Windows 11 again forces touch-based user interface on desktop users


I’ve had a chance to play with Insider Preview of Windows 11, and it looks like Start screen, Task Bar and File Explorer are carried over unchanged from the touch-oriented Windows 10X. Specifically, pop-up menu items are all spaced a finger apart, way too large for mouse-based desktop interfacee, the same for list item or icon spacing in File Explorer.


There are other touch-oriented ‘features’ which are useless for desktop users:


1) Right-click context menu is removed from Task Bar, there’s only Task Bar Settings submenu

2) Task Bar size or placement is not configurable anymore, probably to allow swiping gestures

3) File Explorer replaces the ribbon interface with dedicated Copy/Move/Rename/Delete etc. buttons

4) Right-click pop-up removes Copy/Move/Rename/Delete menu items and replaces them with dedicated buttons at the top

5) Search box option is removed, only the search icon can be shown


Overall, it looks as if the tablet layout is always on, with no option to enable the desktop mode (even though it’s supposedly been addressed by Windows 10 back in 2018). And that’s an RTM build that’s been in making since January and is supposed to be released this October.


Which bears these interesting questions:


1) Why Microsoft has to try to force a touch-based user interface on regular desktop users with each new Windows release since 7?

You can say it’s to ‘simplify’ the UI for non-expert users, but I really doubt they even know (or care) about these advanced features being removed.

2) Why Microsoft has to reimagine their entire user interface with every major relase of Windows? (i.e. 3.1 to 95/2000, XP to Vista, 7 to 8, 8 to 10, 10 to 11)

No-one else does it so consistently – new versions of OS X / macOS, iOS, Android always keep the basic design, but Windows team is always shy of their Start UI, even though it came to be accepted by Linux shells like KDE Plasma…

3) Why Microsoft will always persist these UI changes and won’t back down even when users actively reject them to the point of downgrading to some previous OS?

It always takes a new release of the OS to acknowledge the mistakes and go back to the most succesful concepts, but never a service pack or a user-contolled setting.


Comments (29)

29 responses to “Windows 11 again forces touch-based user interface on desktop users”

  1. dmitryko

    4) What happened to the Windows 10 Start UI update that was teased back in Fall 2020, and what's the point of replacing it with a tablet-oriented Windows 10X shell?

    • Jasi

      "Windows 11 again forces touch-based user interface on desktop users"

      Windows can't force anything on anyone. They only make offerings and you can choose to accept them or not. And by the way, I'm one of those who have been using most operating systems by Microsoft, Apple and Linux since the mid 1980s, and none of this stuff has slowed me down one bit. Your complaints may be valid for yourself and maybe many others, but it not the end the world.

      • dmitryko

        This would make a great marketing slogan: "Windows 11: it's not the end the world".

        I don't think there is any choice. They are clearly only interested in chasing 'mobile' users and new PC sales. They skipped the entire public Dev Channel testing cycle - which was supposed to provide feedback from hardcore Windows enthusiasts. Tells volumes about their mindset.

        Well, good luck with that. 90% of existing PCs do not meet the minimum requirements and I just don't expect these people to go and upgrade just to run the new OS.

  2. hrlngrv

    | Why Microsoft has to reimagine their entire user interface with every major rel[e]ase of Windows?

    It's possible MSFT just wants to piss people off with every new version.

    It's possible MSFT views the consistency of the OS X/macOS UI as stultifying lack of innovation.

    In the case of the Windows 11 Start menu, it's possible MSFT wants to imply Google had it right all along with its Chrome OS app launcher.

    However, it's more likely MSFT believes every new version needs a new UI just to show its a new version and to distract users from the fact that so damn little under the hood has changed. That is, other than software bundled with Windows 11 and UWP apps, most software Windows 11 can run Windows XP could too. IOW, the new swine needs cosmetics.

    • dmitryko

      Well, Microsoft has always been trying to lure the customers away from the competition - right now this means they are chasing potential 'mobile'/touch users and macOS users (neither of which will really come).

