Why Are There No Customisation Options? RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • As an XP user I'm enthusiastic to upgrade to a newer operating system, and Windows 8 certainly offers some very desirable features.  I’ve been playing around with Windows 8 Developer Preview since the release and have found that, like Vista and 7, the default user interface is not to my liking and there are very few options to customise your experience.  There are many aspects of the UI that you would expect to be able to alter, but which can’t be changed at all.  I am therefore forced to work in the manner that Microsoft dictates rather than being allowed to work in the way I find most comfortable and productive.

    In many cases these are very simple things, but which have a massive impact on the quality of my user experience and my perception of the operating system.  Some simple customisation settings would make me very enthusiastic about Windoows 8, but without them I am left with the impression that Windows 8 is a low quality product and that Microsoft is working against, rather than with, the user.  For example:

    Full Path in Address Bar

    I find this to be unclear and needlessly verbose:

    While I find this to be both clear and concise:

    I therefore want the path to be permanently displayed rather then the breadcrumbs, but when I Google to discover how this can be done all I find is a lot of dissatisfied Vista/7 users asking the same question and being told it’s not possible.  Why is this incredibly basic option not present?  Why must Microsoft force the breadcrumbs on users when many would prefer to have the option to show the path?

    Start Menu

    Windows 8 features the Windows 7 style Start menu, the All Programs section of which drives me mad.  I have 1200 pixels of vertical resolution, yet everything is shoved into a small box that requires me to scroll up and down.  If I want to go back or collapse a tree I have to click a button instead of simply moving the mouse, and I find this cumbersome and annoying.  The classic expanding tree design is far more intuitive and makes much better use of available screen space, so I want to enable it.

    Searching around I find that there is no option to customise the Start Menu to the classic style, but what I did find is that there are a wealth of modification to enable the old Start menu:


    The fact that so many people have created such modifications clearly indicates that many users want the old Start menu (be it the 2K or XP style) so why are Microsoft so against giving users what they want?  It’s a little sad when a company with the resources of Microsoft is unable to maintain three versions of the Start menu.

    Explorer Toolbar

    I don't know if this is the normal behaviour but in my Windows 8 installation I seem to have ended up with the Windows 7 explorer toolbar:

    I find this toolbar to be useless and a waste of valuable screen space so I want to disable it.  This should be a matter of changing a simple setting, but searching around I find this can’t be done without use of a third party hack.  The fact that somebody has bothered to create a hack again shows that users want to disable this toolbar.  Why must Microsoft force this toolbar on users that don’t want it?  Why is there no option to disable it?

    Line Spacing In Explorer

    I find the line spacing in Explorer to be wasteful compared to XP:

    There is no option to change this and the only way is with a hack.  Some users like to make effective use of their screen space rather than having it filled with masses of dead space.  Why have you once again chosen to make something worse without giving the user the option to revert it back to how it was previously configured?

    In a related matter, I notice the “Advanced appearance settings...” previously under “Window Colour and Appearance” in Windows 7 have gone and there appears to be no replacement.  I therefore can’t change my Explorer font or other important attributes such as the thickness of the window frames and title bar (which are too thick by default).  I hope this is just because the dialog box is being reworked but isn’t fully implemented yet, but given Microsoft’s attitude towards customisation settings I wouldn’t be surprised if it was never coming back.


    The new replace dialog box is almost enough to make me slit my wrists.  The XP version asks the simple questions “Do you want to replace [this] with [this]?  Yes/No/Yes to All”:

    It’s clear, concise and the only thing it lacked was a “No to All” button.  The replace dialog box in Windows 8 Developer Preview is a convoluted mess:

    It’s verbose to the point where it’s confusing and the important information is lost.  It contains three types of control - buttons, checkboxes and clickable areas (though it’s not immediately obvious they’re clickable).  The equivalent to “Yes to All” is check “Do this for the next x conflicts” and click “Copy and Replace”, which is far more complicated.  As far as I can tell “Don’t Copy” and “Skip” do the exact same thing, which confuses things further.  You’ve taken something simple and over-clarified it to the point where you can’t immediately tell what’s being asked or what anything does.  Why couldn’t you include the old copy dialog boxes as an option for people who don’t need their hand holding for every simple task?

