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Windows 8 to offer both Metro and desktop interface

Microsoft's upcoming OS will offer people a choice of the Metro-style interface or an updated but traditional desktop UI.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Windows 8 Metro UI Microsoft

Microsoft will offer Windows 8 users the option of working in the new Metro interface or sticking with a more traditional desktop environment.

In the latest installment of the "Building Windows 8" blog, Microsoft exec Steven Sinofsky confirmed yesterday that Windows 8 machines will sport the Metro interface, which he described as "fast and fluid, immersive, beautiful, and app-centric."

With touch-screen capabilities and an overall theme borrowed from Windows Phone 7, the Metro UI has been designed with smartphones and tablets in mind but can run on traditional computers as well.

However, for people who want better control over their PCs, Microsoft will also offer the more traditional desktop interface as an alternative. By default, Metro will actually hide and not even load the Windows desktop. But people who prefer the more familiar environment can easily flip a switch to display the desktop, which Sinofsky referred to as "just another app" in Windows 8.

"The things that people do today on PCs don't suddenly go away just because there are new Metro style apps," said Sinofsky, who is president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live Division. "The mechanisms that people rely on today (mice, physical keyboards, trackpads) don't suddenly become less useful or 'bad' just because touch is also provided as a first-class option. These tools are quite often the most ergonomic, fast, and powerful ways of getting many things done."

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Acknowledging that some may have wanted Microsoft to fully commit to Metro while others may see it as a UI just for mobile devices, Sinofsky saw juggling both as the best option.

"This is a balancing act, and one we'll be talking quite a lot about in this blog in the coming months," Sinofsky said. "Having both of user interfaces together harmoniously is an important part of Windows 8."

Sinofsky gave the impression that Metro will be the default UI in Windows 8 but didn't reveal whether people could select an option to instead boot up into the desktop interface permanently.

When asked if users would be able to choose between the Metro UI and the desktop as the default bootup option, a Microsoft spokeswoman said that the company has nothing more to share at this time. But she advised keeping an eye out for the "Building Windows 8" blog and Microsoft's upcoming Build developers conference for "more to come."

Recent installments of the "Building Windows 8" have revealed a few changes to the traditional Windows environment, including a ribbon for Windows Explorer and smoother file management.

Updated at 11 a.m. PTwith response from Microsoft.