Coming to grips with Windows 8.1 in a new computer – A Customers Prospective

We ask our customer’s for feedback, and sometimes they give it, and sometimes that feedback warrants a public discussion. In this case the customer makes some very valuable observations in to Microsoft Windows 8.1 and how the interface has become more complex than simplified. What are your views?

The lovely chap who runs RLS Computer Services seems to think a few notes on the journey taken by an ordinary, non-expert PC user, while coming to grips with Windows 8.1 in a new computer, might be of interest to someone. So here goes.

Some of the changes still strike me as bizarre. Why do we have pretty pictures in boxes (yes, I know — apps) lurking in a “Start” that in my mind actually feels not like a start area but somewhere in the back of my computer, instead of plain old program names listed easily where one can see them? Even now I haven’t found an “All Programs” (surely it’s somewhere?) although the Windows Help pages assume there is still an initial “Start > All programs” instruction.

Most of my problems are due to my being blind or silly, and I solve them eventually myself. The “Mail” email program was a pain — for example I couldn’t print an excerpt, only a whole email — so we swapped that for “Windows Live Mail”. At first I raged against the loss of the old “address book”, and fought my way through the complicated process of searching, editing, copying (I couldn’t) addresses through “Start > People” etc , until one day I suddenly realised “Contacts” was right there on the bottom left of my screen. Duh. On the other hand, so is “Recovered items” — and that baffles me. I had been thrilled to find it: occasionally while writing an email I have touched something mysterious (I’ve never known what) and the whole thing has vanished in a flash. Gone! Where? Aha, maybe this is where I can find it, except that there are only files with a date and a strange number that I can’t see a way to open. I’ve combed through the online Help sites without success — so far.

Similarly, I missed having the old “Undo” arrow, until discovering I should know about Ctrl+Z. But why not simply include it in the quick access toolbar? I can no longer prompt Send or Receive, but have to wait for the program to do it. What is the difference between “Sent” and “Sent items”? Is “Sent” the old Outbox? And what is “Trash” versus “Junk”? Is Trash something I should be using for my own purposes? These seem to be questions that are too simple to appear on help pages. But some of us are simple.

A newcomer will probably find their way easily through all this “progress”, but to us older users (who have managed to evolve from manual typewriters through an awful lot of changes that would once have seemed pure magic) some of the innovations feel more, not less, complicated. For example, when copying from a removable disk I always end up using “location of choice” because I now find it hard to pin down the particular folder I want in my PC Documents and not in “OneDrive”, where it always wants to go. And why can I no longer see an option to send (or cut or copy) a web page, either as a page or a link?

I’ll get there. Many changes are rather nice: the layers of mail pages at the bottom of the screen, the panel that floats in from the top corner (if you get your cursor just right) that allows you quick access to help on the web. It’s just that there are moments when I spend more time working out how to tackle a detail than actually getting the job done…


Mrs S Hamilton, King’s Lynn

Comments are closed.