Running into Windows

I enjoy exploring an ecosystem. Last year, I spent a month with an Android phone and tablet to see how they compared to iOS.

Now, I'm going to try something similar by switching to Windows as my primary machine. Dave Rupert went through a similar exercise. Microsoft was kind enough to offer up a Surface Book for this experiment.

When the Surface Book was announced, lots of people gave it very positive reviews. I have a Samsung tablet from a few years ago when Microsoft was exploring what it meant for a desktop OS to also be a tablet OS in Windows 7. That Samsung tablet, however, was bulky, ran hot, and the battery ran down quickly. Ick.

Initial Impressions

My first hour or so with the Surface Book created mixed feelings.

On the hardware side, this laptop is quite nice. The detachable screen becomes a tablet and is surprisingly light. The keyboard feels good. The trackpad feels good. This is a really nice laptop.

Having a laptop with a touch screen is nice. For the most part, I use the keyboard where I can but sometimes a button press is easier to just hit with my finger. The trackpad finger gestures are nice and remind me of the handy gestures on the Mac. I enjoy the three-finger swipe to switch applications or to minimize all the apps.

I do find the multiple desktop feature annoying. Mostly because it creates isolated app switching for each desktop. If the app you want to switch to is on the other desktop then you need to switch desktops and then switch apps.

One particular thing that bugs me: the top row of function and media keys. There's plenty of room to have had a separate function key row and media row. Instead, there's a function key that has to be turned on or off to choose between them. I never use the function keys on my Mac but in Windows, I use them all the time. I have to consciously be aware of whether the key is enabled, which is more cognitive load than I would like every time I need to use a function or media key.

Speaking of the media keys, I'd rather the ability to control screen brightness via the keyboard (which I do multiple times a day) than the ability to control the brightness of the keyboard backlighting (which I do almost never).

Also, I find it weird that when the laptop is folded over, it doesn't fold flush. Instead, it looks like a book with a pen stuck in the middle of it. (Hence the name, is my guess.)

On the software side, I'm having a tough time pinpointing the things that really bother me. I think a lot of it comes down to polish, which in a lot of cases, comes down to how well third party apps built their apps.

For example, I'm writing this article in an app called WriteMonkey. It's a fantastic app for writing in Markdown. It runs full screen and gets out of the way. Love it.

The Twitter app, on the other hand, sometimes blanks the screen before reloading messages. The Facebook app seems to have a different scroll sensitivity than the rest of the OS. Edge supports two-finger swipe to go back but nothing else does. And Mail seems to have its own text entry with a custom context menu and the shortcut to paste without formatting (Ctrl-Shift-V) is mapped to something else. Oh, and Messenger locks up quite frequently, requiring a restart.

Of course, I'm sure I could come up with a similar list for the Mac. I've just been on it long enough to get over the annoyances.

When Windows 7 first came out, it felt spartan to the point of feeling unfinished. Windows 10 definitely has a lot more polish. Also, the Cortana voice recognition seems to work really well. I can't tell you how many times I ask Siri for something and she completely gets it wrong. "Play my loved playlist." "Now playing Love Yourself by Justin Bieber." "Goddammit Siri!"

The Cortana integration in the Start menu is really nice, too. I like the speed and design. It feels very natural to just hit the Windows key and start typing for what I want. It finds what I want accurately and quickly.

Living on the Edge

I want to use Edge as my default browser but the biggest hiccup is my password manager, 1password. It doesn't have an extension for Edge. Being able to log in quickly, easily, and securely is important.

The second hiccup I ran into, and this might seem silly but, it's the performance of It's a fun little game and it is butter smooth in Chrome. Not so much in Edge.

It looks like Chrome will be my default browser for now but I'll load in my usual plethora of browsers for cross browser testing.

Lots to explore

Of course, I still have lots to explore. I haven't set up my dev environment yet, so we'll see how that goes. (I just typed "terminal" into the Cortana bar and the command prompt app popped up. Nice.)

Published October 03, 2016
Categorized as Other
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