Considering the New Metro Interface—Ribbon Redux?

Microsoft has made it quite plain that the new Metro interface will be the default interface for Windows 8. All one has to do is spend some time looking at the Building Windows 8 blog posts to discover this fact—Metro appears all over the place. In fact, Microsoft is adamant that you will like the Ribbon and Metro whether you want to or not. Of course, this means preparing developers to create applications for the Metro interface. However, the current emphasis is in trying to convince people that they won’t miss out on anything by using the old Start menu interface, but that they’ll really want to use the Metro interface for maximum functionality. Both interfaces use the same low level functionality and rely on the same HTML5 engine.

Something that began to worry me though is that Microsoft seems to be espousing an architecture that is more closed and propriety with Metro. For example, they tell you that the Metro-style Internet Explorer interface isn’t going to support plug-ins and that it’s a good thing it doesn’t. When has restricting third party add-ins ever made something better? One of the things that has made Windows a great platform over the years is that Microsoft has encouraged third party additions that make a stronger offering. Anything that Microsoft can’t offer is provided by third parties—users are free to pick and choose what they want as part of their application experience.

Microsoft’s decision to close their architecture actually began with the Ribbon. One of the reasons I wrote RibbonX for Dummies and updated VBA for Dummies was to help VBA developers to continue creating add-ins for Office products. (You can read my continued posts about these books in the RibbonX for Dummies and VBA for Dummies categories.) Now Microsoft is closing something else—Internet Explorer—a central part of the Windows experience.

I’m not the only one who has concerns about Metro, nor am I the only one who has noted that the Ribbon actually slows power users considerably. A recent ComputerWorld article discusses the problem of both interfaces slowing business users and the fact that Metro will require hardware updates for maximum functionality, despite Microsoft’s protestations to the contrary. I think that the Ribbon does indeed help the less skilled, non-geek, user to become more productive with less effort, but at the cost of hampering everyone else. I’ve learned though to wait to see how things work out. With the Ribbon, I think more people have won than lost, but those who have lost productivity have lost in a big way. Metro may prove to be more of the same. At least you can select the old Start menu interface if desiredOffice didn’t offer this option without a third party add-in.

What concerns me right now though is that Microsoft added a host of productivity enhancements to Windows 7 that really did make sense. I use many of them every day now and I’ve talked about them in Professional Windows 7 Development Guide. These enhancements apparently go by the wayside when you use the Metro interface, which makes me wonder why Microsoft developed them in the first place. I find that the new Windows 7 enhancements really do workI’m able to open my documents and get to work considerably fasterI feel much more informed about my work environment. It seems a shame that these enhancements will be left by the wayside if Microsoft ends up making Metro the only option a future version of Windows.

What do you feel about the new Metro interface? Is it a productivity enhancement or an impediment to getting things done quickly? I’m curious because I’ll eventually need to update my books for Windows 8. Which interface do I focus on during these updates? When you send your opinion, please let me know whether you’re speaking as a home user or as a business user. Let me know your thoughts at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Author: John

John Mueller is a freelance author and technical editor. He has writing in his blood, having produced 99 books and over 600 articles to date. The topics range from networking to artificial intelligence and from database management to heads-down programming. Some of his current books include a Web security book, discussions of how to manage big data using data science, a Windows command -line reference, and a book that shows how to build your own custom PC. His technical editing skills have helped over more than 67 authors refine the content of their manuscripts. John has provided technical editing services to both Data Based Advisor and Coast Compute magazines. He has also contributed articles to magazines such as Software Quality Connection, DevSource, InformIT, SQL Server Professional, Visual C++ Developer, Hard Core Visual Basic, asp.netPRO, Software Test and Performance, and Visual Basic Developer. Be sure to read John’s blog at http://blog.johnmuellerbooks.com/. When John isn’t working at the computer, you can find him outside in the garden, cutting wood, or generally enjoying nature. John also likes making wine and knitting. When not occupied with anything else, he makes glycerin soap and candles, which comes in handy for gift baskets. You can reach John on the Internet at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. John is also setting up a website at http://www.johnmuellerbooks.com/. Feel free to take a look and make suggestions on how he can improve it.