Is Windows 8 on a Desktop Good for Productivity?

Joshua Henderson writes:

Hello!

I am currently running Windows 7 on my desktop and mostly use it for playing games, doing word processing, graphic design, Internet browsing, and listening to music. Recently my computer has become slow, and not as productive as I would like it to be. So I have been contemplating moving to Windows 8; after using it in a virtual machine, I feel impressed with it. I am not sure if I should upgrade though because I don’t want to lose productivity (I am a student so I need to be able to start working quickly). So I was wondering if you think that Windows 8 on a desktop is good for productivity?

Is Windows 8 on a Desktop Good for Productivity?Great question. As many in the LockerGnome community know (and I consider you all members of a community here, regardless of your level of participation), I’ve been nothing less than forthright about my opinions regarding Microsoft’s latest desktop operating system. Nearly a year ago (and still months prior to Windows 8’s official release), we demonstrated why regular people may not like Windows 8 Consumer Preview, introducing my own dad to the operating system while doing my best not to influence his opinion one way or another.

As it turned out, my dad did not take well to Windows 8. Granted, this was still a version of the OS that was a work in progress, not yet ready to be released to the public. The main point was demonstrated, however: Metro (the name for one aspect of Windows 8’s user interface) was difficult for my dad (and therefore, the the typical consumer) to comprehend. My dad is an intelligent man, too, and probably slightly more tech-savvy than the majority of Windows users out in the wild. Some of you out there may disagree about my dad being representative of the typical consumer, but I think I know my dad better than most, and even if he does still prefer Windows XP to Windows Vista or Windows 7, the transition from XP to either of those operating system wouldn’t be nearly as paradigm-shifting as the transition to Windows 8.

With a touchscreen, however, I’m certain my dad would have fared somewhat better. He can handle touchscreen devices such as his iPad without issue, though getting work done on the tablet is somewhat limited. There’s nothing like being able to open up and work with a spreadsheet or type out lengthy correspondence using a traditional keyboard. Windows 8 is a bit different, of course, as it offers both the traditional Windows desktop experience combined with its new Metro interface. (For more on Metro, reading our recent article Is Metro Good for Desktops?) One can jump back and forth between both interfaces, a scenario that will work well for some. For others, the shift between interfaces will seem jarring at best, while downright frustrating and unacceptably unusable at worst. Another problem for many will be that you can only work in one application at a time while using the Metro interface.

Now, if you find you’re not discombobulated by all the bouncing around when using Windows 8, then I will admit that the productivity apps are all there. The Microsoft Office suite of applications are available to you, as are the most popular Internet browsers. Depending on the graphic design application you’re using, the most popular ones are or will soon be made available for Windows 8. (If you use a touch input device with your desktop computer, you may even find yourself enjoying performing most of your graphic design tasks almost exclusively using touch input.) Listening to music won’t be a problem; even iTunes — which you may already know is not my favorite music application — works fine in Windows 8, though the user experience (UX) is quite different from that of iTunes running on a Mac. And yes, games play nicely with Windows 8.

I’m still standing by my opinion that many Windows users are going to be turned off by the confusion-inducing UX of Windows 8, but even here among the LockerGnome corps of writers there is dissension. Maximilian Majewski today expressed that it’s a “silly notion that Windows 8 on desktops isn’t productive”. For more on his opinion, read his own take on Windows 8 Consumer Preview, written in May of last year. For more recent opinions, simply type “Windows 8” into the search box on our website to pull up a wide variety of content related to Microsoft’s latest operating system.

I’m open to hearing more dissenting opinions, as well, so chime in — especially if you own a desktop PC running Windows 8.

Would You Use Google Chrome Without A URL Bar?

It is being suggested that Google may be considering the elimination of the URL bar in its Chrome Browser. This would be a major deviation from what most of us have become accustomed to since the first browser brought the Internet into our homes. Many of us can recall the days of using Netscape with a 14.4 dial-up modem and just how unfriendly the URL bar was. One missed back slash or period led us down a path that could be difficult to get away from without restarting the browser. So this latest rumor about the possibility of no URL bar presents us with an opportunity to change the way we interact with the browser.

