pondělí 30. listopadu 2015

Konvertibly, hybridy, tabletonotebooky a 2v1: který z nich je právě pro mě ten pravý?

Snadno přenosné počítače, které se lusknutím prstů promění z nekompromisních produktivních strojů na zdroj nekonečné zábavy, jejímuž přívalu nebrání umělá bariéra v podobě klávesnice, nejsou nic až tak nového. Již v éře Windows XP můžeme spatřit první seriózní pokusy. Tehdejší zařízení však byla příliš těžká, drahá a nedisponovala dostatečně dlouhou výdrží baterie, aby se mohla široce rozšířit. Navíc krom standardního notebookového ovládání podporovala kvůli nedokonalé rezistivní dotykové vrstvě na obrazovce jen stylus – na ovládání prstem jste mohli zapomenout.


Jak by mohl konvertibilní počítač vypadat v budoucnosti?

úterý 28. července 2015

Windows 10: Did It Learn from Windows 8?

There is no doubt that Windows 8 will be liken to Windows Vista as one of the biggest flops in Microsoft's modern history. When it launched three years ago, bold goal was set - despite late entry to competition, to make Windows a respectable player on the tablet market. Dominant position in the world of desktop computers and notebooks was hopeful promise to join well-established old hands, Apple with its iOS and Google's Android operating system. Unfortunately, even humble expectations were far from fulfilled. Not only Windows 8 failed in tablet area. It also did not turn away rapidly declining PC sales.


I will cover Windows 10 for x86 devices like convertibles, AiO, ...


Microsoft didn't commercially succeed with its touch smartphone platform Windows Phone too, but they got highly positive reception from customers and tech-press, who praised surprisingly original user interface (UI) and blazing fast operation even on low-end devices.


  ▌  1) Upgrade Experience
  ▌
  ▌  2) Core User Interface of the Operating System
  ▌
  ▌  3) Windows Universal Platform
  ▌
  ▌  4) Not Perfect Yet
  ▌
  ▌  5) Conclusion


Windows 8 could hardly be criticized for slowness. But user experience was completely different story. Experimental fusion of desktop with tablet UI resulted in an epic fail, highlighted by firing  Steven Sinofski, President of Windows Division, just few weeks after launch.

Version 9 was skipped to make us forget about recent painful experiences easier. Launch of Windows 10, developed under supervision of ex-head of Zune and Windows Phone departments, Joe Belfiore, is imminent. Although general availability date was set to tomorrow, 29th July 2015, RTM build is already available for 2 weeks to Windows Insiders. I happen to be one of them and covered Windows 8 extensively from the beginning, so... let's see whether people at Redmond learned from their previous mistakes.


Through Windows Insider, Microsoft finally listen to consumers

To make things clear beforehand: this is not a complex review of Windows 10, nor whole Windows 10 product range. I will focus on Windows 10 for x86 devices from consumer's perspective. I will investigate which my subjective shortcomings were (not) addressed.

Upgrade Experience

Installation and out-of-the-box experience may vary, depending on the way you initiated the installation, version of installation files or who manufactured your new computing device.

I made an update from older Windows 10 build via Windows Update. Although ISO file for 64bit Pro Insider Preview versions had around 3 GB, decompressed update files may take even double in size.


Simple and clean, yet not informative installation screen

Three chapter names, progress indicators - that's all, absolutely no useful info. To assist approx. 30 minute installation would be a complete waste of time, if the installer wouldn't automatically restart my machine three times. No warnings or countdowns each time, just a general "we'll do it sometimes". Really annoying for those of us who use dual-boot.

In case you have proper sync data saved in cloud, settings from your previous Windows device may be downloaded by signing in with Microsoft Account. Do not expect transfer of Start customizations and pinned links of Store apps you own this time - these features introduced in Windows 8 were removed.

If you don't have Microsoft Account and decide not to create one, there is an option to make local account instead. When signing in like that for the first time, along with oblique Microsoft Paint or Calculator, all you'll get is just Recycle Bin on an empty desktop and web browser pinned to Start. No links for other Store apps, nor Windows Store itself. Sick of bloatware? You would be happy. Nonetheless, it appeared like a glitch later, because when I signed-in with Microsoft Account first and created a local account then (it took me some time to figure it out - Microsoft obviously want you to avoid local accounts), Store was present, along with two groups of app links in Start. That's also what I got with Microsoft Account without any sync data.


