As much as I’m intrigued by Windows 8, the central program for most people – the web browser – is broken in the consumer preview.
Background: Internet Explorer 10 exists in two versions in Win 8 – a traditional desktop version and a new ‘Metro’ version. This note concerns the Metro version.
Microsoft has radically redefined Windows with Metro: instead of a desktop and resizable windows you point to and drag around, instead of a bar at the bottom of your screen where your most frequently used stuff goes, each program (called an ‘app’) runs full screen, and to get from one program to another you have to switch pages.
In general, I like it. I find the experience of computing that way to be closer to the old DOS days, when every program filled up the screen. I find it easier to concentrate, easier to engage with what I’m trying to do, instead of being distracted by the machine.
But web browsers pose a unique challenge, and the ‘consumer preview’ version of IE 10 fails in important ways.
IE 10 Metro does not have a menu, so no favorites list. There’s a sort of way to keep your favorites; you ‘pin’ the site you want to save and it appears on the Windows 8 start page and in a separate page that lists both favorites and recently browsed pages. But to get to this ‘favorites’ page, you have to go to the bottom of the browser page, right click your mouse to bring up the address bar, then click (not right click) within the address bar.
And that takes you away from whatever you’re looking at, and to the favorites page.
When you find the favorite you’re looking for, you click on it, and IE 10 takes you there. The page you were looking at has disappeared. So has the favorites page. In theory, they’re both still reachable by going to the top of the screen and right clicking, (or hitting the ‘Windows’ key + the letter ‘z’) which displays the pages you have open. But as far as I can see, the only way to keep the page you are now using open while you go someplace else is to use the ‘top of the screen’ function I just described and click on a button with a ‘+’ sign. There’s probably a better way to have at it, but my point is – as a fairly competent computer user, I shouldn’t still be trying to figure out this stuff.
It goes against Metro purity, I suppose, but what I want is a button that’s always there that brings up a list of favorites without going full screen with that list, kind of how you can make ‘task manager’ appear over full screen metro windows by going to the bottom left corner and right clicking.
Another problem: IE 10 Metro doesn’t show you the progress of the page you’re loading. That’s presumably because the page is supposed to just appear, making the whole act of browsing more seamless. What it really does is two things: without a visual cue that the page is taking its sweet time loading, it makes me feel like the browser itself is slow. And if the page is the problem but I don’t have a cue to show me something is happening, I may try reloading the site, slowing things down even more.
And IE 10 Metro doesn’t support plug-ins, which means there are lots of things the browser can’t show me, especially Flash animations and movies. I haven’t read enough to know whether this is just the fact that the software isn’t final or if it represents a design decision, but I hope it’s not the second. I know browser makers want to use HTML 5 to get away from plug-ins, and the goal is laudable, but too much of today’s web needs what IE 10 doesn’t support.