Microsoft Makes Changes To Windows 8 Start Screen Theme

Microsoft has made a long post on the Building Windows 8 blog to talk about the extensive feedback that they have received from the user community and how it has caused them to make certain changes to the new Windows 8 Start Screen.

The Windows 8 Start Screen Is Going Through Revisions

Marina Dukhon, a senior program manager lead within the Core Experience team at Microsoft, penned a very extensive and in depth blog post today on the Building Windows 8 MSDN blog. It details specific user feedback and how it has caused the UI design team to make certain changes to the Windows 8 start screen.

The new Start Screen is arguably the most talked about feature on Windows 8. Given its vast differences from the traditional Start Menu that it is replacing, users have had numerous things to say about it. Some have pointed out the helpful new features whilst many have pointed out parts that get in their way. Based on the constructive feedback, the design team has either implemented changes or is discussing them internally. Lets look at some of the changes and existing features talked about in the post.

Start Menu Style Grouping Of Apps

A lot of people have complained that sometimes it is hard to remember individual app names, which makes it hard to pick out the app from an alphabetical list. The UI team has taken the grouping system of the current Start Menu and implemented it on the Start Screen. So now installed apps appear in intelligent groups according to the suites they are part of.

More Apps At A Glance

The start menu stymies the number of apps that you can see at a time and the number does not increase as your screen resolution increases. However, on the (all) Apps screen on Windows 8, the number of app tiles that you can have continues to increase with the screen resolution. This helps you have up to 150 apps on screen. It gives you a large collection of apps with one tap/click access that you can scan at a glance. See the chart below.

Customizing The Start Screen Design

Many advanced users use a combination of a customized start menu and third party applications in order to create a workspace that suits them. According to Marina, the process of providing more customization options to the Start Screen is still ongoing. Currently, the start screen can have different group sizes, unpinning, pinning and resizing tiles. In the beta, users will be able to create, name and arrange groups. The beta will also have additional features that are being discussed by the UI team, based on extensive customization requests made by numerous advanced users.

Group rearranging is also a feature that was specially mentioned in the post. It helps the user change parts of the layout as necessary but without disturbing the rest of the layout. This way you can put your newly installed group of favorite apps ahead of other older apps without disturbing the whole collection. Similarly, you can move an entire group of apps to the end.

Replacing The Jump List

Some users have complained about the removal of jump lists. Marina explains that the jump list concept was very file-oriented, whilst the new-age apps are more information oriented. For example the kind of information provided by social apps, weather apps, etc. It is thus hard for Windows to tell what exactly is important and how to access it. This is best understood by the app itself because the necessary knowledge is held within it. That is why the Start Screen allows the user to pin a specific part of an app on the start screen as a static or live tile. So if you pin a friend’s profile on your start screen, you can also look at it to find out the latest updates on that friends profile. And if you pin a favorite playlist to the start screen, clicking it will start playing that playlist. So these are not just apps that you are launching. These are specific sections within the app that you are accessing with one tap/click. This is what the jump lists have evolved to.

Over all, the Start Menu seeks to give users access to a large number of things with less effort. It is still being developed by the team and the Beta version will have some additional features to work with.

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