This is what you get when you launch Windows 10 for 1st time

My device was correctly detected as a desktop, so the first regular start led to desktop environment. (Download Windows 10 official "Hero" wallpaper in maximum quality from here.)

Core User Interface of the Operating System

Apart from poor app selection and quality, the stumbling block of Windows 8 rested in it's deep-rooted duality. People had difficulties to move across system and keep it under control. Although they adopted all those unusual gestures and became reconciled to distinctive "Metro" look, something very important was still missing - intuitive operation, elementary logics and enjoyable user experience.

Instead of one unified environment, they got two. The first was backward compatible desktop one, which had unlimited set of features thanks to millions of already existing programs. It allowed users to manage almost entire world with a tablet from bathtub, which is something very different from feature-limited established tablet platforms. But operation with hand was very uncomfortable due to almost non-existing touch optimization. The second was entirely different tablet one, which didn't fit mouse and keyboard devices very well and lacked features. Disaster was successfully accomplished when these two were interconnected in such a non-sense manner that it seemed like it was a result of pure randomness.


Windows 8: ergonomic disaster of epic proportions

The concept was bad at its core - Microsoft assumed users will use mainly desktop programs in desktop environment, then transform their device to tablet and use mainly touch apps. With full-screen Start in addition, there was complete lack of continuation.

Thanks God this is over!

As far as I'm concerned, Windows 10 is coming with best solution possible in this area. Although I could feel offended and jealous that Seattle-based software giant adopted a concept of Jay Machalani rather than mine, all I have to say is just... bravo! Instead of a fusion of two operating systems with two task switchers, we got only one this time. Inevitable duality lays somewhere else now - there are two ways of manipulating running applications (no matter whether we talk about old Win32/.NET "programs" or new WinRT/Store "apps").


Desktop with familiar Start button, windows and Taskbar

Everybody knows how a desktop work. It already excelled thanks to decades of polishing. With introduction of virtual desktops and ability to snap windows to corners of the screen, it is almost perfect now.

It is great that you don't need 3rd party utilities to run modern apps in windows anymore. Even small Start menu, this time in sort a hybrid appearance, is back. No more just full-screen!

With virtual desktops and ability to snap windows
to corners, desktop is almost perfect now.

Nothing significant changed for worse here, even if you come from Windows 7. Some mutual aspects like volume control or calendar were slightly adjusted for touch.

When you click a system button called "Tablet", layout gets very similar look, but different rules are applied. All windows turn into touch-ready full-screen (or rather full-height to be absolutely exact if we consider snapping) panels known from Windows 8 "tablet part". Start goes full-screen too.

You just get a different approach to same content.


Setting up Tablet mode: it can switch automatically there and back

Guess what? There is finally a continuity! That's probably why they call this cool feature "Continuum". Activating tablet mode manually isn't required if you have proper device.

The general concept got radically changed. There still remain power-user programs like full-fledged Office. But in case you engage casual activities, like browsing a web, there is an assumption you'll use identical app both on desktop and tablet. In other words, no more two separated Internet Explorers. You practically won't get even one, because Internet Explorer is hidden in the system and it's successor Microsoft Edge, formerly known as "Project Spartan", have become a primary browser.

No matter whether using mouse or touch, you can enjoy features like Cortana or Action Center taken over from Windows Phone 8.1 or brand new ones like SnapAssist - all of these were made with all users in mind.


Snap Assist in action - it works great both with touch and mouse

One wouldn't believe how many issues got automatically fixed when Hot Corners and Charms Bar were thrown away. The first is completely inessential and all Charms Bar features (except Share contract - I will go back to this topic later) were moved to apps itself, which makes sense.

Windows Universal Platform

New approach wouldn't work if other parts remained the same. That's why Microsoft comes with so called Universal Windows Platform aka UWP. It is an evolution of WinRT known since Windows 8: both mouse and touch are supported again, both x86 and ARM are supported as well and apps may be obtained via Windows Store. But tons of great changes were made in this area.

UWP takes interplay between devices within
the ecosystem to whole new dimension.

