I do. But still the transition from classic desktop to the new Start screen is a completely different user experience.  It just doesn’t feel integrated from a design or experience standpoint… yet.

      If I wasn’t pinning programs to the taskbar, it would be completely ridiculous… For instance, if I wanted to run Photoshop, I’d first click on the Start button, which brings up the new metro interface, then I would have to find the Photoshop metro tile, then upon launching it, I’m sure it would take me back to the classic desktop version. So I don’t feel like the overall experience is really as fluid as it should be going between two fairly divergent interfaces.

      I do “like” the new metro interface. I just feel that tying the old and new together isn’t really working all that well together (yet).

  • Viki Maverick

    Don’t care what they come up with. Just bring me the beta fast.  :P

  • Siddharth Malhotra

    Instead of a Metro Taskbar, how about a Mac’s Expose coming to Windows 8, but Metrofied!

    • Pedro Roque

      Why? Do you want us to try Linux? We love window because it IS WINDOWS and IT ISN’T MAC!

  • Chris

    I think the main issue is people are scared to death of change. Maybe the same who voted for obama. 

  • Hernan Lozano

    They Need to replace the traditional desktop with the start screen!

    Your existing widgets and desktop shortcuts are now Tiles, and then just add a metro-ified W7 taskbar along the bottom and you’re done! it’s perfect!

  • Anonymous

    This is a serious failure. You never see Apple gather feedback during their development process for OS X. They just finish it entirely in secret, then unveil it to public like God gave Moses the 10 commandments. 

    “Thou shalt use the OS I give you without complaint.”

    • WixosTrix

      Yup because no one ever complains about Apple products.  People just loved Lion and Final Cut Pro X

    • Lydell Washington

      ??? ROFLMAO! Dude. I work for Apple and I can’t BEGIN to tell you how WRONG you are LOL.

    • Anonymous

      Really – give me a cite for where Apple ever gave a “Developer Preview” of OS X.

    • Emi Cyberschreiber

      because there are no as many Windows users as Mac ones.
      also the way that is used Windows is soooooo different than osx.

      i wish they would just do stuff with Little feedback what Works and what doesnt though.
      so its not a failure, its just the way MS works. they did the same with Windows 7. did they change so much from beta to rtm? i didn’t feel much change. but it improved alot of Little things, besides performace and stability.

      BUT it will be a failure, its if they let people with their “metro UI sucks i dont want it, i want you let me choose what UI i want to use
      in control panel” “i only have used it by 3 seconds but i dont like it”. it will be a failure if they allow all that people affect Windows 8 development.
      so my only hope, its they remove completely old start menu. so nothing can bring it back.

    • Anonymous

      Now that was the joke of the day… LMAO…

  • Emi Cyberschreiber

    im just gonna say… really, what people don’t understand and dont listen, and again dont understand is that DESKTOP is like an APP now. thats why when you cycle apps with WIN +  tab or use scroll wheel on the left of the screen… you wont see your current desktop apps there but the whole desktop
    Desktop will be part of windows, but not the centric point of windows anymore.

    Anyway my only hope is that Microsoft will bury old Start Menu, so no hacks and no magical button can revive it.

    I love new UI, and it works nice even when its not finished at all. but its funny how people don’t even try to use it and think it sucks. and don’t understand how faster is to old start menu in almost all ways. even it searches better. and its funnier when they give reasons why new UI sucks, when it already does that, and they say it like if only old start menu did. yeah both ui currently do pretty much the same job, but new Start screen does it better, faster, and nicer. and it bring a place where developers can have apps and app store and bla bla

    • Anonymous

      I agree with you. The old start button would give you a pop up menu with three to four sub menus you had to navigate to get to a program. The new one gives you metro tiles you just scroll through. I prefer the metro menu. In either case you can use search which is the easiest way to find the program you want to launch. I know how I’m going to be using W8. After startup, I will just start typing the name of the program I need. I don’t see the point of the desktop. Right now mine is just cluttered with icons and I use the search function in the start menu instead. I’d like someone to tell me why they care about the desktop. The only thing I like about it is the ability to customize it with my wallpaper.  Hopefully, there will be a way to customize the background of metro. I’m not a fan of the green background.