So if Google does dump the URL bar, how would the new interface look? On its Web site, Google has four potential GUIs that it is looking at. Two of the GUIs, classic and shortened, are currently under development.

The compact design would only show the URL when the page was loading or when a tab was selected. It seems that Google wants to trim down the GUI and what appears on your browser. Some people are criticizing the new suggestions and making threats to stop using Chrome as their surfing software, which is fairly typical when any familiar feature is removed from any software.

But the bottom line is going to be: do we really need the URL bar any more? When was the last time you typed in a URL address to get to a specific Web site? Between the items we have bookedmarked, that are located in our history lists, and that we have placed on our Bookmark Bar [a feature I use], would we really miss the URL bar?

Let us know what you think.

Comments welcome.

Source – ConceivablyTech

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Tried Internet Explorer 9 Beta Yet?

Want to try Internet Explorer 9 Beta? IE9 Beta is now available for download if you’re running Windows 7.

There should be an image here!So what new features can you expect to see in Internet Explorer 9?

  • Streamlined design with a more compact user interface
  • Pinned Sites so you can access your favorite Web sites from the Windows 7 taskbar
  • Download Manager to help protect your computer from malicious files
  • Enhanced tabs so you can look at two tabs at the same time
  • Updated New Tab page that displays the sites you visit most often and color codes them for quick navigation
  • Search directly from the address bar
  • Notification bar that provides you with important status information
  • Add-on Performance Advisor that tells you if an add-on is slowing down your browser performance

To download IE9 Beta, visit the Internet Explorer 9 Beta home page.

[Photo above by Dave Heuts / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Giving Internet Explorer 9 Beta A Try

Want to try Internet Explorer 9 Beta? IE9 Beta is now available for download if you’re running Windows 7.

There should be an image here!So what new features can you expect to see in Internet Explorer 9?

  • Streamlined design with a more compact user interface
  • Pinned Sites so you can access your favorite Web sites from the Windows 7 taskbar
  • Download Manager to help protect your computer from malicious files
  • Enhanced tabs so you can look at two tabs at the same time
  • Updated New Tab page that displays the sites you visit most often and color codes them for quick navigation
  • Search directly from the address bar
  • Notification bar that provides you with important status information
  • Add-on Performance Advisor that tells you if an add-on is slowing down your browser performance

To download IE9 Beta, visit the Internet Explorer 9 Beta home page.

[Photo above by Dave Heuts / CC BY-ND 2.0]

KooLoader v2.5 – Download Manager Freeware

KooLoader is an all in one download manager software that guarantees a worthy Internet downloading experience through the addition of an adaptive download accelerator, segmented downloads for acceleration, and an astounding number of simultaneous downloads. The program offers support for Internet Explorer and Firefox. Any time you need to download something online, copying the URL of that file will prompt KooLoader to automatically paste it into its main window; simply hitting OK in the small window that will be displayed instantly will start the download.

There should be an image here!KooLoader keeps it straight and simple without adding a bunch of useless features that would only crowd your application and encumber your experience, which allows the setting of a portable version to use on different computers with smart file management and multi-language support. A feature which will come in very handy is the Scheduler: with it you can download at times you choose and specify. Apart from this, you have the ability to establish the maximum number of segments and the maximum number of simultaneous downloads (up to 99!).

KooLoader allows you to even use links stored in your clipboard, offering support also for both protocols HTTP and FTP. The user interface is as clean as it can be, providing you with all of its features in the easiest way possible. Comprehensive error recovery and resume capability are included. This mean that you can resume broken downloads that had been interrupted on account of lost connections, network breakdown, or system shutdowns.

[Discovered via Download.com]

[4.58M] [Win98/Me/2k/XP/Vista/7] [FREE (Download KooLoader)]

[Photo above by johntrainor / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Download Manager Freeware – KooLoader v2.5

KooLoader is an all in one download manager software that guarantees a worthy Internet downloading experience through the addition of an adaptive download accelerator, segmented downloads for acceleration, and an astounding number of simultaneous downloads. The program offers support for Internet Explorer and Firefox. Any time you need to download something online, copying the URL of that file will prompt KooLoader to automatically paste it into its main window; simply hitting OK in the small window that will be displayed instantly will start the download.

