The 2 Interfaces of Windows 8.1 - dummies

By Woody Leonhard

Windows 8.1 gives you the choice of two completely different interfaces, the tiled Start screen, which looks a lot like a Microsoft mobile phone screen, and the old-fashioned Windows 7–style desktop, which looks and behaves a lot like Windows 7, with a few minor differences, but one crucial difference — there’s no Start menu.


The tiled Start screen itself isn’t bad. Play with it for five minutes — put your cursor or finger in each of the corners, click or tap and drag — and you can see what’s happening. The problem is that Microsoft wants you to use this screen instead of the Start menu. In fact, Microsoft wants you to change over to this new style Start screen so much, that it’s removed the Start menu completely.

Moving between the tiled Metro Start screen and Legacy desktop can be an intensely jarring experience.


Every bit as jarring is that Microsoft now refers to the programs on the Windows desktop that you’ve known and loved for 20 years — programs that run on the desktop shown — as Legacy programs.

Legacy is a Microsoft buzzword for, “Go away, kid. We don’t want you anymore.” Microsoft doesn’t really have a name for the old, Windows 7–style desktop, except “desktop” — which draws no distinction with the place the new tiled apps live.

What you know — what your fingers know — is headed to the operating system old-folk’s home. Clearly, Microsoft will be focusing all its future development on the tiled Metro or (to use one of Microsoft’s buzzwords) “Modern” style side of the fence, as the old desktop slowly fades into the sunset. If you’re going to stay with Windows, it’s time to get with the system and learn about this new tiled stuff.