Dell recommends Windows 8.

Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8

Brien Posey, Freelance Writer and Former CIO | 4/18/2013 | 40 comments

Brien Posey
Because there is so much work involved in an operating system migration, it is easy to assume that IT carries most of the burden, but don’t overlook the fact that the end users are also affected.

This can be especially true for upgrades or migrations to Windows 8. The fact that the long familiar Windows desktop is replaced by a series of colored tiles can be a tremendous source of anxiety for some users. As such, it is worth considering what you might be able to do to make the transition process easier on your users.

The first recommendation that I would make is to realize that not all users are the same. Some users are going to be absolutely terrified by the transition to Windows 8. On the flipside, there will be other users who have already been using Windows 8 on their personal computers at home, and who will wonder why it took you so long to make the switch.

That being the case, it is a good idea to offer assistance to everyone, but you shouldn’t force it. Forcing mandatory Windows 8 training may be perceived as condescending by those who are already proficient with the new operating system.

One of the first things that I recommend doing is to put in place some sort of program for training end-users on how to use the new interface. Administrators often think of training programs as being expensive and time-consuming. However, your users might be better served if you keep the training simple. For example, you might create a 5- to 10-minute training video and place it in a centralized location where users can access it on an as-needed basis.

As important as end-user training might be, there are some other things that you can also do to make Windows 8 a little bit more friendly toward those who have never used it before. If you’ve read any review of Windows 8, you will find that there are two main complaints about the user interface. One of these complaints is the absence of the Windows Start Menu. The other complaint is a jarring transition between the Modern user interface (formerly known as the Metro interface) and desktop mode. Fortunately, both of these issues are easy to address with a little bit of work.

Bring back the start menu
When Windows 8 first debuted, an entire cottage industry sprang up around building start menu alternatives. There are countless start menu replacement programs available for Windows 8. Some of these programs are free, and others must be purchased. One of the better free options is an app called Start Menu 8.

In some cases, bringing back the start menu might eventually lead to a little bit of confusion. I have a friend who decided to deploy Windows 8 in a corporate environment, and decided to use Start Menu 8 as a way of helping out the users. A few weeks later, one of the users approached him wondering why his corporate desktop featured a start menu when his newly purchased home computer did not.

Bypassing the modern user interface
Windows 8 does not contain a group policy setting or any other mechanism for disabling the Modern User Interface. Even so, it is possible to configure Windows 8 so that users are taken straight into Desktop Mode upon logging in.

The trick is to use the Windows Task Scheduler. The Task Scheduler lets you create tasks, which are made up of triggers and actions. By default, the Task Scheduler is designed to use scheduled triggers (such as launching a program at a scheduled time). However, you can use a variety of other triggers instead. One of the triggers that is available to you is at login.

In order to make Windows 8 boot straight into Desktop Mode, all you have to do is run a desktop application at login. For example, you might configure the Task Scheduler to run C:\Windows\Explorer at login. This will cause Windows to open Desktop Mode and launch File Explorer. This is just an example of a desktop application that you can run. You could actually get the same results by running just about any desktop application at login.

Of course, nothing is going to replace time with the system to get comfortable, and lots of training, but you can ease the transition and the anxiety if you provide some security blankets from previous Windows iterations. As an administrator, you can help to reduce helpdesk calls if you spend a little time upfront making the Windows 8 experience a bit more familiar for your users. Just remember that you don’t want to customize it so much that they can’t take advantage of what is new and good about Windows 8. There’s plenty to like once you get used to it.

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Randomus   Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8   6/30/2013 1:29:05 PM
Re: Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8
Anthony: To what extent? Microsoft either had to do it or not do it – touch screens are crippling the PC market right now, and Microsoft didn't want to continue losing out to Android and Apple. However, it's going to take some major industry maturation before Windows-based tablets (based off 8) receive higher feedback.
anthony.nima   Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8   6/29/2013 11:32:26 PM
Re: Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8
@Randomous: Well their strategic thinking plan is wrong if so. If they wanted to do something different they should have done it in a much slower manner until touch devices being introduced. Right now touch screens are used by a very few group of people.         
Randomus   Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8   5/31/2013 11:12:48 AM
Re: Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8
Michael: I am okay waiting for 8.1, though am disappointed the "Start" button won't load an actual Start menu similar to XP, Windows 7, etc.  Oh well...
SaneIT   Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8   5/31/2013 8:11:50 AM
Re: Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8
Yes we are definitely entering a world where the echo chamber rules.  Paid reviews, fan boys and tightly focused marketing groups can almost guarantee that people say good things about a product.   The problem though is that when a product falls flat it's hard to point out where the failure was.
michaelsumastre   Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8   5/30/2013 11:56:50 PM
Re: Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8
@Randomus, then you definitely need to test the Windows 8.1 then or the one they called Blue before. The Start button is more prominent, so hopefully Windows 8 would appeal to more peoplea and give this OS a chance because I really think it's good or at the very least promising. 
michaelsumastre   Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8   5/30/2013 11:55:02 PM
Re: Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8
I suspect that the user studies were more or less setup to make Win 8 sound awesome and didn't really let people drive it around for any amount of time. 


@SaneIT: well, there are really people who are paid to make "user reviews." Some are provided with the products, but sometimes they aren't and the writers have to rely on what other people are saying. And yes, it's all part of the whoe marketing tactic. That's why I'm beginning to be more cautious about reviews. 
Randomus   Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8   5/22/2013 1:54:49 PM
Re: Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8
Michaelsumastre: I hear you!  I like the tiles and the ability to use touchscreen, but the lack of a start button has been so frustrating.  Honestly, I still haven't downloaded a third-party plugin to add a start button yet, as I am trying to learn to use Windows 8 the way... Microsoft hoped users would enjoy.
SaneIT   Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8   5/22/2013 7:08:00 AM
Re: Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8
That does tend to give you better feedback but I think some bigger companies are so caught up in keeping new software secret and pushing features that they have good marketing campaigns built for that they miss out on the actual feedback.  When the developer version of Win 8 was released nearly every blog out there was posting the same thing.  They had months to see that feedback and they chose to ignore it.  Hopefully 8.1 fixes this.
StaceyE   Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8   5/21/2013 6:08:12 PM
Re: Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8
@ SAneIT

Absolutely! That is one thing I liked about the software company I used to work for. When we tested a new version of our software we just installed it for some of our customers and asked for their feedback, including suggestions and any information they noticed as far as "bugs" go. We didn't tell them what to look for, we just asked them to use the software and give us honest feedback over a period of time.
SaneIT   Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8   5/20/2013 7:09:56 AM
Re: Putting Users More at Ease With Windows 8
Exactly if your market research group is being told what to say then you're not going to get valuable feedback.  When you've got the developer holding your hand through the whole process and telling you what you want to see and rattling off key features chances are that's what's going to come out on the survey.
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