There should be an image here!KooLoader keeps it straight and simple without adding a bunch of useless features that would only crowd your application and encumber your experience, which allows the setting of a portable version to use on different computers with smart file management and multi-language support. A feature which will come in very handy is the Scheduler: with it you can download at times you choose and specify. Apart from this, you have the ability to establish the maximum number of segments and the maximum number of simultaneous downloads (up to 99!).

KooLoader allows you to even use links stored in your clipboard, offering support also for both protocols HTTP and FTP. The user interface is as clean as it can be, providing you with all of its features in the easiest way possible. Comprehensive error recovery and resume capability are included. This mean that you can resume broken downloads that had been interrupted on account of lost connections, network breakdown, or system shutdowns.

[Discovered via Download.com]

[4.58M] [Win98/Me/2k/XP/Vista/7] [FREE (Download KooLoader)]

[Photo above by johntrainor / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Avatars That Preserve User Identity And Manner Of Interacting

Unlike simple instructions or an automatic answering machine, an avatar or virtual person carrying out the tasks as an assistant enables its user to have “more intuitive and natural” communication, states Ms María del Puy Carretero, computer engineer and researcher at the Vicomtech-IK4 centre, who is working on perfecting avatars. In fact, she has recently proposed and validated a series of tools and architecture that enables a virtual person to perform equally on a computer screen, a mobile telephone or a PDA, i.e. its identity and manner of interaction is not affected by changing the device. Based on the work undertaken, Ms Carretero defended her thesis, entitled Multidevice avatars for multimodal interaction at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU).

There should be an image here!Ms Carretero used the markup languages known as ACML (AMD Core Math Library) and VHML (Virtual Human Markup Language) as computer applications in order to determine respectively the appearance and manner of interacting of the avatar. One of the main contributions of the thesis is, precisely, a series of tools proposed by the author for the simple labelling of the avatar using these two languages. Thanks to these tools of the author, it is much easier to specify and edit the appearance and behaviour of the virtual person and facilitate its integration into different applications, in such a way that, on changing the device, its identity is preserved.

Likewise, in her thesis, Ms Carretero designed, proposed and validated a multi-device architecture which thus facilitates the integration of the virtual personage into different devices, having the same appearance and voice and identical behaviour in all of these.

Computational advantages

As explained by the researcher in her thesis, integrating this series of applications does not involve great problems for the computer being used. On the contrary, the load for the server is very small, thus facilitating the scalability of the number of users; i.e. this does not seriously affect the quality or fluidity of its activity. Moreover, the interaction between the user and the avatar is immediate. Finally, the proposals measured also open the possibility of interacting with the avatar on a local network instead of online, resulting in great savings Internet traffic data.

[Photo above by John E. Lester / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Amaia Portugal @ Elhuyar Fundazioa

Patternry

There should be an image here!Designers can always benefit from some helpful inspiration, and user interface designers are no exception. They may not be assembling works of art in the traditional sense, but I think you would agree that a beautifully designed and functional user interface is a work of art in its own way. Creating something that works well when people use it is no small feat, and Patternry offers some suggestions that user interface designers can benefit from.

The site serves as a collection of design patterns that can provide inspiration. Each listing helps you understand how to use it, when to use it, and why you should use it. You can also examine some examples to get a feel for how this design method has been used before. If you don’t find what you want, then you can submit your suggestion and other designers can vote on it if they also want to see that pattern created. There’s not much here right now, but Patternry could grow into an interesting resource if enough people are attracted to it.

Poof! Get Ready For The Invisible Mouse

Will An Invisible Mouse Be In Our Future?

If you thought going wireless with a mouse was cool, how about an invisible mouse? That’s right, folks. The people over at MIT have found a way to allow users to click and scroll without actually using a physical mouse. The system is comprised of an IR camera and IR laser to simulate mouse moves and clicks. Here is a picture of what the system looks like:

Wired also states:

Though new user interfaces such as touchscreens and voice recognition systems have become popular, the two-button mouse still reigns among computer users. Many technology experts think the precision pointing that a cursor offers is extremely difficult to replicate through technologies such as touch and speech.

