Ugh: Windows 8, Metro and Desktop

First I’ll say that every PC I use these days is running Windows 8.1.  That’s my home desktop, laptop, Surface RT, and work PC.

Windows 8 is actually very good on the tablet form factor.  It’s fine on PCs if you’re wanting to stick to the new Metro style apps.

But it’s horrible when mixing desktop and Metro apps.  This seems to be compounded further when you’re running a multiple monitor rig.  Since many people complain about Windows 8 in general without offering specifics, I thought I would.

IE Stops Streaming

So here I am doing some work in Visual Studio or Lightroom. I’d like to stream something to listen to and watch, so I fire up Internet Explorer (Metro).  I dock it on the side of a monitor and get back to work.  Everything’s going just fine, I can glance over and catch a peek. It’s really nice.

Until I need to launch another app, that is.  So I hit the Start button to bring up the Start Screen and BAM.  Audio and video pause.  I suspect it’s because MS didn’t add background audio capabilities to IE, but still… it’s EXTREMELY jarring and frustrating.

Metro Apps Disappear

Many times, it’s happening right now actually, I’ll have a couple Metro apps docked but will still be working on the desktop.  As soon as the desktop app gets focus, some (or all) of the docked apps disappear and leave the start screen background color.  That’s it.  So now I just have a gaping hole of blue. If I click on that hole, the Metro app re-appears.  Give focus back to the desktop app and it disappears once again.

I don’t think it’s a driver issue, but then again I’m running all NVidia displays.  Anyone else experience this?

What’s Going to Happen?

When I want to open or close a Metro app, what happens next feels non-deterministic.  I can never guess where an app will open, what will replace the screen when it closes, etc..  On my Surface, my resolution doesn’t support 3 simultaneous running Metro apps, so I get prompted about which to replace. On my desktops, the new app starts full-screen and I have to move it somewhere.  The result is before launching an app I have to pause and recall which machine I’m on so I can prepare for what will happen (or if I should launch it to begin with given the screen/resolution limitations).

Sometimes after closing and app, I expect the Start Screen to re-appear, but it’ll just be replaced with a blank canvas, forcing me to hit the Start button (keyboard or lower left hotspot) to bring the Start Screen back.

And why, oh why, if I’m on the desktop and launch a Metro app am I not taken back to the desktop if I dock that app somewhere? After docking it somewhere, I’m taken back to the Start screen.  I just noticed this happens regardless of the starting point (Desktop or other Metro app).  Don’t make me remember what I was in before launching the new app, just take me right back there.  It’s ridiculous.

Did I Mention Multiple Monitors is just Weird?

Over the course of writing this, I have a situation where I have the desktop showing on one half of my left monitor and one half of the right monitor (full-screen metro app in between).  You can drag a window “behind” the metro apps, to the other sides.  It’s just really strange and unnatural feeling.

What am I Missing?

So these are my main gripes, coming from someone who uses Windows 8 daily and in multiple form factors.  Hopefully more is done to fix these in upcoming releases, but I’m not holding my breath.

Anyone have any other specific complaints?







2 responses to “Ugh: Windows 8, Metro and Desktop”

  1. shoo Avatar

    Right on. I have a Surface RT, 8.1 Desktop and a Windows 7 laptop. I have some of the same grievances as you. Audio apps and how they manage background drive me crazy.

    On my 8.1 desktop, I barely use the metro apps. With 8.1, I have it boot directly to my desktop and the start buttons opens up my list of applications. And I totally fine with that. Most of my time is in the browser anyway. Chrome btw.

    Now on Surface, I love the metro apps. And it’s really not a PC for ‘doing’ stuff, so I use it as my consumption device. It performs well when docking apps like NextGen RSS Reader and using it to open links in IE. But I also like that I can remote into my other machines and pull files over the network.

    Something that I think the Windows ecosystem could use is a better notification system and background tasks. I hate hearing the notification chime while I am in another room and not knowing what alerted me. And I also hate how the taskbar gets loaded with multiple apps running background tasks. Shouldn’t there be a better way to handle this?

    I like Windows 8 and think they got more right than wrong, but will ready for Windows 9.


  2. EJ Avatar

    I think they got more right than wrong, too. I wish more people would give it an honest look rather than just flip out because it is different and assume it is crap.

    I don’t use metro apps at all at work – they don’t want us linking our PCs to our own MS accounts so that limits it anyway. At home there are only a select few Metro apps I run that way, and honestly due to these problems I may just stop.

    Regarding a new notification system, I couldn’t agree more. Windows is long overdue for a clean, built-in system for this.


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