Welcome to Windows 8 Serenity

OK picture this, you got a call from a friend or family that they are fed-up with the slow performance of their PC. Its been acting up lately. Its thoroughly messed up! You made an appointment to take a look for them in the weekend. You went there, you start-up the darn thing, and the first thing that confronts you is the Start Menu, with never-ending lists of folders, stacked or in perpetual scroll mode. You just wanna puke. How do you tell these people they’ve turned their system into a dumping ground, now they have to live with it. Most of you reading this know what I am talking about. You’ve found yourselves time and again in the same situation as me. The start menu is a mess. You can’t find anything in it in 2 seconds. You just want to avoid it.

Yeah, life is a bitch. The computers then were supposed to make life easier, we’ve discovered, nothing is less than the truth. The weakest link in the chain is the carbon-entity behind the monitor. “Garbage in, is garbage out” is a universal law that has to be obeyed time and time again. So how do we fix this mess? What is a Start Menu actually?

A Start Menu is just a collection of shortcuts to your programs. Period. Does it matter how you access it? In Windows 8, the Star Menu has transformed from the static repository of shortcut folders to dynamic, informative place where you can interact with you programs without even having to open them.

Yes, it is true. Change bites real hard. We all resist change. It is the inertia built into our biological systems. Newton law of motion applies also to human nature. It is Deja-vu all over again. We had it transiting from DOS to Windows 3.1 to WinNT to Windows 95 to WinXP to Vista, now to Windows 8. We the geeks are always the first to try to restore the old shell, old menu etc. Look at the furore over the Ribbon, now that you’re getting touch devices, you’ll know why the Ribbon is a life-saver. Now some folks are hacking their win8 install to disable the new start menu and bring back old start menu. Why not stay with Win7? Why bother?

Which brings me back to the topic in Question. Where do I start my programs in Windows 8, the new Start Menu is a weird place. No it is not weird, you just need to get used to it. Before, the Start Menu opens in the same screen as pop-up, now it opens as a pop-out. It still contains you good-old icons, albeit in a peculiar way, in large blocks called Tiles, but shortcuts they are, and as usual, organizable they are.

Of all the zillion shortcuts folders you have in your current old style Start Menu, tell yourself honestly, how many of those do you really launch per day; per month. Your frequently used applications sit directly in your start menu root, the most used in the Taskbar since Windows7. The same will hold true in Windows 8. Installed apps will dump their icons in the new Start Menu, it is now left for you to you to decide if you want it there or not. Your Start Menu is now a complete reflection of yourself.

I have heard people complain it takes more effort now to start a program, so be it if that’s what it takes to use touch on our devices. Personally I don’t agree with that notion, it depends on where you put your shortcut. You can’t have your cake and eat it. Touch is the future whether you like it or not. It’s a paradigm shift. This is Microsoft implementation. Better get used to it or jump ship.

Search is the future

Which brings me to the conclusion: App Search. Remember my opening with zillions of shortcut folders in that messed up PC? Yes the one you’ll rather throw out of the window. How do you find anything on that one. I’ll bet you, you’ll find things faster in that Start Menu with search than looking for it yourself. Since Vista Start Menu search, I seldom see my installed apps folders. We are approaching a time of casual games and applications. Remember how many apps are in Apple’s App Store? Yes, we are getting something like that on Microsoft platform, it will drown out Apple’s store. Yes, all the millions of existing Win32 apps, and now zillion of casual free Metro games and apps, and a lot premium paid Metro apps, easily available in the Marketplace at the touch of you finger.

There is going to be an explosion of installed apps, especially Metro apps in Windows 8. The time you have an average of 30 apps on a machine is coming to an end. You can’t manage that anymore with shortcut folders. It doesn’t make sense. App Search makes sense in a case like this. Folders are for categorization. To organize. But psychology has taught that the ability to remember categories after 8 unique categories breaks down very quickly. How many of you have used SAP or any LOB Applications. You know its no use trying to remember in which menu hides what module. That is why all these apps have search functions in their Menu. To easily find what you are looking for, and to discover what you didn’t know exist. Discoverability it is called. Don’t even get me started on using folders to organize your mail in Outlook. If you’re like me, getting an average of 250 mails a day at work, I have given up trying to organize. Everything lives now in my Inbox, even wrote script to move items from my Sent Items to my Inbox so I can view by conversation. All archived per month. Windows Search is my saviour. I’ll bet in 5 year’s time we’ll all be wondering how we put up with the old Start Menu for so long. Time will tell.

In the meantime, enjoy your Windows 8 Developer Preview, the most stable pre-beta OS I have ever seen in my lifetime, and believe me, I have been around a long time in the tech industry. I know MS has got a winner in Windows 8 with Metro.