The rise and fall of the Metro UI in Windows 8

Ever since the Developer Preview of Windows 8 came out, I started working with it. Especially on tablet devices, this was a very nice experience. But I found that the Metro UI was not something I could get comfortable with, even after a few months, working on a device with a mouse and keyboard (no touch screen).

So, after a few weeks I was fed up with it and did a little search on the internet. Immediately I found several articles describing howto get the ‘old’ Start Menu back… you know, the one from Windows 7.  I’ve implemented that solution and was very happy; I got to be productive again on a laptop running Windows 8 without a touch screen on it.

Then… some time ago Consumer Preview of Windows 8 came out… and the solution to get the old Start Menu back on the Developer Preview did not work anymore!  Also on the  Consumer Preview this solution did not work anymore. This, together with a bunch of blog posts all over the internet, makes me think Microsoft is not planning to return the ‘old’ start menu in Windows 8, not even for non-touch devices Bedroefde emoticon

Metro UI on touch devices
For me, a Metro UI on tablet devices is a proven concept; Apple has found a humongous market by introducing the iPad’s interface… The same goes for the Metro UI in Windows 8; energize the consumer with a simple touch. Emoticon met brede lach

Metro UI on servers
This is where I’m getting very, very happy. All the basic tasks you’re still able to perform through the GUI… so for administrators this is mostly enough, especially since they’re also able to use the remote management tools that enable them to manage the entire environment through their laptop or management server.

The fact that you can enable/disable the GUI (a feature I seriously missed in the Core edition of Windows Server 2008 and R2) is something I love. A server without a GUI running consumes less resources and has less vulnerabilities.
And for those who end up in a situation where they need to do some maintenance through a GUI on the OS itself, they can still enable the GUI when desired.

Metro UI on non-touch devices
With Windows XP the problem arose that there where just too many applications in the start menu and finding the correct one simply took time which could be used more productively. With Windows 7 one could just press the Windows-key, start typing the name of the application and hit the enter-key as soon as the application was selected. (notice that I’ve skipped Vista Knipogende emoticon)
The search included your applications but files and folders as well… and also your settings (control panel, etc.). Especially this is something I found to be very handy and productive…

Let’s take a practical example:
Pressing the Windows-key will switch between the desktop and the Metro Start Screen. Yes, there is a short key to open a screen where you can search through your applications by typing its name (WinKey+Q). And there is another short key to open a screen where you can search through your files (WinKey+F). But wait, there is also a short key to open a screen where you can search through your settings (WinKey+W).
So… you will need to remember three separate short keys?
What the hell happened to making things easier and simpler? Three different short keys vs. one (WinKey)… which one do you think is easier for consumers? Verwarde emoticon

And another practical example:
When working with Windows 8 on my laptop (no touch screen) I found it useful to just open all applications I need for that day and use WinKey+TAB to switch between them. For me this took some effort to get used to this, since I’m more a person that closes apps when I don’t need them and (re)open them when I do.
Having 12 different screens of Internet Explorer, 3 Word files, 2 Excel files, Outlook, Live Messenger, and 10 RDP connections open (through Remote Desktop Connection Manager) is not my thingKnipogende emoticon
This is why I love the fact that an application will start blinking on your taskbar when something has happened in it when they’re not the active application… most common are the chat screens of Live Messenger and installation wizards.
But what if a Metro application is the active application? It will take up your entire screen… and you won’t see a taskbar anymore and therefor no blinking applications.

I do think that the Metro UI is a great innovation… for tablets.
Next to this, I think that also on servers this will prove to be a innovation with lots and lots of benefits concerning management.
But when a user with mouse and keyboard comes along, I do think the Metro UI will have a very large negative impact. Not only on desktops/laptops but also on Remote Desktops (RDS / TS).
I hope that the Metro UI will not cause people and companies to use the OS since I do think that the OS itself is simply great! Faster and less resource consuming (no marketing talk, I’ve tested it…) and introducting some very sweet new technologies such as SMB 3.0 Emoticon met brede lach

I guess that only time will tell… until that time, I’m loving the Metro UI on tablets and non-RDS servers.


  1. Well spoken, Jeff. Although it’s definitely not on my wish list, W8 will be the fail of the century. This is not a bold prediction. But there is a good chance for WS 2012, and I’d like to add one point to your post.
    The main question is: will there be RSAT 2012 for Windows 7. If YES, there will be good chance of success for the server edition. If NOT I fear, the server is going down along with W8.
    I accept bets, but I hope MSFT will prove me wrong.

  2. Jeff Wouters says:

    Hi Thorsten,
    I don’t have any inside information… so I won’t take you up on that bet 😉
    You provide a valid point there, RSAT on Win7 clients would motivate admins to use WinSrv2012 🙂
    I sure hope that MSFT will release update pack 2 for RSAT on Windows 7 that would include that feature 😀

  3. Hi Jeff,

    I found that if I just start typing I get the applications containing my text. When I want files or settings I can select that on the right hand side…

    Do we have different versions of Win 8?


    Bas Steelooper

  4. Chris Knight says:

    Both Classic Shell and Start8 deprecate the dominance of Metro and return you to the traditional Start Menu. Metro had been a roadblock for even my most keen progressive clients. Both options have removed that roadblock for Windows 8 upgrades. Metro should be a big concern for Microsoft in their traditional content creator user base.

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