Do we really need the Windows Start button?
The release of the Windows 8 beta is approaching and some of its changes are starting to emerge. One in particular has stirred up Windows fans – scrapping the Start button. Could you live without it?
The Start button is more than just a feature of Microsoft’s operating system, it’s an insignia of Windows.
Giving it up is proving hard for many, as this iconic button has been a part of Windows for 17 years.
Updating software, especially if it’s as well sold as Microsoft’s operating system, always represents a challenge for programmers as they need to approach the problem with two conflicting viewpoints.
First, they need to be innovative and create the next big thing. But, secondly, they must preserve the identity of the company and retain what’s worked in previous versions.
Changing something we’re used to
Microsoft’s ribbon interface, which I talked about in a Conversation last year, was an innovative new menu system that put a lot of people off. Most commenters complained about Microsoft modifying an interface that they’d learnt to use over the years, such as Bluestocking:
‘I used to consider myself an expert on Word with 20+ years experience and not bad on excel; I hate the ribbon method – I cannot do anything in a hurry because I frequently cannot figure what to do and when I manage to complete a task, I am not sure how to do it again because I tried so many things, I am not sure which action worked.’
However, Microsoft has the upper hand with Windows 8 as it’s combining the great bits from Windows 7 with the best of its mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7.
Functionality or design
Having played with the developers’ version of Windows 8, I can see why Microsoft has scrapped the Start button, since the way you navigate through programs and settings has completely changed. The new GUI (graphical user interface) lays out the programs on tiles that you can personalize, with a gear icon that lets you access the system settings.
Leaving the Start button on this new interface (it’s actually included in the developers’ version of Windows 8, but missing from the ‘Consumer Preview) would be like having Windows 7 running alongside Windows 8 just for the sake of it.
Having said that, I think Microsoft should definitely consider giving the option for users to have a more ‘standard’ layout for those who struggle to transition from one operating system to another.
I personally like the experience of upgrading to a new operating system. And even though I might struggle for a couple of days as I try to find my way around the new GUI, many of the changes make my day-to-day work more efficient. Finding that balance will be the key to Windows 8 being a successful release for Microsoft.
As for the iconic Windows Start button, I won’t miss it, will you?
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