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...: Marsh Chatter

Windows 8, So Much Controversy… Let’s Start

Pun intended!

Today, most of what you find in the media about Windows 8 always starts with the Start button... 'er the fact that it is not visible. My intent is to show you that this controversy is a non-starter! (Pun intended again!... but last one.)

Specifically, the idea that the departure of a visible Start button, in favor of the large screen with tiles (called the Start screen), should be a welcome change. In fact, I believe it is just part of the evolutionary change to Windows (some might say revolutionary).

A Walk-through History…

Pre-Windows 95 days...

In the DOS and Windows 1 to Windows 3.1x days – we used various styles of menus – formalized within Windows to the dropdown File, Edit, Help style of menus to access our "stuff" (programs, closing, etc.). The menus were fairly limiting – having to click them to open them – or use a keystroke combination to access them (e.g. Alt key + some letter... which continues to this day with menus).

Start?

Then Windows 95 said Start Me Up...

When Windows 95 (ahhh Chicago) came into existence, with its midnight long lines/camping out store opening sales (you think Apple invented that concept? Wrong) – with the marketing campaign using the Stones "Start Me Up" song. Microsoft got rid of the top dropdown menus and collected most of those selections into a thing it called the "Start" button (e.g. one button to activate a menu). The media went nuts saying "we have to Start, to shutdown..." and many other phrases that sold magazines (yes, real paper... the Internet wasn't as big then). So for a long time "we Started" to do a lot of things, including shutting down our computers.

When Windows XP came out...

The Start button was dressed up significantly – to make it big and pretty and green. However, for the most part, it was functionally the same. Menu selections would still 'throw out' more menus as you clicked through or used the arrow keys to find the selection you wanted to use.

I said it, as many others did too – why change from Windows 2000 to a "pretty interface". And for many, they did not – until SP1 and SP2 included other significant changes – the result, many have stayed in that OS long past its prime.

The Web Influence...

As the Web began to be 'really significant' (after the bubble, remarkably) – everyone began talking about Web 2.0. One of the results of Web 2.0, which really started taking shape as more Web-delivered applications gained acceptance, was the downgrading of 'trees of menus'. That's right, in the early 2000's designers & developers started implementing "less" dropdown menus – especially the kind with multiple sub-menus (you know, the ones that stretched far enough across the screen that they wrapped back again).

At first it was all about using a maximum of 2 levels deep; eventually that maximum was changed to only one dropdown menu. Later, due to the quantity of selections that many programs had – and the new mantra of not using multi-level menus – many developers began using the Godzilla of menus – the multi-column menu panel. Same number of selections – just presented all at once.

The Start menu was still single or multi-column with "fly out menus" (not dropping down, but opening to the right) – multiple layers of menus. The concept is beginning to 'look old-school'.

ORB

Cue Windows Vista...

The Start button becomes the 'start' green Orb and the concept of the "jelly" design had hit Windows. What do we do now... the Start button is gone, should we press this "orby-looking thing"? How do I get to my programs? Wow – does this sound familiar?

Morph into Windows 7...

Keeping the Orb (but now blue) and trimming down the multitudes of ways to "shutdown", it was pretty much the same function of the Start menu.

Start... or lack of

Coming Out of the Swamp

Windows 8 evolves the concept of the operating system display of available applications to a 'screen'; with very visible and active tiles. No more fly-outs, no more scrolling though long lists of text or opening folders to "find" an application. It's all about Tiles that can be logically grouped in columns (by you), with an easy scroll right to view others (I find the wheel works the best to scroll – for mousers). It is all "very fast & fluid" (Microsoft marketing line that hits the mark!)

Pre-Windows 8 - "We" might have used the search field – but regular folks did not. "We" might have pinned apps to the Start menu or to the Taskbar – but regular folks did not. What do regular folks do? Well in my line of work, I frequently connect to the computers of regular folks and what I see are...

...desktops filled with Shortcuts...