In the past, if you wanted the same app on a tablet, as well as on a phone, you had to get two different separately. They could look the same, they could come from the same developer, but they were different inside. By sharing user data and having one single app that flex across all form factors, from compact phone to Surface Hub, UWP takes concept of interplay between companion devices within the same ecosystem to whole new dimension. What changes when switching devices is not a binary, nor data. It is literally identical everywhere. What changes is layout and the way an app interacts with user. And when done properly, it works really great!


Redesigned Windows Store - one place for phone and tablet apps

Demand for flexibility finally push developers to accent widely scalable responsive design. How to achieve user comfort and maintain orientation? The magic lays in clever, yet simple design guidelines. Various techniques exist, like designing apps to vertical frames, but so called SplitView is much better example. What's that? It's very similar to responsive web design we know for years. There is always a content displayed, only formatting slightly varies. And then, there is navigation, which adapts in a more complex way. Are you sitting in front of large computer screen? Fine, let's unveil navigation menu in it's full glory, consisting of icons and labels. Is there a temptation in your mind to alleviate fatigue by laying down to bed with a tablet? Fine, let's hide labels and unveil them on demand. Is there an emergency to quickly go somewhere with a phone? No problem, navigation menu made of icons and labels will temporarily overlay the content when you tap hamburger icon and will go away after you make a selection. Brilliant!

To scale user interface consistently, Microsoft introduces new measuring unit. Thanks to Effective Pixels, which brings viewing distance, device type, screen size, resolution and DPI in account, there is a great chance an app will appear to be of same size, no matter what device is used. EP goes hand in hand with merging or enhancing simple apps. No more primitive Calculator blown-up on a TV! The app fused with Unit Converter and got supplemented with useful history.


To understand EP better, click + symbol to play video

The look is one part. Controls is another. How to make apps work great both with touch and mouse, both in windowed and tablet modes? Controls became less thumb-centric. And horizontal panels at the bottom of the screen were completely scrapped. Interaction moved to the app itself. Among others, by bringing context menus back. And thanks to input detection, items are shrank when evoked by a mouse, and higher offset is applied when evoked by a touch.

Not Perfect Yet

I highly appreciate the progress, but some things need improvements. Windows 10 isn't the worst case of rushed launch, but although (or because?) I took latest updates in account, I have to say that hurrying up with upgrade may not fully pay out.

Internal communication and coordination
is a big issue inside Microsoft.

Overall inconsistency remains one of the most serious sins even in Windows 10. Not all past problems were solved and new problems emerged. When you encounter some of such non-uniformities, it makes an impression that internal communication and coordination is a big issue inside Microsoft.


New improved Settings next to old degraded Control panel

Regarding unpaid debts, no single place to perform all settings is available. Not only there is still Control panel along with modern Settings, while none of these are self-contained. Lots of common settings were completely removed from Control panels, like customization options or Windows Update. In case you use tablet, fine, most (if not all) things may be found in Settings. But on desktop, you have to use both in order to set everything, which sucks hard.

Although I understand that every app requires slightly different treatment, it is unacceptable that some behave completely different when performing same actions. Do you recall SplitView I mentioned before? Some apps allow to dock full size menu by clicking an empty space on a collapsed panel (Mail). Some reacts only when you click hamburger menu at the top (Groove Music). And there are apps that do not allow to dock full size menu at all, no matter what you do – icon labels work only in overlay mode (Insider Hub).

If you want to send feedback to developers, sometimes there are „smiley“ icons in the middle of a menu panel (Money). Sometimes, the same icon is at bottom (Mail). This icon sometimes leads to Windows Feedback app (Mail). But sometimes, there is in-app form (Edge) instead. Elsewhere, you must go to Settings. While in Photos, there is a „Send feedback“ button at bottom, in Groove Music, there is a „Feedback“ link on the right. Get Started section is probably flawless - there is no way how to submit an objection at all.


Ability to send feedback is not unified across various apps

When you seek a now-playing track in Groove Music, there is a pop-up tip tool showing current time. When you seek a clip in News, all you'll get is just a „Seek“ tooltip. And finally, when you seek a movie in Movies & TV, you'll get nothing.

While some apps have great keyboard shortcut support (Mail), others lack the most basic shortcuts imaginable. F11 to go full-screen in Edge? Ctrl+F or Alt+Enter to watch movie full-screen? Ctrl+A to select all items? Not in stock at the moment, sorry. Innocent rodents were not spared either. Going through 3D cities in Maps is almost impossible with mouse. Back and forward buttons don't work reliably. Pivot items have no scrolling wheel support.