      Current Windows users can be safely ignored, because they've already paid for the OS license and are known to refuse paid OS upgrades. So more money can only be made from new PC sales, and current users are unlikely to move to another desktop OS (i.e. macOS which requires expensive Apple hardware) in protest.

  3. rob_segal

    Some of these may not be related to forcing a touch-based interface on everyone. Some of it is simplifying the interface, which is useful for average users. File Explorer got the ribbon in Windows 8. I kind of view the new toolbar in File Explorer as a modernized take on the simpler ones from Windows 7 and prior. I'm not a find of the ribbon because of its complexity of commands. I like the simpler take of more modern toolbars. It has nothing to do with touch.

    I can say the same thing of the right click menu on the taskbar. What options are absolutely necessary for average users? The quick access menu on the start menu has task manager for example. You have access to it on a right click menu on the taskbar, it's just not the entire taskbar, only the start button and I think that is fine. Task Manager doesn't have to be accessible from every possible spot. Just one is good enough.

    Some aspects of Windows 11 are less touch-friendly. Example of this are the buttons that appear in notifications (mail and calendar for example). Those buttons are now more mouse-desktop size instead of the size of my entire thumb.

    Regarding UI refreshes, it's important. Generally speaking, people enjoy using a modern-looking system than one that looks a decade or decade-plus old. UI refreshes are about experiences and experiences cannot be neglected. The core fundamentals (with the exception of Windows 8) are still there. There's a task bar, there's a start button, there's a start menu, there's a desktop and a system tray. Minimize, maximize, and close buttons on windows.

    • dmitryko

      I started using Windows 3.11 back in 1992 and went through every iteration of 9x and NT except ME. I also used every version of Mac OS X / OS X / macOS from 10.3 Panther to 10.12 High Sierra, which came with our Power Mac G5, Mac Pro 2008, and iMac 2011/2013 computers. And somehow, OS X didn't have to introduce breaking changes, even the UI was pretty consistent with the exception of 10.10 Yosemite which replaced skeuomorphic graphics with a minimalistic 'flat' look.

  4. jimchamplin

    On a 15” 1920x1080 screen set to 125% magnification, the menus fit perfectly, they’re clear and easy to read for me. I like the new Explorer menus, too. Having commonly accessed file operations available at the top of the menu makes them much easier to target. My eyes don’t have to scan down the length of the menu, and the arrow has to move only a very short distance. This is especially nice when I’m using the machine with just the trackpad, and it’s an improvement that I really, really appreciate.

    So really, as with most things, it’s mainly subjective. It’s opinion. Just because one person doesn’t like it, does not mean that their peers will necessarily agree.

    As to the “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” thing? Really? This is a commercial product, not a public utility, and therefore it has to sell. People, even ones that claim not to care or “don’t notice” really actually are effected by design. It shapes the way they interact with the product.

    Remember 8? Sound idea, bad execution. The design decisions- Remove the actual Start menu icon, force Metro to be a different environment from the desktop, the bland flat window frames - led to a product that wasn’t really very likable. With 10, Microsoft obviously got a lot more input and managed to walk the line between a more attractive visual style while keeping it lightweight.

    Windows 11 appears to be additional polish on the visual aspects of 10. There may be a secret new visual design that they’ll roll out Whistler-style, but I doubt it.

  5. dmitryko

    All the additional spacing is purely for touch screens. I have a 32" 4K display with a default 150% layout scaling.

    • igor engelen

      I get what you are saying but the reality is that a lot of laptops/all-in-one devices have touchscreens these days and it makes no sense to develop 2 dedicated GUIs for the same OS.

      • dmitryko

        1) They've already fixed the desktop UI spacing in a 2018 edition of Windows 10: Spacing and Sizes - Windows apps

        2) UI Shell takes maybe 0.01% of all OS code - if it's so hard to manage High DPI dynamically, stick to the original plan and release a dumbed-down, tablet-only version of the OS as Windows 10X.

