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Windows 8 will be just fine

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 25th October 2012

Windows 8 logo

Microsoft® Windows® 8 logo

In spite of the controversy, the Windows 8 Modern Interface will do just fine. Some people are saying that Microsoft is making a mistake by radically changing the Windows user interface, and that people will not be able to get used to it. I don’t think so.

When I teach Windows to people who have never used a computer, they learn everything from how to hold a mouse, pointing and clicking, dragging and dropping, opening and closing windows, to using applications after about an hour of instruction and a couple of hours of practice. Lots of people are still hesitant, but after a three-hour class they have functional computer skills.

The same is true when I teach Microsoft Word for beginners. After about an hour of instruction and a couple of hours of practice, they can create a letter or write a story, colour the text, change the font, and format paragraphs. They may not be proficient enough to join a secretarial pool, but they have functional word processing skills.

I’ve also taught Microsoft Word to people taking the Microsoft Office Specialist certification. Often these people are familiar with older versions of Microsoft Word (which used toolbars and menus) but now they’re learning the new interface, which uses the Ribbon. After about an hour of instruction and a couple of hours of practice, they can find most of the functions to colour, size and format text. They may need many more hours of instruction and practice to pass the certification exam, but they’ve adapted to the new interface.

So, by analogy, I expect that people first introduced to computers on Windows 8 will take about an hour of instruction and a couple of hours of practice to become competent with the Windows 8 Modern Interface, and people with experience on Windows XP and Windows 7 will take about an hour of instruction and a couple of hours of practice to become competent on the Windows 8 Modern Interface. The difference? People used to previous versions will grumble and complain about it a lot more. I’ve done that myself; after spending well over two decades using toolbars and menus I still occasionally flounder to find the equivalents in the Ribbon. It is frustrating to unlearn old habits, or to learn new things. But Microsoft is not just making changes for the sake of making changes. The Windows 8 Modern Interface works perfectly well on desktop computers, and much better on touchscreen computers, tablets and phones. The old desktop interface that requires scrolling and clicking with a mouse just doesn’t work with a touchscreen. But for people who don’t want to make the switch the old desktop interface is still available.

While it may be funny to see people using Windows 8 for the first time without any instruction, it’s not a very real scenario. Someone who has never used a computer is unlikely to buy one without getting help, either from the retailer, a community course, or helpful friends and relatives. People who have used a computer before may struggle a bit, but if they already know the basics (scrolling, clicking, dragging) they will figure it out after a couple of hours of practice.

–Bob.

Update 27 Oct 2012: At the Windows 8 Launch Party it was made clear that the word “Metro” is no longer to be used; it is now called the “Windows 8 Modern Interface”. So I’ve updated this post.

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