Backlogs? Oh yeah, we've got them too!

There are moments when you feel like Windows 8 strikes back. In login screen, you get Windows 8 network dialog, while the same dialog evoked from Taskbar has appropriate Windows 10 style. Playing music in the background and using multimedia keys on keyboard makes Windows 8 multimedia symbols appear in top left corner. When you make a right click in Cortana text bar, you will get Windows 8 style context menu. It’s 8th addition to already rich collection. Rather don't try build-in Sharing contracts - it looks exactly the same as in Windows 8, both in terms of style and size (yes, full-screen).


Taskbar customizations are rich, yet imcomplete

Backlogs? Oh yeah, we've got them too! Touch-first Skype is not ready yet, as is ability to snap more than 2 apps in Tablet mode. Drag and drop in universal apps doesn't work, although it was announced few months back at BUILD conference. Nor managing files comfortably on a tablet is happening. Though far from perfect, could we at least get a simple touch mode in old File Explorer like we know it from Office 2013?

Regular bugs are also present, both in system and apps. Guessing from how individual builds improved over time, few more months would be needed to fix them all. The best thing to do first in Windows 10 is to launch Windows Update and check whether more current versions of apps are available at Windows Store. 

Following issues are more of a subjective character and depend on individual taste, but I will mention them nevertheless.

I’m not very happy having Taskbar in Tablet mode. Single necessary feature there is a back button. And since there are no mandatory back buttons inside apps, nor on devices, you simply can't hide it without negative practical consequences. What more, there is no way to make Taskbar invisible only in Tablet mode. Will it settle? Maybe.


Unlike Windows 8, Windows 10 Tablet mode contains Taskbar

Transforming Start to Cortana and having two Cortanas when using Edge, one in the lower left corner and other in top right corner, seems quite confusing to me. I can deal with it, but what about average Joes?

I will miss swipe-from-left-edge gesture to switch last-used apps and aesthetic panorama controls introduced in Windows Phone 7. These were sacrificed in favor of universality and practicality.

Conclusion

So, did Windows 10 learn from Windows 8 after all? For the most part, yes! And thanks to declared dedication of Microsoft to pro-actively improve the system and build-in apps (no reason to be skeptical - we got 30+ updates in just two weeks), listening to user feedback and incoming Windows 10 Mobile, things will for sure get better.


Multitasking on a tablet as a competitive advantage? Not anymore

One question was answered. Other questions appeared. Will Windows 10 keep up with iOS and Android in terms of apps? Will people overcome Windows 8 disappointment? And are there (still) enough arguments to switch?

neděle 23. března 2014

Microsoft Windows 9 Design Concept

Even more than 15 months, one major and dozens of partial updates later, Windows 8 still pretty suck. Originally, I tried to keep a hope that the most criticized features of latest Microsoft operating system will be tuned in a few months by cleverly aimed polishes, but as time passed by, my presumption turned out naive. Although we got improvements like encyclopedic search results or hands-free mode, the most acute downs of the OS - confusing duality of desktop and modern environment, lack of consistency (continuation) in visual navigation and poor app quality - remained unchanged. There still exists a chance to shift things forward, but Microsoft obviously has no clear strategy in mind at the moment. As such, various people share their own ideas on how to put the shattered glass together. I was patiently looking for and reporting bugs and bringing suggestions. After I got to know thorough project Fixing Windows 8 by Jay Machalani, I found myself not being active enough, so rather than focusing on particular details, I got inspired and designed a complex solution.


Supplemental demo videos include highlights of the concept


Jay made tremendous job. His tweaks would definitely make Windows 8 more logical and easier to use. I especially identify myself with Windows Lite (Modern UI only OS) and Windows Pro (adding classic app compatibility) concept. I got to like notifications implementation next to charms bar too.


  ▌  1) Essential Requirement: Make Modern UI Grow Up
  ▌
  ▌  2) User Interface Structure Changes
  ▌
  ▌  3) Introducing Modern Taskbar
  ▌
  ▌  4) The Power of Choice
  ▌
  ▌  5) Conclusion & (Anticipated)FAQ


Nonetheless, my own design addresses defects mentioned above more radically. I’m not claiming this is the ultimate solution. Percept it just as an alternative to other concepts out there. Unlike Jay, who tried to solve the coexistence of modern and classic apps by separating the two worlds resolutely, I went the other way - by bringing them together.