Last week Intel CTO Justin Rattner said though Intel research labs is working on new touchscreen ideas, the mouse and keyboard combination is unlikely to be replaced in everyday computing for a long time.

In the case of the Mouseless project, the infrared laser and camera are embedded in the computer. When a user cups their hand as if a physical mouse was present under their palm, the laser beam lights up the hand that is in contact with the table. The infrared camera detects this and interprets the movements.

A working prototype of the Mouseless system costs approximately $20 to build, says Pranav Mistry, who is leading the project.

If the no mouse system costs only $20 to build, it would be interesting to see how much the mouseless system will cost consumers.

What do you think? Will this fly off the shelves or be a sleeper hardware product?

Comments welcome.

Source – Wired

Go Retro With Google

I happen to like the new Google UI myself, but at the same time I know other people out there who could do without it. And this article does a fairly good job at illustrating this fact.

The good news is that Google is not leaving those who prefer the old UI, totally out in the cold. That’s right, you can still access the original UI from this link here.

That’s right, you can have your cake and eat it too. This translates into access to Google the way you want it, visually, with the kind of experience that you’ve come to love. Speaking for myself, I will stick with the new UI as it presents things in a fairly comprehensive manner.

Mentations v0.92 beta

Need a way to manage all of the information necessary to keep your life in order? Each day, more and more information that is relevant to our lives is made available through the Internet as Web site content, blogs/RSS feeds, and Web services. But who has time to continually troll all the various sites to collect it all? What we need is a ‘personal intelligence agent’ that will do it all for us. a href=”http://www.mentations.com/”>Mentations is an Internet-enabled desktop dashboard that will unobtrusively monitor, analyze, distill, and categorize all of your important information and provide it to you through an aesthetically pleasing ‘skinnable’ interface. Version 0.92 now uses .NET Framework 2 and enhances alert message windows.

[6.11M] [Win2k/XP/Vista] [FREE]

[tags]mentations, user interface, ui[/tags]

My Dad's Reaction to Windows Vista

My dad saw Windows Vista for the first time this weekend (as family was up for my wedding). To him, it was more than just a bit foreign. He wanted to show me how Lockergnome was showing up in his Web-based inbox – and yes, we’re quite aware of the formatting problems as of late (but I only have so much time, and so much expertise on hand).

Then he accidentally closed the browser window, and got confused. Not only was Vista new to him, but IE7 as well. I had to point out where the “forward” and “back” buttons were located. No, the big blue orbs aren’t as intuitive as Microsoft may lead you to believe. Have you done the Vista “father test” yet?

His first reaction to the entire (very limited) experience was negative. Too many things had changed without clear benefit to him. Sadly, I feel this is the biggest problem that Windows Vista faces in the coming months; there’s no clear reason to upgrade. Mind you, my dad still hasn’t set up the computer I sent him a few months ago – that (in and of itself) is a daunting task for him and millions of people. I’ve even considered shipping him my 24″ iMac just because I know all he has to do is plug ‘er in and go. His legacy software is what’s largely keeping him locked inside a Windows world.

And Vista doesn’t make him feel good. “Authentic, Energetic, Reflective, and Open” is Microsoft’s Aero ethos. The UI succeeds (somewhat) in these four places – but whatever happened to “Intuitive” and “Easy” and “Fun” and “Functional?” Nobody knows for sure, but these pilars are certainly not shipping in Windows Vista!

Maybe my dad might get used to Vista eventually – if he even gets around to upgrading his current system from Windows XP (which will likely be the next time I visit my parents back in Iowa). Let me put it to you this way: he wasn’t jumping up and down and insisting that he get a new PC with the new OS installed on it. Hardly. Vista? Eh.

