Windows 8.1 – Touch screen or stay with Windows 7

Recently a colleague of mine, we will call him Jack, shared with me his feedback on Windows 8.1.  To give a little background, Jack is a Mac user, but runs Windows 8.1 in a parallels setup on his Mac.  This man is a Mac user hardcore and prior to today, he daily lamented Windows 8.1 as being very user unfriendly.  If you have not been reading the news over the last year or so, there are very mixed reactions on Windows 8, and most of them, negative.

Moving along with the story, Jack came in all excited today stating the Windows 8.1 was the greatest thing since sliced bread! That’s right, a total reversal of opinion.  But there is a catch.  He got a new Surface Pro 2 tablet, so he’s now using touchscreen where on his Macbook there is no touchscreen…at least not yet.

This brings me to the point of this blog post – Should you go with Windows 8.1, or stay with Windows 7?  The answer is not as easy as one might think.  For those of my readers who do not know what Windows 8 is, try thinking about the worst time you had trying to open a program in any version of Windows.  Multiply that now by a factor of 10, and you have Windows 8.  But now you said, well you just simplified it didn’t you by essentially calling it junk?  No, I am not doing that, but there are some things to consider.

First, if you by a brand new desktop or laptop, that is Windows based, you are going to get Windows 8.1 by default.  Windows 8 has a very different, almost radical design, than what users have been used to since Windows 95 as illustrated below.

In Windows 8, there is not “Start” button, though in the recently released 8.1 they did bring it back.  However, it does not pull up the familiar Start menu that you have been used to seeing for nearly 20 years.  Second, Windows 8 will take some getting used to in terms of just finding where everything is.  Creating shortcuts to your desktop is really creating them to that tiled Start Screen.  While you can create shortcuts on the Desktop section of Windows 8, which looks somewhat familiar to Windows 7, new users to that operating system will find it difficult at best to function in.

Having said all of that, if you are just itching to upgrade, or begrudgingly upgrading because your system is slower than molasses, then I would highly recommend whatever system you get, if you are going to Windows 8, get a touchscreen.  As Jack pointed out to me this morning, it makes all the difference in the world.  As an IT Professional, I must agree, as touchscreen laptops that I have tested out, like the Acer line of touchscreen laptops, are a world of difference away from using a mouse in Windows 8.  Even if you are not getting a laptop, there are plenty of touchscreen desktop all in one models that have them.

However, if all of this seems too overwhelming, then I would suggest staying with Windows 7.  If you do not have now, nor plan in the near future of getting a touchscreen, Windows 8 will likely drive everyday users, and business users, to be very frank, straight up the wall!  The mouse movements to get what you want in Windows 8 without touch are cumbersome, and usually involve more clicks than with Windows 7.  Windows 7 is becoming the new XP for this era.  Windows XP has been around since 2001 and is just now starting to go away.  Expect the same with Windows 7.  It’s here for a long time, and the gauge on that is, businesses are not upgrading to it.(Windows 8)

So Windows 8 or Windows 7, is all going to come down to the touchscreen.  For those adventurous enough, feel free to upgrade and just use the mouse.  However, prepare to spend a lot of retraining time on how you do things everyday on your computer.  If you are a business, think about that last sentence of mine in dollars and sense, and time off the clock training.  If you absolutely need to do a total computer hardware upgrade, you typically can ask at the time of your order for what is called a “Windows 7 Downgrade”.  This means that instead of installing Windows 8 at the factory, they will install Windows 7.

The jury is still out on whether or not Microsoft will continue to stick with this tiled interface.  I would say that in the next 18 months, when a new operating system is likely to emerge from Microsoft, if tiles are still around, Windows 8 may turn into the operating system that we all will have to bitterly swallow.


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