Caution 1: In order to understand my presentation, there's a need to have an idea how current version of Windows 8 work (I used version 8.1 build 9600 - latest officially available stable build  - as reference). At the same time, there is a need to free yourself from deep-rooted habits from previous versions.

Caution 2: Unlike Phyek or Eiskis, I didn't intend to amaze audience with reworked and refined graphics (aside a fact I would be unable to beat such a higly skilled guys :-)). I tried to use current assets and reorganize them in my way. My primary focus was usability. I respected some things Windows 8 came with and haven't changed them at all.


A brief static showcase of my design concept

Caution 3: In order to make things work perfectly and consistently, I would need functional prototype and put it trough extensive collective testing to get the most varied feedback. I can't afford that. What follows is a maximum I was able to reach with my limited resources. Tests could find out that some suggestions aren't usable in any way.

Essential Requirement: Make Modern UI Grow Up

If I did not clarify certain subject beforehand, most desktop users (and probably not just them) would immediately refuse my ideas. It wouldn't surprise me. What am I talking about? Despite incredibly robust design guidelines which counts with touch and non-touch devices of all sizes (Microsoft didn't mess around last years in the end!), quality of actual state of modern environment, which will be sole subject in this chapter, is incredibly low today (or did they?). It simply fails everytime.

When a finger is used to control tiny 7" tablet with ancient 1366x768 resolution, aside from details like difficulty to recognize interactive elements, things may seem fine at first sight. The screen is effectively used for content and interactive elements. Items in tables are arranged as they should. The problem is that Moden UI is far from being stand-alone and self-sufficient. For example, you can't set up speakers there at all (except volume), so you remain dependent on mouse-first Desktop a lot. When a finger is moved to 30" Full HD (not to mention already available 4k) display, serious issues start to pop up. The screen gets half empty, sometimes because the app is exceptionally primitive in functions, sometimes because it is not optimized for higher than HD Ready screens. Unfortunately, it doesn't end with esthetics. Various items disarrange too, so proper reading of content is impossible. Depending on settings, entire UI may be blown up, but one get to feel like half-blind old man. High resolution screen you paid extra money for is wasted too. The better the device, the worse the experience?!


This half-empty screen shows up in Store app

Damn, even the most complicated websites are able to adapt itself from 3" mobile phone in hand to 40" TV in a living room! (Zoom Smashing Magazine site in and out, open it on various devices, change the orientation of your device or resize the window of your browser.)

"Built-in scaling means your app and content always look great, whether on a small 7" device or on a big 30" monitor. You just need to use a fluid layout and make sure the graphics in your app look good when scaled."
Windows Modern UI Design Guide

Dare you to use mouse or keyboard! Scrolling performed by wheel rotating does not always work well. Scrolling by pressing wheel and changing cursor position somewhere works (an app), somewhere does not (PC Settings). Back and forward buttons don't work on certain places too. From time to time, apps fight with each other and focus (that rectangle moving across interactive elements when Tab is pressed) is absent.

"When you design app for touch interactions, you get support for pen, mouse, and keyboard interactions for free. Your users can switch from one input method to another and not miss a beat of the app experience. Plug a keyboard into a tablet? No problem. Your app responds consistently and predictably to your users' choices."
Windows Modern UI Design Guide

How on Earth can Microsoft demand strict requirements compliance toward third party developers if even them don't follow their own rules?


Click for "not optimized vs. optimized" comparison

Redmond, implement widely scalable responsive user interface at all costs.

Build in full mouse and keyboard support. Pervasive shortcuts and gestures would be nice too.

Don't remove useful novel features like a coward. I miss the old full screen search.

Provide interactivity between apps. To copy files from Explorer to SkyDrive app (Microsoft haven't renamed it to OneDrive yet in Windows 8) or drag text to modern app is not possible today.

Allow developers to set default size of any app and forbid to resize it. Half-empty screens or absurdly blown up graphics will be prevented.

Give the apps better help system. Implement pop-up help into every individual button, without single exception.

Force Adobe, AutoDesk and other high-profiled software developers to make modern apps. Give us power-user apps like Office. Add features to the existing ones. Mirror build-in tools like Task Manager, Control Panel, File Manager and so on to Modern UI. It will have to be done now or later, so what are you waiting for?


