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Posted on February 18th, 2013 by Dave Stevenson

Windows 8: a touch of madness


For the last week or so I’ve been using Windows 8 and, for the most part it hasn’t been the least bit horrid.

Yes, it forced me to restart this morning just as I sat down to get some work done and, yes, the procedure to actually turn off the computer is like a putative storyline scribbled on a napkin by Franz Kafka but later rejected for being too complicated. And yes, the way PDFs, JPEGs and a few other file types insist on opening full-screen (how many PDFs are that important?) is jarring, but still, most of my work is done in a browser these days, making the operating system in the background irrelevant most of the time.

It is, as operating systems go, perfectly fine.

There is, however, one thing. One eye-catching irritation that raises my hackles every time I see it, and the number one reason that, for all its good points, Windows 8 will still has at its heart an ill-conceived notion of what modern consumers want.

If you’re using Windows 8, try this. Find a device — I assume any will work, but I’m using a phone — and plug it in with a USB cable. A moment of chuntering later, and a flag fades into view in the top right of the screen. “Tap to choose what happens with this device.”

Tap. It says “Tap”. Whether you’re using a touchscreen or a 14in CRT that fell out of the 80s. Not “click” — which would make sense and which any intelligent touchscreen user would assume could be interchanged with an actual prod — but “Tap”.


The first time I saw the flag I was so certain that Microsoft wouldn’t have made such a silly syntactical blunder that — and I’m not hugely proud of this — I reached up and tapped the screen, naively assuming that Microsoft would be smart enough to realise that not everyone owns touchscreens, and to only tell people to tap something when it was a physical possibility.

Nothing happened, of course. The computer sat there, a lonely fingerprint lingering in the top corner of the screen, and I sat scratching my head at an operating system that so flagrantly disregards the needs of the average consumer that it uses the language of an entirely niche class of desktop hardware.

You could argue, of course, that Microsoft is being forward-looking. After all, touchscreens are the future, according to Ballmer and co. But writing an entire operating system as if it’s being released on hardware ten years in the future is to overlook the fact the future hasn’t actually happened yet.

Windows’ enforcement of touchscreen terminology is reflective of much that’s wrong with Windows 8. It’s not the underpinning technology — indeed, Windows 8 on the computer I’m using is both responsive and stable (barring the odd forced restart). It’s also a welcome sign that Microsoft is prepared to take risks in order to sell software to a market that’s rapidly rejecting the desktop as a way of Getting Stuff Done.

However, Microsoft’s bloody-minded misconception that every single user in the world wants — nay, will soon have – a touchscreen is the kind of top-down, our-way-or-the-highway approach more the preserve of Apple at its worst.

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Posted in: Rant, Windows 8


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32 Responses to “ Windows 8: a touch of madness ”

  1. David Wright Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    You know, we went through the same thing when Windows was released. We were often told to click on something, what Windows actually meant was to press Alt+K for OK or Esc for cancel or Tab, then Enter etc. Not everybody had a mouse, so clicking was out of the question for a lot of people…

    And what about my current set-up? A docked tablet, I have a touch screen and a mouse and a 24″ non-touch monitor. Should it ask me to tap or click, or could I press a key, so I don’t have to take my hand away from the keyboard?

  2. Darryl Godden Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    For everything you’ve stated in your piece (full screen opening, detachment from Metro to desktop, shut-down process) is the reason I’ve re-installed W7.

  3. JamesM Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    But you don’t have to use the default apps for reading pdfs and jpgs. Just install Adobe or Foxit and your favourite image viewer and use them instead. If all you have to criticise in Win8 is the use of language in a dialogue box then I think Microsoft have a success on their hands.

  4. aa111 Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Funny, I’ve seen this message number of times, but never actually noticed it says “Tap”

  5. AdrianB Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    “If all you have to criticise in Win8 is the use of language in a dialogue box…”
    The exact words are not the issue – it’s the revealed mindset that is. I’ll bet all the MS developers have the latest kit, touch-screens, etc., and as a result they just don’t GET what the rest of the world is like. They don’t understand that the rest of the world tends to have slow internet links, that we won’t be buying a touch-screen any time soon, etc.