  6. lvthunder

    These aren't always touch features. Some of them can be attributed to higher resolution screens as well.

  7. scj123

    Things just get dated, the look needs a refresh, the interface used for 3.1 started I. 1990 and was changed in 95. Windows XP then changed it again 6 years later. Vista and 7 had mostly the same interface this also lasted 6 years The windows 10 interface is 6 years old. It's nice to improve the look sometimes.

    • zakand

      Just because something is new that doesn't mean it's better. The Win11 UI is a downgrade because it removes important functionality, adds useless features like the start search bar, and it much harder to use.

      • lvthunder

        Then don't use it. No one is forcing you to use it. Use Windows 10 for the next 4 years and then go to Windows 12 or whatever else is around at that time that you like.

        • dmitryko

          "Don't use it" strategy surely worked well for Windows 8.

          Why they always seem to only care to attract new users? We're wll past the PC boom of 1990s, when people bought new desktops every two or three years. Are they still so much haunted by a trauma of encountering Steve Jobs' Apple Mac from 1984 and NeXTSTEP from 1989 / OS X from 1999, that they can't let go of copying OS X / MacOS, even 35 years thereafter?

          With a steady resurgence of PC sales, it's really time to reevaluate Nadella's 'mobile touch first, cloud first' mantra, because people are not really moving from keyboard and mouse desktop applications to touchscreen-based mobile applications, at least not for productivity apps.

          And if you can't understand why, try to type a 2-page memo on a touchscreen instead of a physical keyboard, or imagine waving your hands aroung a 24" touch screen all day long instead of slightly moving the mouse cursor on a horizontal desk.

          • lvthunder

            Well, it's true. If you don't like it go somewhere where you will be happy.

            I disagree with you about touch. I say this using my Surface Studio where I do both. Touch the screen and use the mouse. It all depends on what I'm doing and where my hands are. If I'm typing a lot it's quicker to just touch the screen than to move my hand to the mouse and move it to where I need to go.

            • zakand

              Do you realize that Microsoft won't allow your Surface Studio to run Win11? What is the excuse for that?

              • lvthunder

                Yes, I know that the specs as they are currently I won't be able to run Windows 11. I think it's a mistake and that by release time they will change the specs.

                • dmitryko

                  I think touch-based UI is a mistake, and I don't think they will change it, nor they will change the system requirements.

        • sheafferlb

          "Just don't use it" is a great way to push people to Macs and Chromebooks for good.

    • navarac

      There is no need to fix what ain't broke, though. It is just change for changes sake IMO. There is no gain at all.

      • lvthunder

        Many will claim it is broken the way it is. I think the UI in Windows 11 looks nicer than Windows 10. So for me I see it as an improvement.

        • navarac

          Looks are not everything though. Functionality is much more important.

          • lvthunder

            I don't see any functionality loss with Windows 11. Sure some things moved, but that will take maybe a week to get used to.

            • hrlngrv

              May take a week for YOU to get used to.

              Lemme guess: you keep your taskbar on the bottom of the screen and don't use drag-and-drop of documents onto icons pinned to the taskbar.

              For me, as long as I can navigate to %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs and add keyboard shortcuts to .LNK files, I don't much care how MSFT innovates the default desktop UI. Add 3rd party UI component replacements, and I can use Windows 11 in essentially the same way I use Windows 10 and 8.1 and used Windows 7. Since I don't use Windows to use Windows, I can live with (thrive on?) seeing nothing from MSFT while using Windows application software.

  8. dmitryko

    Well, Microsoft has always been trying to lure the customers away from the competition - right now this means they are chasing potential 'mobile'/touch users and macOS users (neither of which will really come).

    Current Windows users can be safely ignored, because they've already paid for the OS license and are known to refuse paid OS upgrades. So more money can only be made from new PC sales, and current users are unlikely to move to another desktop OS (i.e. macOS which requires expensive Apple hardware) in protest.

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