Glimpse of how help system in Modern UI could improve

Make Modern UI undergo memory exercise (I'm not talking about RAM, although apps could load faster). When you make a search, select some search result by mistake and then recall search bar back, you have to input keywords again to repeat the same search. Such a detail, such annoyance! Apps could also remember it's last state regarding position and size. Was the app closed snapped? Open it snapped. And vice versa.

When you go to installed apps list (under Start Screen), tt's difficult to orient. Arrange the apps by an alphabet - every letter should have it's own column or row.

God bless you for allowing to pin modern apps to Taskbar in Update 1.

Allow Start Screen to get snapped. Collectively open apps feature is a must. Close gesture on Start Screen could offer shut down options. There is huge room for improvements.

And for Christ sake - stop saying "Welcome" until the correct password is entered into the log screen. The fact that the same idiocy was present in (over)popular Windows 7 doesn't justify that.


To launch more apps at one time - wouldn't that be great?

My humble and honest advice is: focus the whole future development on Modern UI. It desperately needs to grow up in every possible way. If it already was the case, nobody would have to rely on legacy apps with its DPI issues and problematic touch support. At the same time, nobody would force you to use the modern ones. You should get a choice, which is not the case now. Do you plan to develop two environments/versions of apps forever?

User Interface Structure Changes

Now that we've got perfected, standalone and desktop-ready Modern UI, my key goal you maybe already saw through can finally be unveiled. My intention was to design improved, entirely Modern UI operating system supplemented with classic apps backward compatibility while keeping all preinstalled classic apps and tools like Device Manager and bringing windows transparency back (how can removing this feature from Windows 8 save hardware resources when Taskbar shines through and effects haven't changed?). Plain logic below served as the ultimate guide to me during the creative process:

Modern UI may be easily controlled by mouse, while classic UI can't be easily controlled by a finger.

Not only desktop users won't lose a single feature - they'll even benefit from these changes!


Proposed structure of the UI - enlarge for comparison

Are two app launchers really necessary? We call it Start Screen here and Desktop here, but it works almost the same way: we can add, remove or group the shortcuts; we can place wallpaper there; we can go there in an instant. Let's keep just Start Screen! Regarding it's missing features, renaming and no restrictions about shortcut targets, free icon positioning or basic file management could be taken over from Desktop. Context menu is highly appreciated, although its classic style doesn't fit there.

Why do we need two separated areas for opened apps? The first is called Desktop again and we move windows across it. The second one is called emptiness, blankness or darkness I guess, shows up when we snap an app and redirects us to Start Screen when we touch or click it. Leave just one and name it a workplace! When window would be manipulated, different rules will be applied (place the window to edge and resize it to half of the screen, perform Aero Shake to minimize background apps) in comparison with manipulating a modern app (snap and close gestures). People will get more freedom, because overlay across modern and classic apps will be, thanks to erasing virtual boundaries among them, possible. New "Fill" feature would utilize free screen space to resize a classic app if there is a snapped modern app and subtle change of Maximize function meaning would allow to use entire screen space.


Lets kill some redundant features - click for uncropped picture

What are two taskbars good for? We have the desktop one and the Modern UI one (call it switcher if you wish; paradoxically classic UI context menu appears there now). One contains the other, the other does not. What a chaos! What about combining them to one and manage all opened or pinned classic and modern apps in one place? Yes, this is what I call a solution!

Introducing Modern Taskbar

If a single highlight of the whole project should be picked, I would probably choose Modern Taskbar, which makes most of changes possible without sacrificing user control. In fact, it represents key signs of the concept: bringing simplicity into place, taking the best of Desktop to Modern UI and reducing doubling structural UI elements to one unit while improving experience for both touch and mouse users.