  6. MikeP Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    I hope I don’t betray the new comments T’s and C’s, but I find this such a nothing point. Let’s face it, what does click mean? You don’t make a point of saying “It said click here so I clicked my fingers in the direction of the screen.”. Tap works just as well as click to reference what action is required for the flag.

    Actually, I think tap is more appropriate. I tap the mouse button, if not the screen. Click is just the noise that action makes. Click means nothing if you are using a laptop with silent mouse buttons. Should Microsoft re-write their script for those users as well?

  7. Tim Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    If you disable auto-runs that will get rid of it and remove a security vulnerability at the same time.

  8. Boo Radley Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    I had a bizzare epiphany reading one blog, on Forbes I think. It referred to Windows users as having Stockholm syndrome. After making excuses for MS to my wife, to my family for so many years, telling them “wait until the next version … It’ll get better”, I finally see myself for the hopless captive that I am. I need to find a way to escpae. Mac? or Linux? how do I start?

  9. Mark Bright Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    Don’t get me wrong, I REALLY don’t like Windows 8, but in this case it is a bit of a none-story… My Main input device is a Wacom tablet with a pen, so tap is more appropriate for me really!

  10. Gary Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 4:25 am

    I don’t think you have to be a computer savvy person to get the idea of a dialogue popping up asking you to address it. Also, you can set the way programs are opening by default. In addition, who’s to say how important a PDF is. I use them for pretty important documents for work and school. And finally, I do think that people are ready for touch screen. It pushes the envelope, and find it interesting that they are finding innovative ways people can use the computer.

  11. Andrew Denny Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 9:57 am

    What’s the big deal about saying ‘tap’?

    When window/mouse operating systems were first launched,’click’ meant a noise, not an action. I remember the instruction was to ‘press the mouse button’.

    I expect ‘tap’ to go the same way – to mean ‘register an action’.

  12. Bam Daniel Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Very good example of knit picking, the real question I have here is. What this blog post written because there was nothing else to write about or is there a specific point.

  13. Steve Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 11:45 am

    This story is titled “Posted on February 18th, 2013 by Dave Stevenson” but did you actually post it in the post; and if so was it first or second class?

  14. Bill Maslen Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 11:54 am

    I think it’s a very valid point. And I think the author offers a perfectly valid solution. All these taps, clicks etc. could easily be replaced by ‘Prod’. For the vast majority of users this would make a refreshing change from stale conventions dating from the 1990s, and simultaneously bring a smile to the face – a little ray of sunshine in lives increasingly ruled by monolithic computer systems and walled gardens. While we’re at it, I strongly feel the actual screen should also be renamed, perhaps to ‘fiz’. Thus ‘Prod the Fiz’ would become a standard expression, moving the entire UX into the Social Media Age at one stroke!

  15. Harun Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Tap, click… Isn’t this what all pointing devices do? Fingers and mice are tapping devices. Don’t exaggerate. Saying ‘tap’ sounds wrong because we all have been indoctrinated to think click = mouse. Think about it..

  16. Dave D Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    @ Darryl Godden. Lucky you. After installing Win 8, realised I had to go back to 7. No joy. Recovery prog on laptop doesn’t want to play anymore and the same for my back-up discs.

  17. Rob Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    I agree this is an example that seems a little pedantic, but then if my parents are trying to use a computer, this really won’t help. MS has said it wants to make things easier to use, but Win 8 with it’s unfinished feel and forced context switching really just confuses folks who aren’t as tech-savvy as most of us reading this.

  18. Dave_t Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    No wonder it didn’t work.

    You said that you “prodded it in the top corner” but clearly from the screengrab the dialogue box is in the bottom corner.

    User error? ;-D

  19. andyturner157800988Andy Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    An entire article on ‘tap’?

  20. Chris Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    One thing I do 100 times a day in my job is press the ‘windows’ key and type ‘\\servername\myshare’ to open a network folder.

    In Win8 this is pretty jarring, firstly flashing up a page of live tiles I have no interest in, then displaying the search screen, then fading back to desktop mode. Yes, it’s not the end of the world, but it is bad design.

    It’s annoying because the metro start screen could so easily have been a configurable option, but corporate branding to help in the smartphone market was seen as more important.

  21. khellan Says:
    February 21st, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    From my perspective, the point of the article isn’t so much that you can’t find ways to get around the OS and get it to do what you want… its that you have to do things to get around the OS and do what you want.