    The Point Is

    I could go on all day, but I the general point is that many users feel that aspects of the Windows 8 UI design are inferior to that of Windows 2000 and would like to have the option to customise the interface to their preferences.  Sadly Windows is devoid of customisation options, and this leaves me with the impression that the operating system is a pile of crap.  Some simple customisation options could vastly improve my perception of Windows 8 and make me enthusiastic to upgrade.  Instead, it’s likely that I’ll once again choose to stick with XP as it again appears to be the superior operating system.

    The Problem with Microsoft

    Instead of delivering features that users want Microsoft instead decides what it wants to push and forces that on the user.  Nothing illustrates this better than the removal of the “up one directory” button in Windows Vista Explorer.  Microsoft decided that the breadcrumbs were all anyone needed so removed the Up button, which caused widespread complaints from angry users who didn’t find the breadcrumbs to be an effective way to work.  Given the obvious dissatisfaction with this modification I assumed Microsoft would restore the Up button as an option in a patch or service pack, but it never came.  When Windows 7 was released the Up button had still not been restored, so there was yet more complaining from users (presumably people who had skipped Vista).  The Up button has finally been added in Windows 8, but why did it take five years and two major releases?  Why wasn’t it there as an option from the start?

    Microsoft’s attitude was essentially “You don’t need an up button!  You will use the breadcrumbs!  Once we have deprived you of the up button for long enough you will grow to like the breadcrumbs!”  They did the exact same thing with the document tab order in Visual Studio 2005, and despite the complaints from users it took until Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 to finally provide an option to restore the sane VS2003 order.

    A commercial company is supposed to respond to customers’ demands, not try to force customers to use something they don’t want.  In the case of the Up button Microsoft were defeated by the overwhelming demand for the feature, but there are many other unpopular changes which they are continuing to force on the customer without the option to modify the behaviour.  The test for these changes shouldn't be "if the users keep complaining for five years we'll listen", there should be customisation options there from the start.

    There is something very wrong with Microsoft’s corporate culture when they so steadfastly refuse to give customers what they’re asking for.  There’s also something very wrong when it takes five years to respond to simple changes that the market is so clearly demanding.  The reason for this is likely down to Microsoft’s “We’re always right” attitude so when the users says “We want the full path in the address bar” Microsoft says “No, you’re wrong.  You don’t need that and you can’t have it”.

    The articles that have received the most comments in “Building Windows 8” have been related to the user interface, so it’s clear that users know what they want from the UI and get very angry when you try to force something different on them.  Why can’t Microsoft learn from the strong reaction to the Explorer ribbon and start providing alternative options so the customer can use the one that works best for them?  In particular when something new is introduced (start menu, breadcrumbs, copy dialog etc) why can't Microsoft provide the option to revert to the previous settings?  Also, why can't they buy Directory Opus and include it with every copy of Windows, since that would solve a lot of problems?

    Right, I’ve had my rant.  I don’t expect anything to change, and Microsoft will continue to push their dumbed down UI while offering no customisability.  Without customisation options in Windows 8 I'll have no choice but to stick with XP and hope that Microsoft are forced to extend support beyond 2014.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011 5:22 PM

All replies

  • Because this is a developer preview, it's a pre-beta. There might and probably will be many ways of customizing windows to your liking.


    Dylan Meeus

    0x2B |~ 0x2B Blog : www.it-ca.net/blogdylan
    Friday, September 23, 2011 12:57 AM
  •  I don't know if this is the normal behaviour but in my Windows 8 installation I seem to have ended up with the Windows 7 explorer toolbar:

    This is not normal behaviour. I think Windows 8 has not installed properly on your system.

    The replace dialog box in Windows 8 Developer Preview is a convoluted mess:

    Windows 8 has a new simpler replace dialog.


    You have the old Windows 7 dialog running in Windows 8. Probably down to a bad install.

    Try reinstalling Windows 8, then have another look at these features, they might be fixed.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011 8:55 AM
  • the only thing it lacked was a “No to All” button.


    In XP if you hold the Shift key then click the "No" button, it works the same as a No to all button.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011 9:02 AM