Some may refuse it immediately, but believe me, it is just matter of habit: new Modern Taskbar would sit on the left edge of the screen and couldn't relocate. Due to already mentioned duplicities and various customization combinations, it was easy to find situations Microsoft didn't count with. There are three more reasons for this decision. Upper edge of the screen is reserved for modern app close gesture. Right edge provides access to Charms Bar. Finally, lower edge is dedicated to modern apps context menus. Since our displays are rectangular, there is no other option. :-)


Full-sized Modern Taskbar in action, snap in background

Modern Taskbar would operate in two modes. Partially customizable full-sized (or full-scale) Modern Taskbar visually reminds modern app taskbar/switcher from Windows 8. Similarities? It contains modern app live previews with possibility to show their context (this time in modern style, i.e. touch-ready) menus, may be displayed by mouse ("L" shaped) "Hot Corner" gesture or by a finger (swipe from left edge and back), disappears automatically when other app stands in foreground and has Start button (securely attached!) at the bottom. More importantly, full-sized Modern Taskbar newly picks over responsibility of the old, already non-existent desktop Taskbar like managing classic and pinned apps (modern ones too), ability to change order of icons and spatially efficient time indication (I'm especially proud of! :-)) along with configurable basic notifications (B stands for battery, R for RAM in my concept).

It also contains it's own Modern UI style context menu with configurable shortcuts for your favorite apps or places with function to collectively manage opened apps. Regarding context menus, it's good to point out that there are no classic context menus outside of classic apps and that modern apps context menus sliding from bottom of the screen would be, as already mentioned, preserved.

How to distinguish pinned and running apps? Pinned ones are greyed out and have large app icons. How to distinguish classic and modern apps? The same way as in Start Screen - there is either classic style icon (colored 3D) or modern style icon (white 2D).


Context menu of docked compact Modern Taskbar 

In addition, you can resize icons á la Start Screen and give them "Skip" attribute. What does that mean? When "Skip" option is checked, the app will be skipped when you switch apps by keyboard (Alt+Tab) or touch gesture (slide from left edge), which allows to display indication of services with GUI without obstructions on the same place (these were previously placed in notification area in classic Taskbar). This leads me to another novelty - now that Windows Flip 3D is gone (at least something was done for consistency, although it was the best UI innovation of Windows Vista), we don't need dedicated app switcher anymore, because full-sized Taskbar will replace it sufficiently.

You can also set Modern Taskbar to docked compact, but uncustomizable state, which will offset apps adequately to the right. Docked compact Taskbar remains always visible (unless full screen classic app is launched), even when you go to Start Screen. Thanks to its compact size, it does not interfere with workplace dramatically. Especially desktop users - I'm one of them - would like it for sure.

In case you want to dock or undock modern compact Taskbar, you simply enlarge it to full-size and click on |> or <| symbol next to Start button. Regarding conservative users ("It's not my good old Windows anymore!"), it behoves to mention that enlarging or autohiding taskbar is nothing new for Windows, but most people don't use or know these features at all.


Full-sized Modern Taskbar allows to resize icons of apps

When apps are switched via Alt+Tab, full-sized Taskbar will replace the docked one temporarily (if it's not displayed yet). It will hide again right after fingers are put out of the keys (or touch any other area when using a finger to call out the Taskbar). In case you wish to temporarily display the full-sized Taskbar without switching the apps, touch or mouse gestures are still available in this mode. When you move mouse cursor over Taskbar in ordinary way, docked compact Taskbar will remain shrinked.

I considered docking the full-sized taskbar in the past, but rejected it.

The Power of Choice

Since some things can't be identical for both touch and mouse users, they should have right to decide themselves.

When installing Windows 9 on a computer equipped with both touch screen and pointing device (typically all-in-one PCs), there would be discreet, although highly important dialog. It asks whether you put mouse or touch on first place. There are four choices regarding default settings of the operating system.


Installation process should contain detailed help

Do you want to have Modern Taskbar docked or undocked when the OS boots for the first time?

Do you wish to associate various filetypes to desktop or modern preinstalled apps?

Which shortcuts do you prefer on Start Screen and in taskbar context menu: those leading to desktop or modern apps?

Two presets would be offered, "Modern environment" and "Classic-friendly environment". If you're not O.K. with any of them, own selection of sub-options can be made.

Non-mouse devices like tablets would be automatically set to "Modern environment" and non-touch devices would be automatically set to "Classic-friendly environment". In these both cases, this dialog would not show up at all.


Do you prefer modern or classic-friendly environment?

Other improvement of installation procedure would lay in sequence of actions. How many times have you presumably begun prolonged installation process, left computer working without your presence and than came back to find out that there was a need to fill in desired future account name just before the installation begun? That would be over now, because installation steps are strictly arranged in order to collect your inputs first. The lengthy installation itself, consisting of decompressing gigabytes of data, would occur as a final step later without any need of user activity.

