Longtime Mac user trying Win8 for the first time. Thoughts and questions

I switched from Windows to Mac OS back in 2005 and that was it. Since then I’ve only used Windows for specific tasks at work and for cross-browser testing in IE at home (w/ Fusion). Well, I just purchased the new 27" iMac and bought Parallels Desktop and the Windows 8 Pro upgrade last month since they were on sale (more on the upgrade later). At work, some of the 3d apps and scripts they’re using now are Windows only, so I thought it was worth having Windows at home just in case. I installed it, and gave it a go.

Thoughts

Moving from a 13" MacBook Pro to a 27" iMac screen is quite a change, and the Windows 8 Modern UI is quite impressive on it. I use a 27" Cinema Display at work running OSX and Windows 7. While the CG apps I use need the real estate, the OSes themselves don’t, and so they feel kind of empty with all those pixels. In web design terms, they’re not "responsive", they don’t adapt to the screen size like a well-designed website. This Modern UI does! The native Music, News, Weather, Bing, and Map apps are not just ”full-screen“ in a maximized, less window chrome OSX type of way. It doesn’t assume that I have a large screen because I want lots of tiny text everywhere. Of course, that could be exactly what some users want in these native apps, but not me. Are they perfect? No, but, refreshingly, the Modern UI doesn’t make me feel like an outlier for not having a ”normal" screen resolution. I feel equally represented. I mean, really, when was the last time web search results didn’t fill up your maximized browser window with a vast sea of white background and a small column of text? If you’ve got a high-res screen, you know exactly what I mean.

There are some initial oddities, though. Minimalism and simplicity are commendable, but not at the expense of user experience. If left to my own devices, I think I would have given up before figuring out the Start Screen corners. As it was, it took me longer than I think it should have to figure out I needed to right-click to do basic things in apps. Maybe I’m just too tied to the idea that right-clicking is for bringing up secondary menus where the cursor is and naturally not for basic app functionality, but I am tied to it. So it was frustrating not knowing how to get to my other IE tabs, how to search in Maps, how to change preferences, and how to do, well, a lot of things without any visual cues. But I stumbled upon it, now I know it, and so I’m moving on with my new-found knowledge. Hopefully there aren’t more hidden UI surprises like this, though, becuase if I wanted to play Myst, I’d just play Myst. Naturally I don’t want to play Myst because, as you can surmise, I’m not the greatest at it.

I do like the new Start Screen, though. Of course, as soon as I switched to OSX eight years ago, I’ve never needed or much liked the Start Menu, so perhaps my feelings aren’t the majority. But I like the live tiles. For a day-to-day home environment (browsing, music, pictures, email) I think it works well. At work, I’m not as sure. I just want to get into my main production apps, which would likely switch me over to the classic desktop. That’s where things fall apart. Windows 8 has two realities, Modern and classic. One simple click, or mis-click, can rip you out of one reality, through the wormhole, into another. It’s disorienting. I still don’t care for the way OSX handles full-screen apps, but that’s nowhere near as jarring as what’s going on here. My solution? Only use the Modern UI. That will mean I can’t switch completely to Windows, but 1) That wasn’t really my intention anyway, and 2) I honestly find it easier to switch between Modern full-screen apps and OSX, than to the classic desktop. I will be experimenting with this some more for sure. Did I mention that I like the Modern apps?

Again, this new UI isn’t perfect but, from my OSX perspective, it’s a step in an exciting direction. I can’t comment on touch screen aspects, nor would I want to. Reaching up to touch around a 27" display for navigation is not an activity I would look forward to for more than… yea, it wouldn’t matter how short.

Questions

I just have a couple quick questions so far:

  1. I have not been able to activate my installation. It’s an upgrade disc, but I did a clean install through Parallels. My previous Windows disc is an old (but qualifying) 32-bit version of Vista I bought years ago. Any experience activating a fresh installation from an upgrade disc?
  2. What I want to try most is Xbox Music streaming. I’m asked to sign up, but it appears as though I need to sign up for a Microsoft account before I can sign up for an additional Xbox Music account. Is that the case? Seems a little odd. I just want to try their free ad-supported streaming with the least amount of account signing-upage.

Am I a Windows convert? No, not entirely. But am I enjoying both worlds? For the first time, I’d say yes!