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Much like Windows Vista before it, and Window ME and 98 before that, the current iteration of Windows is one that the populace loves to hate, especially those of us who have desktop PCs and who are focused on productivity. While Windows 8 and 8.1 are visually appealing, and great for content consumption on a tablet, getting work done is a chore, especially if you use a keyboard-and-mouse PC, which most law firms do.
Microsoft tried to make amends with the 8.1 update, bringing back the Start button (which merely brought up that newfangled touch-friendly Windows tile screen) and allowing users to boot to the mouse-friendly desktop. Still, if you ran any of the new "Metro" apps, which are designed for touchscreens, you'd pretty much go insane trying to maneuver or close the darn things.
Well, business users: here it is (or at least will be): a functional update to Windows 8.1 that might make you want to upgrade.
Start Menu is Back!
Old friend, you've been with us since Windows 95. And the brief time we spent without you, trying to click around on that tile-based interface, it was utter sadness and lost productivity.
Take a look at Microsoft's teaser image for the next update: it has a Start menu. And, if you love those auto-updating tiles (they are kind of handy), they've been incorporated into the menu.
It's like taking the one good thing about the touch interface and making it work on the desktop. It's two years late, but it looks quite intriguing.
Touch Apps Go to Desktop
Perhaps even more aggravating than the missing Start menu was the duality of Windows 8.x. Metro apps ran off of the tile interface, in full-screen mode, were missing the familiar minimize, maximize, and close buttons, and were no longer in resizeable "windows." Meanwhile, if you ran Office or any other productivity apps, they'd open on the semi-familiar desktop interface, which is basically a visually-tweaked version of classic Windows. (Yay!) And there were two versions of Internet Explorer, one for each interface. (Ugh.)
Take another look at the teaser image. That front app? It's one of those full-screen "Metro" apps, designed for touch. It now can run in a window, on the desktop. Instead of feeling like you have two operating systems on your computer, you can run everything on the classic desktop, with your keyboard and mouse. Plus, computer manufacturers can choose to boot directly to the desktop, which is perfect for business machines that you'd purchase for your firm.
Backtrack? Heck Yes
Some might see this as Microsoft conceding defeat, years after trying to force that touchscreen mistake down our mouse-loving throats. It is. Kind of.
The thing is, most new PCs are going to come with touchscreens. Most consumers can, and will adapt to touch-friendly Windows. But, for law firms, businesses, and power users, Windows 8, without adding a bunch of third-party modifications, was nearly unusable.
As Microsoft's Terry Myerson said on the company's Blogging Windows, this update "enables more productivity for customers working in desktop mode, while building smart bridges to the new modern user experience." Get business users used to the tiles, but make it a more incremental upgrade (one that is tolerable on a non-touchscreen PC) and you might get a few converts -- ones that will eventually adopt the touchscreen vision of the future down the line.
This upcoming update may backtrack a bit, but it opens up the world of Windows 8.x (which actually is quicker and faster than Windows 7) to professionals, and if you're still using Windows Vista or XP, this might make Windows 8.1 a superior option to our previous suggestion: buying old copies of Windows 7 off of eBay.
Do you use Windows 8.1 at your law firm? Tweet us your experiences @FindLawLP.