    That’s simply not an experience that sounds compelling. I’ve accepted that i’m going to tweak anything I get my hands on to make it act how I want it to, but a lot of the issues sound like I need to configure, workaround, move, alter, install just to get basic functionality back. That’s a shame, as Windows 8 has a lot of awesome technology right there… at my fingertips. But not my mouse.

  22. Brian Says:
    February 22nd, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Another ridiculous story. Set any application you like to open PDFs and JPEGs … just like in any other version of Windows. You don’t have a touchscreen? Then why would you touch your screen?
    Windows 8 is way more productive non-touch than it is touch!! I NEVER use charms as they are unproductive.

    I can’t believe how so many people cannot figure out such an easy OS which is extremely productive and quicker to get around than Windows 7.

  23. Brian Says:
    February 22nd, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    @Chris: why are you pressing the Windows key at all to get to your server address? Can’t you enter it in File Explorer? I don’t get what you are trying to do.

  24. Paul Says:
    February 23rd, 2013 at 1:32 am

    @Chris, if you prefer desktop mode, just install the “Classic Start Menu” or get your IT department to do so if you’re at work. Many companies are doing this for the computers they are selling with windows 8 on.

  25. John Says:
    February 23rd, 2013 at 8:33 am

    I installed windows 8, one as an upgrade on a Windows 7 desktop (phenom 1055T, 4GB RAM), and one as a fresh install on a similarly specced laptop. Both installations halted, neither said why, one corrupted my old OS and the other just continued to say no. I worked it out after a while, hardware issues were halting the install. All were standard, well known components, yet this silly OS refused to recognise them, nor did it complete the install and then leave you to look at the device list later – it just went home. Once it eventually worked, it took about an hour before both OSs refused to work, the entire metro area just refused to function – on both PCs. I got a refund on both OSs and went back to Win7. Awful experience on a ‘not-ready’ OS?

  26. Martin Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Next time you want to turn the PC off, use the power button. We can finally treat the PC as an applicance and use the physical power button to turn it on and off.

  27. Getafix Says:
    March 2nd, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    Windows 8 is fantastic. It starts quickly, it is stable and runs games quicker than Windows 7 on the same hardware.

    However, the Metro UI (sorry microsoft – it’s going to be called that until SP1 when you get rid of it on desktops) is useless. Desktops and laptops will never be touchscreen – you try touching your monitor before every mouse click and see how quickly you want to put your fist through the screen!) Touchscreens work well for tablets and tablets alone. MS are never going to get business to upgrade because business won’t install classic menu (not because it doesn’t work; on principle – it’s a 3rd party app).

    What odds do you think William Hill are offering on Steve Ballmer being shown the door in the next 6 months ?

  28. Peter Bradshaw Says:
    March 24th, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    I have used PCs since DOS days. A friend came round with his new W8 equipped laptop and I tried to do some simple things like copying files and opening applications; it is completely unusaable! Try to move the pointer to the right using the touch pad and another screen leaps into place; only by using ALT TAB and the Windows E, D keys can I navigate around.
    No doubt given time I will figure it out but why? What a waste of my time and 25yrs of using PCs.

  29. Tim Says:
    June 10th, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Windows 8/8.1 on a tablet/smartphone -> Makes perfect sense. Bravo!

    Windows 8/8.1 on a desktop/laptop -> Uh…you never go full retard. Yikes.

  30. Claudia Thompson Says:
    September 12th, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    I just have found it really annoying that it keeps saying “either click or tap” it. As if we don’t realize that after they have told us a hundred times. Why can’t they just say click it? Its like they are trying to portray the image of being “ultra modern”. I just find the entire Windows 8 program horrible, especially the Search feature. I can no longer find anything on my computer. At least I did find out about the Classic Shell feature to download, which has saved me a gigantic lot of trouble, at least I can now find my folders.

  31. Aparato Says:
    November 28th, 2013 at 9:34 am

    what I find far more annoying is “click/press right mouse button” when what’s meant is “context menu/key” .. we’re not all righthanded!

  32. Alan Sears Says:
    October 31st, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Having recently added a win 8 PC to my network, I wish I could regress it to Win 7, in line with my PC. I have spent three days with Win 8 & I am about to hang myself.


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