    • Emi Cyberschreiber

      The problem is not desktop. i mean… desktop is useful and nice and what we have been using for long time. so it wont dissappear. if you want to use a IE immersive, ok. if you want desktop IE its your choice if its available.

      the problem is people making excuses to what old start menu was. like you say it will display folders and if you had 200+ software installed. sometimes it was hard to find the program you want to launch if you don’t know the name. yeah i never used much search since everytime i searched it took a while and sometimes it displayed documents and emails and such.

      new UI gives the same functionality. Launch programs, desktop or metro style UI apps. search is faster. one persons said how you could press win key and then search paint and press enter. and i was like “thats exactly how you do it in windows 8. because its the same!” you can even skip animations and all that stuff. you press win key immediately type what you want to search and immediately press enter. you don’t have to wait anything! so i launch software in less than 1 seconds if i don’t want to use tiles.

      but for example i know where i have my tiles so i press win key or i click on start button. and i go to tile with my mouse and end.

      desktop is useful and alot of software will require it to have. nothing will be metro only any time soon. but you don’t have to have desktop icons like before and its a win key away. in 1 click. sometimes 3 days ago i hid my desktop icons and today i showed them. and i was like surprised how i have alot of icons already.

      and about the customization you can do it. hacking dlls. xD not an easy way. but it feels cooler. i don’t like much green. but i personalized my Start screen like this.

      the wallpaper is a 1900px wallpaper so its cool to see how it moves while i scroll through metro ui,.

      people who ask for old start menu, really don’t try this new UI and see it gives more than old start menu and faster. some will not like tiles and i respect that, but saying they want old start menu for stuff that this new UI already does not even finished, its silly.

  • Anonymous

    I think that I have sort of a solution for Microsoft and their problems with the keyboard vs the Touchscreen. Remember this recreation is mostly for the people who would be using the mouse and keyboard. Just how you did for touch now it is going the other way around from where you are now.

    1. Why don’t you just make the start bar/task bar bigger (something like 20%/25% of the bottom half). This way you can totally redesign it the way you want to in the Metro Language with the not screen filling tiles but smaller tiles that animate as well.
         -IE10 could flip when you have a new:
              *message on Facebook or any other chat service that you are on in the browser
              *When you have a new email
              *change of a song, etc.
         – There could be notifications for all kinds of things that people would be able to see in a flash without  taking their attention off what they are doing which people  would apparently do when they touch the start menu

    I think that people should have the option to expand the start screen how ever far up as they would want it to go. This way people would still be able to place their Start Screen Preview Bar at the top which I know most people would want to do.

    2. Type and search  in desktop mode  would pop up about 35%/50?% of the screen to show you your results. This way you can still have those options of have the filter options somewhere in that space.

    3. Ballmer you talk about the 3 screen why not go even further, even more abstract with this idea and make the 3 screens go deeper with 3 screen options for a user to pick from. They could have:
         -25% sized Metro Start Bar,
         -50% size that covers half the screen (for people who mostly just be on the internet or typing up papers where you don’t need all of that screen real-estate)
         -Full screen for the people who want to completely leave the desktop and emerge themselves into the Metro world which I bet you that people would because after a while the DESKTOP gets soo boring.

    4. I also think that they should have a horizontal snap. You have thought about Horizontal panning and tiles but didn’t think about the snapping horizontal (It might not matter to some but it is an option). Also since you have thought about vertical snapping why not get some vertical Tiles which could show more information on the Start screen

    5. Auto-hiding is a major thing that you have done in your touch UI but I think that if you redesign the Metro Start BAR that an auto-hiding feature would be awesome to give the user more screen real-estate (like you said immerse the consumer into not just the app but the desktop). Also their are not options for more options in the Start Screen (wouldn’t that be a good way to bring up a task manager or even get to the settings?)

    6. Also can we get all METRO STYLED ICONS throughout the entire UI, the entire OS. I even want some 3rd party programs from XP and Vista Metro down I am sure that you can do it for the ones that would be placed on the desktop, I could care less about the rest. I also want the EXPLORER to be totally redesigned into Metro. The Ribbon dont look too Ribbon with all of those options regardless if you can hide them or not. The ribbon should be a pretty cool looking Metro Styled Ribbon, no gradient included. 

  • Freecell Lover

    Please, keep card games like “Freecell” in Beta and RTM. Really, Is very important for people like me.

  • Pedro Roque

    I’m using Win8 on the build samsung tablet and on my dual monitor desktop, I really like the start screen, both in the tablet and in desktop. With a few tweeks, I think they could make the mouse experience as good as in the tablet. Just make it possible to scroll it by clicking and dragging in any unused space.

  • Adam

    has anybody seen one of those windows 8 themes you can get for windows 7 because i want to see a world clock thing/rss feed on windows 8

  • Aleksandra Sekar

    As awesome as all of these, all I can think about is: Good God, this is going to make pirating software hell on earth. But I guess that’s the whole point.

  • jase

    Here is a video that I created a while ago showing how microsoft may be able to make a huge improvement for the start screen.
    And my sister which is 14 but has mind of toddler loves the Paint play app. she taught herself what to do. It is so simple. I cannot wait for the beta to arrive. And thats coming from an Apple lover who wanted to come away from windows, but windows 8 is proving very good.