The Missing Windows 8 Feature No One Is Talking About


The reviews are in, not only of Microsoft's most recent software, but also of the best it has to offer in hardware. The verdict? Not bad. It's not amazing, but overall, Windows 8 and its corresponding laptops, tablets, and coffee tables have taken the idea of the traditional "desktop" operating system and turned it on its head for the better. Most of what you're getting is a swipe-able, touch-friendly interface which performs well given the tasks at hand. On the other side, you still have access to the familiar, old-school Windows interface via the Desktop App. From there, you have access to your file system, control panel, and can download and run programs not found in the Windows Store-- programs like Photoshop, Webex, et cetera.

That's all well and good, if the touch-friendly Metro or "Start" home screen (pictured above) is able to give you basically everything you need to do your work properly. Spoiler alert: it doesn't. Ready for this? THERE IS NO FILE SYSTEM IN THIS INTERFACE. I'll let that sink in for a second. Surely, you might say, that can't be possible. Right? For many people, the entire point of owning a computer is to have something that can store and allow access to files. My mother is one of those people. So how, in 2013, is there an operating system that makes accessing your FILES next to impossible? That's an excellent question. Microsoft's answer, apparently, is their "all-encompassing" Search function. The idea is, you can simply start typing on the home screen, and whatever you type is then searched for. Files, Apps, emails, contacts-- the universality of the search is excellent, and not under scrutiny. The issue, perhaps the biggest blunder Windows has made in some years, is that that is the only way to find a file. You have to know the name of it to search for it. There's no way to just browse the contents of your folders. Seriously? Yes, seriously.

You know how, in Windows 7 (or Mac OSX), if you want to look at your files, you just click the Start button (or Finder in Mac) and voila-- you have folders for Documents, Pictures, Videos, and so on? Yeah, those don't exist on the homescreen of Windows 8, nor can you search for just Documents to show a list of all your documents and folders. It's literally not possible. You can still do it in Desktop mode, and there are a few third-party apps that attempt (with varying degrees of success) to replace the this functionality, but otherwise, you're stuck running a search for a specific file name. My mother has THOUSANDS of files spread out amongst hundreds of folders. So do I, as do many of my friends and colleagues. Are we expecting her (or us) to remember the names of each file, so she can run a search for them later? Gimme a break. They're in folders so she doesn't have to remember the file names. That's what folders are for. To organize and group files. Just not according to Windows 8.

The whole point of Microsoft's new operating system is to begin bridging the gap between old, out-of-touch Desktop Windows, and the mobilized, touchscreen-filled future. Windows 8, minus the Desktop App, is clearly where this whole shindig is headed; as soon as software companies like Adobe and Cisco start designing their programs to work directly from the Windows 8 homescreen, the Windows Desktop will disappear. Right now, without the Desktop, if you have more than twenty files, or you don't know their names... well, I just hope you have a store of flashcards lying around the house.

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Posted on March 1, 2013 .