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Windows Blue wish list: 15 must-see improvements

Brad Chacos | April 19, 2013
Windows Blue is barreling down the pipeline, promising to fix many of Windows 8's flaws. We have a few suggestions.

For all the grief it gets, Windows 8 brought a wealth of welcome improvements to Microsoft's seminal operating system. In fact, once you stop worrying and learn to love (or at least ignore) the Live Tiles, the Windows 8 desktop is nothing short of the best Windows desktop ever--fast, useful, and all-around awesome.

But the devil is in the details, and Windows 8's brand-new modern interface gets a lot of those details wrong.

Usually, we'd have to wait for an infrequent service pack to fix the little mistakes, but Microsoft's new focus on continuous improvement gives the company an opportunity to slap bandages in hurting areas much more quickly than it ever did before. In fact, a major update dubbed Windows Blue (or Windows 8.1, if you're being pedantic) is barreling down the pipeline, bringing a bevy of changes to make Windows 8 much more palatable.

An early leak of Windows Blue revealed several much-needed enhancements, including beefed-up syncing options, deeper Start screen personalization, and some simple yet effective interface tweaks.

Still, that's just scratching the tip of the iceberg. Above and beyond the tweaks already found in the leak, here's our wish list of 15 potential Windows Blue improvements that could help make Windows 8 twice as nice as it is now.

1. Boot to desktop

One design decision that particularly rankles desktop diehards is Microsoft's insistence that users must boot to the modern Start screen. You can boot directly to the desktop, but only by downloading a piece of third-party software or fiddling around in the Windows Task Scheduler, a power tool few everyday users have even heard of. Fortunately, recent rumors suggest Microsoft may actually implement a boot-to-desktop option in Windows Blue.

2. The Start button

We get it, Microsoft. You want us to spend a lot of time in the modern UI. But erasing the Start button from the desktop was just plain mean, not to mention antiproductive. It may not be gone for good, though, as the whispers mentioned above also say that Microsoft is actually considering bringing the Start button back to the desktop. Be still, my restless heart--it's still just a rumor.

3. Dynamic interface switching

All these desktop and Start screen woes could be fixed with one tweak: dynamic interface switching. If Windows 8 boots and finds a keyboard and mouse running, boot to the desktop. If it detects a touchscreen as the primary input, boot to the Start screen. Boom! Initial headache solved.

4. Better UI hints

Interface experts lambast the modern UI for its secretive nature. Dropping users into a whole new environment and hiding critical controls in "hot corners" certainly isn't intuitive. A permanent on-screen indicator, perhaps some sort of glow or even icons in each corner (similar to what appears when you mouse over hot corners now), would do wonders for the Windows 8 UI. And while I'm on the topic, it's too easy to forget about the central features buried in the charm bar. Can we get an option to permanently pin the charm bar to the side of the screen?


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