Conclusion & (A)FAQ ([Anticipated] Frequently Asked Questions)

More changes would mean to run into extreme details. Even when the rest of Windows 8 leaves untouched (although imperfect), it would serve much better than now in my opinion.

Any suggestions or opinions are highly welcomed! If you like my design concept, spread the word . If you don't like it, please tell me why. I'm open to any kind of feedback.


Where are the days of GUI consistent Windows XP?

Let's hope that one day, Windows will get it's sign attributes back: simplicity, soberness, continuity and logics. And it doesn't matter whether thanks to mine, yours or anybody else's influence.

You want to make desktop users live in modern environment. Are you kidding me?

No, I'm not kidding you. Although I tried to optimize modern environment for mouse and keyboard in the concept as much as possible, I understand nothing fits all. When you use mouse, nobody at least force you to use modern apps. When working in classic apps, Modern UI won't distract you in any way. Classic and modern environments share similar design principles. Although context menus in modern environment leads to modern setting screens (though this could also be configurable) and key UI elements of the system are designed in modern style, all functions can also be changed by accessing Control Panel or another classic tools. As promised, all classic build-in apps and tools would be preserved.


Full-sized Modern Taskbar in action, snap in background

I'm tired of these Windows 8 haters who saw it from far distance in store. When will you stop whining?

I've spent months using Windows 8 since Windows 8 Developer Preview back in 2011 to Windows 8.1. I'll stop when Microsoft's more than thirty years of experience in making software comes under the Sun again.

Why does Windows 8 mean so much for you?

I appreciate the brave act Microsoft did, but the result highly disappoints . There is no other operating system like that: combining mouse with touch and preserving backward compatibility.

Where can I download those wallpapers used in your concept
from?

The landscape used as a wallpaper for workplace may be downloaded from these places. The wooden wall used for lock screen may be downloaded from these.



Lock screen uses similar-style time indication like Modern Taskbar

I want to use modern apps, but I'm tired of travelling with my mouse cursor from one end of the screen to another. What am I suppose to do?

Aside from fact that users of Apple's famous Mac OS X have to travel over entire screen for context menus too, you can perform many Modern UI actions via keyboard. For example, instead of performing mouse gesture "slide from top", you can close modern apps with Alt+F4 key combination. Changing sensitivity of your mouse could solve the issue too.

Aren't you ashamed of ripping Unity off and present it as your idea?

Windows 8 already have a taskbar/app switcher on the left. There are even more reasons of me having Taskbar there. I've seen Linux only from a far distance and never used it.

Allowing to snap the Start Screen breaks the philosophy of Start Screen being a headquarters of the system.

Start Screen becomes another ordinary build-in tool like Search or PC Settings in my concept. It is just a launcher. The centre of my concept is Modern Taskbar. Instead of a temple, you get an altar. :-) This is not a question by the way. :-)


27" Dell S2740L - the display used in video of design concept

Where did you buy that touch Dell display used in showcase videos?

Due to limited resources, I had to fake the touches. :-) The display is a standard 27" Dell S2740L without any touch layer. Only buttons to set-up the display are equipped by touch sensors.


How can you demand responsive design when your blog is optimized for 1024x768?

Nobody force you to open my blog in full screen. :-) I believe the layout of my blog fits its purpose. It's not some kind of complex e-shop, but rather personal diary. And I'm not a professional.

How long did you work on this project?

Longer than expected. :-)

7th July 2016 update: Now that Windows 10 with different UI structure got well established, don't you regret investing time to your Windows 9 concept?

Although I acknowledge that changes made from Windows 8 to Windows 10 were well decided and I consider Windows 10 better than my concept, mainly thanks to Universal Windows Platform initiative, something has to be said. What I tried to do in my concept was to keep lots of great things from Windows 8 alive. I tried to introduce subtle changes to make two years of work by Microsoft worth. With Windows 10, Microsoft decided to throw most of things from Windows 8 away and start from scratch. I believe it was a great decision, but it did not happen without negative consequences. Most problematic area in my opinion is that all Windows 8 apps look strange in Windows 10 and lots of already great apps had to be rewritten, which results in its current poor feature list and quality. Lots of people who invested their time into learning Windows 8 had to undergo re-learning procedure too. At last but not least, Microsoft indirectly admitted that they were completely wrong with Windows 8, which lowered their already bad reputation in eyes of their costumers.