[tags]vista, windows vista, aero, user experience, user interface[/tags]

Windows Vista Opinions

I’ve got tons of Windows Vista posts sitting over on my personal blog – it’s not like my bombastic assertions about the OS come from nowhere. There is a great disturbance in the force, and the underinformed are likely to suffer most. With permission, I’m going to share another part of the email thread that has been bouncing between power geeks all day. This is coming from Anthony Kinyon (though he used to go by a handle many here would recognize):

It’s not just Windows-hating fanatics writing about it. Again, I said not everything in Vista is bad. There are some cool new things. But it could have been so much better, that’s my complaint. Some of it just doesn’t make any sense (even Paul Thurrot said that in his review). It’s a real disappointment. Chris and I don’t hate Windows, we just think that the direction it is going with Vista is in a lot of ways… not the best direction or perhaps even… the wrong one. And Apple does have some good things to offer. There are alternatives. I wish MS had listened to users more and not just done it as they went along and hoped it worked out. The whole “Mama knows best” policy they employ often seems to backfire in their faces lately.

If the company had been broken up during their antitrust case in the USA, imagine how much better Windows would be if there was another, better Windows around the corner (more reason for innovation). MS could have done such a better job and I just feel so let down by Vista. I mean, what’s really that revolutionary or exciting about it? It looks kind of snazzy but besides that, what does it really offer me that I couldn’t do with XP or even Win2000? And again we come back to the strange interface. It just seems weird and things are not at all consistent. I get the strong impression the “right hand” did not know what the “left hand” was doing in many cases with Vista’s UI.

Given 5+ years… they could have done something a lot fancier and more fun. If you gave me 5 years to work on something I’d make sure it was a lot better than what came before it. Again, I am not a Windows hater (though sometimes I feel that way when something like IE crashes doing a simple task). I’ve used Windows since 3.1 on top of DOS. For years of my life I used it regularly (and still do). But they have really dropped the ball on Vista and Office lately. There is all this big marketing hype about how great it is, then you get it, your computer runs slower… and the benefit is what… cooler looking ALT + TAB screens? :) I mean, sure there are other things that are improved but what’s really fantastic about it? I’m sure it fixes a lot of existing issues and things but a lot of regular users don’t care about that. What does Vista offer a power user that XP didn’t? Registry. Check. Device Manager. Check. Display Properties. Check. The only thing I can think of is DirectX 10 which they won’t support on XP (part of the ploy to force gamers to upgrade I suspect).

If Vista didn’t come pre-installed, would many people buy it off the shelf and install it? Let’s say OS X Tiger came instead of Vista. Would that many people really go down and have it removed and Vista installed? Some would, sure. But I doubt that many would.

Continue reading “Windows Vista Opinions”

Underwhelmed with Windows Vista

I’ve been taking a lot of heat for my recent remarks on Windows Vista. As you very well know, I’ve been a “Windows Fanatic” from darn near the very beginning. Times have changed, and I’m now finding myself disillusioned by the lack of attention Microsoft is paying to user interfaces. I could excuse the shortcomings of Windows XP – but I’m not even close to forgiving the development team for slapping together such a hapless, schizophrenic experience in Windows Vista. It’s lipstick on a pig. Vista is nothing new, Vista is nothing revolutionary – it’s full of shims and hacks, and you need to understand that before swallowing the marketing hype. With his permission, I’m going to share with you an email I received from an old friend tonight:
Continue reading “Underwhelmed with Windows Vista”

The User Has The Power

What would the world of software be like if the inmates were running the asylum? I’d argue a lot more useful, and a lot more beautiful. But users are usually in the back seat when it comes to the evolution of a utility – from beginning to end. We have all the control in the world, but few of us ever choose to exercise that power. We are expected to treat developers like they’re gods – but they’re no more important in this cycle than the average user. Let me put it to you this way: software is useless if there isn’t anybody using it. There are certainly users who are content to take whatever programmers hand to them, but I don’t believe that this Utopian level of interaction will exist for too much longer. The world of software is getting larger by the day, and more people are finding new and different ways to improve lives with digital code. I got sick and tired of meeting programmers and developers with attitude, so I decided to get an attitude myself – as a power user. I expect better, I expect faster, I expect smarter, I expect more.
Continue reading “The User Has The Power”