The Start screen
Nevertheless, you get your first glimpse of the Start screen only a short while later, and there are no further instructions. You might notice a few of the tiles are "alive", since your email, Facebook contacts, SkyDrive photos, Xbox Live details, etc will automatically become associated with their respective apps. Most of the tiles, however, are deceptively static. They'll spring to life after the first time you use their apps, which means your Start screen could soon become overwhelming with constant animations announcing the latest news, sports scores, stock market levels, and weather. As you add more apps from the Windows store, things get much more cluttered and distracting—often too distracting. Again, those with privacy concerns should be warned that their personal information could be splashed across the screen at any moment—including many things that you have no control over, such as your friends' potentially raunchy contact photos, unsolicited email attachments, and the contents of chat messages. Games, including Microsoft's own, display cheery little messages about achievements you should try to unlock and new levels you can purchase, which borders on advertising and is especially annoying. You can't turn this behaviour off entirely and you can't choose certain photos, email accounts or contacts to suppress, but you can right-click (or tap and hold) on each tile individually to bring up the option to disable animation.
Can't sign into apps because of location trouble
But tiles aren't just for launching programs. You can "pin" lots of things to the Start screen—individual people's contacts, individual stages of games, individual photos, a news channel, etc. We initially found this handy, in the sense that frequently used items could be reached right from our Start screen. However as our collection of apps grew, the tiles just got lost in a crowd. Typing anything on the keyboard begins a very quick search, so you can also get to apps, documents or preference panes by typing the first few letters of their names.
App tiles on the Start screen can be dragged and dropped around, and you can give each chunk a name. You can't, however, sort tiles by name, date, group, etc., and you can't rearrange groups as a whole. It quickly becomes difficult to locate an app when you have dozens of animated tiles which rarely look the same. And although this screen replaces the Start menu, you won't find shortcuts to Windows' built-in accessories such as Paint and Notepad, or even a shortcut to the Control Panel. For those, you'll have to right-click (or swipe in from the bottom or top) to see a hidden "All apps" button. The screen that pops up has an alphabetical listing of your app tiles as well as a folder-wise list of the phantom Start menu's contents. You can pin any of these shortcuts to the Start screen if you like, or begin typing to search.
Here, one of the main differences between Windows 8 on a desktop and Windows 8 on a tablet manifests itself. It felt quite natural and smooth to flick the tablet screen horizontally to jump to a particular tile, but scrolling vertically with the mouse wheel made little sense and the repetitive motion got tiresome quickly. Our tablet's 11-inch 1388x768 16:9 screen showed tiles in three long rows, whereas our desktop's 18.5-inch screen at the same resolution and aspect ratio displayed four rows. Swapping in a 24-inch high-def 16:10 monitor yielded six short rows, which made things easier (but brought with it a fresh set of problems, which we'll get to).
Keyboard hides half the screen
If all new app tiles weren't pinned to the Start screen by default and if this menu was more easily accessible (much like the home screens and full menus on many smartphones), Windows 8's Modern UI would be much easier to deal with.
We didn't realise it at first, but the account name in the upper-right corner is clickable. Most likely inspired by many of today's websites, this is where you go to change account details or "sign out" (the new terminology for logging out or switching users). Incidentally, there's no clock or notification area for common controls such as checking network status or ejecting a USB device. Live tiles are meant to show you what you need to know, and pop-up notifications display alerts and transient information, but then they're gone.
Updated 25 May, 2013, 11:43 am IST
Windows 8 , Microsoft Windows 8 , Windows , Windows 8 Review , Windows 8 India , Metro , Modern UI , Windows 8 tablet , Windows 8 ultrabook , Windows 8 Features , Win8 , Microsoft Windows , Windows PC , Windows 8 PC
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