If you don't see the connection between a desktop full of shortcuts – and the Windows 8 Start screen – you need to step out of your concrete bunker! Yes – for each of us who find better ways to use our computer and set it up for ourselves – many regular folks do not. Regular folks prefer to "see" everything they have available to use. If it's in the Start menu, buried in a folder – it is out-of-sight, out-of-mind – and they don't know it exists.

What the Evolution has Spawned?

Windows 8 has evolved and it is amazing to me the amount of negativism that our industry is spewing. When Windows was changed to include the 'Start' button – much of the commentary seemed more comical. But in today's world the commentary has truly moved into the world of 'hate'.

I would love to say that negative commentary was only due to the fact that the Internet has enabled more to speak vs. the limited written word of the mid-90's writers in the trades; however, even the commentators of the industry trade media have ventured into the extreme.

Let the Revolution Begin!

To take a line from a favorite movie…

"You’ve got to get your mind right..."
Movie: Cool Hand Luke

The Start button "IS STILL THERE" – the action of clicking to open the Start menu (now screen). The visibility of the button is not necessary. Go use Windows XP/Vista/7 and ram your mouse-cursor hard into the bottom-left corner (not lined up on the button/orb) and click. It's like magic – it works the same as Windows 8. Didn't you know that? That's how it worked for A LONG TIME. It's about click targets. You've never had to line up on the button to click it – just get the pointer hard into the corner. Quick & Easy – no fuss!

Keyboard folks – it hasn't changed... if you're at the desktop or in an app, press the Windows key and there is the Start menu/screen. Nothing has changed! In fact – the evolution means it has improved! Did you know that after you've displayed the desktop (e.g. click Desktop Tile, or Windows key + D, or activate desktop app), pressing the Windows key actually toggles between the Start screen & last accessed "location", say your desktop (just like before) - or the last Windows App that you might have been using. Yes, that's right, if your last location was your Desktop, before accessing the Start screen, you don’t even need to hit Windows key + D to cycle back to desktop from Start.

But What about Folks New to Windows?

Yes, someone "new" to Windows is not going to 'get it' without help – but that's OK, it is all new to them. The sales person, or the new computer OOBE poster will guide them, or the many How-to articles available in trade mags (paper or online). They will learn and have no need to even know the history of the Start menu. The new way is cleaner and easier to see.

But What about Regular folks (have used Windows before)?

"It just doesn’t matter"
Movie: Meatballs.

You're all up in arms now... by me daring to say that, eh? Remember that "desktop of shortcuts"? They're going to see the Start screen on boot-up. They don't care about this thing "we" know to be the desktop. As long as the regular folks have a Tile (icon) that they can click on to run the application they want – they are fine. The size and usefulness of those Tiles are significantly improved over shortcut icons.

And when they get into the Desktop – because many of our apps still live there – what will they do then? So what – how long do you think it will take for them to re-discover the Windows key or clicking in the bottom-left corner? This is a very "simple" training issue – not even a minute of time should be spent on it. Use the Windows key or click with mouse pointer in bottom-left corner. Really! If you don’t believe that, you don't give regular folks enough credit... or you’re not willing to toss a small word of help their way. Shame on you!

Editorial
Speaking to the “out-of-tune vocalists”

How bad has our industry become that we believe people cannot learn something new?

  • Everyone learned & used the Start button
  • People learn new applications/games that are much more complicated than Start
  • People even learn new devices (e.g. Wii, Kinect)... requiring much more effort than Start

In general, people are curious & seek to learn new things...
What happened to you?

Attitudes like these in the automobile world would have kept us using hand-cranks to start our cars. Every now and then change has to happen, sometime it will be an extreme change like "adding a Start button" and sometimes it will be "remove a Start button" – in both cases it is right for the industry to advance.

This whole "oh gawd, the Start button is gone" commentary is such garbage. I believe it is also really degrading to the people our industry serves! Get over it...


Evolve & Join the Revolution!