Windows 8 - Synergy between desktop & Metro

Door BonzO op zaterdag 25 augustus 2012 18:00 - Reacties (14)
Categorie: Windows 8, Views: 7.382

Because the opinions on Windows 8 are pretty varied on I decided to install it myself and see what it's all about. I have a msdn account from the university where I study so this is the RTM and x64 build of the OS.

Each blog post I will pick a subject which tells something about how I experience of some features in Windows 8 in comparison to previous Windows versions or other operating systems.


The most noticeable feature added to Windows 8 is of course the Metro interface aimed at tablets and/or mobile phones.
Note: I will use the word Metro for the newly introduced interface in Windows 8, even though it's not called like that anymore (the alternative is worse).
I will talk about the synergy between this interface and the plain old desktop interface that was already there in older versions of Windows.

Whenever you are in the Metro UI you can view the desktop environment as an application:
This sidebar can be brought up by going to the top left or bottom left corner of the screen and then slide the cursor towards the middle. The keyboard shortcut for this is <win-key + tab> or <win-key + shift + tab> for the other way around. You can still use <alt + tab> or <alt + shift + tab> for switching between applications, using alt instead of win-key gives you an overview of all running programs (either the desktop environment or the metro environment) whereas the win-key sees the desktop environment as a single application.

Applications: Metro & Desktop

This is where it gets interesting and I have 2 scenario's where I will show that this worked out pretty badly.
Scenario 1
Say I am using the default music app included in Windows (not Windows Media Player but the Metro music app) and I want to use something like teamspeak. In Windows 7 you would turn the volume of the music app down within the app itself or through the volume mixer, so you can actually hear what people are saying on teamspeak. This is simply not possible anymore, the volume mixer does not list any Metro application and the music app does not have a volume control.
Scenario 2
Say I want to send an email through the Mail app included (which is also a Metro app). In the mail I want to attach something, so I open explorer and drag something to the mail I am composing. This is not possible as well.

Charms bar

The charms bar is context aware, so it looks the same in every application but it's actions are different for each application. The idea behind this is really nice, however, the charms bar is something of the Metro interface and does not work for desktop applications.

The keyboard shortcut to the charms menu is Win + C. Which is good to know as the mouse alternative to this, is to move your cursor to the top right or bottom right corner of the screen and then move your cursor to the direction of a charm (icon in the charms menu). I can say that doing this gets really annoying when you have more than one screen.
In the screenshot above you can see the corners marked with a red circle, whenever you try to move your mouse to the second screen there it hits an "invisible wall" until you move the cursor towards the charms a little so the charms bar appears with the black background. So there are 2 annoyances here:
  1. If you happen to be at the bottom of the screen with your cursor and you want to go to the second screen you have to make a curve around the invisible wall
  2. You have to be pretty precise to open the charms menu using the mouse

Launching applications

In Windows 7, OSX and many linux distro's you press one or a combination of buttons, type what application you need, press enter and the application launches. With Windows 8 you have something curious going on here, there is some standardization missing

Take for example Internet Explorer, whenever it is the default application for viewing html pages and the default browser, it opens the metro version if you use <win-key>, <type "internet explorer">, <enter>. Otherwise it opens the desktop version.

Another browser that has initial Windows 8 support is Google Chrome, whenever you launch Chrome from the Metro start screen, it opens the Metro version. If you launch it from the the quick launch bar in the desktop environment it opens desktop version.

Next blog

I think this was a pretty negative post on this subject. Do not worry, I can say that there are also good things about Windows 8, just not this particular part of Windows 8. If there is anything you want screenshots or an opinion of in a next blog, put them in the comments.