Changes I’d like to see in Windows 8/RT

on March 26th, 2013 by Matt | No Comments »

Note: this isn’t specifically limited to the OS itself, but also encompasses some of Microsoft’s pre-packaged apps too.

So, as most people would know, I’ve been using Windows 8 since around mid-last-year, and Windows RT since Christmas. Since then, I’ve noticed a number of things that Microsoft could possibly improve on in time for Windows Blue (or before).
Firstly, and I know this could just be limited to my installation of Windows RT, or specific apps themselves, but app stability is a big issue for me. I use my Surface as a companion device to my laptop and Xbox 360, and due to how much I’ve used it, it’s clear that apps have a tendency to crash, hang, or freeze the Operating System altogether. The most OS-freezing issues seem to arise from the Metro version of Internet Explorer, which is severely disappointing.

There have been many times where I may be trying to download something off the Store, read a news article on Nextgen Reader, watch a video on YouTubeRT, check where my next class is in Calendar, check my emails in Mail, check the weather in AU Weather Pro or even browse /r/Minecraft on Reddit To Go! when suddenly the app just stops. Now, I don’t mean the kind where I could tap the Start and Power button together and open Task Manager and kill the process, but where swiping from the right to access Charms is impossible (ie. nothing happens). In these cases, if I’m lucky, the app crashes and closes without an error, allowing me to try doing something else rather than sit there waiting for it to unfreeze. Otherwise, in the most extreme cases, I have to hold the power button and wait for the device to reboot.

However, what I’ve written about above is the most extreme case, and only happens a couple times a day (though, it shouldn’t happen at all). My next issue is more of a pet-peeve, but would really help in making the experience of using the OS better: pre-loading.

By pre-loading I mean in a case similar to this: Say there are some App Updates. I tap on the Store tile, and have to wait for the app to load up (this can take anywhere from 5-30 seconds, and in some unusual cases more). Once it has, I tap on the little “Updates (5)” notification in the top right corner, and then have to wait for the Store to figure out what those 5 apps are and list them (this can also take 5-15 seconds). Then, once it has, I tap on “Install” because I want the updates. Surprise surpise, I have to wait for the Store to switch to a different list that includes a progress bar for each app (this can also take another 5-15 seconds). And there you go, even though the app by now should know that if I notice that there are updates, my most likely action is to open the Store and install them, instead I’m waiting almost a minute for the installation to start!

This issue is definitely not limited to the Store, but it might be a limitation of the app platform. Apps should pre-load at least 1-2 screens ahead, especially when you’ve only just resumed the app. It’s unlikely you’re going to sit on the home screen of the Store for very long.

Next, an issue specific to the Store: updating Apps. More specifically, showing the Release Notes besides the list of updates. Currently, our choice is to look at the release notes BEFORE updating (tap on the app that has an update, click “view details” and read what it has to say), or, if you want to look later, you have to do it manually: open Charms, click Search, type in the App name, find it, then click on View Details. This is a painfully long process that shouldn’t need to be.

How about a complaint about Microsoft’s way of doing release notes? Lets do a comparison, shall we?

YouTubeRT “Release Notes” Section (a very nice app developed by CensoredUser)

v1.5.1.x:
added French language support
fixed a bug that was causing crashes when attempting to play a video

v1.5.0.x:
Complete rewrite of the home screen
– Pin channels to home
– Pin custom searches to home
– Pin custom feeds to home
Fixed artist info for music videos
Added local watch history
Cleaned up settings menu

(etc, etc. You get the idea. The v1.5.0x changelist is actually very long)

Now, lets compare that to today’s update to Microsoft’s Music app

This update fixes several bugs.

That’s all it says! Do you want to know what some of the actual changes are?

Independent volume control, letting you play music quietly in the background
Performance improvements on Windows RT
Simplifies control over music on the cloud
– Preferences panel lets you add songs from your collection and have them replicated on other Xbox Music devices
– Option to automatically add matched songs from PCs into music in the cloud
Refreshed Now Playing UI that lets you list all the tracks from an album alongside the song currently playing
(Source: The Verge)

Come on Microsoft, is that so hard to do? When an app update is released, we want to know what has changed. Like, specifically. An actual list.

I could go on and on about little annoyances that I’ve noticed around the place, the poor design and functionality of the People App’s Notifications area, limitations to how many apps can run in the background at the same time to update the Live Tiles, the fact that having 4 rows on a Surface RT is better than the default 3, and so on, but the ones above are the ones that have annoyed me the most as of late.

So, have you come across any of the above issues, had any of the same complaints? Let me know below!